Thursday, May 25, 2017

Stewart's and Hudson

The issue of Stewart's Shops and their desire for Hudson to change its zoning to enable them to tear down two houses and build a new and bigger store, like the one in Chatham, at the corner of Green Street and Fairview Avenue, was discussed last night at the Common Council Legal Committee meeting.

The meeting started out with Alderman Michael O'Hara (First Ward), who chairs the committee, telling his colleagues that he had sent a letter to the Stewart's representative informing him that the committee would not deal with the request separately but "would take it up in a redo of the comprehensive plan." Exactly when and how this "redo of the comprehensive plan" was expected to happen was not clear.

Minutes into the meeting, Andy Howard, counsel to the Council, arrived, with different information and advice about proceeding with the Stewart's request. He told the committee he had spoken with Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who now chairs the Economic Development Committee, and recommended that the Legal Committee pass the issue to the Economic Development Committee for consideration. He suggested that it was necessary to "garner a sense of what the immediate community wants in that spot." Council president Claudia DeStefano, who sits on the Legal Committee, proposed that a survey might be developed to gather information from people in the surrounding neighborhood. 

To demonstrate that there could be alternatives to the formula building being proposed for Hudson, Howard showed the committee a picture of the Stewart's Shops building in Manchester, Vermont, as evidence that, when a community insisted on it, Stewart's could build something that was more compatible with its location and architectural context.

Howard also reminded the committee that the current Stewart's at Green Street and Fairview Avenue is, according to Hudson's zoning, a nonconforming use, and a nonconforming use, by definition, means, "We don't want it to stay there."

The discussion of the Stewart's request for a zoning change ended with the committee agreeing to pass the issue along to the Economic Development Committee.

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