The old Fuller Road House.
COLONIE — The Planning Board, on Tuesday, Nov. 27, gave final approval to two new convenience stores — a Stewart’s on Fuller Road and a Cumberland Farms on Central Avenue.
In an uncharacteristic break from unanimity, the board voted 4-3 to approve the 3,726-square-foot Stewart’s shop where the long-vacant former Fuller Road House bar and restaurant now sits.
The project was first introduced in 2017, and was up for concept acceptance in November of that year but was tabled. Despite a number of residents from the surrounding neighborhood against the project, it was granted concept acceptance in May.
While in a smaller contingent, neighbors made one last push in opposition to the project and in particular the fact Stewart’s wants to sell gas on the land that is already zoned Commercial Office Residential.
“It may be a permitted use but since when did Colonie stop caring about its everyday people,” said Terri Haywood, a resident of Katherine Road. “They may have the legal right, but it doesn’t make it ethical or moral. A whole neighborhood is being destroyed. We are just common citizens. We don’t have law degrees. We just want to protect our neighborhood and our investment.”
Stewart’s already has a presence on Fuller but that is a much smaller store with very limited parking and it will close. The new Stewart’s will get built between Katherine and Pinehurst roads. The home at the intersection of Katherine and Fuller will be demolished.
It will include six filling locations on three gas pumps under a canopy.
Residents were initially concerned with how a tanker truck could safely swing into the lot from Fuller Road to deliver gasoline, and then out onto Katherine Road before getting back onto Fuller.
In June, Stewarts established a mockup of the site in the parking lot of the former Kmart on Route 2. The truck easily navigated the course.
Initially, Albany County would not allow more than one curb cut on Fuller Road, forcing exiting traffic onto Katherine. Since June, though, Albany County relented to allowing two curb cuts onto Fuller Road.
Stewart’s also moved the fuel pumps and they will now be 80 feet from the nearest residence instead of 40 feet. And there will be more trees panted to help buffer the neighborhoods.
The store will be open from 4:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. rather than the original 4 a.m. to midnight, said Chris Potter, a representative from Stewarts. And, delivery trucks will only show up at the store from between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The delivery trucks will also have a place to park behind the building to lessen the temptation of unloading from Fuller Road.
Richard Bovee, who lives on Dorlyn Road, a block down Fuller from Katherine, disagreed with the premise that having a Stewart’s in the neighborhood would lessen property values.
“My wife is a Fuller and our family have lived on that road for 100 years,” he said. “We are tired of the empty buildings and that is what will decrease property values. Stewart’s is a good neighbor and the new access point will help the flow of traffic onto Fuller Road.”
Rosemary Lazaro, the owner of Metropolis Vintage located across Fuller from Katherine Road, echoed similar sentiments.
“I speak in favor of this project because look at what is there now and what was there before — a bar room and a prostitution den,” she said. “Stewart’s does a pretty good job, and I think it will make property values go up while having empty buildings there will do nothing but make them go down.”
There was some question about what having underground fuel storage tanks will do to the ability of someone obtaining a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration, which generally offer first time homebuyers lower down payment options making it easier for qualified individuals to purchase a home.
Steve Gertz said there are 18 homes within 300 feet of the tanks, and anyone looking to purchase those homes will be ineligible to receive mortgage insurance on an FHA loan. Paul Goldman, an attorney for Stewart’s said the federal government only requires the existence of the tanks be disclosed, and it does not mean an automatic disqualification.
In the end, the board broke 4-3 with Chair Peter Stuto and members Brian Austin and Susan Milstein voting no and members Kathleen Dalton, Steven Heider, Louis Mion and Craig Shaliman voting for the project.
Drawing much less scrutiny and public comment, the board approved a new 5,275-square-foot Cumberland Farms on 2.26 acres on Central Avenue next door to the Aldi’s Supermarket. The now vacant Sushi “X” restaurant will get demolished to make way.
The store will have six gas pumps and three access points, two onto Central Avenue and one in driveway it will share with Aldi’s.
There were concerns about a bus stop located near the proposed shop on Central Avenue, and representatives from Cumberland Farms met with the Capital District Transportation Authority in an effort to move it.
“The result of that meeting was that CDTA maintains that there is no current need to relocate the bus stop even with the pending project,” according to the narrative submitted to the Planning Board by Cumberland Farms. “Specifically, CDTA has again indicated that is has not encountered any operational safety issues with the current location.”
The Planning Board approved the project’s concept in June. In March the Zoning Board of Appeals approved a variance to setback requirements.
If all goes according to plan, construction could start by April, 2019, and it could open by September, 2019.
The shop will be open 24 hours, seven days a week.