Proposed Building Sparks Controvery

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Zero Place, a proposed mixed-use, net-zero energy usage building has faced scrutiny from neighbors in the Village of New Paltz.

The building is to be located on the corner of Mulberry St. and North Chestnut St. within the Neighborhood Business Residential (NBR) zoning district of New Paltz. Residents of New Paltz, particularly those living or working in the historic district and surrounding streets such as Henry W. Dubois Drive, have raised concerns about this potential new project, Village Planning Board Chairman Michael Zierler said.

The Zero Place project, according to Zierler, has been a topic of discussion at every Planning Board meeting since the application’s inception in early 2016, and is continuing along in the reviewing stages. 

Under State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR), the Planning Board must evaluate the project in terms of its environmental impact on the community, including its visual and architectural impact, its effects on waterways, its consistency with community character and its impacts on transportation, traffic and parking.

“Our focus is on the size and scale of the building and its architectural style, all from previous zoning in the NBR,” Zierler said.

Zero Place developer and founder David Shepler said that he is in the process of addressing and mitigating community concerns. Thus far, he has dropped the height of the building, redesigned the appearance so that it incorporates more design elements like that of those in the region and added more of a streetscape including more space for trees, benches and on-site foliage.

“So far 100 community members have signed to support the project,” he said. “People want to see it as it is, but there are concerns regarding a building of this size [in the district].”

Under NBR zoning laws, a building cannot be more than four stories or more than 50-feet high. After some review, Shepler adjusted the height of his proposed building to meet these laws. As a mixed-use building, Zero Place will consist of first-floor retail while the top three levels will be strictly residential with 24 one-bedroom apartments and 24 two-bedroom apartments. 

Zieler said the goals of the NBR district are to create a new neighborhood built around mixed-use, which will encourage fewer automobile trips and create a streetscape that is on a human scale.

“The NBR district is an area that has been designated as suitable for growth within the Village, providing new housing options and new commercial opportunities,” he said. 

He said the Planning Board is still waiting on more information about transportation, traffic, parking and visual, aesthetic and community character impacts of the project in relation to the Rail Trail and Historic Huguenot Street.

The next village planning board vote for the Zero Place project is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 20, where they will finalize the scoping document to determine whether the project will have a negative or positive declaration within the community. 

This is the final stage of the SEQR process, and will determine whether Shepler must mitigate or eliminate other environmental impacts or concerns in the community before continuing onto site plan review.