CARMEL, N.Y. - It will still be a little while before local residents can make a run for the border after plans to convert the old Friendly’s restaurant on Stoneleigh Avenue in Carmel into a Taco Bell were sent back to the applicant’s drawing board for more tweaking.
Paul Dumont, a senior engineer at JMC Engineering, who represents the applicants, Kai Carmel LLC, went before the Planning Board at its July 31 meeting to present an updated version of the site-plan application. It included changes the board had requested during its May 22 meeting when the application was first presented.
“The design has gone through several iterations and we are very pleased with what we are presenting to you tonight,” Dumont told the board. “We put a lot of thought into the architecture and made some significant changes to the plans. What we are trying to do, as you directed us to, is provide consistency and continuity throughout the building as well as try to evoke the character you were looking for in the Route 6 corridor. We feel the revision we made marries the contemporary look of the current Taco Bell prototype with some of the features of the existing building and some of the projects you liked in the area. We feel we’ve balanced the Taco Bell corporate needs with the needs of [the Planning Board]. What you see today is a happy medium.”
Town engineer Rich Franzetti noted there are no changes in the existing building’s footprint and the existing parking lot will be used. He said the primary changes are the addition of the drive-thru window and traffic lane for the restaurant. He also noted that Kai Carmel LLC received the necessary permit from the town’s Environmental Conservation Board (ECB).
“They will work with the engineering department to see if they need anything from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC),” Franzetti added.
The building will eventually house two businesses, with Taco Bell on one side and a yet-unknown tenant on the other. Pat Cleary, town planning consultant, said that at the May 22 meeting the main issue was the façade of the building, and how to integrate the two tenant spaces into one.
“The applicant has been working with our architectural consultant to help further that conversation,” Cleary said.
Vincent Mellusi of Elmsford-based Warshauer Mellusi Warshauer Architects, PC, the town’s architectural consultant, told the board that the challenge was to take the design of the existing building and tweak it to the style the board is seeking while still maintaining Taco Bell’s corporate aesthetic.
“The building as first presented was a very contemporary building,” he said. “The idea was to try to get this to be a little more of what the board is looking for—that New England style. It’s difficult to do with the corporate logo of Taco Bell. So, we worked out some details that were not present in the original design such as the trim, raising the stone wall and capping that off, and a couple of other small, little details to get that feel. I think it married well.”
Mellusi said the original plan had the outside trim stop on the façade outside the second tenant’s area.
“I insisted it go on to make it look like one unified building,” he said. “We got that done. With the lighting and the canopy that goes around, it’s now a cohesive design.”
Mellusi said he would like to see samples of the siding the applicants plan to use on the building’s façade rather than just photos and drawings.
“When we do things on the computer, it looks great. But sometimes touch and feel are better,” he said.
Dumont said they’d be happy to provide samples.
“We will be prepared to bring a sample board to the public hearing,” Dumont said.
He also said that once the Planning Board is comfortable with the overall architecture, he would submit a signage package for approval.
But some Planning Board members expressed concern about a brightly colored mural on the outside of the building, next to the drive-thru window, that depicts sauce packets. Building inspector Mike Carnazza said that would likely be considered a sign and would need a variance, which he didn’t think would be granted. One board member said the mural was “too in your face.”
“From our perspective, a lot of things [Mellusi] is outlining are things that are very easily addressed by our team,” Dumont said. “We feel confident we can turn these things around fairly quickly.”
Dumont asked the board to schedule a public hearing for the project, but Planning Board Chair Craig Paeprer said that was premature.
“I know you are anxious, but we have some due diligence to do here,” he said.
Paeprer said the next Planning Board meeting is Aug. 14 and advised the applicants to get on that agenda and provide an updated design with the requested changes. After that, the public hearing could be scheduled.
“We don’t even know if they need any variances yet on their sign package,” Carnazza noted.