Village should listen to the voice of the people

To the Editor:

The voice of the people — that’s what Altamont’s comprehensive plan is. The SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act] Part 3 of the Stewart’s project recently became available and, after looking at it carefully, the logical conclusion is that the village is essentially twisting itself into a pretzel to try and make the project acceptable.

Many, not all, of the rationales used to justify the rezone and SEQRA conclusions range from flat-out wrong to sketchy. To its credit, the village board sought out the advice of Nan Stolzenberg.

Nan Stolzenberg, the consultant that supervised the plan, wrote up an extensive set of conclusions and observations on the project and Concerned Severson Neighbors’ objections. Nan has impeccable credentials having done many, many comp plans in this area.

Her overriding principle is that the specifics must promote and preserve the “unique charm and character” of the village. A couple of the erroneous SEQRA conclusions by the village that jump out are as follows:

— Consistency with community character: 

This element is probably the most egregious one. These photos show just how out of character the new plan is. Residents need to go to the site and get a real sense of the size of the building and the scale of the sea of asphalt, all for only one or two more parking spots. The plan destroys the character of the downtown, it intrudes into an established neighborhood, and it tears down a 1900 house that architecturally fits into the “Altamont's unique charm and character,” as Nan has stated;

— The village board has used the need for a viable business district with diversity as a justification.

Stewart’s is not adding diversity. Diversity is adding businesses such as the Spinning Room, restaurants, and other businesses that we don't have now that would help the business district

 Keep in mind that Stewart’s has stated before the village board that it will not be leaving if they don’t get its approvals. In a SEQRA Part 3 document that is roughly 19 pages long, there are a lot of issues that merit serious and informed discussion.

The overriding issue, technical variance issues aside, is that this Stewart’s plan just does not fit into the village that the residents designed through the comprehensive plan. It’s time that the village listen to the voice of the people!

Harvey Vlahos


Editor’s note: Harvey Vlahos is a member of Concerned Severson Neighbors.

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