WARRENSBURG - Citing traffic, pedestrian safety and community heritage concerns, a lineup of local citizens spoke out Tuesday against Stewart's Shops' plan to relocate a convenience store and gas station to the intersection of Stewart Farrar Ave. and Main St.
Tuesday's initial site plan review session was held by the Warrensburg Planning Board, which set a subsequent public hearing for 7 p.m. Tuesday June 8 to hear more opinions on the proposed development.
The Warrensburg Town Hall was nearly full for this initial meeting.
Dorothy Potter, who lives next to the Presbyterian Church across from the proposed store said in passionate tones that although the town would garner a little more tax revenue than they are now receiving from the Stewart's store now located on Main St., such gains would be offset dramatically. Potter said all the houses in that historic area, especially the bed and breakfasts, would decrease in value, and town property tax revenue was likely to decline.
Potter said could see no reason to put more business on a short little street, Stewart Farrar, that is overcrowded now. She spoke of tractor-trailers making deliveries to the convenience store, causing traffic problems and creating a nuisance in this primarily residential neighborhood. Resident Paul Weick ask the planning board members and the audience whether they would like it if a Stewart's was built across from their homes.
Weick warned that traffic would increase through a historic and gracious area of town to access the new convenience store, particularly after the Milton Avenue bridge is reconstructed and reopened. He also said neighbors of the store would experience headlights shining into their bedrooms at all hours of the night if the store were developed where it is planned.
"We have made mistakes in the past, let's not make more," Weick said of town planning.
Michelle Wortman warned of how hundreds of children daily walk along Elm Street to get to school or to the historic Richards Library adjacent to Stewart Farrar Ave.
"This is an accident just waiting to happen." she said of the increase traffic that a convenience store would prompt. "Our children should come first."
She warned that some people in the neighborhood are considering selling their homes if the site plans are approved.
Mike Morey founder of the landmark local business Champlain Stone on Elm St., said the plot of land slated for development should host a town park.
Attorney Matt LaLone, a Warrensburg Central alumnus said a convenience store did not fit the historic nature of the neighborhood. He said the town board's state Environmental Quality Review Act documents weren't prepared in the spirit of state law.
Shane and Diane Newell suggested that a more comprehensive, analytical traffic study be conducted than the report issued without thorough review by the state.
Laura and Steve Dana said an underground aquifer exists under that area and it should be studied and taken into consideration. They also expressed concerns of impact on the neighborhood, particularly the safety of children.
Teresa Whalen, founder of Warrensburgh Beautification, said her group had worked for 25 years to protect and enhance the history and architectural heritage. She said the fact that the core of the town is protected by a historic district designation was being ignored by the Stewart's proposal, which calls for eight gas pumps.
After the meeting, Whalen expressed enthusiasm that so many people came to the meeting to defend the town's ambiance and history.
"It was the strongest example of concerned citizens in our community speaking the truth and holding the Town and Planning Boards accountable regarding a turning point issue for the future of Warrensburgh that I have ever witnessed," she said in an email.