G’towners voice mixed reviews for dollar store plan

GERMANTOWN–Convenience was one theme of the September 28 public hearing held by the Planning Board on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) prepared by Primax Properties as part of its application for a Dollar General retail store on Route 9G.

Planning Board Chairman Stephen Reynolds opened the hearing by noting that the board was still in the State Environmental Quality Review process. “Any proposed action,” such as the subdivision that would be developed by Primax for tenancy by Dollar General, “has to be evaluated as to its environmental impact,” he said.

The Planning Board gave the project a “positive declaration” in April 2016, Mr. Reynolds reminded the audience of about 60, finding 11 possible adverse impacts it might have. The board asked the applicant to answer its questions, “which they have done in a detailed DEIS,” said Mr. Reynolds. The board declared the DEIS “complete” and ready for public comment.

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Twenty-seven people spoke at the hearing: five in favor of the project, 21 against. Some half-dozen more relinquished their time, apparently satisfied that their point of view had already been shared.

“Convenience” seemed, on anecdotal observation, to skew to older residents of the area, while younger and middle-aged residents seemed willing to drive to Hudson or Red Hook to shop.

Mary Howell said the new store would “draw from Clermont, Linlithgo, Livingston, down toward Tivoli. Now we have to go to Red Hook or Hudson,” she said.

“There’s been a lot of controversy over this that should not be,” said Linda Decker. “Besides Otto’s Market, we need something else.”

Just recently, said Ron Moore, Sr., he had been unable to buy a pair of rubber work gloves and “had to drive to Hudson for a $2.49 purchase. We need this store, there are residents here without the resources to get to Hudson or Red Hook or Kingston.

“I’ve looked at the plans,” he added. “I think the building looks beautiful.” He expressed some reservations about the size and brightness of the proposed sign. “I hope Dollar General will talk about that. This isn’t the Vegas strip, we don’t need a big sign.”

“Are we not all consumers?” asked Ralph Schmidt. “We want convenience. I don’t want to travel that far anymore.”

“We need a place where we can get some decent products,” said Raymond Moore, whose property would adjoin that of Dollar General, He said, “There’s noise there already.

“The Dollar General in Hyde Park is beautiful. It would bring some revenue to the town, some jobs. So what if the wages are low, it still might help someone support their family.” The company says there will be nine jobs created.

Conrad Hanson said he was not for or against Dollar General, but pointed out that Valatie, Hoosick and Pine Hill had “attractive” Dollar General stores. “They’re a big part of rural towns,” he said, “serving “underserved elderly communities.”

Those against the project ranged from Nadine Rumke, who said her family had been in Germantown since 1710 and she loved the “newbies—you bring so much, so many ideas to this town, which I would like to see maintain its rural nature,” to Suzette Haas, who had moved with her family to Germantown in July. “We have three young children that we want to raise here, and we encourage small local businesses to open. I love convenience as well, but I’m happy to drive another 10 minutes to maintain this awesome rural town.”

Additional themes, heard from those who spoke against the proposal, were the look of the store; fear of its closing, leaving a large, untenable shell; and fear of its success, leading to big-box stores.

“I don’t want to live in Greenport,” said Conor Guy. “I love Otto’s, but I can’t afford it, so I go to Shop Rite or Hannaford. If I need anything during the week, Stewart’s is there. I don’t want to grow old on Fairview Avenue.”

Carole Neville, who left a written report with the board, quoted from Dollar General’s August 2017 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. “In 2016 Dollar General opened 900 new stores, but it also remodeled or relocated 906 stores and closed 63 stores,” she wrote. “Picture that vacant building on Route 9G… if this store does not survive, unlike a business in the hamlet, the town will be left with an oversized, cheaply built and barely maintained structure for decades.”

“This town’s asset is its rural character,” said Jaia Orient. “[Dollar General] would be the beginning of the end, it would open the door for other chains and make 9G a strip mall.”

“My wife and I moved here from southern New Jersey,” said Michael Reichman. “We wanted to escape suburban sprawl and strip malls, and we’re very happy here.”

Mr. Reichman had attended the previous night’s meeting of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan Committee. “We talked about invasive vegetation in the river,” he said. “Big box stores are an invasive species. If we allow this one, who can stop the others? And if the store dies, we have the carcass for a long time.”

“What we care about is the future,” said Tony Albino. “These are low-end jobs with no future and we need a future. There’s a lot of gray hair here tonight. We’ll be gone, but our children will be here.”

Written comments on the project will be received until noon on Wednesday, October 25. They can be mailed to Town Hall, 50 Palatine Park Road, Germantown, NY 12525 Att: Jami DelPozzo, or emailed to moc.o1508804901ohay@1508804901ceszp1508804901nwotg1508804901.

Primax representatives will compile all the public comments and give them to the Planning Board, which will arrive at a final EIS. With that done, the Planning Board will then prepare a Finding Statement. Then a decision can be made on whether or not to conduct a site plan review.

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