CARMEL, N.Y. - Local fast-food enthusiasts will soon be able to live outside the bun.
Plans to convert the old Friendly’s restaurant on Stoneleigh Avenue, just off Route 6, into a Taco Bell took another step toward fruition last week as the Planning Board and representatives of the fast-food goliath met to discuss the finishing touches of the site plan application.
Building inspector Mike Carnazza said that the applicants have met his request for information on such items as parking requirements and detailed plans of the trash enclosure. He noted that the necessary variances were granted back in 1984 when the Friendly’s was built, so it won’t be necessary to reapply.
Town planner Jim Cleary noted at a May 22 meeting that the board’s initial concerns were that Taco Bell was going to use only half the building’s space. Another restaurant, yet to be determined, will fill the other half—making it difficult for the board to grasp the overall aesthetic of the building. However, at last week’s meeting, the applicants displayed renderings of the façade that helped clear up that issue.
“We didn’t know what the other half of the building would be used for, but now they are indicating it will be another restaurant,” Cleary said. “What they have done is calculated the total parking requirements based on two restaurants’ use. They are presenting an architectural plan based on a single building as a coordinated architectural design. So, that is a significant improvement from where we were last time.”
Cleary said that another issue, centered on the drive-thru window, had also been resolved.
“One other concern was the drive-thru and whether it was adequate in size. So, the applicant has provided information from other Taco Bells indicating that this use is typical,” Cleary said. “This is a fairly long driveway, so it’s unlikely to be a concern.”
Paul Dumont, a senior engineer at JMC Engineering, said the changes to the property are negligible, noting the applicants, Kai Carmel LLC, are more than willing to work with the town regarding the architecture of the building.
“We are just proposing some minor modifications to the site,” he said. “The building’s interior and façade are going to be changed to facilitate the Taco Bell restaurant. We are proposing some minor site improvements, most notably the rebuilding of trash enclosure, handicap accessibility and some landscaping improvements.”
The Planning Board has encouraged the applicants to emulate the look and design of the neighboring McDonald’s and the nearly completed CoCo Farms gas station, and Dumont said they have done just that.
“Full architectural packages, including signage, are being developed and will be provided to the Planning Board,” Dumont said. “Some of the façade material features have been coordinated with the McDonald’s project.”
Darius Chafizadeh, a White Plains-based attorney representing Kai Carmel, which owns the 30,000-square-foot building, said that the plan is to “leave the building as it is and not change it too much in terms of the footprint, other than some parking changes.”
However, Anthony Giannico, the board’s vice chair, expressed concern that the plan calls for changing the building’s roofline.
“The building itself fits in the direction and vision of the community,” Giannico said. “You changed the roofline and took away the cupola, which were some of the features we liked about the project.”
Giannico said that using similar designs and materials as those of nearby buildings was fine, but noted that how the building sits and looks should be preserved.
“If the curb appeal could stay as close as possible and work within the parameters of the existing rooflines incorporating the new materials that would get us on track,” he said.
Board member Dave Furfaro said Dumont should take the current drawings to the town’s consultant to develop a final design together that would satisfy all.
“I think it would be wise, before you get too far into it, to get together with our consultant,” he said. “You are at the stage now where we need to get together on the same page. I appreciate you are using same materials [as McDonalds and CoCo Farms], but the look of Friendly’s really worked for us.”
Dumont said he is still coordinating with Taco Bell Corporate.
“It’s a balancing act. I think there is a happy medium somewhere,” he said.
Dumont told the board he’d received the required wetlands permit from the Environmental Conservation Board and felt the plan was ready for a public hearing. However, board Chair Craig Paeprer said that was premature
“I think you are going to need some time with the architect, and I don’t want to schedule a public hearing until at least we know what the building is going to look like,” Paeprer said. “We appreciate that you are in a hurry to open, but we need to see a draft that is further along first. Signage, finishes, textures, lighting… I don’t want to hold a public hearing while we are still debating it all. So, let us agree on some concepts and then we’ll schedule a public hearing.”
Dumont agreed and said an updated plan would be brought to the board as soon as possible, possibly at its next meeting.