Car wash projects before city boards

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Rome Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3, in Common Council Chambers, second floor of City Hall, 198 N. Washington St., for public comment regarding development at the Hoffman Development Corporation property at 1727 Black River Blvd.

Hoffman Development Group, headquartered in Albany, seeks to demolish the current building to construct a 6,400 square-foot Matrix Car Wash.

The zoning board will hold a pre-meeting at 6 p.m. in the caucus room prior to the public hearing.

Due to the COVID-19 closure of Rome City Hall to the public, anyone wishing to comment on the public hearing regarding the ZBA Meeting should do so in writing to dkelly@romecitygov.com no later than 24 hours prior to the public hearing.

All comments received will be read into the public record during the public hearing.

According to the special use permit, car wash facilities must be screened along interior side and rear lot lines with a solid fence or wall, a minimum of 6 feet and a maximum of 7 feet in height. One shrub a minimum of 3 feet in height at time of planting must be planted linearly every 3 feet on-center along the fence or wall.

The site must be graded to drain away from adjoining properties.

Hoffman Development Corp. is also looking to build a car wash at 1315 Erie Blvd. W.

At the Jan. 5 Planning Board meeting, Rome Historical Society Board of Trustees President Bobbie O’Brien requested more time for further research into the Erie Boulevard property, once home to West Rome School, and to correct any documents that may indicate that the school was built later than 1936.

O’Brien requested that two items on the agenda be tabled: the SEQR review and Site Plan review of a request by Hoffman Development Corp. In reviewing the documents posted on the city’s website, a full State Environmental Quality Review, known as a SEQR, was not actually submitted, instead a Short Environmental Assessment Form.

O’Brien, speaking as a member of the community and not as a representative of the Rome Historical Society,  said item No. 12 of that form states the site is eligible for listing on the Register of Historic Places and adjacent to a designated “sensitive area.” O’Brien stated that on the Request for Planning Board Review, the form asks if the parcel contains features of archeological or historical significance.

She said the architectural engineer of the property was Harold G. Rice (1896-1984), a civil engineer who served as Commissioner of Public Works for the city; served on the Planning Board and wrote Rome’s zoning plan and ordinance in 1932.

“We could submit to the William G. Pomeroy Foundation for an historic marker noting his contributions,” O’Brien stated. “Perhaps it could be erected at the 1315 Erie Boulevard W. property. The building does have additional significance since it is limestone and that is rare here.”

She continued, “Our local real estate personnel should be more aware and cognizant of the historic significance of the land and buildings here in Rome – inside and outside districts. More due diligence is needed for full disclosure before a potential buyer makes final decisions. Anything older than 50 years is considered potentially eligible for registry.”

William Rapke, a local proponent of preserving the site for its historical significance, has started a “City of Rome New York Planning Board: Historic Preservation” petition at Change.org: http://chng.it/KdyPTfR2Ys to gain support for the effort to save the former West Rome School at 1315 Erie Blvd. W. from demolition.

“There are multiple sites in this area of Rome that would be more appropriate for this project, but Hoffman is unwilling to consider them,” said Rapke of the car wash proposal. “Marty Andrews, the Director of Development for Hoffman, has stated that the company intends to move forward at this site and does not consider the building worthy of preservation as it is not currently on the National or State Historic Register. They do not give any consideration to the local Rome Historical Society’s objection to the project.”

“Our process included an extensive due diligence period, which featured conversations with town officials and an investigation into the historical registration,” said Andrews in a statement. “Our findings unveiled the Greystone building did not appear on the register or was deemed to have significant historical importance.”

He stated, “At this point, finding an alternative site would have a financial impact on our company that extends beyond this location...Hoffman Development does take pride in the communities we serve. Since building our first car wash in 1965, the Hoffman family has grown and nurtured the business, setting standards for the region. Additionally, we are recognized as one of the premier family-owned car care companies in the nation. We ensure our customers and employees are fairly treated and our motto is ‘Practice Kindness.’ We are proud of the opportunities we give to our employees and equally proud of the contributions we make to our communities.”

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