G’town dollar store foes say project doesn’t fit

GERMANTOWN—Some 60 people turned out for the Planning Board’s Public Hearing Monday on the parcel subdivision and site plan for the proposed Dollar General retail store on Route 9G.

Twenty-four people spoke during the course of the 90-minute hearing, and to a person they were against Primax Properties’ plan to situate a Dollar General store in town.

Last September the Planning Board had held a Public Hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), part of the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process that precedes the site plan review. At that time 27 people spoke, five in favor of Dollar General and 21 against (one noncommittal).

The five supporters of the store, who generally spoke for the convenience of shopping there, were not seen or heard from at Monday’s hearing, not even when Adrienne Westmore sought them out: “Is there anyone here who wants Dollar General?” she asked, standing in the middle of the audience. No one responded.

The objections to the store voiced this week were much the same as they were in September 2017:

• It flies in the face of the revised Comprehensive Plan, which now has been passed by the Town Board. Two goals of the plan are to maintain the town’s rural character and control growth; this store detracts from the town’s rural character

• It lies in the town’s scenic view overshed, where more restrictive building regulations apply

• It will increase traffic, making Route 9G more dangerous to drivers and pedestrians

• At 9,200 square feet, the store is three times the size of any other store in Germantown and twice the size of the Kellner Activities Building in Palatine Park

• It brings no significant economic benefit to the town: sales tax goes to Columbia County; the jobs do not pay well, and only the manager is eligible for health insurance; these are not jobs that will allow young people to stay in Germantown

• Approval of this store will lead to more chain stores

• Much of what Dollar General sells can already be bought in the area, at Stewart’s, Hannaford and Otto’s

• Issues of subdivision and violation of state law for the drainage permit; part of the drainage goes onto the property behind the store and ultimately into the Hudson River.

Carol Neville submitted four pages of comments in writing and asked that they become part of the record. She also read a letter that George Sharpe had written early in the Primax application. Calling himself a “small business owner,” he wrote, “We must stand against this multi-million dollar store. It doesn’t fit the location.”

Mr. Sharpe now serves on the Planning Board and he appears now to support the Primax application for Dollar General. Asked Tuesday what changed his mind, he replied in an email that at the time he wrote the letter opposing the project, he had been told by neighboring property owners that the Dollar General store would be placed on the majority of the property, facing north-south, and was prohibited by planning and zoning laws.

He said he learned later that the Dollar General Store was proposed to sit east and west on a small section of the property. He studied updated law and learned that this type of building and business were not prohibited in that location and are eligible for a permit if all the environmental, site plan, subdivision Scenic View Overlay requirements are met.

“The Germantown Planning Board is still gathering facts regarding Dollar General’s application and welcomes all written opinions sent to us at Town Hall,” Mr. Sharpe said in his email.

At the public hearing, Planning Board member Tim Otty told the audience, “Public opinion is one piece of this, but we must consider facts. Facts are irrefutable.”

Noah Bernamoff, a co-owner of Otto’s Market, responded. Employees at Otto’s are paid a “living wage,” he said, and have health insurance through their employer. He and his wife live “427 feet” from the Dollar General site, so the proposal impacts them “personally.”

“This is a challenging situation for all of us,” he said. “I’m not blind to the realities of development. You guys have to listen to the facts. But the consensus of this community does constitute a fact. Opinion is subjective, but a large opinion, not just subjective musings—this consensus of opinion is a fact.”

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