Friday, June 16, 2017

Formula Stores and Stewart's

Last month, Gossips reported that the request from Stewart's Shops for Hudson to amend its zoning law so they could tear down two houses and expand their convenience store and gas station at the corner of Green Street and Fairview Avenue into something similar to their store in Chatham had been handed off from the Legal Committee of the Common Council to the Economic Development Committee.

Last night, Stewart's request for a zoning amendment was discussed by the Economic Development Committee, right after committee chair John Friedman (Third Ward) presented a revised draft of a proposed local law that would prohibit "formula retail use"--of which Stewart's is an example--throughout the city. The Stewart's Shop is currently a nonconforming use in a residential neighborhood, and that status prohibits any alteration or expansion of the operation. Stewart's is asking the City to adopt a retail overlay for the area, now zoned R-2, which would create a transitional zone of mixed commercial and residential and allow them to carry out their plan.

Friedman told the committee that it was the opinion of Andy Howard, counsel to the Common Council, that what was requested constituted spot zoning. When the request was being discussed in the Legal Committee, Howard more than once reminded the committee that the Stewart's Shop is now a nonconforming use, and a nonconforming use, by definition, means, "We don't want it to stay there." Steve Dunn, from the audience, expressed his opinion that the zoning amendment sought would not constitute spot zoning but would be "bad public policy."

Alluding to the fact that Stewart's proposal involves demolishing two houses, which currently contain a total of six apartments, Friedman commented, "With so much impassioned discourse about the shortage of affordable housing in Hudson, it is my sense that this is not something we should do." The two houses identified in March as needing to be demolished in the proposed expansion are 162 Green Street and 17-19 Fairview Avenue.

Committee member Rick Rector suggested that there should be a public hearing to gauge how the people living in that part of Hudson felt about the proposal, and it was decided that the committee would hold a public hearing at its next meeting, which will take place on July 20 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.


  1. Is a public meeting really necessary when Friedmans AND Howards knowledge should be enough evidence ? Where are the adults in this room ?

    1. The lawyers' knowledge is rarely sufficient basis for sound public policy. (Note: Andy Howard told me he thinks it is likely spot zoning, not that he was sure; I concur in his analysis after reading a treatise on the subject.) The purpose of a public hearing (all our meetings are public) is to gather input from the public who may have other concerns besides zoning that they'd like us to be aware of. For instance, given that Hudson is a food desert and the planned for expansion of the Stewards would permit the sale of more unprepared foods, some might like to see it stay and grow. If there is a lot of support for that, that's something I'd like to believe the Common Council would take in to consideration. Likewise, the public hearing will provide the Stewarts company an opportunity to present their rationale and answer questions. Attendance is neither mandatory nor will it be taken so feel free not to come.

  2. In the best of circumstances, Stewart's could find itself waiting years for a "retail overlay" district.

    After 15 years we've proven ourselves incapable of adopting a North and South Bay "conservation overlay district," which is recommended in the Comprehensive Plan. Skipped over in the 2011 zoning amendments, this issue is yet another conservation matter which our Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) routinely fails to address.

    When I heard one Legal Committee member stating that Stewart's would have to wait for a "redo of the Comprehensive Plan," I wanted to ask this same individual who also serves on the CAC whether or not the "conservation overlay district" we've waited for since 2002 is now doomed?

    If it is not doomed, then why isn't it being enacted? What's the CAC's advice on the issue (for the 100th time), except perhaps to agree with their colleague that nothing can be done short of redoing the Comprehensive Plan?

    Quick!, we'd better hold a fake public meeting on the issue (for window dressing).

  3. Stewart's provides area residents with basic foods and fuels plus employment.
    The existing location is the fourth place in Hudson since I believe the 1960's.
    It may be best to work with Stewart's for an "acceptable" designed structure.
    Might I recommend that our Civic Leaders spend a few hours at Stewart's and observe what is offered to all walks of life in Eathend of Hudson.
    May I also suggest that if all concerned with the Historical Area of Green and Fairview PLEASE make your statement about that Historical Structural still unfinished on the corner of Bayley Blvd. and Fairview.
    Please save Stewart's for our neighbors.

  4. It is in an old established residential neighborhood that is already afflicted by the truck route with its noise and particulate matter pollution. The Stewart's should not be there at all.

    1. May I recommend that you investigate the history of the area regarding commercial use.
      In earlier times the intersection of Green and Fairview supplied fuel for horses, as in the use of a large bell mounted upside down to hold water. The bell was located in the middle of the road.
      Probably a few traffic jams and a few piles of horse droppings.
      Believe it or not people need to drink and eat and vehicles need to have fuel.
      Another solution is to ban all motorized vehicles from entering City of Hudson limits.
      And we all could stand to loose of few pounds.

    2. Please allow me to add one more thing about Green St and Fairview Ave.
      It was not so long ago that a certain convenient store located on Green St. and McKinstry was permitted to expand.
      And this will not be the first expansion of Stewart's at Green and Fairview.
      There are three other commercial venues on Green St. in addition to Stewart's.
      Beware of too much Gov't dictating what is acceptable.
      So should ProPrinters, Stella's, etc. be forced to close too?

  5. Excellent points all, Tommy. It's so easy, when one has access to reliable, private transportation, or can afford reliable, though costly public transportation to Shop Rite, Aldi's or Price Chopper, to say "The Stewart's should not be there at all." And of course that comment reveals the "I'm good; everybody else can just figure it out." attitude. Very, very community minded.

    And, as has become the norm in Hudson, people like to cherry-pick Hudson's history: those facts that support their arguments, positions, and in this specific case, apparently their economic interests, are all well and good, interesting and acceptable. However, when Hudson's history fails to make for "acceptable" public policy outcomes. . . oh the hue and cry.

    Thank you Tommy for reminding all of us how Hudson was before the Audis and BMWs sped down Warren Street, while aggressively tailgating and wildly gesturing, on their way to the train. AND for advocating for those whose votes everyone wants. . . as long as they remain quiet and complacent and out of sight.

  6. The Stewart's representative made clear, that the store would remain in business in its current configuration, even if its request were denied. So one way or the other, it will continue to provide services to the local community.

    Having looked a bit more into the issue of spot zoning myself, it turns out that it is complicated, and the contents of whatever comprehensive plan Hudson may have, even if it is in bits and pieces contained in various documents, is relevant. If Hudson deems the Stewart proposal in its best interests, as Mr. Friedman suggests, obviously the issue of spot zoning will need to be carefully researched. If Hudson deems the proposal not in its best interests, then the technicalities of the spot zoning issue becomes moot.

  7. The ingress/egress to the existing store is already nightmarish, for cars exiting the lot, for traffic on both streets, and for pedestrians as well. Is there anything contained in the expansion proposal which would alleviate any of these problems; or would expansion only exacerbate them?