Developers of a proposed Taco Bell in Glenmont received variances for parking and facade signs from the Bethlehem Zoning Board of Appeals, but the proposal still needs Planning Board approval, which hinges on whether or not a direct access point is necessary.
The project is being developed by Hospitality Syracuse Inc., for the Bethlehem Town Center shopping plaza at 241 Route 9W. The project calls for the construction of a 2,595-square-foot restaurant with drive-thru, and will be placed near the current Panera Bread.
Final variance approval was granted on Wednesday, May 21.The continued public hearing was the same night, with no one speaking for or against the project. One neighbor at a previous meeting had expressed concerns about traffic.
“I’m inclined to grant both variances for the following reasons: With respect to the sign variance, they did ask for three sides instead of four, which I thought was a reasonable compromise,” said ZBA Chairman Dan Coffey. “With respect to the parking, I’m very aware of the site … and I agree with the parking study. That parking lot is underused.”
Other board members agreed the parking lot was underutilized and that the three signs were needed to attract business from the road and within plaza.
The parking variance was being sought because construction of the building will remove 25 parking spaces, which will not be replaced. The developers said parking should not be an issue because “approximately 70 percent of the proposed customers are said to use the drive-thru.”
The building is being proposed for that space because of its location to other fast-food restaurants and because developers believe the parking area to be “underutilized.”
A new, freestanding sign is not being proposed in order to go through the process with the least amount of variances needed. Instead, the restaurant would look like the Wendy’s across the plaza, with signs on all three facades of the building.
The same project is also now before the town’s Planning Board. The initial presentation on the site plan was presented on Tuesday, May 20.
The town’s Planning Department recommended more pedestrian connectivity on the site to other locations in the plaza. Developers said they were willing to install sidewalks, but needed to have further conversations with the landlord and owners.
Planning staff also had concerns about the right-in access point that was being proposed for the site. Developers argued the right-in access was key to the project to keep traffic flowing and to attract more customers. The proposal could possibly be pulled if the access point was removed because a large number of customers are “pass-by trips,” not people intending to go to Taco Bell.
“I’m not convinced that separate driveway is a good thing,” said Chairman John Smolinsky. “You told us there’s no stop signs on it, and that’s a good thing for you but a bad thing for through traffic. People will use it to get to Panera Bread and speeding through that aisle way.”
Planning Board members asked developers to return with another site plan that uses the existing driveway.
*An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the zoning board chairman.