March 12, 2008: Dubious need


To the Editor:

On March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, the Margaretville Village Board will vote on a zoning action that could determine the future of the village and the surrounding area. The outcome will influence whether we get a completely redesigned, upgraded supermarket under new customer and community-oriented management that will anchor the village’s economy or a renewed lease for the same A&P, but further weakened by two new dollar stores run by billion-dollar corporate giants targeting the same customers.
In the face of national and local economic decline, Margaretville has the rare good fortune that the new owners of the A&P site, the Westchester-based, family–run PSK Supermarkets, are planning to invest millions of dollars in transforming the store to woo its lost customers. They will create an inviting Adirondack-style exterior, rebuild the entire interior and repave and landscape the parking lot. The new Freshtown store will carry a wide range of products to meet varied customer tastes and budgets.
PSK plans will not proceed, however, if the village enacts a zoning change that would undermine the existing commercial core. It would eliminate the long-standing ban on new retail structures in the village, intended to promote use of existing buildings. It would enable a grocery-merchandising Family Dollar store to be built at the far end of Main Street between the post office and the school. This second dollar store would be in addition to a General Dollar store approved by the Town of Middletown for an already commercially zoned site just outside the village, next to the Arizona Café on Route 28 in Arkville.
Civic and business leaders in the village question the timing of making village-wide zoning changes in advance of the nearly-completed update of the village’s comprehensive plan, which, by state and village law, is to guide zoning changes. The only immediate effect of the 20 or so zoning changes would be to enable a developer, who purchased and cleared the Main Street site “at risk,” knowing retail use was not permitted, to construct a store that will have to compete with the Route 28 General Dollar which will get 10 times the passing traffic and the largest share of a customer base that is about half the size both companies seek.
It is hard to believe the village board would abandon its own thoughtful comprehensive planning process, rush through rezoning, threaten major investment in a new supermarket and jeopardize the Main Street core, for the benefit of a dollar store of dubious success and need. They must know the long-term livability of Margaretville hangs on their votes.

Carolyn Konheim,