It’s the law… or is it?

Chatham village boards differ on whether market needs a permit

CHATHAM–It’s ain’t over till it’s over, and for Price Chopper the effort to obtain approval for its proposal to build a new, larger supermarket looked a little farther from ending this week than it did a month ago. The legal issues that saw the village go to state court to block the Town of Ghent from approving the market have been resolved. But now the village Planning Board has questioned the actions of its own Village Board.

Only one-tenth of the property Price Chopper plans to use for its new store lies within the Village of Chatham; the rest is in Ghent. But that sliver of land requires that Price Chopper obtain approvals for the project from the Village Planning Board, and representatives from the company had their latest meeting with the Planning Board July 16 to discuss that portion of the 45,000-square-foot store they propose to build on Route 66.

The outcome was that the Planning Board found Price Chopper’s site plans incomplete because of legal issues that arose from the Village Board resolution that changed the rules for new buildings on the commercial zone  called the C-3 district. Last month the Village Board changed its zoning law to require a special use permit for any new construction in that zone along Route 66 at the south end of the village. Once the board adopted the amendment following a June 14 public hearing, Trustee Lael Locke told Price Chopper representatives that projects like theirs that are currently under review would not be subject to the change.

But Cheryl Roberts, special counsel to the village Planning Board for the Price Chopper issue, disagrees. She told the Planning Board Monday that the amended law does apply to the new Price Chopper, and the supermarket’s developers must seek a special use permit from the village.

“We find ourselves in a legal quagmire,” said Price Chopper lawyer Peter Lynch.

“We should be listening to what our lawyer is telling us,” said Planning Board Chairman Dan Herrick. The board found the application for the site plan from Price Chopper not complete until the issue with the local law was resolved.

The plans for the new store, which would be built by the Schuyler Company under the name Chatham Associates, have already been approved by the Town of Ghent Planning Board. Mr. Lynch said that 0.7 of an acre at the site is in the village, with the rest of the property in the Town of Ghent. To comply with wetland restrictions the building would be positioned in the seven-acre site with the back of the store facing the village. The proposed store would sit right next door to the Chatham Plaza, where Price Chopper now operates a smaller supermarket.

As Price Chopper has continued its efforts to obtain its permits, the Chatham Plaza has received approval from the Planning Board to expand to the space now used by the supermarket, creating a new space of 45,000 square feet, equal in size to the new supermarket Price Chopper wants to build next door. Price Chopper has said it will not remain at its present location in the Chatham Plaza even if the larger space is created there.

At this week’s meeting, Doug Clark, the engineer who designed the expansion to the Chatham Plaza, said the part of the Price Chopper property the Planning Board was reviewing was where a connecting road could be built between the two stores. “Once the building is built this way, there is no way to connect these two buildings,” Mr. Clark said.

One of the issues with connecting them is that a third party, Francis Greenburger, owns a strip of land between the proposed Price Chopper building and the Chatham Plaza, owned by the Hampshire Company.

Mr. Herrick asked Price Chopper to “show us you have at least made contact with him” about using the land to connect the buildings. Mr. Herrick and other board members asked for more computer generated images with a scale that helps explain the size of the building and they asked about tree growth meant to hide the back loading docks from the village.

At the end of the meeting Mr. Lynch said “We’ll take a look at our options.”

The Planning Board will meet again on Monday August 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Tracy Memorial in Chatham.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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