Village board approves rezone for Stewart’s expansion

ALTAMONT — On Wednesday night, after a packed hearing with more than 100 villagers, the Altamont Village Board voted, 3 to 2, to rezone the two-family home at 107-109 Helderberg Ave. from residential to commercial so that the adjacent Stewart’s Shop will be able to expand.

Mayor Kerry Dineen, and trustees Nicholas Fahrenkopf and Michelle Ganance voted for the rezone while trustees John Scally and Dean Whalen voted against. Three years ago, the board had rejected the rezone, also with a split vote; Dineen’s and Whalen’s votes remained the same and the other trustees are new. The village’s planning commission will now consider the expansion proposal.

The village’s comprehensive plan, adopted in 2007, recommended that the property’s zoning be changed from light commercial to residential. The recommendation became law when the village adopted new zoning regulations, in 2008.

Chuck Marshall, who works in land development for Stewart’s, had said that the new plan submitted to the village will align more closely with Altamont’s existing architecture. According to the application, Stewart’s would build a nearly 4,000-square-foot building on the site; Marshall said the store would be closer to 3,700 square feet. The current building is about 2,400 square feet.

Since the zoning change was filed on Sept. 24, dozens of residents have written letters to the Enterprise editor and those viewpoints were reiterated during the two-hour hearing Wednesday night, followed by the board’s one-hour discussion.

Proponents of the zoning change said it was time to update the shop and gas station and that it wouldn’t change the village’s character since the current building isn’t Victorian. They also said the new configuration for gas pumps and parking would be safer as the new building is to stand where the two-family house is now. Stewart’s employees said the expansion would help them better serve customers.

Opponents of the rezone cited concerns with added lighting and traffic and many cited the village’s comprehensive plan. Jennifer Betancourt submitted comments similar to her Enterprise letter that described Altamont as “refuge from commercialism, traffic, congestion, noise, and light pollution.”

The current resident of the home that will now be torn down, Spencer Tyson, commended villagers for their civil discourse, even when on opposite sides of an issue.

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