Dear Editor and Residents of Bardonia:
Last week I examined the Planning Board files to determine the status of the plans to place a QuickChek at the corner of Bardonia Road and Route 304.
In a letter dated December 09, 2011 David Zigler of Atzl, Scatassa & Zigler, P.C. wrote to Mr Simoes, Principal Town Planner, that after receipt of a report from John Sarna PE, the traffic consultant for the Planning Board, he would "finish the application for resubmission".
Documents show that this modified application will propose a 5,700 sq. ft. QuickChek Convenience store with 6 gas pump islands (12 pumps total). The old gas tanks are to be removed from the tax lot which had the nonconforming use for the sale of gas (the tax lot on which the auto repair station presently stands) and new tanks are to be installed on the tax lot presently occupied by the bank. The bank lot is zoned for light shopping and has never had a nonconforming use permitting the sale of gasoline at that location.
The documents in the Planning Board files continue to refer to the present gas station as being 'temporarily out of service'. This is an attempt to by-pass the law that requires expiration of the present nonconforming use to sell gasoline on that lot.
Further, the business operating the gas pumps would change from a Getty Gas Station to a QuickChek which is another violation of the intent of the nonconforming use section of zoning law. Sale of gasoline is no longer permissible once an old business expires.
Additionally, a nonconforming use limits an owner's right to expand or enlarge the nonconforming use or to change the property's use to a different nonconforming use. Courts have held that not only a change in the volume of business conducted (e.g. more gas pumps) but in the character of the business (changing from an auto repair station to a convenience store) is what determines whether one business use is a continuation of another and that this is true despite any generic similarity between the old use and the new one (i.e. sale of gasoline).
On December 21, 2011 John L. Sarna, P.E. sent the letter mentioned above to the Planning Board in answer to the Board's request for him to review the Traffic Evaluation for the proposed QuickChek facililty. Under the section of the letter entitled 'Traffic Evaluation' Sarna stated:
"My major concern with the Traffic Evaluation is the use of the Institute of Transportation Engineers trip generation rates, Land Use 945 - Gasoline/Service Station w/Convenience Market for estimating the amount of traffic to be generated by the proposed facility. These ITE rates are based solely on the number of fueling positions, and do not consider the size of the convenience market.
An examination of the various combinations of pumps and convenience markets in the cited ITE publication shows that the convenience markets used in developing the trip generation rates ran generally between 1,000 and 3,000 square feet. The convenience store at the Sunoco station on North Main Street in New City, for example, is about 1,800 square feet.
The proposed QuickChek store, on the other hand, is almost 7,000 square feet, and would sell far more than convenience store items, and would include cooked foods and table seating. It would be expected to generate, on its own, considerably more traffic than the typical smaller convenience store.
There is another ITE land Use, 853-Convenience Market with Gasoline Pumps, which bases the trip generation rates solely on the size of the convenience market, and does not consider the number of fueling positions. For a convenience store of 6,900 SF, use of these rates would produce an estimated generated traffic volume several times as great as those shown in the Traffic Assessment."
Whatever way these numbers eventually fall out there will be a massive increase of traffic flow, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, around this site. Further, in his letter Mr Sarna went on to say that at the Technical Advisory Committee meeting on May 24, 2011, the Applicant stated the QuickChek proposed in Bardonia would be virtually identical to the one on NYS Route 17M in Monroe, NY. Mr Sarna stated that he had visited the Monroe QuickChek on June 2, 2011 and commented:
"It (the Monroe QuickChek) was a well designed layout, with adequate traffic controls and well-defined traffic patterns. The proposed Bardonia facility does have some similarities, in that the store size and number of fueling positions are identical, the overall site sizes are about the same, and they both front on State highways.
There are, however, significant differences:
a) The fueling aisles at Monroe are laid out parallel to the highway. This has permitted a well-controlled traffic pattern throughout the site, with a minimum of traffic conflicts. At Bardonia, however, the fueling lanes are perpendicular to the highway, and this creates more complicated travel paths and internal circulation conflicts. My assumption is that the presence of the existing stores (on the lot in Bardonia) has reduced the distance from the road to the extent that the fueling aisles could not be laid out in the same alignment as at Monroe. It results in an inferior design.
b) The Monroe facility is set back further from the highway. At Monroe the distance from the edge of highway pavement permitted the inclusion of short driveways to accommodate and control the entering and exiting traffic movements. In the Bardonia layout this distance is insufficient to provide a useful driveway."
Mr Sarna concluded his letter by saying: "The proposed layout at Bardonia is not unworkable, but it is definitely inferior to that at Monroe." What Mr Sarna could also have added is that the proposed Bardonia QuickChek, unlike that in Monroe, will be within several hundred feet of private residences and an elementary school.
In summary the proposed QuickChek requires a violation of the local light shopping zoning law, has traffic problems which are not acceptable, and the proposed store and gas pumping islands, despite being reduced in size in an attempt to fit it into the present lot, is in the words of Mr Sarna 'while not unworkable, definitely inferior.'
I would invite each of you to drive to Monroe and take a look at the QuickChek facility there where you will be able to visualize the impact of what is being proposed for our neighborhood, the effect it will have on home values in Bardonia, and the danger it will pose to the operation of the elementary school. The Monroe QuickChek is about one mile from Woodbury Commons at 383 Route 17M, Monroe, NY 10950.
I took the attached photographs of the Monroe facility. These pictures show the six pumping islands each of which has two pumps, one on either side of each island. The traffic pattern does not permit a left turn back to the highway. The same would apply for the exits on both Bardonia Road and Route 304.
The interior of the QuickChek Convenience store is really of the size of a small Stop & Shop, or Shoprite grocery store. Note the outside tables for eating cooked food outdoors.
There is a very high and massive canopy over the pumps which can be seen from a mile away as one approaches the location. The height is obviously needed to attract traffic at a distance. The canopy would be visible from Germonds Road when driving south on Route 304 and from the bridge over the Palisades Parkway driving north. It would also be visible from Renee Lane on Bardonia Road and from Schweitzer lane on Ludvigh Road.
You can estimate the height of this canopy by the size of the cars at the pumps in the photograph showing the front of the canopy facing the State road which has the QuickChek name on the canopy at top left. Note that the peak of the canopy roof is higher than the roof of a two story house. The canopy is extremely brightly lit with a huge reflective ceiling which will be an intolerable nuisance in the overnight hours to the private homes that are adjacent to the proposed site in Bardonia.
As Sarna points out in his letter there is plenty of room for cars to flow into and from the Monroe site which will not be the case in Bardonia. I counted the traffic flowing into the site and also the traffic going into an equivalent size strip mall immediately adjacent.
For every one car that turned into the shopping mall approximately 100 cars turned into the QuickChek location. I then counted the number of cars that stopped only for gas and found that about 5% stopped at the convenience store. By far the huge volume of traffic was for gas purchases only.
The Residents Association of Bardonia would welcome redevelopment of this location in a way that fits with the zoning code and residential nature of the area. Given the level of the property taxes the citizens of Clarkstown pay to live in this Town (our taxes are in the top ten highest of all Counties in the United States) the residents of Bardonia deserve a well planned 'light shopping' or office facility at this location and not a crass, high volume, operation pumping gas 24/7 that will change our neighborhood into something akin to the blight that has destroyed most of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Long Island.
The residents also deserve that those elected to serve them on the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals uphold the letter and the spirit of the zoning laws of this neighborhood and not approve construction of something that the Town's own expert states only meets a standard of "not unworkable" and"definitely inferior."
Michael N. Hull
President, Residents Association of Bardonia