Cooperstown braces for debate on two zoning

Greg Klein | The Daily Star A rendering of the proposed Dunkin’/Baskin-Robbins store at 53 Walnut St. is seen in this Tuesday, Oct. 8, photo.

The village of Cooperstown will hold two public hearings about controversial zoning issues at 7 p.m., Monday, Nov. 25, at 22 Main St. 

The hearings will take place as part of the village's monthly Board of Trustees meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. in the village meeting room.

Village Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh said it is possible the hearings could be moved upstairs to the larger village ballroom if the crowd is as large as it was for a public hearing during the Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 8, in the ballroom.

That meeting was about the look of a proposed Dunkin' Donuts-Baskin Robbins at 53 Walnut St., but residents spoke for more than an hour about many different aspects of the store, and were almost uniformly negative about it being in a residential neighborhood, so close to Cooperstown Central School's two schools, including the elementary school, a block away at 21 Walnut St. 

The November hearing will be for a proposed six-month moratorium on using the 53 Walnut site for commercial purposes while the trustees study reclassifying the property. Since the Dunkin' store does not need any variances, if it can satisfy Planning Board requests for signage and traffic, and HPARB requirements for architectural look, the trustees had few other options available to prevent it, Tillapaugh said.

However, residents have been adamant against the project, and village attorney Martin Tillapaugh informed the trustees they can look at reclassifying the area.

"It can be changed, and it is possible that might be the outcome," she said. "That lot is the only commercial one on that street, and there is the proximity to the school to consider." 

Tillapaugh said the village's Complete Streets Plan does stress village safety, including walk-able residential neighborhoods, and would argue for extra care in an area with high pedestrian and school traffic. 

Village Zoning Officer Jane Gentile said the company's activities with the village are at a temporary halt. A requested traffic study needed for Planning Board hasn't come back, and a return to HPARB is uncertain this month, because the company and its architectural representative, Bohler Engineering of Albany, have been informed of a possible moratorium. 

The other public hearing will be to present a revised zoning law.

While HPARB and Planning Board meetings have been dealing with Dunkin', the trustees have spent several months this year hearing from residents concerned about dormitory style housing in residential neighborhoods. The latest attempt at zoning revisions addresses these concerns, Tillapaugh said. 

"We did listen to the public ... and the fear of the dormitories," she said. "It will be eliminated in residential areas, and it will require a special use permit in a commercial zone."

Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7218.

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