The Ballston Planning Board on Thursday night unanimously approved plans for a controversial Wal-Mart store to be built just south of Ballston Spa.
The approval came with little Planning Board discussion despite months of vocal public opposition to the store from residents who oppose big-box development, which doesn’t now exist in Ballston. Project opponents for the most part stayed away from Thursday’s meeting, where approval was expected after what has been a 15-month-long town review.
“I’m thrilled, and we appreciate the time and dedication the Planning Board put in,” said Frank S. Rossi Jr., the attorney for Rossi Development, which owns the site where Wal-Mart would locate. “I believe they achieved the best result for the town and for the village.”
Opponents are considering whether to file a lawsuit to block the approval, said Smart Growth Ballston President Ben Baskin, and are also considering asking the Town Board to impose new mitigation fees on large commercial projects in the future, based on what was learned during the Wal-Mart review.
“We’re getting no benefit to the community that isn’t to their benefit,” Baskin said in an interview earlier this week.
The 137,000-square-foot store to be built at the corner of state routes 50 and 67 complies with zoning approved by the Town Board in 2011, and is about 40 percent smaller than the Wal-Mart Supercenter proposed on the same site a decade ago. That proposal drew so much opposition it was eventually withdrawn.
Planning Board Chairman Richard Doyle said he believes the mitigation measures Wal-Mart offered to address increased traffic and other issues will work. “I believe the whole thing works, or I wouldn’t vote for it,” he said after the vote.
The actions Wal-Mart plans include construction of a left turn lane on Route 50 and construction of a loop road between Route 67 and Route 50 that will allow drivers to bypass the 50-67 intersection known as V-Corners. The McDonald’s restaurant will shift its entrance to face the new Wal-Mart entrance road to be built immediately south of it, rather than Route 50.
In response to some of the public criticisms at a July 28 public hearing, Wal-Mart agreed to keep more of the existing trees along Zepko Lane and do some additional plantings to screen the store. Wal-Mart has also agreed to prohibit overnight parking on its property, though the store will be open 24 hours a day. The company has also agreed that its delivery trucks won’t use Route 50 to come through Ballston Spa north of High Street, though High Street and Route 50 south are expected to be the main delivery route from Wal-Mart’s Sharon Springs distribution center.
Wal-Mart officials have said the store will create about 300 jobs. It will carry general merchandise and groceries.
It’s not yet known when construction will start, since water and sewer infrastructure also will need to be built. Once construction starts, it’s expected to take about a year.
Opponents have 30 days to file a lawsuit if they want to try to overturn the approval on legal or procedural grounds.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 885-6705, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.