The Town of North Hempstead gave approval on Wednesday for a new coffee shop, part of the For Five Coffee chain, on Plandome Road near the intersection of Park Avenue in Manhasset.
The shop’s application for a parking variance and food use permit met significant delay because town officials requested that the applicant provide a second parking study.
A new study was performed on March 29 and was submitted to the Board of Zoning Appeals earlier this week, said Carole Trottere, the town spokeswoman. “The BZA considered the additional parking study and voted to grant the conditional use permit and parking variance,” she said.
A decision on the coffee shop application for a parking variance and food-use permit was expected to be made at a March 8 town Board of Zoning Appeals hearing.
“The delay is long but is 100 percent caused by the applicant that provided Town BZA with a VERY weak parking study to support their appeal,” Richard Bentley, president of the Council of Greater Manhasset Civic Associations, said in an email to Blank Slate Media before the latest action.
Paul Christakos, the owner of Queens-based Christakos Architecture, filed the application in October with the Town of North Hempstead Building Department, seeking to change the property at 292 Plandome Road from a commercial use to a food use to accommodate the coffee shop.
Citing the need for parking, the Building Department instructed Christakos to go to the town Board of Zoning Appeals.
The coffee shop application elicited concerns from local civic officials that the shop would exacerbate parking and traffic issues in the area.
The town Building Department determined the 29-seat coffee shop would require 26 parking spaces, but there are no spaces on-site, the traffic study said.
The original study, submitted by the engineering firm VHB on Feb. 6, counted 7 to 26 vacant parking spaces on nearby stretches of Plandome Road and Park Avenue over the course of Friday, Feb. 3, from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
“Midday parking demand for the restaurant is expected to be a small fraction of the theoretical 26 spaces required by the zoning calculations, which are a gross overstatement of the expected parking needs,” the study said.
The study concluded “that the available on-street parking will be adequate to accommodate the practical parking needs of the proposed coffee shop.”
According to an updated version of the report, submitted on Feb. 23, town BZA officials “requested that supplemental parking observations be undertaken during the breakfast/morning period.”
The updated study counted available parking spaces on nearby stretches of Plandome Road and Park Avenue on Feb. 22 between 7:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
The study found 18 to 40 vacant spaces over that period.
Bentley noted that the second round of the study took place over a winter recess break at Manhasset schools.
He described the traffic report and its update as “a 1 day study covering a very limited hourly time frame, and a second study which then also covered 1 single day during a known holiday/school break week and covered only the ‘missing’ hourly time periods of the first study.”
“Is that a professional study? Clearly most agree, NO it is not,” Bentley added.
Last month, Christakos objected to concerns about the amount of parking on Plandome Road.
“There is a pretty substantially sized municipal lot across the street,” Christakos said.
“I know that’s for the train station but Plandome Road is a central hub of the neighborhood. To keep a corner spot like that [building] vacant for god knows how long, I think it’s right to make it open.”
“I think there’s enough parking in the municipal lot across the street to accommodate the establishment,” he added.
Andrew Schwenk, the first vice president of the Council of Greater Manhasset Civic Associations, said increased congestion in the municipal parking lot would worsen existing problems there.
Attempts to reach Christakos and For Five Coffee owner Tom Tsplackos were unavailing.
“There is wide residential and commerce support that recognizes the ‘benefits’ of a vibrant downtown with stores filled, not vacant,” Bentley said.
But he said the Town of North Hempstead “needs to work with all constituencies to address the larger ‘elephant in the room’: The need for a comprehensive parking plan for the Manhasset Plandome Road business area.”