Friday, February 15, 2019

Stewart's at the Planning Board

Last night, Chuck Marshall of Stewart's Shops made his first appearance at the Planning Board, seeking site plan approval for the new convenience store and gas station to be constructed at the corner of Green Street and Fairview Avenue.

The plan submitted to the Planning Board did not substantively differ from the plan submitted to the Common Council in January 2018, when Stewart's petitioned the Council to change the City's zoning to enable its plans to expand the store: two houses get demolished, a larger store is sited at the north end of the newly enlarged lot, the gas canopy with four fueling positions is out in front, and the store itself has the same gable design.

The application to the Planning Board, however, was accompanied by a cover letter to Planning Board chair Walter Chatham from Marshall, which, among other things, defended the gable roof design for "mirroring the peaks of the surrounding residential buildings," explained why the gas tanks could not be hidden behind the building, and used Chatham's own words to laud the Stewart's plan: 
In a recent article on, I saw that your new favorite axiom is "the perfect shall not be the enemy of the good." I can't think of a more relevant planning and zoning re-development project than this one to prove the importance of that axiom.
In fact, it was a post on Gossips that reported Chatham's "new favorite axiom," which he had shared in reference to the design for the proposed Hudson Housing Authority project--a design he called "well-intentioned" because it "adopted a number of New Urbanism strategies."

Although Marshall considered the gable roof design compatible with the surrounding neighborhood because it "mirrored the peaks of the surrounding residential buildings," Chatham called it "countrified," saying the site required a more urban building type. He and Planning Board member Betsy Gramkow had identified another Stewart's model that would be more suitable for the site, one found on Hoosick Street in Troy. The following are Google images of that building.

The building appears to have two stories, but in fact the higher walls simply conceal HVAC equipment on the roof. Recognizing that compatibility has more to do with scale and proportion than with details like gables, Gramkow noted that all the surrounding buildings were at least two stories and those across the street--across both Fairview Avenue and Green Street--were on a slope, making them higher still, so the design with greater height was more appropriate. Marshall assured the board, "Tell me what you want, and I'll do my best to get as close as I can."

Various board members expressed concerns about lighting and driveways and landscaping and pedestrians. Chatham noted that the store building would buffer the adjacent house on Fairview Avenue but the adjacent house on Green Street would be completely exposed to the traffic at the gas pumps. Marshall explained there would be a grade change and a retaining wall. He suggested there might be a four-foot vinyl fence above the retaining wall to screen the site. Chatham suggested arborvitae.

Although the Planning Board has not determined the application to be complete, it was felt that public input should be heard early on in the process. For that reason, it was decided that a public hearing on the proposal would be held at the board's next meeting, on Thursday, March 14. At that meeting Creighton Manning, the engineering firm that did the traffic study for the project, is also expected to appear to discuss that study with the Planning Board.


  1. What a dreadful plan. Like similar missteps in the area, the original Stewart's should never have been built in the first place. How many gas stations do you need! A town seduced by Corporate madness.
    What's basically a sweet residential Green Street, has been subjected to
    misappropriation due to lax zoning and neglect by the community.
    To permit further destruction of the neighborhood is abhorrent.
    At least, the Troy design has, well, some design. The Hudson one is just another boiler plate, cheap building.
    The community, I hope, rises to the occasion and decries another wave of destruction. The buildings facing demolition are homes. I understand Hudson needs homes. Certainly more than gas convenience stations!

    1. Green Street isn't a "sweet residential" street -- it is the most trafficked thoroughfare in the city per the most recent traffic study done here. What's more, Stewarts is and has been a fixture of the upstate landscape for more than half a century. I like the taller design -- it does fit more in the neighborhood. And, to the extent there is a problem with a Stewarts on that corner, it's due solely to the Council's wrongheaded spot zoning legislation, not Stewarts.

  2. Are they going to improve that intersection BEFORE or AFTER the work on this building begins? With construction going on for months, it's gonna get ugly there for drivers, customers and pedestrians.

  3. Good god, no! What a horrible idea. SMH