Changes afoot on Western Avenue More parking for a diner, new spot for a pizza place, and a yoga studio wants to move in

The Enterprise — Michael Koff 
The owners of Capital City Diner, at the corner of Western Avenue and Rapp Road, visible behind the tree at right, want to buy the small building next door — formerly a Sprint store, in the foreground at left — demolish it, and use the space as additional parking. 

GUILDERLAND — Three proposals for changes to Western Avenue businesses have started the process of seeking approval by the town. Two of them are for changes to existing businesses — Paesan’s Pizza and Capital City Diner — while the third would bring a new business, a yoga and healing-arts center, to town.

On Aug. 8, all three came before the planning board, which voted unanimously to recommend for approval to the next step, consideration by the zoning board of appeals. The zoning board will hold public hearings on each of the proposals.

Paesan’s Pizza to create flagship store

Frank Scavio, owner of Paesan’s Pizza at 1785 Western Ave., told the planning board that he is in the process of purchasing a building three doors down from his current location, and hopes to move his restaurant there.

Scavio hopes to buy 1799-1803 Western Ave., which currently houses Mathnasium and formerly held Apropos, a prom and bridal gown shop.

Scavio told The Enterprise that the space would be a bit roomier and more convenient because it is all on one floor. The new location would have more parking for customers, he said.

He told The Enterprise that he and his family live a few blocks away and that he wanted to make the Guilderland store into the company’s flagship store, “a beautiful location,” in time for the company’s 25th anniversary, next year.

He needed to come before the board to ask for the removal of an old condition placed on the special-use permit for the building, dating from 1985, that specified that no fast food, bar, or restaurant would be permitted in the building, Kenneth Kovalchik, the new town planner, told the board.

Kovalchik was taking part in his first planning-board meeting since being appointed town planner in July.

At the time that the building was approved, it was in a zoning district called B1, which is no longer in use. Chief Building and Zoning Inspector Jacqueline M. Coons told The Enterprise that B1 had allowed for fewer different commercial uses than did another zoning district in use at the time, B2.

The building is currently in an LB, or Local Business, zone, which allows restaurants with a special-use permit, Kovalchik told the board.

Coons said that Scavio plans to continue renting to Mathnasium. He plans to use part of the Apropos space; the bridal shop occupied two spaces in the building.

Scavio told the planning board he plans to use about 2,500 square feet for his restaurant.

The board voted unanimously to recommend the condition be removed, with the condition that Scavio identify parking spaces for people with disabilities, as well as a Dumpster location and appropriate enclosure, on his site plan.

Yoga and healing-arts studio

Landlord Renee Panetta — co-owner with her husband of 2020 Western Ave., at the corner of Sumter Avenue — appeared before the planning board to present Jennifer Nickel’s proposed site plan for a change in tenancy to allow a healing-arts center in a BNRP, or Business Non-Retail Professional, zone.

Coons told The Enterprise that a yoga studio and healing-arts center is not a category that is specifically considered in Guilderland’s zoning code. So, she said, Nickel, the owner, will need to convince the zoning board that her business is more like a doctor’s office than it is like a gym. In the BNRP zone, a medical office is allowed while a fitness center is not, Coons said.

The building was originally a residence that was turned into a doctor’s office and added onto a couple of times over the years, Coons said.

Panetta told the planning board that renovation will not be needed, and that Nickel will repurpose the rooms “almost identically to the way they’re currently set up.”

The planning board recommended the proposal with conditions that Nickel identify, within the site plan, parking spaces that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and also show which areas, within the building, will be used for the healing-arts center.

Diner owners want bigger parking area

Pilarinos Real Estate, LLC, owners of the Capital City Diner at 1709 Western Ave., want to expand the diner’s parking area by merging the diner’s lot with that of a small building next door, and demolishing the other building, engineer Thomas C. Andress of ABD Engineers told the planning board.

The building next door, at 1715 Western Ave., was formerly a Sprint store and is now empty, according to Coons. The Spring lot is .14 acres in size. The applicant would rearrange the current parking a bit, said Andress, and would “lose some, gain some.” Andress said the merging of the properties would yield a net gain of about 15 spaces.

Andress also said the new parking lot would involve less impervious surface than is there now, because of the closed curb cut, landscaping in front, and a 25-foot setback in front and 15-foot setback on the side that will be grass where there is now pavement.

Andress said that the Sprint lot had several problematic spaces in front: Cars pulled into the spots but then needed to back out on Western Avenue. That curb cut will be closed up and filled in, Andress said, so that all cars will need to pull in from the diner’s current entrance on Western Avenue.

Chairman Stephen Feeney said that the parking lot shown on the applicant’s draft site plan was awkward and did not allow sufficient room for cars in the back to turn around to leave. He suggested the orientation of the parking lot be shifted, to allow more room for maneuvering.  

Andress said he had been trying to keep the required 15-foot side-yard setback, and Feeney said it was his understanding that Coons had said that, since there is not a 15-foot setback now, that would not be an issue.

“Since it’s all parking and paving now, you’re improving the situation,” Feeney said.

Andress said that if he were not enjoined by the 15-foot setback, it would be no problem to improve the parking-lot plan.

The board voted unanimously to recommend that the zoning board grant the Pilarinoses a special-use permit to demolish the neighboring building and construct additional parking. The board set as conditions:

— New York State Department of Transportation review and approval of the proposed curb-cut closure and removal;

— Construction of additional parking to town standards, with 24-foot-wide access and drive aisles;

— A detailed lighting and landscaping plan that includes adding deciduous trees along Western Avenue; and

— Merging parcels and filing a new subdivision map showing the lot line adjustment.

Other business

In other business, the board also considered a request from the owners of Pine Bush Senior Living, a planned unit development project approved almost two years ago for Route 155 near Western Avenue, but not yet built.

The project was before the board, seeking an amendment to the town’s 2017 law that approved the PUD, to reflect a few modifications that Feeney called “very, very minor.”

Engineer Daniel Hershberg of Hershberg and Hershberg described the modifications as, for instance: a shift in location of a patio on the side of the building, a sidewalk that will need to be extended as far as a new second entrance to a kitchen, and a large drop-off area that is no longer needed.

Hershberg said financing for the project is in place and that the developer, Timothy Cassidy of Pine Bush Senior Living, LLC, hopes to break ground next spring.

The planning board unanimously recommended that the town board approve the minor changes to the local law.

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