A developer’s plans for the vacant lot at the intersection of Fayette Street and Highbridge Road will now be brought before the village of Manlius Planning Board after a presentation given at the village board of trustee’s regular meeting Tuesday, March 27.
James J. Bonsignore, an attorney for the developer, Morgan Acquisitions LLC, presented the board with a conceptual plan and design for “Manlius Square,” along with an application for a zone change application.
The application would rezone the 4.41-acre property located next to the former Express Sales building from its current combination of designations as both commercial and residential to one singular Planned Unit Development District.
According to a letter from Bonsignore’s firm, Fix Spindelman Brovitz & Goldman, “The intent of the PUD is to create a transitional, multi-use district separating the residential properties to the west from the commercial downtown area to the east. Uses for the district will include multifamily residential … and mixed-use commercial consisting of all uses permitted within the commercial district plus multi-use commercial allowing for the incorporation of multifamily residential/commercial mixed use buildings.”
Bonsignore said the proposed plan includes a drive-thru pharmacy.
“The Kinney Drug store would be 11,500 square feet,” Bonsignore said, with a proposed retail building that would feature “multi-family residences on the second floor.”
Also included in the proposal are a second, two-story 7,900-square-foot building next to the store with “specialty retail” on the lower floor and residential apartments on the second floor and two duplexes to the back of the lot, along Eureka Drive.
Bonsignore said the village’s Comprehensive Plan was kept in mind by the developer, citing the fact that parking was pushed to the back, with the building up front buffered from the street by vegetation and sidewalks.
“The proposed district provides a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly community center … [which] meets the goals of the Comprehensive Plan by providing essential services and revitalizing the downtown area,” he said.
He also said the plan preserves a “substantial” buffer zone between the development and the existing neighbors both adjacent to and behind the lot along with sidewalk areas along the road and provides an “aesthetically pleasing project” which “incorporates the village’s Design Guidelines.”
One board member was concerned about the fact that this buffer zone called for the razing of two houses on F-M Road adjacent to the lot.
Trustee Natalie Miner said she knew the village “didn’t want to give up residential for commercial.” Citing the Madison Row project that is across from the proposed site, she said, “there’s a couple houses gone here, there, and although some might say they were not the most attractive [houses], it’s still encroaching. At some point as a village we will draw the line and say we’re not going to take houses down for commercial [purposes].”
Project architect Raymond F. Trotta of Smith and Associates Architects said much thought was put into the design of the project.
“We looked at Madison Row and how it relates, and how to make [Manlius Square] a gateway [to the village],” Trotta said. “It has a residential, village, main street-type look with varying roof lines. It gives you that village approach.”
Trustee Janice Abdo-Rott said she is concerned about the need for a drugstore in the village.
“I don’t think Manlius is looking for a pharmacy,” she said. Abdo-Rott’s other concerns included that the pharmacy plan looked like a “box,” and that F-M Road would not be wide enough to handle the traffic.
Trotta said that the developer understood that the plan “had to be a viable project” for the village.
“We are trying to come up with something that works for the village, creating a successful project,” he said, pointing to the fact that similar businesses in the village do not feature a drive-thru pharmacy, “something in this day-and-age that is needed more and more.”
Project engineer Mark Costich indicated the proposal had gotten a good reception from the state Department of Transportation, but added that they still have to do work, including traffic studies.
The board voted to refer the developer’s PUD application to the village planning board for review.
One trustee cautioned the applicants about their chances for approval from the village board, should the planning board recommend the application.
“The village has passed on a lot of projects,” Trustee Eric Krouse said. “If it’s not right for the village, it won’t happen. We’ve heard plenty of proposals … you could call us jaded.”
Village Planning and Development Director David Tessier said the project had “certainly come a long way from its first sketches.”
“This is the third version of the plan, and it is not ready yet,” Tessier said. “But it is ready to go to the planning board.”
Mayor Mark-Paul Serafin agreed.
“They’ve done a great job of getting to this point,” Serafin said.