Stewart's in Altamont, a zoning mystery

ALTAMONT — No one on the village planning board knows why the building that Stewart’s wants to tear down is zoned residential.

The zoning for 107-109 Helderberg. Ave., currently a duplex which two families rent, was changed from light commercial to R-10, or residential, when the comprehensive plan was created.

Longtime village resident and historian Carolyn S. Dubrin, who is now in her late 80s, told The Enterprise that she knew something about the site that Stewart’s now stands on — originally the West Guilderland post office, she said, “before Altamont even came to be” — but did not know anything about the building next door.

She said that 107-109 Helderberg Ave. was probably built just after the Civil War, when the village “was building up like crazy.”

Steve Parachini, who chaired the village’s planning board at the time of the creation of the master plan and who now lives in Edgartown, Massachusetts, said that he had “no idea” what the reasoning behind the change of that particular property would have been.

Nan Stolzenburg was a consultant to the master plan committee, and she told The Enterprise that she did not remember “that level of detail,” and did not know why the property was changed from light commercial to R-10 by the master plan committee.

James Gardner of Enterprise Printing and Photo — until recently the publisher of The Enterprise — said that, in the years prior to the establishment of the village’s comprehensive plan, there had been a small printing company in the basement of 107-109 Helderberg Ave. The business was owned, he said, by Richard Mudgett, who owned the house; the family also had an office on the first floor, he said.

The small business “went on for several years and then sort of evaporated” when Dick Mudgett retired or moved, Gardner said. He also did not know anything about the zoning of the building.

Reached by phone, Richard Mudgett, who has lived for the past 25 years in Colonie, said that he and his family bought the house in 1965 and lived there for 25 years. They sold it in 1990. He said that he was in the printing business for 40 years, and operated a print shop out of the Helderberg Avenue home from 1972 to 1982. He doesn’t know why the zoning was changed 15 or so years after he sold the property. 

“We never changed it,” he said. “In fact, I was advised that the property was worth more as a business.”

Village board member Dean Whalen was on the Comprehensive Planning Committee. He said by phone that the zoning of specific parcels was not changed by the comprehensive plan, but it was changed by zoning ordinance updates done a couple of years later. He does not remember any specific discussions about 107 Helderberg Ave., but said that he guesses that the zoning change would have occurred because the parcel was a residence when the map was adjusted.

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