GHENT – The town Planning Board reopened its public hearing on the proposed Price Chopper supermarket last week and proceeded to discuss further details of the plan for a new store despite the pending suit filed earlier this month by the Village of Chatham. The village has gone to court to force the Ghent Planning Board to reverse a key decision in the local review of the project.
The Planning Board ruled that the proposed new market would have no significant environmental impact on the surrounding area. Some village residents disagree.
The proposed store would be located a few feet away from the existing Price Chopper market in the village shopping plaza. It would be housed in a new, 45,000-square-foot building – twice the size of the current market — on Route 66. The property for the new market lies mostly in the Town of Ghent, with a small section of the lot in the village.
Chatham village residents and business owners have raised concerns about flooding, traffic and the visual impact of a new supermarket, among other issues, and those concerns prompted the Village Board to request and then demand in state Supreme Court that the town Planning Board discard its initial no-impact decision and reopen the environmental review of the project.
But Peter Lynch, a lawyer for Price Chopper and its owner, the Golub Company of Schenectady, said at the Wednesday, December 7 Ghent Planning Board meeting that the court would hear the suit in mid-January, and he urged the board not to consider rescinding its negative declaration until the court makes its decision.
Bill Better is a lawyer for the Hampshire Company, which owns the plaza where current Price Chopper is located. He told the hearing that engineers for the proposed building continue to make changes based on concerns raised at board meetings. “That is a glaring admission that there was something… wrong,” he said, referring to additional soil tests made by the supermarket company after Hampshire Company engineers raised issues at a Planning Board meeting last month.
Price Chopper engineer Mike Tucker said that new soil testing showed the site the proposed building would not affect groundwater. He also said the company had increased the proposed plantings at the rear of the building to screen a compacter so that it would not be visible from the village.
Mr. Tucker said Price Chopper had found a way to build a connecting road between the new store and the adjacent plaza, a feature the supermarket company will add to its proposal if the Hampshire Company agrees. Originally company officials said a connecting road could not be built because the stretch of land between the two buildings was privately owned, but they have now found a small piece, close to Route 66 they can use.
Village Mayor Tom Curran said the town should address the issue of community character, a factor that is part of the village case against the town. The so-called negative declaration that the Planning Board issued as part of the environmental review required by the state says that the proposed market will not have an impact on the character of the community, since that stretch of Route 66 is zoned commercial and the Price Chopper design is what the company calls “barn like,” a style that fits with the rural area.
“You’ll see the building from the traffic light,” said the mayor of the one traffic light in the village at the corner of Routes 203 and 66. “It doesn’t look welcoming,” he said.
Jonathan Walters, the chairman of the Ghent Planning Board, asked the Price Chopper representatives to explain any permits they are waiting for. Mr. Tucker said they are waiting to hear back from state Department of Environmental Conservation about approvals on the wastewater treatment plant and a wetlands permit. Mr. Tucker said the state is awaiting the negative declaration from the Planning Board before processing the permits.
The next Ghent Planning Board will be Wednesday, January 4 at 7pm in the town hall.