CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — A controversial plan to put a Druthers restaurant and brew pub on the edge of the Town Center was given preliminary approval last week after the applicant agreed to several stipulations made by the Planning Board.
The revised Druthers plan now calls for constructing a 10,000-square-foot building rather than a previously desired 12,000-square-foot building on a vacant five-acre lot at the corner of Maxwell Drive and Southside Drive.
The lot is on the western edge of the Village (Hannaford) Plaza across Southside Drive from a Staples store. The site is also across from the planned 37-acre Town Park.
The building will have and interior and exterior bars, brewing equipment, and several dining areas including an outdoor dining area that will provide opportunities for recreation, musical performances and private events.
The plan has drawn concern from a number of older residents living in the nearby Bentley Condominiums. The rear of the Druthers site borders the backyard of the condominium tower. A small number of its residents have expressed concern to the Planning Board on several occasions that the expected noise and odors from the restaurant/brewpub will disturb their quality of life as well as devalue their property values.
In response to their concerns Druthers’ owner Chris Martell has made several revisions to the original plans. The building has been moved as far away from the Bentley as possible toward Southside Drive, the outdoor dining area has been reduced in size, there has been agreement that a stand of trees to the south of the Druthers lot will be maintained, and the number of parking spaces in the lot’s south section has been reduced.
From its initial submission the town’s Environmental Conservation Committee has questioned the siting of the brewpub. Its latest concern was presented to the Planning Board by Town Planning Director John Scavo at the Nov. 10 virtual board meeting. Noting the Committee’s comments submitted to him, Scavo said the Committee still has serious concerns about the viability of the outdoor venue.
When given a chance to comment on the revised plans Bentley resident Joseph Nial once again expressed his dissatisfaction with the proposal and its placement near the senior community calling it “incompatible with a senior community”.
He noted that the 168-unit condo building is presently a successful senior community and wondered if that would continue if the Druthers plan was approved.
“It will have an effect on the marketability of our condos and of the success of the Bentley,” he said. “Most of the residents are in their 70s, 80s and 90s. We shouldn’t be subjected to this type of environment; we bought our homes for a quiet environment.”
Referencing the most recent plan to save many of the trees on the rear of the Druthers lot that border the Bentley, Nial said having 100 percent of the existing trees retained “was critical”.
Bonnie Kowalski, another resident of the Bentley, added that she would like Druthers’ owner Martell to come to the site, meet with Bentley residents and show them exactly what he has in mind in the way of preserving the tree line.
Adding a bit of confusion to the planning process is the fact that the Druthers site is one part of a larger Planned Unit District. PUDs have their own zoning. Originally the PUD was to have a 94,000-square-foot office built on the east side of the site with parking very near the Bentley site.
The office building was never built. Because it is within the PUD, the Druthers plan is compatible with the original PUD legislation.
Board members found the revisions to their liking but questioned the need for having a large number of parking spaces land-banked on the lot’s south side nearest the Bentley’s rear yard.
Land-banking space is a planning technique that allows the applicant to keep an area natural until they feel there is a need to develop it as per the site plans. If the number of parking spaces to be land-banked were reduced, more trees could be kept near the border with the Bentley.
Druthers’ planning engineer explained that one of the critical mistakes made in recent years with several similar establishments was not planning for overflow parking.
He said the Druthers project is limited by the board’s objection to on-street parking, objections from nearby businesses that their lots not be used, and the Shenendehowa School District’s demand that there be no parking on that portion of Maxwell Drive that leads to Shatekon Elementary School. That section of street is a private street.
Agreeing that many revisions had been made and that 70 percent of the trees on the border with the Bentley were to be retained, the Planning Board agreed to give the project preliminary approval with stipulations that the applicant satisfy its questions on landscaping along the lot’s perimeter and the final number of parking spaces to be land-banked in the rear of the parcel.