COLONIE — After a lengthy discussion lasting well past 10 p.m. on Tuesday, April 30 the proposal by DePaula Mazda to build a dealership at the intersection of Troy Schenectady and Mill roads was tabled.
A number of residents living near or along Mill Road spoke against the idea — citing concerns about traffic at the already congested intersection and intrusive lighting and noise. A number of Planning Board members were concerned mainly about traffic, the points of access and egress and how large car carriers can safely navigate in and out of the site.
“I have nothing against DePaula, but there is more traffic on Route 7 than I ever would have imagined. Mill Road is now the go between between Route 7 and Route 9,” said John McLaughlin, a Mill Road resident. “This is not a good spot for a dealership. It’s Mill Road. Why would you want to put a dealership on Mill Road. It is one of the last country roads we have left. It’s 30 mph is the speed limit but that’s a joke and people come flying by here all the time. Find somewhere else. It’s not a good place for a dealership.”
“I’m all for it. I’m glad they have another dealership but this is a bad place,” echoed Ed Gleason, another Mill Road resident. “The board has put freezes on building motels in certain locations. This is not a good place for an auto dealership. This is a dangerous intersection. Please, act on the part of the town and don’t put a car dealership there. I wish him luck, but there are other properties.”
Francis Palumbo, of CT Male, the company who presented the project on behalf of DePaula, said the land is zoned Commercial Office Residential, and while the board does have an obligation to protect existing neighborhoods and residents, it also has an obligation to follow zoning law as it is written.
He was asking for concept acceptance, which is not final approval but does allow the developer to, with a greater degree of confidence, spend resources on more specific site plan work. Something he said would clear up some of the valid questions raised by the public and the board members.
“The Planning Board’s job was brought up. Yes, you are reviewing individual sites and individual projects but there is another part of that. This site was zoned for this use. This site had a business on it. The town put the COR zoning on it and defined the allowable uses. The landowner didn’t. DePaula didn’t. We didn’t. This site is zoned this way and it is adjacent to residences and that is why there is a 50 foot buffer whereas normally you can have 10 feet,” he said. “We are meeting all of the code. That is also a responsibility of the board to work with landowners who are proposing things in line with the zoning that is there.”
He said the zoning does allow for such things as a restaurant, health club, hotel and/or an office building. All of which would generate more traffic in and out than the car dealership. As it stands, the dealership is projected to generate some 31 trips during the a.m. peak rush hour with 17 going in and 14 going exiting and 42 in the afternoon peak with 19 entering and 23 exiting.
Palumbo also took exception with the comparisons made to other dealerships in the area, including those who park the car carriers along Route 9 while unloading, and those who have massive parking lots along major thoroughfares where to park excess inventory.
As it stands right now, the state Department of Transportation wants a right in and right out only onto Route 7, and there is an all access driveway onto Mill Road. While the project was in front of the board for the more general concept acceptance review, there was considerable discussion on getting traffic safely in and out of the lot as it is currently configured. Ideas discussed were making the access to Mill Road a right in and right out only and allowing access in both directions Route 7.
There were issues with both ideas and Palumbo ensured the board they could all be worked out once the project moves onto the next step, which is site plan approval.
“We want to move to the next step, and get to the design phase but we can’t move forward until we have the concept approval,” he said. “We can’t change what Mill Road is right now and how it changed over time but we can design our project to have the least amount of impact on what is there.”
There was also some debate on how many cars the dealership would sell and how much busier it would make the intersection. Right now, the DePaula Mazda on Central Avenue sells about 520 over a 12 month period, or an average of 43 per month, Palumbo said. While that number will probably increase some, it will not increase exponentially as much as some residents are projecting, Palumbo said. Also, he said, the company projects an average of 15 test drives per day. If car sales went up 30 percent, something he does not anticipate, it would generate a total of 22 test drives per day.
As for the car carriers, Planning Board member Steve Heider said he could not see any possible way one of the trucks could make a right from the lot onto Mill Road without crossing into the other lane of traffic. Palumbo said if the board required a re-design of the driveway then the company would be happy to it but is hesitant to take those steps without concept approval.
The same can be said if they tried to take a left into the lot after getting onto Mill Road from the east if there is a right hand only access into the lot.
In the end, the Planning Board tabled the project and it is not clear when — or if — DePaula will opt to take another try at getting concept approval.
Initially, DePaula had proposed a Maserati dealership at the site but has since moved that project to the old Progressive Insurance building on Central Avenue.