Story by Jennifer O’Connor
To address concerns residents expressed at a public hearing last October and in letters written to the Village of Warwick Planning Board about the site plan proposal to build Yesterdays restaurant in a vacant lot at 16 Elm St. in Warwick, John Christison, who is the applicant, made significant changes to the site plan.
The revised plans for the 3,600-sq. ft. building were submitted and discussed on Thurs., Jan. 18 at the Planning Board’s monthly meeting. Residents who live near the property are concerned about potential noise coming from the proposed restaurant, especially from the outdoor patio that seats 68 people and from speakers on the covered porch.
To help resolve their concerns, Christison’s proposed restaurant will not have an outdoor patio nor will there be speakers on the covered porch as was originally planned. Food and beverages will be served indoors only and on the covered porch. The porch, which is open seasonally, will have limited use. Food service on the porch will cease at 8 p.m. and the porch will be closed at 9 p.m.
“The porch will be designed in a manner, that if there is evidence that the noise is excessive, it can be easily enclosed,” said Christison’s attorney, John Cappello.
To monitor the noise, testing will be conducted during the first summer after the restaurant has opened. Additional changes made to the site plan include moving the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system toward the front of the property, further away from neighboring homes.
In reference to concerns of potential spillage of light onto neighboring residential properties, the height of the lampposts in the parking lot will be lowered from 20 ft. to 14 ft., although the initial lighting plan conformed with the zoning code. All of the outdoor lighting will have fully shielded fixtures.
No Evidence of Contaminated Soil
Christison’s engineer, Ross Winglovitz, spoke about the three environmental studies conducted on the property – all reporting that there is no evidence of any volatile or hazardous compounds or any other chemical contaminants. Two tests were done prior to the public hearing in October, and another test was performed after the hearing at the request of the Planning Board.
In November, trenches were, once again, dug on the property by William L. Going & Associates, but this time in the presence of the Planning Board engineer, David Getz, of Lehman & Getz Engineering. Each of the exploratory trenches were approximately 12 to 14 ft. long, three ft. wide and 10 ft. deep.
The samples of soil were collected from each trench and transported to EnviroTest Laboratories under strict chain-of-custody, where they were analyzed for volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds and RCA metals. According to the test results, no significant concentrations were detected.
The examination of soil samples wasn’t the only test that was repeated. In November, another magnetometer survey was conducted on the property using a White Two-Box Metal Detector. This test, administered by Morris Morgan, of U.S. Tank Tech, an expert with metal detecting equipment, confirmed the findings of the first test stating that there is no evidence of buried metal drums or tanks on the property.
“In my 30 years of experience, for a site that we didn’t find anything on, we have done more to try to find something than any other site that I have ever been involved in,” said engineer, Ross Winglovitz. “Usually, you do more when you find something. We found nothing and we continued to do more analysis after that, and continued to find nothing of significance regarding environmental issues on the site.”
Questions Addressed About the Traffic Study
Winglovitz also addressed questions residents had pertaining to the traffic study by Philip Grealy, Phd., PE of Maser Consulting P.A. During the public hearing, a resident said the study should have been performed on the intersections on Campbell Rd., Hamilton Ave., Welling Ave., Oakland Ct., and Orchard St., including the four-way stop sign at the intersection at Orchard and Elm Streets.
“Maser (the company that performed the study) took a look at those other intersections based on previous traffic studies that were completed and found that there would be no significant impact on the number of cars as they distribute from the site to those intersections,” said Winglovitz.
A letter on file in Village Hall at the Planning Department from Philip Grealy of Maser Consulting states:
“Based on traffic information we collected along Elm St. near the site access, including the machine traffic counts together with a review of the expected site generated traffic distributions, the intersections of Elm St. and Orchard St. and Welling Ave. (all-way stop controlled) will not be significantly impacted by the projected traffic. Based on current traffic volumes travelling on Elm St. south of the site to and from these intersections, together with the added traffic volumes expected from the proposed restaurant through these intersections, which are projected at 19 entering and 14 exiting vehicles during the highest hour of site traffic generated, the volumes can be accommodated without a significant change in intersection operations.”
Getz, the Village engineer, said he is satisfied with the results of the traffic study. George Aulen, Chairman of the Planning Board, added that significant mitigations have been made to the proposed plan and that all of these changes need to be written on the site plan.
Board Reaffirms Negative Declaration
Planning Board attorney Robert Dickover then spoke about two letters written to the Board by Stephen Gross, of Hudson Highlands Environmental Consulting, who is representing residents opposed to the proposed project. In both letters, Gross suggested that the Board rescind its negative declaration adopted by the Board at their meeting in September. A negative declaration means that the Board determined that the project will not have a significant adverse effect on the neighborhood.
Dickover said, “Mr. Gross suggested that the Board’s SEQRA was flawed,” adding that Gross also suggested that the Board issue a positive declaration and require an Environmental Impact Statement from the applicant.
“In order for this Board to rescind the previous declaration you would have to find that substantive changes are proposed for the project; new and/or new information was discovered; or changes in circumstances related to the project have arisen that were not previously considered by you that you determine that a significant adverse impact will result from that,” said Dickover. “On the other hand, if the Board is satisfied with the prior declaration then I suggest you reaffirm it based on the information that has been received by this Board.”
Planning Board member William Olsen said, “I had really seriously thought about rescinding the declaration based on information and concerns from the public. However, I have seen the new plans, and the changes that were made in the new plans. At this stage, I think this answers the questions, and it reduces the protentional impact.”
The other Planning Board members agreed with Olsen. The Board then unanimously passed a motion reaffirming the negative declaration. Dickover said that he did not prepare a resolution for the Board to vote on because he didn’t know which way they were going to proceed.
“If you are inclined of considering approving the application I will prepare a written decision for your review and consideration for next month. In the meantime, the applicant can make the changes that are required to the notes on the site plan,” added Dickover.
The resolution for site plan approval will be voted on at the next Board meeting on Thurs., Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. in Village Hall, located at 77 Main St. in Warwick.