Developer discusses supermarket details
NORTH EAST — An audience brimming with anticipation crowded into the NorthEast-Millerton Library’s Annex building on Thursday, Feb. 2, for a presentation on the supermarket identified as Hannaford by almost everyone but the developer.John Joseph of Southern Realty Development LLC (SRD) remained coy about the tenant planned for the 36,000-square-foot supermarket to be located behind Thompson Plaza on Route 44, home to the North East Athletic Club and Kids’ Time. Millerton Mayor John Scutieri, however, was not so measured with his words and boldly said the market would be a Hannaford.“It begins with an ‘H.’ ” the mayor said.Joseph, meanwhile, apologized for his inability to be so forthright.“I’m not allowed to say [the name of the market],” he said. “It has to do with the lease execution. I really don’t mean to be evasive.”One question he did answer directly related to the Grand Union, located in Millerton Square plaza. SRD has repeatedly offered to take over the Grand Union’s lease; its offer has been rejected time and again. If, however, Grand Union’s wholesaler, C&S Wholesale Grocers (the lease holders), as well as landlord Bob Trotta, suddenly became amenable to SRD’s offer, Joseph said his plans would swiftly change.“The truth is our first choice is to redevelop the Grand Union plaza,” he acknowledged. “If they’re prepared to surrender their lease, we’re prepared to pay for it. If they were prepared [to do so] I would not move forward with this [other] project.”Joseph explained that redeveloping the Grand Union has always been goal number one; building a brand new store on a 10-acre site owned by Quinmill Properties a close second. Another 5 acres has also been acquired by SRD for the project.“We saw a good opportunity to redevelop the store, but we were unable to get it done,” he said, adding the Grand Union is 27,000 square feet in size, nearly 10,000 square feet smaller than the proposal for the brand new market. “We went to alternative sites. This seems to be the best alternative — one of the few alternatives in town.”The applicant’s design engineer, Rich Rennia, was also present at the meeting. He explained some of the project’s details for the public. BuffersThere will be a 100-foot buffer to protect the wetlands, and a fence will be installed with a wire mesh to keep people from the wetlands area and animals from the parking lot. There will also be curbing around the whole area to contain water on the site.According to Rennia, “only the front half of the property is being built upon.”WaterThere will be an in-ground water filtration system, using bio-retention practices and Vortechs devices. Those devices will pretreat water to pull out sediment and debris before it goes through the treatment process. The infiltration takes place underneath the parking lot in plastic chambers. Rennia said while the system has been well proven, he would still consider it fairly “innovative.”Additionally, all of the storm water will be contained on site, and none is being directed to the wetlands. “We will have catch basins and collect run off from the pavement,” Rennia said, adding the site will have its own septic system, away from the wetlands, as well as a pretreatment system to reduce nitrogen.The store will get its water supply from the village of Millerton; the water main, however, will be extended by the town of North East. Rennia assured the crowd that it will not be taking “anything new from the aquifer.”Responding to a question from the crowd, Rennia assured those present that “Mr. Joseph would pay for the extension of the water main 100 percent,” and that the developer has already funded studies regarding the issue. Also, the village has already approved the decision to supply the supermarket its water, which is estimated to be 2,000 gallons per day.Scutieri mentioned the market’s fire flow, which is the amount of water needed to power the sprinkler system and fight a potential fire (without draining the village’s water supply). To plan for that, Rennia said a 25,000-gallon tank will be buried in the ground to offset the extra water needed if the sprinklers go off.Moreover, the developer has anticipated that in the future he may want to petition to become a part of the water district. If he does so, he has agreed to pay for that expansion.Landscaping and parkingSince the site plan was first introduced, the applicant has added much landscaping. There are now many trees, most of which are native species. Those include maples, Princeton elms, Canadian choke cherries, eastern red buds, spruces and grey birches.According to town regulations, there must be 180 parking spaces to accommodate the size of the building. The town also requires five loading spaces in the lot.Rennia said in keeping with the lush landscaping plans there will be trees and shrubs on all parking islands.During the discussion, Village Trustee Yosh Schulman asked if a pervious pavement would be used versus a solid pavement, to help with water filtration.Rennia replied that though it was considered, he decided against it, because a porous pavement can get clogged with sand. “Standard de-icing salt can’t be used because of the proximity to the wetlands, so we’re a little limited,” he said. “And trying to sand a porous pavement is not an option. In this circumstance it didn’t seem to make the most sense.”The facade and sidewalkAlong the front of the store there will be a fence, sidewalk and street trees. The Planning Board requested heavy screening; according to the engineer, it did not want a straight view of Route 44 from the store.“[The design] is going to create a very good screen break along the front of the store,” Rennia said.Schulman also asked, “Why the sidewalk?”“That’s easy,” replied Rennia. “Dutchess County planning wanted to see a sidewalk.”There are hopes that pedestrian traffic will increase as well, extending the village feel along the Boulevard District of the town.The Department of Transportation stated there would not be any need to make changes to Route 44 by adding any turning lanes or traffic lights with the construction of the project.The application is in the midst of its site plan review. The next step will be to plan for a public hearing, which must be publicized well in advance. The town must also complete the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process, which could be subject to either a short form or long form Environmental Assessment Form (EAF), which will dictate the length of the review process.Public opinionNot everyone was content to listen to the presentation; some wanted to voice their concerns with a big-box store making its home in the town of North East. Village Planning Board member Peter Greenough was among them.“I’m on the village Planning Board,” he said. “We’ve had no input, and people are concerned this project might vacuum up a lot of businesses in the village and hollow them out. There are probably 10 or 15 things people are concerned about.” “Honestly, it’s just a freestanding grocery store,” said Joseph. “It’s not a Walmart.”“I haven’t heard one person say they think this could damage downtown,” Scutieri said. “How many people shop at the Grand Union now? Think about how many people are going outside of town to do their shopping now.”Amenia resident Sharon Kroeger, also a member of the Tri-state Chamber of Commerce, added to the discussion.“The idea of it being just a small-town thing doesn’t work,” she said. “Each main street has its own food store, and there’s been an ability for each town to keep its shops. If you put a Hannaford here it will suck up stores and resources and send them to Belgium. It’s a regional issue, not a town issue.”Millerton resident Peter Richmond asked the mayor why he was sitting on stage with the developer, clearly supporting the project.“Yeah, I’m the mayor, but I’m also a taxpayer,” Scutieri said. “And I dislike the Grand Union as much as anybody. This area deserves a new grocery store ... I can’t go anywhere right now without hearing about it.”“Good for you,” said North East resident Cathy Fenn. “John’s not just mayor, he also cares about the community.”“I think it’s important for our village to have smart growth,” added Millerton resident John Panzer. “It adds value to our village. We need good projects like this, thoughtfully developed and executed. I care about other towns, but I especially care about this one. We need good businesses and jobs.” “There’s an option,” Schulman said. “I hear Freshtown has an option to go into Grand Union.”FreshtownWith those words, Scutieri led into an introduction of Noah and Dan Katz, owners and operators of Freshtown supermarkets, with locations in Amenia and Dover and a 65-store cooperative. The pair was in the audience, watching the SRD presentation.The fact that Grand Union is supplied by C&S Wholesale Grocers, the same wholesaler that supplies Freshtown, makes the Katz’s plans to take over Grand Union more plausible than SRD’s plans, according to the brothers. C&S only became their wholesaler at the end of last year, which is why they are entering the Millerton grocery game so late, they said, roughly a year after Joseph appeared with his plans.“We know we’re coming in late, but the explanation is the 65-store cooperative last year switched suppliers,” Noah Katz said. “We have a great relationship with C&S, who is clear they don’t want to be in the retail business, so we said let’s do it. It’s great.”Currently Freshtown has an application before the Planning Board, Katz said, although it’s missing one signature. He also said his stores, especially the newer ones, are $10 million stores, completely updated and offering the freshest and the finest any supermarket can provide.Sunday in the Country Food Drive organizer “NASCAR” Dave MacMillan rose to praise the Katz brothers, and the civic service the Freshtown stores continually offer the community.“I just want to say my experience with the Katzes for the past 10 years ... I just hope anybody who comes into the community is as dedicated as this family is to the community,” he said. “We need [people] who give back to the community.”Millerton resident Eva Yuranich, a young mother, however, had less favorable comments about Freshtown. She said her experiences shopping at the store have hardly been ideal, and that she instead travels 40 minutes each way to shop at the Hannaford in Red Hook.Millerton resident Anne Veteran asked the Katzes why they decided to venture into the village.“I don’t understand the risk,” she said, noting the Grand Union and the site of the SRD proposal are just down the road from one another. “You could be stuck in a 25-year lease that you’re going to take over when a bigger company [with the SRD application] is going to come in next to you.”Noah Katz replied that he and his brother are going to “do what they do,” and proceed even if the SRD plans move forward. Dan Katz added they have “access to the capital needed to renovate the property.“We are optimistic and would like to come to Millerton,” he continued. “I think we can give you a great store.”Scutieri suggested Freshtown allow SRD to pursue its project and let it “live or die on its own merits and then we’ll welcome you,” but the Katzes didn’t quite take to that sentiment.“We did not just show up a few weeks ago,” Noah Katz said, adding the process started last year. “I’m sorry it seems so late, [but we’re here and staying here].”At the meeting’s end the mayor suggested anybody who would like to weigh in call the Village Hall or Town Hall with their comments, or write a letter with the same. “The last thing anybody wants is to be stuck with the Grand Union for another 10 years,” Scutieri said, urging public participation. Village Hall can be reached at 518-789-4489; its mailing address is PO Box 528, Millerton, NY 12546. Town Hall can be reached at 518-789-3659; its mailing address is PO Box 516, Millerton, NY 12546.