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Give town leverage on Wal-Mart

Give town leverage on Wal-Mart

At tonight's public hearing, residents should restrict comments to workable suggestions

Tonight is most likely the last chance for Ballston area residents to express their views about the proposed new Wal-Mart before the town Planning Board grants site plan approval.

So residents need to make this chance count -- not with the usual NIMBY rhetoric that the store isn't needed or wanted, but by pointing out real problems and reasonable, common-sense measures the company might consider taking in exchange for the town's blessing.

For once Ballston officials grant the company site plan approval, they will have no leverage left to get the improvements that are needed. So residents: Don't waste the board's time with frivolous demands and suggestions they can’t use.

First off, "just say no," is not on the table. The project is very likely going to get approved. The site is zoned for a store that size and Wal-Mart wouldn't be bound by special restrictions the town doesn't place on other businesses — such as limiting its hours or requiring that it not sell food or prescriptions.

But there are legitimate issues about the impact of the new 137,000-square-foot store that town planning officials should consider before approving the site plan.

One is requiring the company to install sidewalks on the east side of Route 50 so that seniors living nearby could safely walk to the store. Installing a sidewalk on the west side of the road, on the opposite side of the street from Wal-Mart, won’t have as much value as a safety measure, nor will it help business.

Other suggestions relate to traffic. The state Department of Transportation still has to approve the store's proposals for traffic mitigations. This is where the Planning Board can use its leverage to address potential impacts outside of what have already been proposed and agreed to.

For instance, the town needs to work with Wal-Mart and the DOT on improving busy, confusing intersections like the one at Route 67 and Ballston Avenue.

Residents also need to point out the need for stop signs along Ballston Avenue, where additional vehicles from Wal-Mart would make motorist and pedestrian traffic unsafe.

If anything demonstrated the need for the town to seek more traffic- and pedestrian safety measures, it was this past week's experience with the Saratoga County Fair, SPAC concerts and Saratoga racing season going on at the same time.

If town officials hear nothing new or compelling tonight, the project will fly through without additional concessions from Wal-Mart.

Tonight is the time for residents to give the town real suggestions it can leverage.

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