The New Paltz Village Planning Board discussed the Zero Place project with the local community at their most recent meeting on Tuesday Feb. 6. The meeting included comments from the public on the proposal mixed-use building that was to be constructed in the empty parking lot on the corner of Mulberry and North Chestnut streets.
The proposal includes the construction of 46 apartments over a floor of retail space, as well as public bathrooms and a roof deck. The name “Zero Place” comes from the fact that the building would be net-zero when it comes to energy usage. This was first discussed in early 2016 when the application for the project was submitted by David Shepler.
New Paltz Village Planning Board chairman Michael Zierler discussed how the project has been a popular item on the board’s agenda for the past two years.
“Ever since the proposal was introduced in February 2016, it has been a regular item on the agenda for us,” Zierler said. “We had some design issues that we had to run by the state’s environmental quality review, which was straightened out by the end of that year.”
The state’s environmental quality review that Zierler referred to is SEQR, which is a review process that must be included in deliberations made by local, county, and state boards throughout the state.
Some of the changes that were made to the project according to Zierler, included the number of apartments. The original proposal had 48 apartments, which changed in 2017 after a smaller footprint was decided on for the project, decreasing the total number of apartments to 46. Zierler said that the current plan is to not change the mass or size of the project.
Zierler also discussed how the empty parking lot has been vacated since November 2014, after a fire destroyed the STS Tire Store that was occupying the lot at the time. The previous property owner of the space decided to sell the property after the fire occurred.
The public comments from the Feb. 6 meeting mainly included support for the project. But there has been some negative feedback shown for the project in the past. This includes the issue of the proposed public rooftop for the potential apartment residents and their guests. There have been some complaints as to the potential noise and lighting that would come from the roof of the complex.
According to a Jan. 30 New Paltz Times article, in the Jan.16 Planning Board meeting, New Paltz resident Anne Quinn highlighted the concerns of some of the neighbors surrounding the proposal by “painting a picture of people, judgment impaired by one drug or another, tossing bottles and litter over the edge.”
That same New Paltz Times article mentioned how Zierler revealed his own restrictions for the rooftop, including forbidding the use of any mind-altering drugs as well as forbidden alcohol. Zierler also said that he would restrict the hours to use the rooftop deck from 7 a.m. until dusk, Zierler also suggested that the playing of music would be disallowed.
Community members at the Feb. 6 planning board meeting mainly disagreed with the picture that Quinn painted on Jan. 16 as well as the restrictions stated by Zierler in the public comments portion of the meeting, which lasted for over a half an hour. An example of a disagreement would be when Dutchess County resident Bill Busby, who said that he’s planning to move to New Paltz since his daughter is within walking distance from the proposal.
“I find the potential rules of the rooftop to be quite restrictive,” Busby said. “It is unfair to be pre-judging future residents, I find that it borders on unethical to do so.”
Town of New Paltz Supervisor Neil Bettez also spoke in the public comments portion of the meeting, voicing his support for the project.
“I’m in favor of the project simply because it increases density in New Paltz, but I also think that it’s unfair to limit what happens on one’s property compared to not limiting it on others properties,” Bettez said.
Village of New Paltz Deputy Mayor KT Tobin, who has publicly supported the Zero Place project in the past, echoed the sentiments of the public comments from the meeting. She found it wrong for certain restrictions to be placed on future residents of the potential apartments.
“I find it deeply disturbing that people are passing judgements on potential future residents.” Tobin said. “It’s like if we were to regulate current single-family homeowners on how they can use their backyard. It’s ludicrous.”
Tobin also went on to add why she thinks that this proposal is a good idea.
“I believe that this project is tremendous when it comes to the environment and the community,” Tobin said. “I also believe that this project will help make New Paltz a more affordable place for everybody.”
Zierler gave a potential timeline on the proposal, saying that the board is looking to vote on the proposal by the spring time. Zierler mentioned that if the proposal passes, then the decision is out of the planning boards hands.
“Once we vote on it, it is up to the building department and applicant to decide on when to start construction on the project.”