Monday, February 18, 2019

Lessons Never Learned

Commercial development seems on every hand to defy reason and logic. In Livingston, there's a plan to build a giant gas station diagonally across from an existing giant gas station, on land that today is a big, open grassy space.

There are no plans for the existing gas station. It seems it may just be abandoned.

In Greenport, there's a plan to build a new "retail development" on the west side of Fairview Avenue at the current location of the McDonald's--a plan that requires the demolition of a significant historic house.

While just across the street, in Fairview Plaza, there are at least eight vacant stores and an abandoned supermarket building.

And here in Hudson, where some might think we would have learned our lesson about demolishing old buildings and sacrificing neighborhood character, two houses are soon to be razed so that Stewart's can build a bigger and better gas station and convenience store.



  1. What is so odd to me, is what is going on with the giant gas stations? Are people having a hard time buying gas these days? Doubtful! Are they thinking that the big stations will bring in new customers? From where? And, what will more traffic do to our communities, if that is the goal?

    And, why, when the world seems to be going away from fossil fuel are all these huge gas stations so eager to come here, and why are our decision makers letting them do that?

    This is all driven by the developers and it seems that local politicians who are there to give approval never stop to wonder if it is needed? Or, what will happen to what is already here.

    During the Widewater's issue, I learned that the Greenport Planning Board has no responsibility for anything along those lines. They are just there to review the site plans. The name "Planning Board" is clearly an incorrect label for their responsibilities. Their theory is that if the developer thinks it will be a good business, well, who are they to question? I suspect the same thing goes on in all the local Planning Boards. They seem to not realize how many local constituents are hurt by all this development when their own businesses are forced to close. And, when the new business that comes to the developer's property also fail, then the promised new jobs also disappear and it just compounds the problem.

    Why is it that there seems to be no board with responsibility for looking into whether the community actually needs or wants what these developer want to put in our towns?

    Elizabeth Nyland

    1. Elizabeth--It's not gasoline so much as food that is motivating the proposal in Livingston and Stewart's. "Freakonomics Radio," in a feature about Trader Joe's, reported that Americans are now spending more at restaurants and bars than they are in supermarkets. The presentation about the gas station in Livingston went on about "healthy," "farm-to-table" fast food, and more than one source has reported that Stewart's push to enlarge and upgrade its stores is driven by the desire to tap into the growing food-to-go market.

  2. The even weirder thing is that the people who plan to develop the McDonald's property also appear to be the agents for the nearly empty shopping center directly across the street.

  3. Soon enough cars will be electric. Volvo is planning on it. They will stop production of gas models.
    That certainly will leave food. Now, what is Food depends on who you ask.
    These convenience, mini mart businesses will rebrand and repackage their offerings to allude that it's healthy. Tell me, do you trust these guys? They can start showing us what's in store for us right now. But you won't find anything close to healthy around here. An orange, an apple perhaps at exhorbitant prices. Strikes me as staging to appear like they're trying.
    Stewart's claim to fame is their ice cream. Today's version is basically fillers.

    Socially, what's happening with supermarkets is a complex scenario. Fast food has dramatically changed our culture. People don't want to or know how to cook ...on and on from here. We don't have an obesity epidemic from nothing.
    What about the beer, candy and tobacco as that fly off the shelves at gas stations. Likely the mainstay into eternity but how much more product do you need! Truly confounding.

    The Livingston location has seasonal and year round excellent farmers' markets practically next door. What are they thinking!

    Planning boards? Germantown's made a decision to permit the Dollar General, ignoring their own zoning law. They got sued, the judge vacated it and now it's up to the Zoning Board of Appeals and the developer to move forward or not. I'm under the impression that planning boards do have decision making power.

    Carole, thank you for illustrating the abandoned store fronts. It should upset and concern everyone. I've heard of moratoriums implemented in other towns.
    Allowing time to weigh options and update comprehensive plans.
    Germantown's board refused. The boards do come across as favoring the developers. Ignoring their constituents. Is there something we're missing? When chains or some of their stores go belly up, does someone gain financially?

  4. Carole, you could add the Napa Auto Supply business leaving its spot on Healy, across from Cosmic Cinemas, to a newly built building on Healy near Route 66.

  5. There seems to be a widely spread mis-understanding of the role of municipal planning boards, that they have much latitude in evaluation of a given proposal to develop a plot of land and can respond to citizen concerns in that judgement.
    This is not the case. They are only regulators, whose judgement consists of reviewing a proposal to see if it fits into the existing land-use regulations. They can only go by what has already been written into law by the municipal legislature. The choice of what sort of development to encourage and what sort to discourage lies with the citizens and happens long before any developer proposal surfaces.

  6. Carole, that was the first thought that entered my head when I saw that they wanted to tear down a house to build yet another business. Why? Why not use existing storefronts for their businesses? It makes all kinds of financial sense to do it that way. And why aren't these "boards" considering all these options? Do they not care at all about their communities and the businesses that already exist and how the effect of new business encroaching upon existing ones is a negative thing? We try to encourage businesses to open, only to strangle them with new ones. The ones that exist are taxpayers and deserve more respect. None of it makes sense and it's frustrating for us all. The end result of all this is urban sprawl, and that is a terrible thing in so many ways. Our city planners should explain that to "boards" that make these decisions, if they are not already the same body. It seems that perhaps the board members are not qualified to make the decisions.

    1. I was at a Greenport Planning Board meeting soon after ShopRite had vacated the building in Fairview Plaza. Greenport Land Partners (TRG) was one of the presenters. Ed Stiffler, the chair of the Planning Board, asked why they were pursuing the plan to build a new supermarket when there was a supermarket building vacant. The answer from TRG was: "Aldi's wants a new building."

    2. I think your analysis ignores, or at least misses, the impact and impetus of the tax laws and their application to commercial real estate. Without going in to mind-numbing detail, these laws provide an incentive for rapid depreciation of such assets, making the long-term ownership of them somewhat onerous compared to the earlier-derived benefits. Couple this with the fact that nothing holds a tenant in place if they wish to move (see, e.g., Shoprite's recent location). And, if they do move (esp. to another town or county) then the jobs go with them (as do the property tax payments).

      I think your analysis also misses the converse situation (as the Chinese proverb goes, all crisis breeds opportunity): TRG (which owns the (nee) Shoprite Plaza) is more likely now to accept a rent figure that is lower than what they were getting the longer the stores sit idle. The former Shoprite store itself, for instance, might now be an attractive site for a Wegman's or a new, larger Hannaford. Or a really large gun shop or indoor golf range. Would that require a new building? I imagine it would. What's wrong with that? Times change. The landscape -- commercial and physical -- changes with it.

  7. The Fairview Plaza is a dead one in the eyes of retailers now. Shop Rite was the draw, nobody is going to fill their void. The dollar store closed up. Payless Shoes will be next. I was in JoAnn's Fabric recently on a warm day and snow melt was pouring through the ceiling - they had to shut a few aisles. Like similar plazas/malls all over the country that were once vibrant, they are dead or soon to be dead. Commercial real estate data backs this up. If a mall doesn't have an anchor like an Apple Store or a high-end clothier, potential tenants will stay away, preferring a stand alone store.

  8. Giant gas stations are needed to accept the glut of oil once we destroy Venezuela .