Residents and Stewart’s speak out about update to Voorheesville zoning

— From the village of Voorheesville

Before: The parcel of land at 11 Drywall Lane currently has two different zoning designations: Industrial and Residential. Under the proposed update to Voorheesville’s zoning code, the parcel would be rezoned into one district: Business B.

VOORHEESVILLE — Residents of Voorheesville Avenue came en masse to a public hearing at the end of last month on the proposed updates to Voorheesville’s zoning code to voice their concern over the potential rezone of 11 Drywall Lane that, in their view, would have an adverse effect on all adjacent properties.

Representatives of Stewart’s Shops, which had been stymied in its plans to build along the Vly Creek, objected to the zoning proposal, saying it meant no parcels would be for sale for Stewart’s to build on.

The specific parcel of land, 11 Drywall Lane, lies within the roughly 8.5 acres of low-slung industrial buildings that sit at the corner Voorheesville Avenue and Grove Street. A near totality of the area is zoned Industrial.

The two acres of 11 Drywall Lane, however, currently have two separate zoning designations: Industrial and Residential. And the portion of the parcel that is zoned Residential also abuts three homes along Voorheesville Avenue. Under the proposed zoning-code change, the two zones would be rezoned as a single district: Business B, which has close to 60 different allowable uses whereas the current zoning has significantly fewer.

At the March 28 public hearing, Jonathon Tingley, the lawyer for Lance Moore, who owns two properties adjacent to 11 Drywall Lane, said that the rezone to Business B would allow for 59 different uses while, currently, the zoning allows for just 13 uses and “most of them are residential.”

 

— From the village of Voorheesville
After: Residents of Voorheesville Avenue, whose homes are adjacent to the property at 11 Drywall Lane, are concerned that the proposed rezone would allow for many new and different types of businesses to set up shop on the site.

 

The industrial district, according to the village code, has 17 allowable uses and a special-use permit is required for each use. Residential C2 has about a dozen uses; with some of the uses requiring a special-use permit.

The reason for the somewhat odd zoning of the parcel, Trustee Richard Straut told The Enterprise, is because 11 Drywall Lane used to be two separate parcels. And in the early 2000s, the owner of one of the parcels purchased the other and the two were merged.

Only through the process of creating the proposed zoning, Straut said, did anyone realize that 11 Drywall Lane had two designations. “It didn’t just cut across the property,” Straut said of the zoning. “It actually followed a property line at one point.”

“We are now kind of working to re-establish that line,” he said, “where it originally was.”

At the public hearing, Tingley asked residents, “Do you want to hear a McDonald’s drive-through or a Dunkin’ Donuts when you go to bed at night?”

Georgia Gray, chairwoman of the village’s planning commission, said to Tingley, “All of that stuff is not in here, so it’s not an issue.”

Which is not correct.

“Drive-through Associated with Commercial Use,” in the proposed update to the zoning law, is an allowable use in the Business B zone, however, a “special-use permit review including site plan review and approval by the Planning Commission required.”

“We have a whole checklist and we have a whole environmental [assessment],” Gray told The Enterprise this week, when presented with what the proposed update says about drive-throughs. “And not every use is practical or appropriate for every site.”

If a proposed drive-through were to come before the planning commission, Gray said, it would be reviewed with a “fine-tooth comb.”

She also said that the parcel of land probably could not accommodate a drive-through. “Where would they drive in from? And through? And around?” she asked, “without getting in the way of, say, existing parking.”

The planning commission, Gray said, has a lot of responsibility and a lot of discretion, “and it exercises that carefully.” The commission wants what’s best for Voorheesville but it also has a duty to uphold the village’s laws and regulations.

As an example, she cited the requirements the commission placed on Stewart’s, including an in-depth environmental review, in its attempt to build a shop on the site of the former Smith’s Tavern. The comprehensive plan’s proposed ban on formula-based businesses as well as its proposal not to allow petroleum near the Vly Creek in effect killed the project.

At the March 28 public hearing, Christopher Spanhake, whose land abuts 11 Drywall Lane, said that there are problems already with the site’s existing buildings and the light they give off.

“I can walk around my house, no flashlights or anything right now, in the middle of the night, two o’clock in the morning, all through my house,” Spanhake said. “If you get more lighting back there, it’s going to be even worse.”

Stewart’s

Also at the public hearing were representatives from Stewart’s.

They had come to voice their concern that the proposed zoning would further restrict Stewart’s ability to build in the village.

It was the company’s application for a special-use permit to build a gas station near the Vly Creek and a proposal for a planned unit development at Saint Matthew’s Church that led to the building moratorium, so the village could develop a master plan.

Once completed, the plan had in effect forbade Stewart’s from building a gas station and convenience store on the land it owned at 112 Maple Ave.

If passed, the new zoning code, said Leah Everhart, a lawyer for Stewart’s, at the public hearing, would allow the company to build on only four parcels in the village — and one of those properties already has a Hannaford Supermarket on site; the other three parcels are adjacent to the Hannaford site.

“We don’t have a single parcel available for sale and appropriate for Stewart’s to construct on,” Everhart said. “Meanwhile, [Stewart’s] invested nearly $900,000 in developing a parcel that was fully lawful for that use and still is.”

She then asked that the village board consider grandfathering in the project, to allow the company to continue the process of approval, which does not appear likely to happen.

“The zoning that we are moving to put in place is really — it’s a product of what we heard from the community and what we determine needed to be protected,” Straut told The Enterprise. “The zoning … really follows the themes that the community had [voiced] around protecting Vly Creek.”

That protection, however, may have the village dealing with two vacant Stewart’s-owned properties for some time. In January, citing its inability to build a new shop on Maple Avenue, the company announced it would close its store on South Main Street, across from village hall.

Currently, 112 Maple Ave. is on the market for $850,000; while the property at 42 South Main St. is for sale for $349,000.

“Until a resolution comes to 112 Maple Ave.,” Chuck Marshall told the residents in attendance at the March 28 public hearing, “we will not sell the property,” at 42 South Main St., unless, the business had a non-competing use. Marshall is a real-estate representative and project manager for Stewart’s Shops.

The listing for 42 South Main St. states: “Sale subject to deed restriction prohibiting future convenience-store use.”

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