Thursday, March 23, 2017

"We Are Closer to You"

While the Common Council Economic Development Committee is busy drafting legislation that would ban "formula businesses" from Hudson, a formula business already in place, with 337 look-alike stores throughout the state, is looking to expand.

Last night, a representative of Stewart's Shops came before the Common Council Legal Committee seeking a zoning change to allow a new and larger Stewart's convenience store and gas station to be constructed at the corner of Green Street and Fairview Avenue. The proposal requires a zoning change, because the existing Stewart's Shop is a nonconforming use in an R-2 district. A nonconforming use stay as it is for as long as it likes, but any expansion is prohibited.

The expansion being proposed involves the acquisition and demolition of two houses adjacent to the current Stewart's site: 162 Green Street and 17-19 Fairview Avenue.

Stewart's is in contract to buy both houses but the sales are contingent on the City changing the zoning to allow them to pursue their plan for expansion.

The new store, which would look very much like every other Stewart's Shop of recent vintage (below is the Stewart's in Chatham), would sit at the northern end of the expanded lot with three gas pumps in front, set back from the street and arranged parallel to Green Street.

Needless to say, the term spot zoning, which is of course illegal, came up a few times during the discussion. The Stewart's representative suggested that the City might consider doing a retail overlay for the R-2 zone to create a transitional zone of mixed commercial and residential, citing other businesses established along Green Street and the proximity of the Stewart's site to the G-T-C  (General Commercial Transitional) zone. Andy Howard, legal counsel to the Council, advised the committee that concerns about spot zoning should not "keep the Council from considering this."

The Stewart's representative brought up the City's Comprehensive Plan, which he said was "very reliant on visual appearance" and argued that the new building "can better meet this vision." Actually, the Comprehensive Plan stresses, as Goal 1, "protecting Hudson's distinctive architectural integrity and walkable character." This applies not only to the "downtown," i.e., Warren Street, but to the neighborhoods. Of particular mention in the Comprehensive Plan are the gateways: "Gateways play an important role in forming first impressions and welcoming visitors and residents alike. Both the form and the character of a gateway can influence the overall experience of a particular area." The Stewart's site, a block from the city limits, is at the gateway to Hudson for those entering by way of Route 23B.

After close to an hour of discussion, Howard asked, "What does the committee want to do?" He counseled the committee that they had two choices: they could say (1) "We're not interested"; or (2) "We're willing to consider this further." Despite the fact the the proposal runs counter to the original intention of the zoning and the Comprehensive Plan and is antithetical to the initiative to protect community character being pursued by the Economic Development Committee, the Legal Committee, made up of aldermen Michael O'Hara (First Ward), Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), Priscilla Moore (Fifth Ward), and Council president Claudia DeStefano, indicated they were willing to consider it further. The Stewart's representative offered to send the committee, through Howard, examples of zoning overlays that have been adopted in Saratoga Springs, Utica, and Malta, and the committee accepted the offer.

At some point in the conversation, O'Hara, who chairs the Legal Committee, called Green Street and the beginning of Fairview Avenue "a significant commercial corridor in the city." That seems like a bit of an overstatement. Despite the fact that Green Street is the most heavily trafficked street in Hudson, because the two truck routes through Hudson converge on Green Street, and several of the street's original houses have been lost or brutally altered beyond recognition, Green Street was never meant to be a "commercial corridor," and it isn't today. The same is true for Fairview Avenue--at least until it crosses the bridge and enters Greenport.

These early 20th-century images of Green Street and Fairview Avenue, both from more or less the vantage point at the intersection of the two streets, show how these streets were meant to look. These were Hudson's early "suburban" neighborhoods. It is this character and the integrity of these architectural styles that we should be respecting and protecting to the greatest extent possible.


  1. That Stewart's, a block from my house, is but one negative on that corner. Some of the houses are so poorly kept that respecting their architectural history is almost a joke. Who wouldn't want them restored to the beauty of 50 or 60 years ago? But saving them won't restore them. The current Stewart's is ugly on an ugly corner and should never have been allowed there; now that we are stuck with it, an improved Stewart's is better than what we have now. Even worse than the Stewart's are the commercial conversions of old houses into restaurants and liquor stores along Green Street by the addition of great concrete-block carbuncles . . . we may talk all we want about "gateways" but there is not a single attractive entrance into Hudson -- every single one is marred by rust-belt-style detritus.

    1. A house that's there can always be rescued. A house that's demolished is gone forever.

  2. Stewarts should never have been approved for the corner in the first place.

    The traffic along with those entering and leaving Stewarts and the further complication of people trying to cross the streets there is a disaster.

    And now its under consideration to be even a bigger mess ?

    I really don't understand how this can be suggested or thought worthy of further discussion.

    If Stewarts needs to be bigger then should consider relocating to Greenport where there is no zoning or residential areas to destroy anymore or any corners to complicate.

    1. I'm sure Stewart's, or some similar use, was there before the zoning was in place. In that case, the only thing that could be done about it was to make it a nonconforming use, which is meant to send the message, "You're here, and there's nothing we can do about it, but we're not very happy with the situation."

  3. I just knew you would be putting that first photograph up, which you have put up before, Carole. You're the Guardian Angel of that particular street strip of Hudson, that has economic forces pulling hither and yon. Those with a different vision be forewarned. :)

  4. How many people live in the houses that would be demolished? Where would they live if the houses were destroyed? We already have a shortage of affordable housing in Hudson. Demolishing the houses would only add to the problem.

    1. 6 residential units that appear from what we know, to be in the "affordable" category more or less on the open market, would bite the dust. So that is a policy consideration to be put into the mix, as the public square thinks about this. And this is one of those decisions, that is about who we are as a city, and thus it deserve broad input from Hudson residents from all over the city.

  5. I'm agin' it. If I had a magic wand, I would make Green Street green again, the way it started out and should have stayed. There were some really lovely homes that have already bitten the dust. No more!

  6. Former locations of Stewart's; at the Oasis Restaurant, aka Lil Deb's on Upper Columbia St., the 300 block on Warren and the NE corner of 4th and Warren.
    Green and Fairview formerly a service station and liquor store.
    This is not the first expansion.
    Many, I say many people shop at Stewart's.

  7. Next to Stewarts which you can see in the first picture of the houses to be demolished is a wonderful vegetable garden completely canopied in green leaves (grapes, squash? I'm not sure). A refreshing sight on approaching Green St on a hot summer's day. No to expansion.