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02-11-2005, 12:51 PM
City pool hall proposal is rejected
Variance denied for project
By Michael Valkys
Poughkeepsie Journal

A developer's plan for a billiard parlor and apartments along Main Street in the City of Poughkeepsie has been shot down by the zoning board.

The board Tuesday night denied a variance that would have allowed developer Mohamed Khatib to open the pool hall and cafe along the 300 block of Main Street in the former Rite Aid pharmacy building. The proposal also called for nine apartments in an addition planned for the structure.

Khatib was angry with the decision, claiming city officials led him to believe the project would be supported.

''Now I'm going to go somewhere else,'' Khatib said Wednesday. He said the $3 million project would have been good for Main Street.

Street-level halls banned

Khatib needed zoning board approval because city code prohibits billiard halls in the street level of buildings in that zone.

Some city leaders applauded the vote. They were concerned a pool hall would not fit in with other planned developments along the Main Street corridor.

''We're happy the zoning board took a close look at the type of establishment that came before them,'' said Councilman John Tkazyik, R-3rd Ward. ''They realized this would not have a positive effect on the Main Street corridor, nor would it be conducive to the types of businesses that would enhance the area.''

City leaders and residents would like to see vacant stores revitalized, but many also want new businesses to fit in with a larger vision for a reinvigorated downtown. Work is under way on new retail businesses and apartments on the nearby 400 block of Main and at the vacant landmark Luckey Platt building.

Benjamin Schaffer, a White Plains architect hired by Khatib, said the project would have made the Main Street business district more diverse.

''It's that mix that makes an area exciting to be in,'' Schaffer said.

One city resident said she would have liked to see the billiard parlor open, noting a glut of empty storefronts downtown.

''It brings something into the city,'' Lydia Cotter said. ''There are a lot of places that are just sitting there.''

Councilman John Lawrence, D-2nd Ward, who represents the area where the pool hall was proposed, said he would prefer to see a storefront with retail or financial services on the site.

''That type of use would be more appropriate elsewhere,'' Lawrence said of the billiard hall.

Schaffer said Khatib considered a retail use, but was discouraged by the number of empty storefronts and failed retail businesses nearby.

Khatib and Schaffer said they have no plans to come back with a new proposal for the vacant site.

Michael Valkys can be reached at mvalkys@poughkeepsiejournal.com