GHENT — The town Planning Board has voted unanimously to issue a declaration that the proposed new Price Chopper building on Route 66 just outside the Village of Chatham will not have a significant environmental impact. The decision clears one of the remaining regulatory hurdles for the Golub Corporation’s plan to build a new, larger supermarket a short distance away from the building it now leases at the shopping plaza inside the village.
The Ghent Planning Board’s decision, called a negative declaration, is part of the required state environmental quality review, known as SEQR.
The Planning Board reviewed Part 2 of the SEQR form at the board’s regular meeting October 4 attended by a packed house, including representatives from Price Chopper, Chatham village and town board members, Chatham business owners and residents, and the lawyers and the architect for the Hampshire Company, which owns the plaza where Price Chopper currently operates a supermarket.
The meeting began with the reading letters the Planning Board had received from village and town residents about the project. The board held a joint public hearing with the Village Planning Board September 19 at which more than 100 village residents came out of voice opinions about the project. Many were concerned that Price Chopper leaving the Plaza would mean another vacant storefront in the village; others worried about permitting a 45,000-square-foot building on a flood plain, a designation that applies to part of the Route 66 site for the proposed supermarket.
The new building will be mostly in the town outside the village, but a small section of the property will lie within the village. Because of that section in the village, the company hopes to connect to the village water and sewer systems.
Reviewing the details of the proposal with Carl Matuszek, the town’s engineer, the Ghent Planning Board determined the new building would reduce the potential for flooding. Mr. Matuszek said the system Price Chopper plans to build will collect rainwater and runoff, detain it and then release it at a controlled rate.
The engineer said there would still be back-up of water unless something is done about culverts upstream from the project, but Planning Board Member Geoffrey French told the board that is was not Price Chopper’s problem that the village has a flooding issue.
“The new [store] will certainly not make it worse for the existing plaza,” Mr. Matuszek said of the prospects for flooding.
The other issue the board needed to address in the SEQR review was the community character. Planning Board Chair Jonathan Walters made the point that the site for the new store is zoned commercial by both the town and the village. “Nothing in the law would indicate the town didn’t want it,” Mr. Walters said the new store.
Board member Larry Machiz said that representatives from Price Chopper came to the board with three different designs to address issues raised by the board. He said the company had made an effort to make the building “look like it belongs here.” He and other board members pointed out that the company is making provisions for the Rail Trail, the old railroad bed that passes through the property, by planting many trees as a buffer around the building. Rail Trail advocates hope that the trail will eventually run from Chatham to Copake Falls, which is now the northern terminus of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail.
As board members cast their final vote on the environmental review, each commented on the efforts made by Price Chopper to work with the town, mainly when it came to drainage. But some board members did express concern over the empty storefront next door. Price Chopper holds the lease on the space for seven more years, and the company says it plans to rent the space to another tenant. But the Hampshire Company has submitted plans to the village asking for permission to double the space in hopes of convincing Price Chopper to stay put or of attracting a new store.
Planning Board member Dana Rosenstreich said she was “conflicted” about the decision on the SEQR. She said that while she is not in favor of having a new Price Chopper building, there is nothing in the town zoning regulations that prevents the company from building there.
Martin Silver, a board member and business owner in Ghent, said he agreed with Ms. Rosenstreich but was more positive about the outlook for the plaza when Price Chopper leaves. He said he hopes that having the new store and something new in the plaza will draw business the area.
There will be a public hearing on the project in the future, Mr. Walters said after the vote, as well as decision from the Village Board about water and sewer hook-ups. Also, the town Zoning Board of Appeals will look at a request for sign variances before any construction gets underway.