Clifton Park, NY -  The intersection of Grooms Road and Vischer Ferry Road is slowly becoming a model hamlet, a mix of smaller businesses and residential homes. Though busy, traffic going through the four way intersection still moves comfortably, most of the time, with stop signs instead of a stop light.

Where there was once a single Stewart’s Shop on the corner, there is now a collection of commercial businesses. Besides getting their vehicles fueled up and buying milk, bread and beer, residents can now get dental work done, have their clothes cleaned or altered, and pick up the evening meal.

Across the street a long, two-story building is nearing completion that will offer more services.

In recent weeks officials with Stewart’s Shops submitted plans to the town to demolish their shop on the once sleepy corner along with the rental building behind it and replace it with a larger store. The new shop would offer customers more food selections and more gas pumps.

The plans presented to the Planning Board last week however caused concern with some on the Planning Board that the new structure could change the area’s character or the dynamics associated with the hamlet ideal.

The present shop is approximately 2,500-square-feet and has two fueling islands with one pump each. Plans for the new store call for a 3,675-square foot structure with four islands holding eight “fueling points” covered by a canopy top. The design would be similar to the company’s newer stores with one aesthetic change made to the exterior to conform to the brick that’s found on the businesses nearby.

According to Stewart’s spokeswoman, Erica Komorowske, the additional interior space would allow for more booths, more food-to-go items, and a better all-around flow. The additional space requested for the fuel pumps would also create a better flow.

“We’re always looking to invest in the community’s that serve us so we’re proud to offer the people of Clifton Park a new shop with more amenities,” she said.

The new shop would be built slightly to the north of the present shop which would be kept open during construction. The present store would be demolished upon the opening of the new one.

Komorowske said the company would like to have the new store open for business in late May.

After a presentation on the plans from Stewart’s official Marcus Andrews last week, several members of the Planning Board expressed reservations about the size of the project, its location, and the potential impact it would make to that area of town.

Board member Andy Neubauer was the first to point out that the design being proposed stood a good chance of changing the area’s character. That in essence, it would take a small stop-and-go store with a couple of gas pumps and replace it with a multi-pump self-serve gas station that has a Stewart’s Shop attached to it.

“There are other values here that I’m interested in,” Neubauer said. “This runs counter to what my feeling is that this intersection – all our intersections except those on major highways – should look like.”

Fellow board member Jeffery Jones wondered why the board was not being allowed to see more options.

“You’re limiting us to what options there are because you’ll lose money,” he said. “You’re telling us what you’re going to do, take or leave it.”

“We’ve looked at other options,” Andrews replied. “The (fueling) path at today’s store is horrible. “This is the best plan we came up with at Stewart’s. Putting the building up to the corner has been explored. It doesn’t work for us.”

“There are other considerations than financial ones when I sit up here,” Jones countered. “What we want is other options to look at. We’re not here to see that you make money.”

Neubauer said he couldn’t support the plan.

“I won’t support it because it doesn’t work for the bigger picture,” he said. “It just doesn’t work on that site.”

Pointing to another stop-n-go store with gas that is not far away, Jones said he was thankful he wasn’t on the board when it was approved.

“We owe it to everybody to get this right,” Jones said.

Planning Board Chairman Rocco Ferraro noted the board’s concerns about the building footprint that had been proposed.

“I’m having a hard time reconciling what Stewart’s wants and what the board prefers,” he told Andrews.

A committee was formed that will meet with Andrews to discuss other possible designs.


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