SCHENECTADY — It’s back to the drawing board for Stewart’s Shops after the city’s Planning Commission again tabled the company’s plans to open a gas station and convenience store at the corner of Union and McClellan streets this past week.
Plans to construct the 3,975-square-foot store and self-service gas canopy across three parcels (1020 McClellan St.; 1501 Union St.; and 1503 Union St.) date back to August, but have been tabled over various site plan concerns since then.
In October, the commission requested the company rework its plans for the site entirely, moving the store closer to Union Street in order to create a greater buffer between the site and nearby residential properties farther up McClellan Street.
The Union Street properties are home to a Sunoco gas station and Jones Funeral Home, which would be razed once plans are approved. The McClellan property is home to a four-car garage with apartments upstairs.
Commissioners, at the time, also asked the company to draft multiple plans for the 1.75-acre site for review.
On Wednesday, the commission shot down five proposals submitted by the company, with some raising concerns of the overall size and layout of the project. There were also concerns about how the neighborhood would be impacted once the existing buildings were torn down.
A preferred plan by Stewart’s would see the convenience store built at the north end of the property, with the gas canopy closer to Union Street. An entrance to the property would be located along Union and McClellan streets. The rear of the building would face residential properties next door.
But plans preferred by commissioners would see the store moved closer to Union Street and a gas canopy located farther north on-site. Entrances to the property would be located along McClellan Street with parking and green space shielding the property from adjacent homes.
Stewart’s is seeking to use one of three interior layouts for the convenience store, which the company typically uses when building new stores. Plans include two main entrances and a service entrance at the rear of the building. Also located at the building’s rear would be HVAC equipment, according to Marcus Andrews, an engineer with Stewart’s.
That would mean there would be no main entrance to the store along Union Street. Instead, equipment and an entrance for deliveries would be located along the roadway.
Commissioners said the city’s urban landscape requires different configurations than the stores Stewart’s typically builds in more rural and suburban localities. Several added that they like the idea of a Stewart’s in the proposed location and are willing to work with the company to find a solution for all parties.
“I realize this might be easier to do in bigger suburban locations, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the best answer here,” said Mary Moore Wallinger, Planning Commission chair.
Stewart’s currently operates 10 locations within the city, including stores on Balltown Road, Van Vranken Avenue and farther up Union Street.
Andrews said the site plans meet the city’s zoning requirements, adding the plans account for the necessary turning radius to utilize the six gas pumps, safely back out of the nearly two dozen parking spaces that would be on site and enter and exit the property.
“You can’t tell me that doesn’t fit well into that neighborhood,” he said, referring to concerns about traffic safety.
He added a gas station already exists on-site and that the now standing funeral home could be torn down and any number of things could be built in its place.
The proposal would require a special-use permit from the city. And while a gas station is already on-site, the proposed gas canopy would be located on parcels with no canopy.
Several residents in attendance argued the proposal must be retooled to better fit the property or scrapped entirely.
Richard Unger, a city resident and retired planner, said the commission shouldn’t approve plans based on the interior of buildings that exist elsewhere, adding the plans are simply not appropriate for the site in their current form.
“This isn’t the right use for this site,” he said.
Andrews said the company will look again to rework the plans. It’s unclear when the revised plans will be resubmitted for final approval.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.