GHENT–With the regulatory clock ticking on town whether the town will approve plans to construct a new, 45,000-square-foot Price Chopper supermarket, Ghent Planning Board members focused last week on landscaping proposals and on how the town finds itself in a legal tangle with its neighbor, the Village of Chatham.
Late last month the Planning Board closed the public hearing on a proposal by the Schenectady supermarket chain to build a new supermarket on Route 66 just outside the Village of Chatham. That action triggered the beginning of a 62-day period during which Planning Board members must determine whether to approve the proposal before them.
The store has sparked controversy because it is twice the size of the current Price Chopper supermarket and because some residents prefer that the supermarket to expand at the Plaza where it now leases its store. The Chatham Village Board has gone to court to overturn the town Planning Board’s decision that the proposed new store would have no negative environmental impact on the village.
At the April 4 meeting of the Ghent Planning Board, before the Price Chopper team got far into proposals for trees and other plants around new supermarket, Planning Board Chair Jonathan Walters turned instead to the unresolved issues between Ghent and the Village of Chatham.
The site for the new building lies mostly in the town, but a small portion is within the village limits and the store would impact the view along state Route 66. The Village and Town boards held one joint public hearing last fall, and Mr. Walters said that his board has been discussing the new building with representatives from Price Chopper for three years.
Several years ago Price Chopper approached the village about connecting to the village water and sewer systems, but at that time, the village could not expand its service until it resolved technical problems identified by the state. The village has since upgraded its services, but lawyers for Price Chopper said last month that want approval from the Ghent authorities before they return to discussions with the village.
Mr. Walters said he reached out to the Village Board when Price Chopper originally came to the town with its plans. And he said that he made a commitment publicly last fall at a hearing in Chatham that his board would move forward on this project with the village.
He said the village Planning Board then decided to ask the state for designation as the lead agency in the environmental review of the proposal, a status already given to the town Planning Board. And eventually the village decided to sue the town. “I was astonished they would do that because we had this agreement to move forward together,” Mr. Walters said. “The village is the one who decided to move unilaterally on this,” he said. As far as working with the village on this project, “It really puts us in a tough spot,” said Mr. Walters.
Following his statement, the board did turn to plans for trees and other vegetation that Price Chopper proposes around its store to shade the building and hide much of the structure from the village. The company also has plans for a stone wall along the side of the store that would face state Route 66.
There was some discussion about a sidewalk along Route 66, but Price Chopper representatives said they did not want to build a “sidewalk to nowhere.” They said they were concerned that a sidewalk by their new store could not be extended northward to connect with the village sidewalk because it would have to cross property owned by the Hampshire company, which owns the plaza where Price Chopper now operates its supermarket. Price Chopper representatives did volunteer to build the whole length of sidewalk if Hampshire agreed.
By the end of the meeting the Planning Board asked Price Chopper to return next month with plans for more native plants and screening on the site, although Mr. Walters advised his fellow board members, “Let’s not micro manage this.”
The next Planning Board meeting is Wednesday, May 2, still within the state deadline for a decision. The board will meet again with Price Chopper at that meeting at 7 p.m. at Ghent Town Hall.