Saturday, January 13, 2018

If at First You Don't Succeed . . .

Last year, Stewart's Shops began its campaign to get the City of Hudson to change the zoning laws to accommodate the company's desire to expand its gas station and convenience store at the intersection of Green Street and Fairview Avenue.

In March 2017, the proposal was presented to the Common Council Legal Committee. In June 2017, the proposal was handed off to the Economic Development Committee, and in July 2017, that committee held a public hearing, which they called an "information session," on the Stewart's Shops proposal. At that meeting, none of the residents who spoke had anything positive to say about the prospect of an expanded Stewart's at that corner except Eileen Halloran, who is now an alderman for the Fifth Ward. At the meeting, Halloran declared herself "generally in favor in the project" because she thought expanding the Stewart's (and the impervious surface that surrounds it) could somehow make the traffic at the intersection less harrowing and remediate the hydrology issues that plague that part of the city. She also suggested that the proposed landscaping at the expanded site would "absorb the schmutz that comes from truck traffic." 

In September 2017, the Economic Development Committee decided that they would not pursue the zoning change sought by Stewart's, which would enable them to demolish two houses and expand the convenience store and gas station. A zoning change is needed because the Stewart's is a nonconforming use in an R-2 district (One and Two Family Residences). Being a nonconforming use prohibits expansion. Either the committee's decision was not communicated to Stewart's, or Stewart's is not taking no for an answer, because at the first meeting of the new Common Council, on Monday, January 8, 2018, loose leaf notebooks were presented to every member of the Council and the press, containing what was titled "Green Street Overlay District Rezone Application Submitted by Stewart's Shops." 

The layout for the expanded site hasn't changed, but the design for the building has sprouted two dormers and another bank of windows.

Since late last summer, Chuck Marshall, land development and permitting coordinator for Stewart's Shops, seems to have been busy. The notebook contains a history of Stewart's in Hudson (the store opened at that location in 1972), a chart showing the potential economic impact of the expanded location, quotes from Hudson's 2002 Comprehensive Plan alleged to support the proposal, the actual language for the new section of the zoning code being proposed, a completed SEQRA environmental assessment form, and a traffic study by Creighton Manning

The zoning change being requested is this. As you drive along Green Street toward Fairview Avenue now, the left side of the street is zoned G-C-T (General Commercial Transitional) up to and including the Rosery Flower Shop, which is located in what was once a single-family home. The right side of the street, starting at McKinstry Place, is zoned R2H (One and Two Family and Conditional Office).

The zoning change Stewart's is seeking would create a "Green Street Commercial Overlay District" which would allow commercial development on the left side of Green Street to extend from The Rosery to the current Stewart's location and continue along the left side of Fairview Avenue, as one is driving toward Greenport, from the Stewart's location to the former car dealership where ProPrinters is now located.

In describing the intent of the proposed new section of the Hudson zoning code, the following purpose, among others, is listed: "To create a mix of commercial shops and multi-family housing with the purpose of walkable convenience for pedestrians and local residents while transitioning from commercial to residential uses in surrounding zones." The language also includes these additional objectives:
  1. Foster re-adaptive uses and development in Hudson.
  2. Increase property values in Hudson.
  3. Protect real estate investment in Hudson.
  4. Retain Hudson neighborhood vitality.
  5. Spur commercial activity in Hudson.
  6. Attract new businesses in Hudson.
These, of course, are just the ancillary benefits. The real goal is to allow Stewart's Shops to build a bigger and better gas station and convenience store at a gateway to Hudson, one that is likely to resemble the one in Chatham.

At the Council meeting on Monday, Council president Tom DePietro indicated that the application from Stewart's Shops would be handled by the Economic Development Committee. That committee is chaired by Rich Volo (Fourth Ward), and the members of the committee are John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward), Calvin Lewis (Third Ward), and Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward), who, it will be remembered, said she was "generally in favor" of the proposed expansion of Stewart's. The Economic Development Committee meets for the first time on Thursday, January 18, at 6 p.m.


  1. Wait ! So Stewart’s wasn’t to create another business district literally a mile from Fairview’s languishing strip malls with acres of parking available? I suggest Stewart’s gentrify their existing moldering business model in goo faith to the community OR move to Fairview.

    1. That's right. What I like is the irony that the centerpiece of this proposed "walkable" commercial district is a gas station.

  2. If I'm not mistaken, the City of Hudson had many gas stations within its city limits. Were there complaints in the 1930s-1980s?

  3. No. Just no. The reverse should be happening. There should be less commercial business on Green St. It was once only residential, and it would be my wish that it return to that.

  4. Give them an inch and they will take a mile.

  5. Putting aside the quite problematical merits of the specific proposal (taking down two residential structures that have I think 6 affordable units in total to expand the Stewart's footprint), it is kind of sad that the spot zoning rules put a whole swath of residential structures at risk along Green, in order to "cosmeticize" the proposal as all nice and legal.

    The list of the six "objectives" that were pounded out on the keyboard seems to have a very attenuated nexus to the specific proposal. I tend to find such "consultant speak," going overboard to gild the lily in full court press sales job, rather annoying myself.

  6. wow I just heard that trader joes wants to buy the stewarts corner