Unicorn Contracting Corporation
SBL: 37.18-2-73, 74, 85, 86
355 Kear Street
Contact: Ciarcia Engineering, P.C.
Description: Proposal to demolish the existing restaurant and construct a 40,000 sf building with a mix of retail and office uses. A new 2,925 sf bank building is also proposed.
Planning Board, 3-11-2019
In response to correspondence, Mr. Tegeder advised the board that he had spoken to the applicant’s engineer who said he was in the process of preparing an amended site plan for the board’s review and approval.
Plannng Board, 2-25-2019
Susan Siegel (the person writing this summary) called the board’s attention to an October, 2018 meeting at which time the board directed the applicant to return with more information related to the need to amend its approved site plan in order to comply with changes required by the DEP. Noting that construction has continued on the site, she asked when the applicant would return to the board to seek approval for an amended site plan. Mr. Fon said he would look into the matter.
(note: see the official Planning Board mniutes for the October meeting on the town's web site.)
Planning Board, 9-17-2018
In an item not on the agenda, Mr. Tegeder advised the board that there have been changes to the site plan in order to satisfy the DEP. The changes include parking and also the relocation of refuse dumpsters that are now planned to face Route 118. He said the applicant needs to come back to the board in October.
Town Board, 9-4-2018
The board opened and closed the hearing and voted to permit the sewer extension which will allow the developer of the new commercial building to construct a 25’ sewer line connecting to an existing manhole on the south side of Underhill Avenue. The new line will allow one line to service all three properties on the site: the new office building and the Coldwell Banker and Grace buildings, instead of three separate lines.
Michael Grace called the hearing “completely unnecessary” and said it had resulted in a real expense to the developer. He said the town should never have consulted its outside bond counsel; it was the counsel that advised the board to hold the public hearing.
Planning Board, 7-16-2018
Noting that there redundancies in the separate maps for the site plan and subdivision approvals were creating legal issues and obstacles to the applicant securing financing, Dan Ciarcia asked the board to eliminate the redundancies from the subdivision map. The board had no problem with this and went into special session to approve the change.
In a second issue, Michael Grace asked the board to modify the bonding requirements related to installing the site’s stormwater facilities. Stating that the bond was designed to cover construction only, he characterized the cost of the bond as “no small matter,” and argued that since the building would never be built if the stormwater facility wasn’t built, the town was not likely to complete the stormwater measures and therefore there was no need for the bond. He also argued that since the developer was paying a separate $80,000 inspection fee, the construction would be done properly. After Mr. Tegeder described the bond as a performance bond designed insure that the stormwater system, once constructed, operated as it was supposed to, Mr. Ciarcia said that the bond could cover maintenance issues once the building was constructed.
Part of the issue was that the amount of the bond is based on the estimated cost of constructing the stormwater facilities; although the Planning Board sets the amount, it is typically based on a cost estimate provided by the town engineer and to date the engineer has not provided an estimate. With a consensus that the amount of the bond had to be “reasonable,” it was left to off line discussions what that amount should be.
Town Board, 5-8-2018
The developer of the new office building that will replace Murphy’s Restaurant is requesting permission to extend a single sewer lateral from his site 25 feet across Underhill Avenue and install a manhole in the town’s right of way. The lateral will connect to the existing sewer lines that individually service the three buildings on the site. The developer will pay to construct the lateral but the lateral will become part of the town’s infrastructure and the Sewer Department will be responsible for its maintenance. At issue was whether the project constitutes an extension of an existing sewer district which would require a public hearing; the town attorney is reviewing this with bond counsel. The board also discussed whether to charge the developer a yearly maintenance fee and require a formal maintenance agreement as it did with Lowe’s. The agreement for the 1,000 foot Lowe’s sewer line provides for Lowe’s to pay $1,000 a year for maintenance as well as any needed repairs. Councilman Lachterman said that he didn’t think a small business should be asked to pay a maintenance fee or that a maintenance agreement was necessary. Councilmen Diana and Roker agreed.
Planning Board, 12-18-2017
Mr. Ciarcia advised the board that the Zoning Board had approved the needed variance and that there are still a few “minor” issues to be worked out with ABACA. The board voted to approve the subdivision, site plan, tree and stormwater permits.
Planning Board, 12-4-2017
(Mr. Savoca recused himself.)
Mr. Ciarcia explained the subdivision plan that will merge the existing Coldwell Banker site, Murphy’s and the rear of the Grace parcel into one lot. There were no public comments and the hearing was closed. The board postponed adopting a resolution until after the December 14 ZBA meeting.
In a work session format, the board discussed the preliminary approval resolution for the site plan that includes a list of conditions, including the need for a lighting plan, more details about the retaining wall and parapet, and the landscaping plan, including a landscaping maintenance plan. The parking has been reduced to 168 spaces from 170 in order to provide room for refuse enclosures.
The CIY observer was not at the meeting. For a summary, see the offical Planning Board minutes.
Mr. Ciarcia has met with town staff to go over a series of what was described as housekeeping issues. The applicant is still working on the SWPPP. The applicant will be seeking a variance from the ZBA on December 14 to deal with the existing beauty salon building. An application for subdivision approval that will combine three separate lots into one lot will be filed and a public hearing on the subdivision will likely be held during the board’s second December meeting which will be after the ZBA meets. The current plan shows only 170 parking spaces where 198 would be required but the board has the authority to reduce the parking requirement up to 25%; the commuter lot next to town hall would be available for any additional needed parking. The applicant was asked to provide a written narrative to justify the parking variance. The four season landscaping plan along Route 118 indicates that the plantings will be tall enough to shield the view of the parked cars but not the building. In a letter to the board, Bob Spadaccia, the owner of the abutting building on Underhill Avenue raised the issue of the retaining wall at the rear of his property. The applicant stated that the mechanical equipment on the roof will not be visible from Route 118.
Dan Ciarcia and Phil Grealy reviewed the site plan and traffic issues as previously discussed at work sessions. A variance will be needed for the existing hair salon building. Mr. Capellini noted that the first floor will be retail and the second floor offices likely will be for medical uses. While the zoning code allows 30% of the site to be covered, the site plan calls for 16.2% coverage: the new building, plus the existing Coldwell Banker, Sports Attic and hair salon buildings. The existing Grace Building is a separate parcel.
The site plan calls for an increase in the amount of impervious surface; a stormwater plan is being developed.
The team’s landscape architect showed drawings of the proposed landscape plan that includes a new bus shelter and street furniture, trees in the parking lot and a mix of shrubs planted along Route 118.
In response to comments from the public, Mr. Grealy explained that the existing driveway into the Coldwell Banker site will be eliminated, leaving two access points on the Grace property. In the event there is stacking to the light, cars can use the Kear Street access,
In response to comments about the tax impact of the project, Mr. Capellini said the applicant was not seeking any “favors” from the town but would avail himself of any available tax incentives. He estimated that the new building’s assessed value would be 3-4 times more than Murphy’s.
The hearing was closed, leaving open a 10 day period for written comments.
The applicant anticipates returning to a work session to discuss stormwater and other issues.
Phil Grealy, the applicant’s traffic engineer, went over a series of “first flush” conceptual recommendations for handling traffic, including signal adjustments, clearing some vegetation along Kear Street, and some realignment of Kear Street. The traffic study includes potential traffic from developing the small parcel at the corner of Kear and Route 118 although the original plan to build a bank building on the site has been dropp3ed from the plan.
Dan Ciarcia has adjusted some lot lines to avoid creating a hardship and the need for variances; the only possible variance needed may be for the Markatos Building, but that may be covered by the building’s non conforming use. The footprint of the building has been changed slightly to meet requirements of the Fire Bureau. Mr. Ciarcia showed a simple drawing of how parapets along the roof line would hide the roof mechanicals but Mr. Tegeder asked for more formal drawing.
In anticipation that the applicant will have some preliminary stormwater plans available after a meeting next week with the DEP, a public hearing was scheduled for October 16.
Dan Ciarcia advised the board that the survey that included topographic information had been done. He reviewed fire truck access and turnaround issues that had been discussed with the fire commissioners. The roof design has been changed to incorporate a mansard roof which will allow more use of the third floor. Mr. Tegeder expressed concern over where the rooftop mechanical equipment would be located and asked the applicant to show the location on the plans and not leave the location to an afterthought once the site plan was approved. There was some discussion about possible changes to the size of the building and whether variances will be needed; the applicant expects to have more definitive plans by the September 25th meeting which will determine whether variances will be needed. There was a discussion of how much larger the proposed building is than the existing Murphy’s Restaurant but the observer could not hear the answer after the square footage was calculated. The sense, however, was that the proposed building was much larger.
Also, it remains to be decided what will be the best way to merge the different parcels. Options include a lot line adjustment or a more formal subdivision process.
Engineer Dan Ciarcia advised the board that the project’s traffic study was completed and that he looked forward to the board’s review of the plan at its September meeting.
Dan Ciarcia reviewed the plan. He explained that a bank was no longer being considered for the vacant parcel at the corner of Route 118 and Kear Street; he indicated that it would be developed for a retail use but no specific plans were identified. Mr. Ciarcia explained that the main reason for being at the meeting was to get input from the board on the issues it wanted covered in the EAF. In response, Mr. Tegeder said that traffic was the major issue; he advised that traffic impact analysis at the intersections of Kear & 118, Underhill and 118, and Kear and Commerce were the critical locations. The board also wants renderings of the proposed building from different vantage points.
Mr. Ciarcia advised the board that the applicant is now the owner of the Coldwell Banker property and also has a lease for a portion of the Grace property. Eventually, the three parcels: Murphy’s Restaurant, Coldwell site and a portion of the Grace property will be combined into one lot; the combination could be achieved by a lot line adjustment or a formal subdivision. Cross easements will also be needed.
Planning Board, 6-12-2017
Dan Ciarcia presented a brief overview of the project, highlighting the interior sidewalks and the connectivity to off-site existing sidewalks.
Citing existing vacant retail space, Mara Ziedins questioned the need for additional retail space and suggested that the project be all office space. In response, Tony Grasso, speaking for the Chamber of Commerce explained that either poor management or a change in where residents were shopping was causing the vacancies. He said the Chamber sees the building as a great improvement for the area. The hearing was closed.
Engineer Dan Ciarcia displayed a site plan that showed an internal sidewalk network that was in response to earlier comments about the need for pedestrian connectivity. The plan includes one sidewalk that would link to the stairs leading to Kear Street as well as one to the existing sidewalk along Route 118. Mr. Kincart questioned whether the one that was parallel to the Route 118 sidewalk was needed, but other board members felt that the public might feel safer with an internal sidewalk. Mr. Ciarcia also discussed plans for additional screening of the parking lot from Route 118. He will refine the plan that is ready for a Public Informational Hearing. No date was set. The stormwater plan is still being worked on. (Mr. Savoca recused himself from the discussion.)
8. The Weyant, Route 202
On a referral from the Town Board, the Planning Board did a brief review of both plans, although Mr. Riina indicated that the DOT prefers the plan with access from Hamblyn. There was some discussion about how the use of heightened curb cuts and road widening could control (and limit) the use of Hamblyn Street.
Although the Town Board will be the approval authority for the site plan and rezoning and the Planning Board’s role will only be advisory, the Planning Board will send a memo to the Town Board noting that it wants more time to work on site plan issues before the application returns to the Town Board.
The applicant showed the board an architectural rendering of the proposed building that would house 6-7 retail spaces on the first floor and office space on the second floor. The front of the building would face Route 118. The board appeared pleased with the design. (Note: because members of the public were not permitted to stand on the dais, the CIY observer was not able to view the rendering.) The applicant said he hoped to work with the DOT to be able to preserve much of the existing green area along the state’s right of way.
The main reason why the applicant was before the board was to start the SEQRA process. The board voted to declare its intention to be lead agency for the project which starts the referral process.
During Courtesy of the Floor, Paul Moskowitz was critical of the proposed plan saying that it would reinforce the old stereotype of the Heights hamlet. He hoped that since two of the involved property owners were elected officials, that they would propose something better for Yorktown. Tony Grasso said that it was not up to the town to tell a property owner what to do with his property as long as the property owner’s plan could be developed “as of right.”
During Courtesey of the Floor Dan Strauss and Paul Moskowitz both commented on the proposed plan to demolish the restaurant and in its place erect a 40,000 sf office/retail building. Citing the current vacancies, Mr. Strauss suggested that instead of more retail space, Messrs. Murphy and Grace might consider an apartment or condo complex. Mr. Moskowitz suggested something that would attract people to Yorktown, like another restaurant or other small businesses, and how the proposed new building could connect to existing uses and be an example for a future Depot Square project. In response, Supervisor Grace said he expected the project to be a great enhancement to the town and that the Planning Board will be the one reviewing the project. He said that as a result of the regulatory reforms advanced by the board, the town was starting to see new investment and removal of 1970s architecture that he called “garbage.”
The proposal calls for demolishing the restaurant and in its place, erecting a 3-story, 40,000 square foot office/retail building that would be partially on the Grace property and partially on the Murphy property. The existing access from Kear Street would remain, but the main entrance to the new building would be from two existing curb cuts on the Grace property. The access to the Coldwell Banker building would be closed off. The existing parking for the three properties would be reconfigured, but the major parking area would be alongside Route 118. The future ownership of the redeveloped site, including possible cross easements, has yet to be worked out.
No proposed tenants were identified. And although a bank building was mentioned for the vacant parcel, the applicant, Paul Guillaro, said there were no firm plans for this site. (The applicant also built the Caremount building on Hill Boulevard.)
The general purpose of the discussion was for the board to identify potential issues with the plan that the applicant can work out prior to the submission of a formal application. Issues identified by the board included traffic, stormwater and the need for landscaping along Route 118 to screen the cars in the parking lot but leave the building and its signage visible.
In response to a question from the public, Mr. Fon said that once a formal application is submitted and the board reviews it at a few more work sessions, a Public Informational Hearing would be held.