Plaza growth gets go-ahead in Chatham

CHATHAM – The village Planning Board decided this week that the planned addition to the Chatham Plaza would have little or no negative impact on the local environment, clearing the way for the next step in the review of the project.

Also at its regular meeting Monday, April 16 the board heard from the owners of the large brick building on the roundabout at the top of Main Street, between River and Austerlitz Streets, about their renovation plans. Scott Wood, of MetzWood Harder Insurance, hopes to add five apartments and an office to the building. He and his engineer came to the planning board to discuss variances needed for some of the work. They plan to come back to the board for approval next month, and hopefully start work in late summer.

“I think it’s a wonderful improvement to our village,” said board member Aaron Gaylord.

Chatham Film Club President Sandi Knakal was also at the meeting to talk about façade upgrades planned for the Crandell Theatre. The Planning Board asked her to come back with paint color for approval.

The major item discussion of the night was the Chatham Plaza, which currently houses a 23,000-square-foot Price Chopper supermarket and several smaller retail spaces, including the Family Dollar Store and a large vacant storefront at the north end.

Doug Clark of Clark Engineering created site plans to show that his clients, the Hampshire Company based in New Jersey, want to expand the supermarket space to 40,000 square feet and eliminate one of the retail spaces. Much of the expansion not contained within the existing structure would be at the back of the building.

The “negative declaration,” which the board gave the project and means the board has determined the project would have no significant impact on the environment and the community. It is part of the state environmental review the board completed at its meeting last month. Once the board passed the motion to make the declaration, board members could start reviewing site plans for the proposed plaza expansion.

Part of the board’s motion calls for more screening in front of the plaza. The board went back and forth about the best plants to screen the site and they also talked about lighting and signs on the building.

Cheryl Roberts, special counsel to the Planning Board, read a letter from Town of Ghent Planning Board attorney Ted Gutterman asking the village require that Hampshire allow Price Chopper to build a sidewalk across Hampshire property to the village sidewalk along Route 66. That sidewalk would run along the highway in front of the Hampshire plaza and would connect the new store Price Chopper plans to build just south of the Hampshire plaza to the village.

Mr. Clark said that Hampshire has added to its site plans a 10-foot-wide space in front of the plaza for the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. The trail would include split rail fencing but not a paved sidewalk.

“I think this would look a lot nicer here,” said Planning Board Chairman Dan Herrick of the tail rather than a sidewalk.

Board member Steve Piazza said that he was confident after a meeting with representatives from the Rail Trail group that the trail will be built. “They will make it no matter who pays for it,” he said of the funding the trail the project. Price Chopper as volunteered to pay for a sidewalk that would connect their new store to the Plaza and the village. The supermarket chain, owned by the Golub Company of Schenectady, also has plans for the Rail Trail to pass through its property.

Public hearing is still open for comments on the addition. The Hampshire plaza representatives will be back in front of the village Planning Board next month to seek approval for updated site plans.

The next planning board meeting is Monday, May 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Tracy Memorial in Chatham.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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