LIVINGSTON—The Planning Board held its monthly meeting Wednesday May 1, before a standing-room-only crowd. And unlike the previous two Planning Board meetings in March and April, when the proposal for a new store and a gas station at the northeast corner of the intersection of US 9, and state Routes 9H, 23 and 82 was discussed, this time representatives from Global Partners, LP, the company that owns the XtraMart chain, were present.
In the months since the company had last addressed the Planning Board, the board’s chairman, Phillip Schmidt, recused himself and board member Robert Bellinger replaced him as presiding officer during discussions of the proposal.
The new store would have a 4,800-square-foot footprint, 16 gasoline-dispensing stations, two diesel-dispensing locations and a canopy for the gas pumps, 32 parking spaces and a diesel island queue. Also, the name will change to Alltown Fresh market. It will provide “fresh food and beverage options in an attractive new, modern setting,” according to Kim Keil, territory sales manager for Global Partners.
Ms. Keil said she is a local resident and, “I am personally excited for Alltown Fresh to come to Livingston.” She described Global Partners, LP, a Fortune 500 company, as a “third-generation family-founded business.”
With Ms. Keil was Rob Osterhoudt from Bohler Engineering. He acknowledged that “it’s been a couple of months since we were in front of the Planning Board, and the reason for the little hiatus is that at the previous Planning Board meeting there was a lot of public feedback, a lot of Planning Board feedback and town Planning Board consultant feedback.” He continued by reading the long list of forms that Global Partners submitted between November 27, 2018 to April 18, 2019 to the Planning Board, including: final site plan, traffic study, threatened and endangered species habitat suitability assessment report, engineer’s report and wetland assessment.
He provided an aerial view and map of the site and explained many aspects of the project. “We have restricted the southerly Route 9H access drive to a right in/out driveway. The elimination of this left turn movement at this driveway will improve the safe movement of traffic in and out of the site,” Mr. Osterhoudt said.
He said there was a misconception about the proposed gas station, saying emphatically, “It is not “a truck stop. This is a merely a neighborhood market with gasoline service with fuel service with gasoline and diesel.” Construction of the store and pumps is anticipated to take five months.
Mr. Osterhoudt’s presentation did little to ease concerns of project opponents. Pam Klein, director of Livingston Concerned Citizens, said in an email after the meeting, “Global Partners’ presentation did not adequately address the hydrological impacts on the site nor did they address the impacts of the runoff on the neighboring towns of Greenport, Claverack and Stockport.”
At the meeting Mr. Bellinger asked the audience if anyone had questions and took questions from two audience members. But Planning Board Attorney Ted Hilscher announced, “This is not a public hearing ladies and gentlemen.”
A dispute ensued between several audience members and Mr. Hilscher. Attorney Ken Dow stood up and asked Mr. Hilscher about when the public hearing had been closed. Mr. Dow said that he had a recording of the last meeting and that there had been no such indication. Another audience member said that there are consequences of closing the public hearing, because once closed, the Planning Board would have approximately 45 days to respond to the applicant and would be unable to open the hearing again.
Global Partners agreed to waive this time restriction.
Ms. Kline said in her email that she was “dismayed by the board’s apparent lack of knowledge” of the “procedural rules,” citing the board’s action to close the hearing “without motion or public vote.”
In spite of the dispute, the audience continued asking questions and the Global Partners representatives answered. At that point, Mr. Hilscher addressed the issue of closing hearing.
Although the board had already voted on the issue, board members voted for a second time and decided that the public hearing would be adjourned and will be reopened at a later date once all parties involved had the time to review Global Partners’ paperwork.
The board also approved Mr. Hilscher’s recommendation that the Planning Board become lead agency in the review of the project.
The Global Partners representatives were optimistic. Ms. Keil said, “Global Partners has been operating in the Livingston community for years, and the XtraMart has been there since the mid-1990s.” The sentiments are shared by many in the community and in the audience. “We understand there have been some questions and concerns about this project, and we are working to respond to those,” Ms. Keil said.
Among the remaining questions are ones concerning the closure and removal of the existing XtraMart. Global Partners spoke briefly on that point, saying removal of gasoline storage tanks would follow state Department of Environmental guidelines. For Ms. Klein, this is one of the issues she wants fully addressed. She said she was “heartened” that the board’s engineer, questioned Global Partners on hydrological concerns, which are “at the heart of the matter.”
The next Planning Board meeting is on Wednesday June 5, 2019.