Stony Point Planning Board Recommends Text Amendment to Allow Outdoor Retail Space; Proposed Tractor Supply Co. Store on 9W Would Benefit

BY CHERYL SLAVIN

At its May 22 meeting the Stony Point Planning Board agreed to make a recommendation to the Town Board in favor of an amendment to the Zoning Code to allow for outdoor retail space within the BU (business district) zone. Currently the code prohibits any type of outside retail display or storage. This change would pave the way for Tractor Supply Co., a retail chain with more than 1245 stores, to build a store in the shopping center next to Aldi on Liberty Drive.

Ira Emmanuel, representing Tractor Supply, stated that Tractor Supply uses outdoor areas to display and sell large equipment, trailers and gardening supplies, among other items. Without the ability to utilize outdoor space, the company will not be able to establish its business in Stony Point. However, he made sure to point out that any amendment to the Code would affect all businesses in the zone; therefore the proposed amendment would be “careful and narrow” in order to avoid “spot zoning.” The proposed amendment would cover such businesses as supermarkets and tractor supply stores, but not restaurants, gas stations or warehouses. The amendment would also ensure that the Planning Board would continue to have tight control over how the outside spaces are used.

Town Planner Max Stach noted that increasing retail space would beneficially increase rateables for the town. Board Chairman Thomas Gubitosa also pointed out that having attractive outdoor retail displays along 9W might also provide a commercial boon, provided it is done in a way that would prevent abuses or unintended consequences.

Tractor Supply Co. is, according to its website, the “largest operator of retail farm stores in America, dedicated to the rural lifestyle.” The proposed store would take up the space previously occupied by the Stop and Shop supermarket. The outdoor retail portion would include a drive-through area where customers can load heavy items directly into their vehicles, as well as permanent tractor and trailer displays and seasonal garden exhibits. The final plans for the site have not yet been drawn up, but the Planning Board set a date for a site visit and a referral to the ARB in order to move the project along. The Town Board had previously, at its May 13 meeting, expressed its initial enthusiasm for the new retail operation and the potential revenue it can produce for the community.

Also at the meeting the Planning Board discussed the application of Amar Estates to change the designation on two of its lots from “conservation easement” to “conservation buffer.” The lots are situated on either side of the estate gates along the property line bounded by Route 106. These easements were initially established as part of the original Carlton Meadows subdivision. Subsequently the Amar family purchased all of the lots in the subdivision and, as part of their continuing efforts to improve the property, the owners now seek to construct a fence around the entire homestead, necessitating the designation change.

Despite the conservation easement designation, the lot on the east side of the gate was completely clear-cut as a result of an unlawful action by the previous owners. The lot on the west side still has some trees left. The owners want to take down the remaining trees, put up the fence, and then re-landscape with new trees, a plan which the Planning Board, the Town Building Inspector and the Town Engineer all endorsed at the meeting. Several neighbors, however, spoke out in opposition to the plan, including one who queried whether the fence could simply be constructed behind the easement which would allow the trees to remain.

“This is not some ordinary subdivision,” he pointed out. “This property is located right on the border of Harriman State Park in a less developed area of the town. We need to keep the character of the area consistent.”

Frank Collyer of Stony Point Action Committee for the Environment also asked whether the town’s tree laws would apply. Inspector Bill Sheehan replied that those laws only applied to original subdivision applications, and not to what private owners can do on their property.

Several neighbors also complained about the clear-cutting of the property and the delivery of dirt fill on the Blanchard Road side of the property, which has resulted in muddy runoff from the site onto the road. They also raised concerns in general about drainage issues in the area. Sheehan and the Board reminded the speakers that only the designation of the two lots along Route 106 was before the Board, and that any other concerns should be directed to the County, which maintains those roads.

The Board unanimously approved the application for the designation change from conservation easement to conservation buffer.