Phoenicia Library plans Oked; neighbors vow to continue fight
By Jay Braman Jr.
The Shandaken Planning Board unanimously approved the site plans for the Phoenicia Library on Wednesday.
The decision followed a public hearing during which one neighbor vowed to fight the project “to the end,” and which brought more fire safety concerns to the board.
At the end of the lengthy hearing, some planners, like Art Christie and Chairwomen Joanne Kalb, noted the difficulty of their task because it was so obvious that the neighbors to either side of the Library were very unhappy with the proposal. But, as Christie said, it was the job of the planning board to weigh the proposal based on the information provided.
Christie said that by using the site plan checklist, a tool used by planning boards to break down proposals into specific segments for review, he reached the conclusion that the project should be approved. Planner Faye Storms agreed, adding that she hoped that eventually the neighbors would become comfortable with the changes.
But during the hearing, neighbor Wilfried Nolte, who owns the building that houses the Phoenicia Delicatessen, made it clear that he remains opposed to the plan. Nolte, who sued the town’s zoning board over its decision to grant the project several variances and thus allow the project to proceed to the planning board for approval, told the board that he felt it would be a simple change to move a part of the new structure further to the back of the library property.
Nolte, who lives in his building, said that as the plans now stand, the new part of the library building would be only three feet away from his bedroom window as opposed to the eight feet of distance that had always separated the two structures.
Nolte said that he attempted to get the library representatives to make the changes early on in the process, but was ignored.
He called the project “wrong,” and said he would fight it to the end.
Planners asked John Wasylyk of North Engineers Inc. who designed the building, to explain why Nolte’s idea could not be utilized. Wasylyk said that moving that portion of the building, which contains a new stairwell, to the back of the property rather than in the center where he placed it, would create the need for too much additional hallway space inside the building. It could also take away land required for a new septic system being built as part of the project.
Phoenicia Fire Chief Gary Carr was at the hearing to talk about fire safety. He said he had nothing against the library, but also said the expansion would make it harder to fight a fire if either the library or Nolte’s building burned.
Rod Futerfas, an attorney representing the library, urged the planners to remember that, while opponents of the project only had opinions on the project, his clients had supplied proof from professionals that it would be built according to current fire codes and law.
Now the project goes to the town’s building department for a building permit. Construction is expected to begin in June.