By Michael Mell
Since the fire several years ago plans have been afoot by the now named Foodtown Plaza owner George Serroukas for changes. Foodtown’s lease agreement was predicated upon receiving additional space to expand the store when the lease for the post office expires in the late spring of 2011. Now less than a year away, Serroukas has been scrambling to complete plans and to receive blessings from the village, the planning board and the zoning board of appeals. These have not yet been forthcoming.
Two principal design ideas have been presented. The first relocates the post office to the vacant lot on the NW corner of Benedict and Marion, directly behind the post office. This would allow Foodtown to expand into the space now occupied by the post office. The other shifts the post office closer to Benedict and includes a basement to provide the required space. In this scenario, Foodtown would expand south toward Benedict but not as much.
Many issues have arisen that make either plan problematic. The vacant lot is currently zoned residential, resides in the historical district and would require a zoning variance. Keeping the post office on the Plaza pushes it right to the property line on Benedict creating sightline issues for both pedestrians and vehicles. Common to both plans are issues relating to pedestrian safety, sidewalks, truck loading and unloading, general traffic congestions, low hanging power lines and storm water run-off.
The elephant in the room is the US Postal Service, which has not weighed in. Various village agencies have repeatedly asked Serroukas to confirm necessary requirements and to reflect them on his site plans. They have also asked that Serroukas ascertain whether the postal service is even interested in remaining in Cold Spring, let alone in the current location. Adding to the mix is the proposed use of the Butterfield Hospital site as a community facility that could also house a relocated post office. Swirling around these agencies too, are resident’s concerns and fears, quality of life issues, commercial development issues, all of which must be factored in by each specific governing body and the town as a whole. As was pointed out at a recent planning board meeting: without the post office there is no project.For reasons unknown Mr. Serroukas has been reluctant to respond to requests made by the planning board to address the issues they have raised. Several plans have been submitted over the past few months and most recently this week, but none have met with a positive response from the planning board. Slowing matters further is Serroukas’ decision to spend July in Greece. At the June 17 planning board meeting he had promised to identify a person to act on his behalf, but to date the planning board is unaware of who that might be.