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July 1, 2009

 

C’ville waits to review Tops gas station plan

During public hearing, residents say project at Route 281 store is too close to aquifer

By ELAINE HUGHES
Staff Reporter
ehughes@cortlandstandard.net

CORTLANDVILLE — The town Planning Board decided Tuesday to wait for a traffic study before moving ahead with the environmental review of a proposed gas station that Tops Markets wants to build at its store off Route 281.
Since January, the company has presented a plan to build a four-pump gas station in the southwest corner of its parking lot.
At the beginning of the meeting, Tops’ attorney Mike Biehler presented each of the board members with a petition containing the signatures of more than 2,500 customers who support the development of the gas station.
He added the grocery store expects the state Department of Transportation to return a traffic study conducted by Wal-Mart that examines the project’s driveway to Route 281 later this week.
“The information requested by the state was minimal,” Biehler said, adding the store anticipates the station will be used by customers who are already visiting the store and does not expect a large increase of traffic on Route 281 as a result of the station.
Town Attorney John Folmer said the board should consider whether it had received enough information to make a determination about the project’s potential effects on the environment, such as impacts on water, soil, wildlife and vegetation.
He added the traffic study from the state Department of Transportation is the only information not included in the grocery store’s application.
Board member Chris Newell said the proposed station has larger environmental issues and said the board should examine the project’s traffic issues at a later date.
Board member Nick Renzi said the board should wait to receive the traffic study to make sure it had the most information before making any decisions on the station.
The board voted to push back any decisions on the station until its July 28 meeting and decided to hold another public hearing at the meeting.
Folmer said the board does not legally need to hold a public hearing on the proposal but is collecting public input for its records.
The board allowed public comments about the project on Tuesday, which prompted about 10 people to express concerns about the station’s proximity to the sole-source aquifer that serves as the main water supply for more than 20,000 people in the town and the city.
“There are other areas along Route 281 and Route 13 where a gas station could be located,” said Jamie Dangler, reading a statement from the environmental group Citizens for Aquifer Protection and Employment.
She also urged the board not to set a precedent by allowing development projects near public water supplies.
Frank Kelly, who lives at 72 Hamlin St. in Cortland, described himself as a “Tops shopper that likes convenience” and a “strong advocate of economic development” but said he could not support the potential risks of placing a gas station near the aquifer.
“We live in a world where we have to sacrifice convenience for safety,” Kelly said. “We have better options and don’t have to agree to building this station.”
The board has also received letters opposing the project from the county Health Department, the city Common Council and the town water department.
Biehler said he was confident reviews of the project would show the store has mitigated any potential impacts of the project.
The station would have safety features such as double-walled storage tanks, a condensation sensor that could detect spilled liquids in the storage tanks, and an agreement with a maintenance company that would be available 24 hours a day to respond to any pollution alarms at the station.
“At the end of the day, the two main issues with the station are going to be concerning traffic and the proximity to the aquifer,” Biehler said. “I’m sure that a review will show that we’ve addressed both concerns.”
Before Tops can begin building the gas station, the grocery store must have its site plans approved by the town Planning Board and then receive an aquifer protection permit from the Town Board.

 

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