Margaretville planners recommend zoning change that would allow for new retail building construction

Village board expected to vote on proposal at March meeting

By Brian Sweeney
The Margaretville Planning Board has recommended that the village board approve a zoning amendment change that would allow new retail buildings to be constructed within the municipality. If approved by the village board, the zoning change would pave the way for a Family Dollar store to be built adjacent to the post office. Village zoning prohibits any new retail buildings within the municipality. The change would affect the entire village and would not be considered “spot zoning” made for the benefit of a single entity.
The planning board voted in favor of the recommendation for the zoning change by a 3-2 margin at its February meeting. Fred Miller, Dave Budin and David Metsch voted for the recommendation and Kent Brown and Craig Ramsey voted against the measure.
The planning board’s vote is merely a recommendation and is not binding. An official vote on the proposed zoning change can only be made by the village board. That board is expected to consider the zoning change at its March 17 meeting.
There was considerable discussion at the planning board’s February meeting prior to the vote.

Board split
Mr. Brown said he would like to recommend to the village board that it postpone any zoning changes until after the Comprehensive Plan (currently underway) is completed. At that time, he suggested, the village could perform a thorough review of all its zoning.
Mr. Budin offered an opposing viewpoint.
“We want to accommodate business and we have changed zoning and given variances for economic reasons to bring business back into the village. How is this different? It will allow for more retail in the village,” stated Mr. Budin.
Also favoring recommendation of the zoning change was Mr. Miller.
“To me, this change makes sense. The existing Compre-hensive Plan doesn’t deal with this and I can’t believe that the new plan is going to say we can’t have retail in new buildings,” he stated.
The planning board was also addressed by Joan Lawrence-Bauer, executive director of the MARK Group, who urged that the zoning change not be recommended.
Ms. Lawrence-Bauer told the board that if the zoning change is made, that the investors who are planning to turn the A&P store into a Freshtown supermarket may not make this commitment. She pointed to the prospect of the supermarket facing competition from potentially two dollar stores that will carry many of the same items.
The zoning change that would allow the Family Dollar to be built has run into other detractors as well.
The Greater Margaretville Chamber of Commerce voted at its February 25 meeting to oppose the zoning change. The chamber resolution favors the village placing a moratorium on all zoning changes until a Comprehensive Plan is adopted.
The reasons cited by the chamber include:
• The loss of the proposed $3 million investment toward improvements to the A&P plaza and upgrading to a quality food store;
• Main Street businesses already at risk will be placed in greater jeopardy due to increased competition from new retail outlets;
• The serious undermining of the value of the year-long effort by community leaders and residents to develop a Comprehensive Plan for the village.

Developer’s view
Independent developer Larry Tillack told the News last week that about $200,000 has been spent to purchase the property for the Family Dollar store and to prepare the site.
“I didn’t think it would be a big issue. If we get the zoning change, we’re gonna to build the building.
If we don’t I’d lose it all – I’ve never seen controversy over a Family Dollar store,” Mr. Tillack said.
He added, “It’s a good thing for the community. We all have a right to conduct our business in a free enterprise system. We’re not a grocery store – we only compete with some of the general merchandise. Plus, we’re a good neighbor to the school – you can have kids walk through a Family Dollar store and you wouldn’t have to hide anything — we don’t sell tobacco items, alcohol products or adult magazines. “
Mr. Tillack noted, “I’ve never had opposition where I couldn’t build. It’s on Main Street, it’s zoned commercial, it’s not like it’s out of place.”

Supermarket concern
Dan Katz is the vice president of PSK Supermarkets, which has purchased the A&P plaza and plans to revamp the store into a Freshtown grocery store.
Asked to comment about the possibility of a zoning change that would allow the Family Dollar store to be constructed in the village, Mr. Katz said, “I have no formal position. Obviously, it’s a concern.”
Mr. Katz said his company’s plans call for completely remodeling the A&P store, expanding it from 16,000 to 20,000 square feet (by utilizing the space formerly occupied by the Soap-n-Suds laundry, which has relocated). He said that special shelving and refrigeration methods will allow the store to carry far more items than is normal for this amount of space.
“We feel that when we come, this is a major investment that we’re making, Mr. Katz explained. “It will bring a lot of traffic into the town…and gives other businesses more volume.”
Mr. Katz said earlier this year that his company hopes to begin renovation work at the A&P plaza in May.

Another proposal
A Dollar General store, an outfit with many similarities to the Family Dollar chain, has been proposed for Route 28 in Arkville on the site of the Magic Mile Flea Market.
A representative of James Henry Development LLC presented preliminary plans for an 8,000-square-foot store to the Middletown Planning Board last fall.
A spokesperson from the development company said this week said, “We are still in site plan approval. We’re still going through due diligence on the property. It’s going to be a couple of months (before this preliminary work is complete).”