WARRENSBURG - A recent town planning board meeting that was expected to host heated commentary on a proposal to rezone an uptown plot for a new Stewart's convenience store didn't live up to its billing - board members told the assembled crowd the panel wouldn't be taking any comment.
The townspeople, who have concerns over the introduction of retail activity into a historic district, were told to return for a public hearing now set for 7 p.m. March 16.
But their ire had already been unloaded on the town board at its prior February meeting, when the citizens aired concerns about traffic, safety and quality of life repercussions of the proposed zoning change.
On Feb. 10, local residents crowded into the Warrensburg Town Hall, and nearly a dozen offered their views of the proposed construction of a Stewart's on the corner of Main St. and Stewart Farrar Ave. - the site presently occupied by a Hudson Headwaters Health Network administrative building and parking lot. The development requires a re-zoning of a portion of the land to commercial use.
Eileen Frasier, owner of Seasons Bed & Breakfast across Main St. from the proposed new Stewart's store, aired concerns about traffic, noise and intrusion into a historic neighborhood.
"Please don't make a hasty decision," Frasier said. "The board should take the time to listen to the citizens - remember that just as easily as we all voted you in, you can be voted out, if you don't listen."
Seated beside Emerson House Bed & Breakfast owner Faith Buck, Frasier said real estate consultants have estimated that her property value could be cut up to 50 percent should the Stewart's build there. Others, including resident Tina Sackman, echoed similar fears.
"When I first moved here, I loved all the antique shops - the town has such charm. Do we really need six gas stations?" she said. "Let's be more than just a pass-through on the way to Gore - can't we be a little more creative and look for other options?"
Board member Bryan Rounds suggested some alternatives to Stewart's development on the disputed plot.
"Personally, I'd like to see them work out a deal with Potter's Diner, for the existing Stewart's," Rounds said. "But we have hoops we have to jump through, according to procedure. This buys you all some time, to put pressure in the proper places."
Rounds was apparently speaking of the more rigorous environmental review necessary for rezoning land in a state-designated historic district.
Monday, the Warrensburg Town Board had substantially filled out the required "long-form" state Environmental Quality Review evaluation for the re-zoning.
But residents opposing the rezoning weren't daunted as of this week, as their petitions had gathered about 350 signatures.