What does the village get out of the Stewart’s expansion? 

— Developed by Leon Rothenberg from Google Maps

“Before, blending into the village scape,” writes Harvey Vlahos.

— Developed by Leon Rothenberg from Google Maps

“After, with a building that is somewhat larger, but with a colossal sea of asphalt that is a waste of space and inconsistent with the Comprehensive plan,” writes Harvey Vlahos.

To the Editor:

Tuesday, Sept. 3, because of the lawsuit brought by Concerned Severson Neighbors, the Altamont Village Board will once again take up the issue of rezoning 107-109 Helderberg Ave. and the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

Concerned Severson Neighbors is fighting to prevent irrevocable damage to the historic character and architectural fabric of Altamont's village center. The village architecture is one of the most important features that makes Altamont, Altamont. The comprehensive plan was a great exercise in democracy and the residents laid out a plan that will give us the type of community we want. That’s why zones were established, and guidelines put in place, including what sort of Business District would best fit into our village.

Just one look at the “Before” and “After” photos of the proposed Stewart’s expansion shows that the project is too big for Altamont, with a sea of asphalt that is more appropriate for a mall, not a quaint village. Nan Stolzenburg, the consultant that directed the creation of the comprehensive plan, writes in her response to the village attorneys, “It discusses the overall desire to have property and uses scaled and designed to be consistent with the village character, uniqueness and charm of Altamont.”

An issue that keeps cropping up is that people are afraid of “losing Stewart’s.” Our Stewart’s seems to be one of the best performing stores in the region. One only need look at Joe Vinette’s postings on the Altamont Community Facebook page to see that our store has won contests for things like most banana splits or other such items sold.

Does that sound like a store that is on the financial brink? No. We are not going to lose Stewart’s, but we are going to lose a large piece of Altamont's architectural heritage — what makes Altamont, Altamont. 

The other very negative impact is that with Stewart’s expansion into prepared foods, there will be a significant impact on the other stores such as the Bamboo Garden, Hungerford Market, the Pizza parlors and even to a degree Veronica’s. These are businesses that are owned and operated by your friends and neighbors.

Prepared food is take-out, pure and simple. Why is the village bending the rules to benefit a large corporation that really doesn’t need it?

The village cannot dictate what a business can sell, but in the interest of preserving the “village character, uniqueness and charm of Altamont” it doesn't have to bend the guidelines for one business’s benefit.

After all, what’s the point of zoning guidelines and planning if they’re just going to be ignored for no good reason. This also has the potential for further lawsuits when a developer wants a zoning change and variances: “You did it for Stewart’s; now I want a variance.”

So just what does the village get out of this? 

Harvey Vlahos


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

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