DELMAR — The Real McCoy cleared its first hurdle to see its proposed standalone kitchen approved after the Bethlehem Zoning Board of Appeals granted it a use variance on Wednesday, Dec. 16.
What first appeared to be a welcomed idea by the community, subsequent hearings featured pleas from neighboring residents to prevent the nano-brewery’s plans. The board said that, despite weighing their concerns over testimony from apparent customers, it saw little reason to prevent the application from moving on to the planning board.
“Hopefully you will see that once this whole process has completed, a lot of your concerns will be taken care of,” said board member Jane Barnes.
Owner Michael Bellini was back before the board to pitch his off-set eatery on Wednesday, Dec. 16. A proposal that involves two, 40-foot shipping containers to be modified into a small, commercial kitchen. Each of the “high-cube” containers stand 9-feet and 6-inches tall, measure 8-feet wide and 40-feet long.
The kitchen is a permitted use for where it is proposed. What is at issue is the placement of the kitchen, of which the modified containers already on the property stand in apparent violation of town zoning for a standing structure. Should they remain as storage containers, the board said they are allowed where they are. Change their use to what has been proposed, a variance is required.
The stand-alone kitchen will sit at the back end of the 20 Hallwood Road property, nosing a property line defined by pine trees, a stockade fence and a 10-foot retaining wall. The kitchen will stand as close as nearly 9 feet from the property line and just over 12 feet from its back neighbor’s garage.
The business owner initially presented his 191-page proposal with resounding letters of approval, including from Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy and New York Senator Neil Breslin, but letters of disapproval from neighboring residents have been submitted since last month’s public hearing.
Grove Street resident Andrew Morse stated he has welcomed the “laughter, music and seeing our streets active with pedestrians and bicyclists” in the neighborhood. However, he expressed empathy for the residents around the popular venue.
“With RMB wanting to install a kitchen with the exhaust fan being at practically the same height as the neighbor’s yard and houses on Delaware Avenue is concerning,” stated Morse, “as I imagine it would be for you who are reading this if it was your own backyard.”
Diana Skuza, whose family lives in the Delaware Avenue home behind Real McCoy, expressed concern last month over the fan’s noise and the possibility it would blow grease and protein particles into their backyard. The Winn family, who own and once occupied the rental property behind the brewery, also spoke against the prospect of added noise and debris.
Bellini returned before the board with reports it requested on how the new kitchen would impact local residents. He came back with a scientific review that promised the fan would produce no more than 1.2 decibels above the ambient noise already present. He also included pictures of similar fans present at local businesses.
In particular, Bellini showed a recently renovated Dunkin Donuts on Delaware Avenue that earned approval to expand for a drive-thru service. The expansion required approval as the drive-thru abuts a neighboring residence. Another photograph featured Perfect Blend, which has two exhaust fans hanging over a pedestrian walkway that connects its rear parking lot to foot traffic from Four Corners.
A Type 1 restaurant exhaust fan, which resembles a kick drum, is designed for appliances that produce grease and smoke from fryers, griddles and ovens. It was originally proposed to face the Skuza family’s backyard, to the south of Real McCoy’s
Another report supported by the National Weather Service, suggested winds would not blow exhaust towards Real McCoy’s rear neighbor, which resides south. The majority of the time wind moves west to east, or from south to north, but seldom from north to south, he said.
Faced by opposition, Bellini told the board he’s willing to erect a stockade fence and change the orientation of his fan to blow towards his establishment.
“We’re very confident that there’s no impact,” said Bellini, “that’s why we’re willing to point it at our own building.”
Skuza, however, remained unswayed by the revised proposal, continuing to cite her concerns with added noise and air pollution. She quoted from state building code specific to Type 1 exhaust systems, stating such fans can not stand within 10 feet of nearby buildings, nor within the same distance from the ground.
Skuza’s property stands above a retaining wall that divides her backyard from Real McCoy. Though the fan would be outside the 10-foot limit as it relates to her garage, it could stand less than the permitted amount to where the kitchen stands 9-feet away from the property line. The board said the planning board would review those specifics through SEQR review.
“Dirty, greasy build up is not just unsightly and unsanitary, it can also become a fire hazard,” said Skuza. “Especially on rooftops and the existing wooden garage right by the property line.”
George Winn, whose family owns a Delaware Avenue rental property, claimed the presence of the containers have reduced the value of his property. He continued his argument from last month, accusing Real McCoy owners of removing trees from his property and being overall disrespectful.
“It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask permission, and that’s how this whole thing has gone down,” Winn said.