Signs of Life for Stateline
Michael Brendan Dougherty
Putnam County Courier

Developer Paul Camarda returned to the Southeast Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday, having cut down signage plans for his massive Stateline Retail Center. But his revisions may not have mattered. With all ZBA members in attendance, Camarda was granted the 27 sign variances by a margin of 4-3. His trimming convinced none of the previous “Nay” votes to switch.

Last month, Camarda appeared before the ZBA, asking for 30 variances for signs on his proposed project on Route 6. The board engaged in a vigorous debate about its role, whether it was appropriate to grant so many variances for one project, or whether the Town Code needed to be revised. Southeast zoning currently allows only for signs 2 feet by 10 feet, and, as board member Vink reminded his fellow members, “The code does not anticipate large commercial retail development at all.” The board came to a deadlock in February, with three votes approving the variances, and three against, with one absence.

“As promised, I took the razor to the plans,” said Camarda. Two signs were cut altogether, two others were reduced to meet the current Town Code, and others were nominally reduced. In total, Camarda still asked for 27 sign variances, and argued that he needed potential tenants to understand that the town was welcoming then. He also discussed at length his attempts to make the design as unobtrusive and tasteful as possible. “Like it or not, this architecture is more expensive than what you find at most retailers,” said Camarda.

Again on Monday, the Board discussed referring the problem back to the Town Board. Chairman Ed Collello asked, with a note of sarcasm, “How long do you think it’s going to take our town board to get together and figure out big box signing?”

“Patterson Crossing will be finished first,” said Paul Vink, eliciting a laugh at the expense of the notoriously contentious Town Board.

During the public hearing, Camarda was severely tested by Lynn Eckhardt, a Southeast member of the Architectural Review Board, who was the only resident of Southeast in attendance for the hearing. Eckhardt picked at Camarda’s arguments that many chain grocers were allowed several signs to advertise their floral shops. “This is personal for me,” said Eckhardt, who owns a garden supply store in Southeast. “First [these signs] are unattractive, second it hurts small businesses,” who do not receive the same variances.

“You think everything is offensive,” Camarda said, pointing at Eckhardt: “Everyone would like a store that you can’t see, except the store-owner.” A moment later the developer turned back to Eckhardt. “I apologize for losing my cool,” he said.

Though the back-and-forth continued for nearly an hour, the difference turned out to be Joseph Castellano, the board member who was absent at the last meeting. The other board members voted as they had in February, despite Camarda’s attempts to sway them.

A side issue of a tower at the entrance of Stateline with signage was put to the side by the board, which asked Camarda to resubmit plans the following month. The long-awaited retail center, having cleared one large hurdle, must now only receive approval for one more sign, and then a review by the planning board before proceeding.

The board approved two other agenda items this month. Resident James Moravick was granted a variance to construct a two-car garage at his property on Route 22, though the plans put it within 100 feet of the road. And the property on Two Star Ridge Road was granted permit to build a sign within 35 feet of their street.