CHATHAM – The Chatham Planning has approved a request by Stewart’s Shops to build a gas station and convenience store on Route 203 next to the pedestrian entrance to the County Fairgrounds.
A representative from Stewart’s said after the board voted 4-to-1 to approve the store that construction will not start until after the County Fair this September.
Over 20 people attended the Planning Board meeting Monday, August 16. There were many village residents, business owners and two village board members in audience. Tom Lewis, a real estate representative from Stewart’s, along with the company’s engineer. Marcus Andrews, sat with the board to review the designs of the new building.
Mr. Lewis said property, which occupies more than none acres, is one of the bigger plots the company has purchased. Stewart’s has been going back and forth with the village, meeting with the Zoning, Planning and Village boards for months. The design has changed following these discussions to include more green space on the lot and a smaller sign to meet zoning requirements. The company also addressed drainage issues raised by the amount of paved area originally proposed.
Many village residents at the meeting were there to support construction of the Stewart’s store. The people who spoke said they saw a new business as progress for the village, and they talked about Stewart’s being a local, family-owned company. Stewart’s is based in Saratoga Springs.
There was also discussion about the building that will be demolished to make way for the new store. Village resident Dave O’Connor said the brick building next door to Napa Auto Parts Store had been a factory for making everything from farm equipment and shirts to pencils. The building was owned by Dan Crellen. Mr. O’Connor applauded all the local families who started businesses in the town, but called Stewart’s a good taxpayer.
But other residents worried about a chain store coming into the village. “We don’t need that in Chatham,” said resident Uel Wade, who lives near the site.
Nelson Charron, who opened a gas station and market on the corner of Routes 66 and 203, said there is not room for four gas stations so close to each other in the “unique village of Chatham.” There are currently two gas stations on the corner of 66 and 203 and one on Route 66 closer the village center.
Village board member Lael Locke told worried resents that if they wanted to prevent a wave of chain stores they needed to change the zoning laws in the village. She also said that the village’s Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals have done all they can to limit the effects of the new building on residents and businesses.
The one Planning Board member who did vote against the approval of the Stewart’s proposal, Brin Quell, said, “I don’t believe it fits… conditions of our comprehensive plan.”
The Planning Board meets every third Monday of the month. The board’s next meeting will be Monday, September 20 at the Tracy Memorial at 7:30 p.m.