ROTTERDAM -- The Rotterdam Town Board last week approved a controversial zoning change requested by Stewart's Shops to build a new store on Guilderland Avenue.
The board also took the initial steps to start town review of a second request by the regional convenience store chain, one that could lead to the reconstruction and expansion of its existing location at the busy corner of Curry Road and Helderberg Avenue.
While the proposal to rezone two parcels on Floral Avenue as part of the Guilderland Avenue application generated some local opposition due to concerns about traffic, the board still approved it 3-1. Board members in favor noted that Stewart's would have the right to build on the Guilderland Avenue part of the property anyway. It is zoned for commercial use, and a company representative said it could build without the Floral Avenue rezoning.
Stewart's is not only looking to build a new location at the site of a former auto body shop, but also wants the additional room it would be allowed with purchasing the two properties on Floral Avenue. The two residential properties on that land would be demolished.
Even with the rezoning approved, Stewart's plans are still subject to a detailed review by the town Planning Commission.
Stewart's, headquartered in Malta, has agreed to place the store's customer entrances on Guilderland Avenue and Lilac Street rather than Floral, and reduce its normal amount of lighting and hours of operation to fit in better with the neighborhood, Councilman Joseph Guidarelli said.
"My concern is that less room is not good for a project like a Stewart's shop," said Town Supervisor Steven Tommasone, who voted in favor of the change. "Residents were concerned about traffic, and I'm sure there are things the Planning Commission will be able to do to protect the quality of life there."
Stewart's is looking to build a 3,823-square-foot store with four gas islands on what, with the zoning change, would be a nearly 1.3-acre site. The properties on Floral Avenue are expected to serve as a buffer with the neighboring residential area, using landscaping or fencing.
The vote against the application came from Councilwoman Samantha Miller-Herrera. "I don't think this is the right location," she said during a Town Board meeting last Wednesday. "I think that there are a lot of locations that would be more appropriate, even in that corridor."
Both Councilmembers Guidarelli and Evan Christou voted in favor. Councilman Stephen Signore was not at the meeting.
"Stewarts' could build this without the change of zone, and I believe we have the responsibility to let them build it properly," Christou said.
On the other Stewart's project, the board asked the town Planning Commission to do an initial review of plans for the company to demolish the existing store and build a new 3,695-square-foot shop at the corner of Helderberg and Curry, with four gas islands. To increase the size of this store, the company not only plans to purchase and demolish three surrounding residential properties, but also seeks a zoning change for those properties from residential to general business, according to its application.
Once the Planning Commission makes a recommendation, the Town Board will need to hold a public hearing on the proposed zoning change before making its decision.
Tommasone said Stewart's interest in two different locations in town isn't surprising, given the number of new apartment projects in Rotterdam and accompanying increase in demand for services. There are three other Stewarts' Shops located in Rotterdam.