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Letter to the Editor: New Car Wash Site Presents Dangers

Residents of Valerio Court in Bedford Hills are concerned about the neighborhood impact of the new car wash.

To The Editor:

This letter is an appeal to reason, and we're hoping that the Bedford Zoning Board reads it before its next hearing.  By way of background, the SPLASH Car Wash chain asked for permission to build a new facility one block away from our homes and, at a Zoning Board meeting earlier this month, was granted verbal approval (dependent on certain conditions) to proceed. 

The final decision is to be made at the Board's next meeting and, if final approval is given, we—the residents of Valerio Court in Bedford Hills—will be fearful for the safety, sanity and lives of our families.

Why are we terrified? Specifically, the proposed SPLASH facility would be a high-capacity operation (including car wash, oil change and detailing) that borders our private property, across both commercial and residentially zoned property.  Although the site is located on Route 117 the Bedford Planning and Zoning Boards are dictating the only access to the facility would be via Valerio Court -- a two-lane road (one lane each way) that's the ONLY road leading to our residential cul de sac.  This edict is to save Route 117 from the traffic and congestion this facility will no doubt create.

This presents a highly-dangerous situation to all of us, for a number of reasons...

1.  There is a documented history of accidents and deaths at other SPLASH locations in Westchester and nearby Connecticut.

2.  There is a school bus stop on the corner, and our children would have to walk past the SPLASH driveway entrances to the facility to get to the bus stop.

3.   The facility will have the capacity to process 260 cars per hour.  Directing all access to and from this facility through Valerio Ct may save Route 117 but what will happen to our small residential street.  Making matters worse, the entrance will be within a residentially zoned property, 30 feet from a private driveway.

4.   Customers who decide not to wait on a long line to get into the car wash would have only one option to get out of that line, which would be to drive into our residential cul de sac to turn around.  CHILDREN REGULARLY RIDE THEIR BIKES IN THIS CUL DE SAC.

5.  With up to 260 cars per hour, the facility would generate considerable air pollution (potentially causing respiratory issues), as well as noise pollution.

6.  During Winter, water run-off from the cars would freeze, creating icy, hazardous conditions on a road where children have to walk.

And, adding insult to injury, the Martabano family, the owner of the property for the proposed SPLASH and the owners of Valerio Court have been making aggressive moves against us, including threatening our access to Route 117 and putting stakes on our property, claiming those stakes represent borders of Valerio Ct which they would be entitled to use.

Sadly, despite these alarming facts, the Zoning Board is seriously considering SPLASH's requests for variances and zoning changes that would allow this to happen.  By doing so, they're putting our health, safety and very lives at risk...as well as setting a dangerous precedent that could allow other communities to grant similar requests.  And as for our property values....they're guaranteed to plummet.

Although we raised all of these issues at the previous Zoning Board meeting, the Board's verbal approval seems to indicate they fell on deaf ears.  That's why we're hoping this letter, read by our community, will bring clarity and sanity to this serious situation.  If this is allowed to happen to us, it can readily happen to everyone.

Sincerely,

Dino and Karen DeFeo along with the Residence of Valerio Court

 

Related stories:

New Car Wash OKd for Splash's Bedford Hills Site

Neighbors Protest Car Wash Plans

Letter to the Editor: New Car Wash Site Presents Dangers

Bob Martabano October 03, 2012 at 01:19 AM
FACT - the Planning Board also hired its own INDEPENDENT noise expert who determined that with the recommendations that he made (and Splash has agreed to abide by) not only will Splash comply with all the noise codes in Bedford, but the noise associated with Splash will be less than the noise levels that currently exist - wonder why the neighbors didn't tell you that? I could go on and on because, despite what the neighbors want you to believe, the FACT is that the Planning Board and the Zoning Board have dedicated more than 2 1/4 years to the study of this project and the record is full of FACTS that show that the Boards did not merely consider the neighbors’ concerns, they studied them completely using INDEPENDENT experts. The public hearing on this matter before the Zoning Board took place in August and September and is now closed. Before anyone criticizes these Boards, they should take a look at the record and the FACTS in the record, recognizing that these FACTS regarding traffic and noise have actually been verified by INDEPENDENT experts hired by these Boards. I understand that the neighbors don’t like what the INDEPENDENT experts found.That doesn’t change the FACTS. These Boards have done their jobs and it is a shame that the neighbors, in attempting to get support, failed to provide these FACTS in their letter for your readers. Bob Martabano
D DeFeo October 03, 2012 at 10:28 AM
I would like to offer another set of facts, as there are always more then one. There have been a number of traffic studies. The applicant and the town used 82 cars per hour. I'm sure all of you have experienced waiting to turn onto Route 117. I've grown old waiting. The applicant has graciously offered a right turn lane, but another 82 cars an hour will obviously make it much worse. The applicants traffic expert has stated there would be a "degradation of service". The towns traffic consultant has said on busy days, if you can't turn left, turn right. Our traffic consultant said lets use the right amount of cars in this study. The car wash they have proposed is capable of 260 cars/hour. A Car Wash Factory. Why would they build this capacity if they don't intend to maximize their significant investment. By the way, the owner of Splash has been quotedon that car wash volumes are down more then 40% since 2007. What happens when the economy gets better? There have also been a number of accidents at car washes with injuries, including a death at a Splash site in Ct. Don't rely on my facts, look it up. The applicant did offer to donate the upper half of Valerio. But at what price. We would have no right to object to what was happening on the street. After careful consideration we respectfully declined. We felt it was more important to retain our rights. By the way, most of the aggressive structures the applicant is referring to pre-date the current residents of Valerio Ct.
D DeFeo October 03, 2012 at 10:32 AM
We believe our concern with additional traffic on the residential portion of Valerio Ct. is also well founded. The right hand turn the applicant is referring to is directly opposite the proposed entrance. A driver will only be able to see if the car wash is busy once they get to the entrance. The applicant is proposing a six bay detail garage 14 feet from the property line (another variance), adjacent to the entrance. Once a driver reaches the entrance, looks around the structure to see if the car wash is busy, it will be too late for most people to turn right-heading up the hill into the residential area. There have been multiple acoustical studies. Surprisingly, our consultant disagreed with the applicant and the town. Dueling studies. I'd like to ask all of you; have you ever heard of a quiet car wash The residents of Valerio have been objecting to this car wash for 2 years. But only after the last zoning board meeting did we believe it might actually get approved. This is why we reached out for your support.
D DeFeo October 03, 2012 at 10:33 AM
Now that you have heard an array of facts, I trust you can make up your own mind. In doing so, ask yourself a couple of questions. Do you want a car wash in your neighborhood with its entrance and exit 30 feet from your driveway? Would you be ok with that entrance and exit being located on a residentially zoned property? What do you think a car wash would do to your property values? And do you want your children playing on this street or getting off the school bus & walking across the entry & exit of the car wash? Please, just think about this realistically..... Thanks for your time and consideration.
John Craig October 03, 2012 at 11:19 AM
As you say, commercial use along 117 with entrance off of Valerio Ct seems to predate the residential use. And these entrances are "2 deep" on each side of Valerio Ct (Bank & Buick Dealership on the right and Carvel and used car lot on the left). I assume you were aware of this when you purchased your residential property. Plus you had to know 117 was a commercial thoroughfare, with quite a bit of congestion. The fact that the car wash machinery is built for a certain capacity isn't relevant -- I doubt that when you buy these things you can save money by choosing one with a slower cycle time. They have the capacity they have. The accidents and death you like to cite also seem irreverent to your argument as I would assume those were workers or patrons of the car wash, not bystanders on the sidewalk. I've been to many car washes -- they don't seem very loud. I would think the basic traffic noise from 117 is louder than the car wash. Having considered the facts laid out, I support the rights of the property owners -- that is the right of the owners of the currently commercial property to develop their property, create some jobs and increase the tax base. Plus I would think many would be happy to get a side walk on the court and also improve the visual appearance versus a closed up ice cream place and a bunch of older cars / trucks. But I do support your right to hire a lawyer and do your best to stop it. Just don't be a sore loser. Good Luck.
John Craig October 03, 2012 at 11:22 AM
Also, I would guess the kids get on the bus before the place opens. If safety of the children is an issue when they return to school. You should demand that the car wash pay for a crossing guard to escort the children safely past the entrances -- using the sidewalk of course.
David M. Zeh October 03, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Bob, Your FACTS may or may not be true however, there is no mention in your story of the safety of the children crossing the entrance/exit drive to the proposed car wash. Also to believe that by adding a car wash this close to the residents of Valerio Ct is actually going to reduce the noise factor is the most irresponsible comment to date. So I have to ask, the thought of adding a third lane is considered a good thing? A turning lane a good thing? This clearly says that traffic to this facility and into the community on Valerio Ct will increase to a point that this would be necessary. I agree with Paul A, who states that the products used at the car wash such as the waxes and the tire shine products will drip onto the sidewalk and create an even worse scenario for the children. As for Mr. Craig's comment about paying for a crossiing guard, I question is it safe for that person as well as the children to be walking across this entrance/exit.
Steven Friedman October 03, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Bob, I think some of the issues you write about may have some validity, the key word in this sentence is "some". I cant believe some of the most ridiculous thought processes you write about here, with no regards or a single word relative to the safety of the children who have NO choice but to pass through this busy car wash to gain access to the bus stop. Putting in a sidewalk means zero!, are you implying that because you are so "gracious" enough to put in a walkway, that no one will get hurt? or any fatalities? as a result of a bad driver or someone that turns into the car wash while on their cell phone? NO, you cannot. I have been in construction for more than 25 years, NO DEVELOPER has ever offered to spend more money than they ever have to, especially in this economy. SO why is Splash spending money to develop a 260 car wash/hour when they intend on doing only 80?. The traffic reports indicate on 80/washes per hour, not 260.IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE and there is some heavy lying going on here!
Ryan M. October 03, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Bob has called attention to the noise pollution studies, but has not mentioned any localized air pollution studies. Health problems are inevitable when you get a line of cars dumping carbon monoxide and dangerous chemicals into the air where nearby children are waiting for their bus. I also agree with the other commenters that adding a sidewalk will do little to alleviate the danger. Whether on the news or first-hand, we've all seen distracted drivers on the road and the fatal consequences. I'm sure Bob sees this as a cash cow waiting to happen, but the FACT is that a child's life is priceless.
AnnaM October 03, 2012 at 02:42 PM
This entire argument is ridiculous.. How a human being could put any child's life in danger is beyond me. What is this world coming to when putting extra dollars in your pocket comes before families in a community. If that isn't greed I don't know what is. I also find it funny how Mr Martabano went around in circles in his whole long drawn out response but failed to mention anything about his threats to the homeowners on Valerio Ct. Nothing of the threats were mentioned in any of his "FACTS". I'm disgusted by the fact that the safety and livelihood of the families in this community are being challenged by a money hungry developer. Mr Martabano if this is such a wonderful idea and you feel putting a sidewalk in is so generous.. Why not have the owner of Splash build one next to your residence instead?
Dan October 03, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Uhh "Cameron"... I have been a local resident for decades, my bank is HSBC (now First Niagara) when my kids were young we would go to Carvel, I travel 117 every day. I never went up the "residential section" till a few months back to see what there were talking about. So, I know the area. As for the figures on the 260 cars, I have not seen the traffic study and probaly wouldn't understand it anyway. But with your math your saying that they can pump out more car washes in a minuit than McDonalds can dish out burgers? As for side roads on the other side, it's the train tracks and the saw mill parkway. Mr. DeFeo is obviously not telling the whole truth.
John Craig October 03, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Let's apply some logic to the hysteria. The place won't be open when the children are waiting for the bus. So they will be exposed to no more fumes than all the other children that wait for the bus along 117. The busiest times are on the weekends anyway. There are currently many people that cross on the sidewalk in front of Splash today - and the McDonalds across the street and the Target/A&P entrance further down 117. Everyday, those people mange to walk across BUSIER entrances with safety. I'm sure a crossing guard could shepherd these children safely down the sidewalk of Valerio Ct. Tens of thousands of kids figure out how to safely cross the street in Manhattan every day. And there is no way this threatens the "livelihood" of the 4 residents of this court.
Dan October 03, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Mr. DeFeo, I just saw your address and on google earth you are located at the top of the hill. Your driveway is no way near 30 feet from the commercial zone. Everyone can see on the google earth map the location and see the area for the car wash which is the old carvel and the car lot next door. As for the value of your home, I'm sure the price was right as you drove thru the area to buy it. If you buy a house next to an airport don't complain about the planes.
Michael S. October 03, 2012 at 04:07 PM
For now let’s leave out the increased noise, traffic and property value decrease from adding a commercial car wash at the corner of any residential street and focus on safety. Just based on the amount of traffic already on RT 117, I believe that creating a commercial property that will have vehicle stopping, turning and waiting to enter a facility will dramatically increase traffic congestion and create a danger for pedestrians and children that are being dropped off at the corner or walking to the bus stop. This situation will only increase when adding in climate weather such as snow and there are less cleared pathways for pedestrians. The town should not let this facility be constructed at this location.
Michael S. October 03, 2012 at 04:13 PM
How could you expect the residents of Valerio Ct to know that when they purchased their homes the town would allow a car wash to access the commercial lot through a residential area. That seems unfair to put the burden on them. If the development was as of right then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The fact that Splash needs a variance to drive through a residential zone to make this project work tells me this is not a right fit for the location. And why do they need to build a two tunnel car wash when one would meet their needs? This section of 117 cannot handle the traffic. Where the current Splash is located they have more opportunity to merge onto 117 before 117 gets congested as you get closer to the light at Green Lane.
BHmomof3 October 03, 2012 at 05:35 PM
You keep saying that this car wash will not be open when kids go to school in the morning.....what about 3:00 in the afternoon when school gets out and the kids take the bus home?
Lisa Buchman (Editor) October 03, 2012 at 05:49 PM
We have another letter regarding the proposal, If you'd like to check it out here: http://bedford.patch.com/articles/letter-splash-down-or-lift-off. Also if you plan to attend the meeting, and/or want to post your own statement, please click here: http://bedford.patch.com/blog/apply
D DeFeo October 03, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Dan, thank you for being so concerned that you went the the trouble to look up my address. I wrote this letter on behalf of the residence of Valerio Ct. Therefore when I'm responding to issues raised as part of these comments I'm responding on behalf of the residence. If you look closely to the satellite image you'll see my neighbor’s driveway down the street. That was the driveway I was referring to. Thanks again for your concern.
D DeFeo October 03, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Thank you all for the support you've shown. I just wanted to inform everyone the Splash application has been removed from the agenda this evening. From what I understand it will be back on the agenda next month. Let’s keep the discussion going. The more we discuss it the more people will become aware of the application and take part. Thanks again.
John Craig October 03, 2012 at 08:37 PM
BHmomof3, I also suggested the residents of the 4 houses could ask the Zoning Board to require Splash to pay for a crossing guard (a person) to escort the children past the car wash. Does that not seem safe to you?
AnnaM October 03, 2012 at 08:38 PM
John... Is that supposed to make it better that it will be busier on the weekend when children are home from school playing outside their home? Besides the fact the entrance will be on a residential street as opposed to 117 like McDonalds and to bring up the children crossing the streets in manhattan is ridiculous. That's one of the reasons people move to a suburb to raise families as opposed to a large city. If they wanted to live in a city like manhattan they would have bought homes there. As for the "livelihood" of the residents on Valerio Court, People are spending their hard earned money paying their mortgages and taxes to have the value of their homes plummet due to this car wash. Valerio court is too small to support a car wash of that magnitude.
Leone October 03, 2012 at 08:56 PM
I'm not sure what these facts are useful for. So you are saying you spent 2 years convincing the board that the car wash can be built on this residential street? How is that supporting your side of this? That just shows everyone that 1: this is going to be extremely lucrative for you, considering the time and the SELFLESS acts of improvements to Valerio Ct. and 2. on paper this car wash does not satisfy all building requirements currently in place. If that's your arguement, congrats because you sure proved your point. You can try to convince everyone that you care about the people who live on Valerio Ct, but I don't think anyone is buying it. The safety of the residents is the main concern of everyone on this thread and you haven't addressed that once. Are you going to personally stop traffic into the establishment everyone time a kid goes running for the bus? I don't think you will nor will anybody else.
Leone October 03, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Dan, when you buy a home do you check the zoning map? That's probably an important step. If your block is zoned for residential would you anticipate a developer spending over 2 years to get variance to build a commerical building on a residential block? As for the airport, how does that make any sense.
John Craig October 03, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Look at a map of this street. This section of Valerio Ct is NOT residential. It is clearly commercial and has been for a long time. Where it turns into an (apparently) private residential road, it becomes more narrow. A person didn't need to check a zoning map to understand there was commercial traffic on a portion of this road -- all they had to do is drive by the 4 existing commercial entrances off Valerio. There is already commercial traffic here. The Carvel has been out of business for 3+ years. Do you really think it's reasonable that the owner of the property wasn't going to develop it for something else? Of course the owner is going to make money off this development (he's probably been loosing it since Carvel moved out). It's HIS commercial property. I happen to think the safety concerns can easily be mitigated. I think this is simply one set of property owners trying to infringe on the rights of another property owner. According to 1 web site, the value of one of the houses on this street has already dropped about $125k since 2007. The value might still drop for a bunch of different reasons, but it isn't going to plummet.
John Craig October 03, 2012 at 09:55 PM
My point about kids in Manhattan isn't about where their parents want to live. It's about how capable kids are in general. Sure parents in Westchester (including me to some degree) want to spoil their kids. But that doesn't mean the kids aren't smart enough to look both ways before crossing in front of an entry way. I would suggest that it's more dangerous for the kids to wait on the sidewalk of 117 than it would be to cross the entrance to a car wash. And hopefully you're aware that there are already kids waiting for the bus on the sidewalk along 117
Lisa Buchman (Editor) October 03, 2012 at 11:19 PM
The Splash proposal has been adjourned (omitted) from tonight's zoning board agenda. The town sent out an email this afternoon.
Carrie October 04, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Being a mother of 2 I am concerned for the children as well. Aren't the kids usually on the bus before Splash will open, and they are adding sidewalks which they currently don't have. My children don't even have a bus option they have to walk. We walk ACROSS 117 with tons of morning traffic everyday. There is no way to please everyone. It's a parents responsibility to look after the safety of their kids. There are other options to get your children to school if you feel unsafe, it may be an inconvenience. Just as on rainy snowy slippery days I don't love walking my kids to school but nothing will be perfect for every family. The car wash plans look beautiful and Bedford hills needs a little cleaning up and the building the owner of the car wash proposed to do will make that area look much better, most likely increasing the value of those homes
Carrie October 04, 2012 at 05:28 PM
The families on Valerio should be careful what they wish for, if Splash doesn't go in wont every fast food chain in America be trying to get that location? Then you possibly are stuck with a 24 hr drive thru with the smell of cheap burgers
T Furman October 05, 2012 at 12:48 AM
In difference to what John Craig has stated above,the issue is not the commercial use of the parcel. It is the elected officials placing the interest of commercial business above the safety of tax paying residents of this town. Any as of right use would not require the special use permits, encroachment variences and parking location variances being asked for. It is the car wash, and the huge amount of vehicular use, that is at issue! I am glad that the item has been adjourned. I hope that clearer heads prevail next month, and this resolutions denied.
Portia Torte November 17, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Gee with all that opposition to a car wash, maybe the site is better suited for one a strip of those multifamily housing units that HUD wants to put in our part of the county. That's a much better idea and all the kids can frolic together to the bus stop in greater numbers to fend off the evil cars on Rte 117.

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