Now hear this, Chatham… or maybe not

CHATHAM–The Village Planning Board planned to hold a public hearing Monday, July 19, on a new Stewart’s Shop in the village. But at the last minute the hearing was postponed, although that was news to representatives from the company, who showed up expecting it to happen.

The hearing is now rescheduled for August 16, because Village Attorney Nelson R. Alford Jr. announced at the regularly scheduled Planning Board meeting that evening that Stewart’s must first notify the owners of adjoining properties of the company’s pans and the hearing.

Stewart’s plans to build a new gas station and store on Route 203, between the Napa Auto Parts store and the pedestrian entrance to the County Fairgrounds. It would be the company’s ninth store in the county.

Along with the representatives from Stewart’s almost 20 community members also came to the meeting in the upstairs courtroom at the Tracy Memorial, including the owners of the two gas stations on the corner of Routes 203 and 66, a short distance from the site where the new Stewart’s building is planned.

The small crowd cleared out once it was announced that the board would not be discussing Stewart’s.

A member of the Planning Board explained the situation, saying progress on the Stewart’s application “stalled again because of some paperwork that wasn’t provided.” The planners cannot make a decision the applicant completes the proper steps, she said.

Tom Lewis, the real estate representative for Stewart’s who was at the meeting, said afterward that he had called Mr. Alford the morning of the meeting to find out about sending certified letters to residents in the neighborhood of the store site. He said he had sent a letter to the neighbors prior to appearing before the village Zoning Board of Appeals but he was not clear whether the company needed to do the same for the Planning Board. “No one told me… I should have had the sense to ask,” he said. He did know before the meeting that Mr. Alford was looking into the issue.

The planning board meets the third Monday of the month at 7:30 p.m. in the Tracy Memorial.

Mr. Lewis said if the plans are approved at the August 16 meeting, the company will start construction this year. If approval is denied or the approval process is delayed again, Stewart’s will have to wait to break ground until 2011.

Though Mr. Lewis knew it was a possibility that the hearing might be cancelled, the village residents who turned out did not. At recent Village Board meetings there have been requests and suggestions that the Village Board share more information with village residents and businesses. Residents have asked that meeting agendas be posted before the meeting and that the website, www.villageofchatham.com, be updated so that people can get information about the meetings there.

The information about the Planning Board on the village website is very limited and says that meetings are advertised in the Independent, a newspaper that has been out of business for a year and half.

The Planning Board did post a notice about last Monday’s meeting. It said the public hearing on the Stewart’s application was scheduled for Monday’s meeting at the Tracy Memorial. The postponed was announced after the meeting was called to order.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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