Stewart’s plan will hurt local eateries

To the Editor:

The picture the Stewart’s corporation has in mind for its expansion is not the one I want to see rolled out for the village of Altamont I live in. I want a variety of places and choices to eat and I think the Altamont Village Board should be acting in a way to support a greater variety of businesses.

I believe a physically expanded footprint for the current Stewart’s store will most definitely adversely affect those other establishments in the village that provide a different dining choice. And that is regrettable because these businesses are usually locally owned with a personal investment.

Stewart’s is many times larger than any other places we eat in our village. And it has a wider margin to absorb any loss than a much smaller eatery. For a monolith to move into territory to scoop up even more dollars from a customer base that is probably already saturated makes no sense if this village government or its planning board is serious about trying to diversify its tax base.

We want more businesses, right? That means more types of restaurants, maybe a bike shop, a fish-and-tackle shop, a kayak shop, a fitness shop. Let us diversify! Let us stay away from monolithic thinking, believing that a Walmart-type endeavor in our little village should be given the go-ahead! It should not! And for these reasons:

— 1. Broaden the tax base. Get serious about this. You are not broadening your tax base, village board, when you give a variance to Stewart’s to enlarge its footprint. That is flat-out nonsense! The Stewart’s expansion is about one thing. It is a corporation that is out to just get richer and richer and richer on this little village in any way it can;

— 2. An out-of-proportion Stewart’s is an industrial model and will make it harder for the rest of the village to diversify and bring in other unique businesses because of the very nature of the history of this village. Our history is everywhere, thanks to the Museum in the Streets that we now have all over the village that any visitor can access with a cell phone. Why not build on that?

That history could be the engine that fuels a revival for Altamont. Many young families want to move into Altamont. They bring with them ideas, enthusiasm, energy, and sometimes entrepreneurship. Let’s provide some fertile soil for them to grow their ideas;

— 3. Please, on behalf of the really great smaller merchants we have in this village who are already struggling and who are loyal and who want to stay open, recognize them and show your support for them.  They matter. Listen to them. Growth and our tax base is not at all, all about Stewart’s; and

— 4. Make this village more beautiful. A bigger Stewart’s will make that corner uglier than sin. I don't think you want that. Just drive up to routes 146 and 20. Do you really want that scene here?

In sum, we can do better.

To the village board and the planning board, I entreat you: Look longer, see wider, imagine farther.

To the community: Call the village board members and tell them to vote NO! on the Stewart’s expansion and come to the meeting Tuesday, Sept. 3, at Village Hall at 7 p.m. and tell the board “No way” in person!

Thank you!

Betty Head


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