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.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Mell is a freelance journalist and former editor at The Current.

3 replies on “Foodtown Plaza Redevelopment in Approvals Limbo”

  1. It’s my understanding that a requirement from the Fed HUD agency for communities with subsidized senior/disable housing is that all services be within walking distance of the housing. If true, the post office would have to be close, and that should add to the argument for putting it in a “residential” spot. I’ve e-mailed officials about this, but have gotten no reply – perhaps it would be useful to check the rules before making a decision?

  2. Michael Mell correctly points out that the US Postal Service has not weighed in. Of course, there is no guarantee that the Post Office will actually renew their lease. However, the administration of the Post Office did weigh in at a previous meeting in which Mr. Serroukas requested a zoning variance to use the vacant lot as a parking lot. The Post Office agreed that the proposed plan was poorly thought out and agreed with the residents that the lot not be used. The traffic issues that exist are already dangerous. Most at issue with the residents is the fact that 17 children under age 11 live in the houses along Marion and Benedict. The purpose of the zoning is to define that area as a residential neighborhood. The zoning was put there with a look to the future and not to be overridden as soon as it is needed. It was zoned that way when Mr. Serroukas purchased it and should be sold or used as residential. Mr. Mell points out that the development of Butterfield Hospital “adds to the mix”. Indeed, the now empty Butterfield hospital does seem to be perceived as a better choice.

  3. To clarify my previous comment. The postmaster was speaking as an individual person and not representing any opinion of the US Postal Service.

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