A week or so ago, when I reported on Stewart's Shops ongoing effort to get the City of Hudson to change its zoning to accommodate their desire to build a bigger and better gas station and convenience store at the corner of Green Street and Fairview Avenue, I was criticized in a comment for not sharing "the visual of the proposed improvements" that accompanied a letter addressed to Council president Tom DePietro and members of the Common Council and submitted to the Legal Committee by Chuck Marshall, Stewart's real estate representative. The implication was that I hadn't shared it because it made a case for letting Stewart's dictate Hudson zoning policy. The truth is I didn't share it because I didn't find it particularly illustrative. The letter and its accompanying visual are now available online at the City of Hudson website. Readers can decide for themselves if the visual (a reduced version of which appears above) is helpful or not.
On that same post, the same commenter provided the link to an article that appeared in the Albany Times Union: "Stewart's employee stock ownership plan creating millionaires." The article reports that, according to Stewart's president, "there are now 67 current or former long-time Stewart's workers with retirement balances of more than $1 million"--67 of the more than 4,500 people employed by Stewart's. The link to the article was presumably provided as evidence that Stewart's is a good and benevolent employer and, because it is, Hudson should acquiesce to the company's desires and change its zoning to accommodate Stewart's uniform expansion plans.
Since I can't remember anyone using the company's reputation as an employer to argue against allowing Stewart's to dictate zoning changes in Hudson and redefine the city's vision for its future, touting the company's employee stock ownership program seems like the very definition of a straw man argument. Surprisingly, though, at last night's informal Common Council meeting, after the letter from Marshall was accepted as correspondence, DePietro brought up the Times Union article and said he would send the link to each of the aldermen, saying it was "an interesting article about what Stewart's does for the community."
The Common Council will ultimately be asked to decide whether to grant or deny Stewart's request for a zoning change. It should be stressed that denying Stewart's request is not the equivalent of expelling them from that location. The current facility is a nonconforming use, but it can stay there, as it is, indefinitely. Marshall's most extreme ultimatum to date was delivered on March 29, when he told the Legal Committee, "If Stewart's is unable to expand, it is our intention that we will eventually leave." Stewart's could eventually leave for all kinds of reasons, even if the City of Hudson were to change its zoning to accommodate their current plans for expansion.
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