Critical to conduct second public hearing on Stewart’s plan

To the Editor:

Thanks to The Altamont Enterprise for the excellent article, “Villagers submit their own plan for Stewart’s shop,” on May 7, 2020. Your article included important information that the site plan for the Stewart’s expansion hasn’t yet been approved and is now under review by the Altamont Planning Board.

All the meetings, hearings, and letters that have occurred to date on this subject have led up to the weighty decision now under consideration: What should the new Stewart’s property look like? It is not a done deal.

Thanks also to the planning board for conducting a public hearing on the site plan. The virtual venue for the hearing wasn’t ideal in that it didn’t allow for people who lack the technical tools and skills to Zoom in, but I know these are challenging times to conduct government business. I should acknowledge that it was possible to join the meeting by phone, but there’s a disadvantage in not being able to see the materials being discussed.

It’s also good that the planning board invited public comments for a 10-day period (ending May 12).  I believe the public response during this phase of the Stewart’s project has been amazingly strong, considering how prolonged it has been.

It’s clear from looking at the planning board website that a large volume of material has been sent to the planning board to review, including voluminous documents from Stewart’s. I believe there were also a number of letters from the public and from outside experts: an arborist, a realty company, an architect, and an electrical contractor who provided opinions regarding how the project can be achieved in ways that mitigate adverse impact on the community. Much of the supporting material deals with the effect on the nearest neighbor, Carol Rothenberg.

What’s next? Given the amount of material sent to the planning board, I think it would be fair, in fact critical, to conduct a second public hearing. Emerging information, strong public engagement, including architectural suggestions, would be difficult for the planning board — and the public — to digest quickly.

The Stewart’s expansion will be one of the most consequential changes to Altamont’s landscape within decades. The site plan merits the fullest possible consideration by the village.

Fran Porter


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