Village board should delay vote until all questions are answered

To the Editor:

The Stewart’s proposed expansion raises a myriad of questions. Some of the answers simply raise more questions. The one that I’ve not gotten a clear answer to is: Why does Stewart’s need to tear down an historic house built about 1900?

As I’ve talked to different people, some made points based on impressions and others on specifics according to the drawings and application available at the village hall.

One answer I’ve heard is to get back into compliance and modernize it. If Stewart’s wants to reconfigure and “modernize” its footprint on the existing lot, there should be no problem, assuming it conforms with the guidelines of the comprehensive plan.

But it also raises the question, what’s specifically out of compliance, and why hasn’t it been fixed? Why does Stewart’s need to tear down an historic structure when it has an existing lot that it can work with?

Lighting has been an issue that’s been discussed. It think it imperative that the village board not vote on the rezone until a computer simulation of the lighting design is produced and has been reviewed and made available to the residents for examination.

One only needs to look at the lighting at Cumberland Farms on the corner of routes 146 and 20. This is not to say that the new Stewart’s will be lit up like Times Square but, once the rezone is passed, there’s no going back.

It becomes a question of what’s acceptable and how do the residents get input on the lighting for the biggest corner of the village. It’s a bit like “loud” music. How loud is too loud? How bright is too bright?  So, if the residents can see an accurate computer simulation, it will be easier to build a consensus.

I’ve also heard issues of safety. Not sure what that means. There is the “danger” of using safety as catch-all. After all, who can be against safety? If there is an issue, the residents should be made aware of the accident reports to verify that indeed there is a problem.

Another question I have is: Why did Stewart’s buy the 107 Helderberg property shortly after the rezone was not approved a couple of years ago? It does seem to hint of a “we don’t care what the village wants or what the comprehensive plan intends; we’re going to keep at it until we get what we want.”

If that’s not the case, I’d certainly like to get a written statement about what Stewart’s intent for that purchase actually was. I didn’t realize Stewart’s was in the housing business as well.

In discussions with people in favor of the zoning change, the point was brought up that the comprehensive plan was not necessarily locked in stone but should be a guide. That may be true but, if a fundamental plank of the plan is to be altered, it should be widely discussed and formally altered with full involvement of the residents. Otherwise, it may have the appearance of spot zoning to accommodate certain interests.

Stewart’s is a big part of the Altamont landscape and as such I urge the village board to not vote on it until the issues and questions have been answered.

As Jim Gaughan wrote in last week’s Enterprise, “I hope this time everyone looks carefully at all matters related to the village comprehensively ... and takes the time to study and consider all the factors at all levels before decisions are made.”

I agree. Another month or two is not going to make a difference.

Harvey Vlahos


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