SCHENECTADY — Opponents of a proposed liquor store on Hamilton Hill have submitted at least 200 signatures to City Hall in an attempt to not only squash the project, but give community voices more influence in future projects.
Signatures submitted to the city clerk’s office on Monday by city residents — including many residing in other neighborhoods — join letters submitted by Mount Olivet Missionary Baptist Church, Electric City Barn and The Community Builders, which is developing a project adjacent to the proposed store.
The Schenectady Planning Commission voted 7-2 in February to grant site plan approval to the new business at 844 Albany St.
But opposition from community members hasn't faded.
Officials acknowledged there was no basis to deny the application, which is classified as allowable use under current zoning regulations. Council members instead suggested opponents lobby the state Liquor Authority (SLA), which is responsible for issuing a license.
Critics said past liquor stores in the community have led to increased police calls, loitering and traffic, and feared a resurrected venue would portend a reversal of positive trends taking shape in the neighborhood, including affordable housing projects and demolition of blighted properties.
There are already five liquor stores within seven minutes of the proposed location, wrote The Community Builders representatives in their letter.
The Rev. Phil Grigsby, Schenectady Community Ministries executive director, said he understood the business has already been approved.
The petitions ask City Council to “identify and implement ways as soon as possible” to deny liquor stores and other establishments “incompatible with positive development” through regulation or zoning.
Grigsby pointed at previous comments by city officials that said they would strengthen the role of public input when weighing future projects for sensitive projects as part of amendments to the city’s comprehensive plan.
“We encourage you to move along on that,” Grigsby told the City Council recently.
NO FORMAL UPDATES
The city’s Director of Development Kristin Diotte said the city hasn’t yet formally updated any policies.
Planning and Zoning staff have been working on updates to the city zoning code that will be ready to be presented to the City Council within the next couple of months, she said.
“The revisions we're proposing include discussion regarding allowable uses within each zoning district,” Diotte told The Daily Gazette in an email on Friday. “That would be a good time to consider legislation related to the negative impact certain businesses may have on a neighborhood.”
Community leaders are also holding out hope the state Liquor Authority would ultimately deny the business a license, including Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association President Marva Isaacs, who said she felt “confident” the state agency would ultimately so.
Anju Sukhai is listed on public documents as the project applicant and couldn’t be reached for comment on Friday.
The state Liquor Authority did not respond to an email seeking comment on the petitions and how they would be considered in issuing a license.
The petitions also ask the City Council to “identify and implement any way to deny” the application.
The city clerk’s office acknowledged receipt of the petitions and will include them in official city correspondence. But their submission doesn't mean the City Council is required to act on the requests contained within them.
“There’s no legislative requirement to act on it,” City Clerk Charles Thorne said.