CARMEL, N.Y. - Plans to convert the old Friendly’s restaurant building on Stoneleigh Avenue in Carmel into a Taco Bell took one more step toward fruition when the Planning Board voted to schedule a public hearing for the project.
Representatives from Kai Carmel LLC, which owns the property, went before the board on Aug. 14 to address some architectural concerns raised by the board.
Paul Dumont, a senior engineer at JMC Engineering, who represents Kai Carmel, said that he’d met with Vince Mellusi of Elmsford-based Warshauer Mellusi Warshauer Architects PC, the town’s architectural consultant, to discuss the changes.
“Since we were last before you, we have responded to comments made by the town engineer and the town’s architectural consultant,” he said. “The plans now fully detail the proposed parapet. And we have submitted a sign package detailing the size of the project and as [building inspector Mike Carnazza] indicated, it complies with town code.
“We also have a sample board showing the proposed paint colors and the stone that will be on the tower,” Dumont continued. “We had the opportunity to meet with [Mellusi] and show him these samples in person and he indicated that they are acceptable to him.”
Dumont said the revised plans show that a brightly colored accent mural near the drive-in window had been removed after board members said it was “too in your face” and Carnazza warned it would likely not receive a required variance.
Anthony Giannico, the board’s co-chair, said he was displeased that the board’s request to keep the building’s roofline, which features a cupola, be left mainly intact.
“[We] specifically focused in on the roofline and asked you to address that—how we’d like the look of a building [to be] in line with our vision,” he said. “And I see before me a revision that totally disregards that. I would have liked to see a revision with the current roofline. Obviously, it had to be altered at some point to meet the needs of Taco Bell, but what I see before me is a blatant disregard of the board’s comments. I do have an issue with that.”
Dumont said that wasn’t an option for Taco Bell.
“We understand the board [liked] that existing architecture but it was not an option for our clients to keep that existing roofline,” he said. “It’s very much Friendly’s corporate architecture. We feel that the plan before you balances both sides the best that we can.”
“I respect your point, but it doesn’t balance both sides; it balances Taco Bell’s needs,” he shot back. “There was no attempt to even meet us halfway. It’s a very nice-looking modern building, but as it sits right there next to the new gas station (Coco Farms) that this board worked on, [and] the developers there did a great job fitting in our vision. To me it is going to feel out of place.”
Eric Levitz, the architect on the project, said the building currently feature’s Friendly’s iconic architecture and Taco Bell needed to change that.
“That is Friendly’s corporate architecture. Every Friendly’s was built in that direction with that roofline,” he told the board. “In the eyes of Taco Bell, we just can’t come in there and put a sign on a Friendly’s building. There is no modifying it; either it would be a complete scrape or rebuilding. What we came up with, I think, is a balance with the existing surroundings along with [Mellusi’s] recommendations.”
Despite the disagreement, the Planning Board voted unanimously to move the site-plan approval process on to the next phase—a public hearing. A date for the hearing has not yet been scheduled.