New drive-thru headed to Transit

by ETHAN POWERS – Editor – Clarence Bee

Though the idea encountered continued resistance and objection from the residents of Woodbridge Village, Transit Road will see the installation of a new drive-thru, the tenant of which has yet to be announced.

The Town Board voted unanimously at its July 12 meeting to approve a special exemption permit for a drive-thru facility for 6031 Transit Road, with the condition that the board will have final approval of the tenant.

Supervisor Patrick Casilio reaffirmed that the Town Board sought to implement a level of control with a project that could prove to have substantial traffic ramifications.

“If it was a Tim Hortons, we could have cars out onto Transit Road,” he said.

The drive-thru will be one component of an approximately 9,000-square-foot plaza to be built on the site of the former Buggy Wash, between Buffalo Pharmacy and a Noco gas station.

Jonathan Bevilacqua, the developer of the project, previously told the board that while no retail tenant is currently assigned to the drive-thru, Pita Gourmet has signed a lease to take one of the complex’s end units.

Through the entirety of the approval process for the drive-thru, the residents of Woodbridge Village, located off Transit Road, consistently voiced concerns and objections related to both the drive-thru and the commercial complex as a whole. Noise issues and a traffic problem that will be exacerbated by another drive-thru continued to fall on deaf ears, according to the residents who addressed the Town Board.

“We’re a very small community of about 58 homes. There’s only one way in and one way out,” said Joann Marinell, a resident of Whitegate Crossing. “We’re very concerned about traffic from this.”

In addition to concerns about the commercial development’s proximity to the property line of some Woodbridge residents, as well as the brightness emanating from the complex’s light system, the last thing Transit Road needs, according to Marinell, is another restaurant.

Casilio was quick to point out that the building and drive-thru in question are on the far side of the new development and not as close to residential property lines as some residents had indicated.

But for those property owners in attendance at the July 12 meeting, a tape measure was not needed to judge the immediacy of the development to their homes. Instead, they indicated, one only needs to drive down that specific stretch of Transit to understand how recent development within the town has irrevocably changed the character of their neighborhood.

“My concern is the 45,000-square-foot building behind it: that was a special exemption because of the scale; now, we have another exemption taking place with the drive-thru,” said Robert Michael, president of the Transit Woodbridge Homeowners Association.

“The [Department of Transportation] amended the site plan to eliminate a curb cut, which addressed a lot of those issues,” responded Jim Callahan, director of community development for the town. “The applicant has revised the plan to increase the amount of stacking. There is an ample stacking lane provided within the design.”

Callahan added that currently, the site plan does not include a connection with the adjacent Noco gas station, though the plan noted that there could be a connection in the future should the two parties come to an agreement.

Bridgette Preston-Gianturco, treasurer of the Transit Woodbridge Homeowners Association, attempted to appeal to the Town Board a final time before the council gave its mark of approval for the drive-thru permit.

“It’s very difficult at this time to turn left out of that development,” she said. “Our concern is access to the road … Now we’re going to exacerbate [traffic issues] by increasing the traffic here. So, it’s a problem that exists today that hasn’t been addressed, and we’re going to add to it.”

Bevilacqua briefly responded to the array of resident concerns.

“We’ve actually eliminated one of the curb cuts on Transit Road. Now, there’s a single curb cut. Currently, we have two curb cuts on Transit Road, which means you have two ways where cars can turn left,” he said, specifically in response to potential traffic issues. “By reducing the number of curb cuts, you’re keeping cars off of Transit Road. It should facilitate traffic moving through the site.”

Bevilacqua reluctantly accepted the Town Board’s conditional approval stipulation, which will allow the board to have a final say in regard to the drive-thru’s tenant.

“We could have no say in the tenant that goes in that building? It could be open 24 hours a day. This is where we would control it at this point,” said Casilio, looking toward Callahan for confirmation. “I think we should put a condition on it that it’s not an open checkbook and all of the sudden there’s a 24-hour operation.”