Schenectady County

Jumpin’ Jack’s seeks variance

An old right of way for a long-gone trolley line is holding up approval of a project to expand Jumpi
PHOTOGRAPHER:

An old right of way for a long-gone trolley line is holding up approval of a project to expand Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-In.

Owner Mark Lansing is seeking to renovate the ice cream building at the landmark Scotia diner on Schonowee Avenue, which was damaged in late August during Tropical Storm Irene when the Mohawk River inundated the property.

Lansing promised that he will be open the last Thursday in March as always and was at the property painting on Monday. He said he had been thinking about renovating for a while and so after the flood was a perfect time undertake this project. He has not yet estimated the cost.

Kurt Bedore, president of KB Engineering and Management, presented the concept to the Scotia Planning Board on Monday evening. The plan would construct one 413-square-foot addition onto one side of the ice cream building, the foundation of which shifted a little bit during the storm damage. This space would house new handicap-accessible rest rooms that would replace the current bathrooms, which Lansing called “embarrassing.”

In addition, Lansing is seeking to put on a 260-square-foot addition to the north side of the building to expand the customer service area. The current 18-inch foundation wall would be replaced with a 4-foot-high wall and shorter windows, which will increase safety because Lansing said sometimes people lean on them. The higher wall will also protect against future flooding.

“I don’t think we’ll see any floods that equal this one,” he said.

However, Bedore said the only complication is this expansion would put Lansing’s property within 10 feet of a strip of land running parallel to Schonowee Avenue, which is actually a right of way for the village when it had a trolley running along that corridor. A 10-foot setback is required.

“I didn’t know the right of way was even there until the surveyor came in,” Lansing said.

Lansing would like to purchase the property from the village, which would provide Jumpin’ Jack’s with direct access onto the street.

Lansing plans to make the purchase request at Wednesday’s meeting of the Scotia Board of Trustees. He would also need to get a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals to have a larger driveway opening than permitted and to have his large sign designated a “landmark sign” so it won’t have to comply with the sign code, which limits sign size.

Planning Board members liked the plan but said some of these outstanding issues needed to be resolved before the project can be approved.

Lansing said if he cannot get started in December, he will put the project on hold for a year.

He is still recovering from the storm. At the height of the flooding, the water neared the top of the pavilions. Twenty picnic tables floated down the river. The block buildings were intact but he lost appliances. He has ordered some new grills and needs to buy some new ice cream machines, a cooler and a freezer. Lansing said he is still missing 11 picnic tables.

The cleanup is done and now he is waiting to see how much insurance will cover, but he’s optimistic. “We’re sort of in limbo just trying to get things ready for the spring, which will not be a problem,” he said.

The public has been very supportive throughout the rebuilding process.

“People call up to ask if we need any help but we’re in good shape.”

He also dismissed rumors that he was going to sell the business to Sonic, a drive-in franchise.

“We have no intention of selling to anybody at any time,” he said. “The rumor goes out every year that we’re selling out.”

Categories: Business

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