WRIGHT — The western terminus area of state Highway 443 has long been void of corporate development, but it’s not clear if it’ll stay that way.
Between miles of brush, country domiciles and panoramic views of the greater Helderberg Plateau in the town of Wright, expect a large sign with orange spray-painted lettering on John Kendle’s property: “Please Stop THe Build OF Dollar GeneraL IN Field.”
The abutting farmland is what developer Primax Properties and engineering contractor Bohler hopes will eventually serve as a new location for the potential mega-chain lessee. For months now, the project has run through an exhaustive municipal review process.
“There’s no purpose,” said Kendle, standing next to his driveway. “There’s no gas station in this town. Why do we need a dollar store when there’s another dollar store that’s 11 miles away?”
There are three Dollar General stores within a 12-mile radius, including Berne (11.8 miles), Middleburgh (7.9 miles) and Duanesburg (9.9 miles).
Because no lease has been signed, Dollar General declined to comment on “real estate speculation.”
“Dollar General is always looking for opportunities to grow in a number of different communities around the country,” the company wrote in an email.
Bohler, which declined to comment altogether, submitted a site plan application in the fall after prior studies. Should it receive local approval, the 10,640 square-foot building would take about four months to erect.
Some residents — especially close neighbors in the historic Shutters Corners hamlet — don’t want that to happen. Traffic, aesthetics, privacy and the corporation’s past history of targeting sparsely developed bedroom communities for development are among concerns.
Opposition group Keep Wright Rural, launched a website in mid-February, aggregating articles critical of the 84-year-old retail mammoth as it continues to add locations beyond the black stump. Indeed, the Tennessee-based company has faced its share of controversies, including past allegations of labor mistreatment, market swallowing and price gouging.
“These fights are going on all over and so many people just don’t get access to the information,” said KWR spokesperson Travis Loden.
A “growing” group, according to Loden, plans to release a petition once the site plan goes up for a public hearing. About 12 members, he noted, are active in KWR.
KWR wants either the Planning Board to shoot down the project or the Town Board to place a moratorium on chain store development, providing more time to review Wright’s last comprehensive plan.
Wright Town Supervisor Alex Luniewski said that he doesn’t have any plans to take such action.
The Schoharie County Planning Commission, required to review any site closeby a state highway, recommended site approval with modifications in December.
With changes aplenty to the original design, town Planning Board Chairman Evan Motschmann expects to resubmit plans back to the county. So far, Bohler has provided some changes to accommodate demands from the board, including additional screening, drainage and landscaping.
Bohler project manager Caryn Mlodzianowski has previously requested town officials to OK the site plan application, maintaining that the group can still make accommodations afterwards.
Mlodzianowski has declined to comment to the Daily Gazette.
Asked if the Planning Board would vote on the site plan at some point in the spring, Motschmann said it’s not clear.
“I’m sure that the applicant hopes so,” Motschmann said. “I don’t want this to last forever, either.”
The environmental review process could prove to be a lengthy process, Motschmann said.
Reviewing and assessing the site plan has eaten up so much of the Planning Board’s time that officials last week decided to arrange meetings exclusively for Bohler. The next special working meeting is in mid-April.
Protracted land use controversies aren’t unprecedented in Wright. In both the 1990s, plans for a Iroquois Gas Transmission compression station caused a stir and tensions over a proposed mobile home park led to a moratorium on such development.
While it’s always been rural, Wright during its salad days fed off the since-depleted milling industry. The town last decade tried to get a Stewart’s Shops store on state Highway 443, but the company ultimately balked.
“They checked a traffic study and said there was not enough traffic in that area,” Luniewski said. “And maybe if there was more traffic or another business that they could feed off they would re-look at the town.”
Luniewski declined to weigh in on the Bohler proposal.
Residents Linda Zimmer, as well as Connie and Doug Skinner previously expressed support for the proposal back in December, according to Planning Board minutes. Doug maintained that the site could bolster the town’s tax base.
Neither of the three have returned a request for comment.
Rosemary Christoff Dolan of Cook Road fears that the proposed site use would taint Shutters Corner historical appeal.
“I think there’s room for progress, but it has to be more nuanced and more balanced somehow than just coming in and aggressively taking over,” Dolan said.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected] Follow him on Facebook at Tyler A. McNeil, Daily Gazette or Twitter @TylerAMcNeil
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