Second Dollar General Store eyed
A second Dollar General store has been proposed for the town of Montgomery, this time across the busy state highway from Valley Central’s high school and middle school, raising immediate traffic and safety concerns.
Plans for the project were presented to the Montgomery Planning Board on Monday by the project’s engineer, Todd Hamula of the Zarembra Group out of Ohio. He advised the board that they are looking to build a near-replica of the store recently opened on Route 52 just outside Walden.
“Dollar General is very excited about having a second store in this market,” said Hamula.
The store would be 9,100 square feet, with its long side facing Route 17K. The entrance would be at the center, between a couple of columns. It would have a metal roof, false windows on the side and front, and the siding would be vinyl with a brick base. They plan to use the same sign designs applied in Walden.
The access to the store would be a driveway located directly across from the “exit only” driveway at the high school. Planning Board members asked if Dollar General intended to install traffic mitigation measures such as a turning lane, deceleration lane or traffic light.
“We’re not generating significant traffic,” said Brian Dempsey, on behalf of the applicant.
Dempsey explained that the store would not open until 8 a.m. and there should only be a couple employees arriving before that time. They anticipate very little traffic for customers and have proposed just 31 parking spaces, with 15 banked, and do not expect to need them all. He noted that they have already spoken to the state DOT and they have said they are “okay” with the plans but will hold off in making an official decision until the town has made their determinations.
“We do not feel that a turning lane is needed,” said Dempsey. “When the other site gets developed, it might change that. We don’t know what’s coming in there.”
The Dollar General store would be on one lot to the left of the proposed entrance, with a second lot to the right (east), open for commercial and residential development in the future. The driveway would be a shared driveway.
“I have serious issues with the whole setup,” said Joe DiMaio, assistant principal at Valley Central High School.
DiMaio said they are just entering the heavy sports season, including football, and pointed out that they already have problems with traffic and parking when there are events at the school, most notably graduation in June. In addition, the busing schedule during the day gives a narrow window for approximately 50 buses to make several trips in and out during the arrival and dismissal times. Many students are also driving and many others are dropped off and picked up by their parents. There are also BOCES trips and early dismissals.
DiMaio advocated for a traffic light at the intersection, saying that at present it is very difficult for the buses and other traffic to come and go without the assistance of their School Resource Officer.
Planning Board member John Lynch noted that traffic is often backed up along the stretch and it will only get worse with delivery trucks and customer traffic.
Board member Steven Pruschki played devil’s advocate, telling fellow board members that it was unfair to lay the entire burden on the applicant, as the lion’s share of the traffic problems are pre-existing.
Hamula told the board candidly that a small project like Dollar General cannot afford to put in a traffic signal. He said the store would only generate minimal traffic and not have a significant impact.
Planning board member Richard Montemarano said he realized the additional traffic would be minor, but the board needed to take into consideration the total picture with the school and what might possibly be coming out of the second lot in the future.
“To just consider Dollar General alone, as if it stands by itself, to me is not due diligence,” said Montemarano.
Planning Board chairman Fred Reichle asked if Dollar General planned to install a crosswalk to address pedestrian traffic crossing the street to get to the store.
“We do not see a high demand of people wanting to cross the street,” said Dempsey, adding that the DOT did not see the area as a “pedestrian corridor.”
DiMaio and members of the board noted that there are already pedestrians, with students walking up to Richard’s for ice cream or in the opposite direction down into the village. Reichle estimated there were about 2,500 students at the two schools, with more during events.
“You’re putting a candy store across the street,” said Reichle, calling the proposed store an attractive nuisance. “Once it goes in, there is great temptation for our students to walk across this busy highway.”
DiMaio said he worried the store would lead to essentially a “game of Frogger” with children trying to dodge traffic to get to the store.
“I think pedestrian [traffic] is one big question we have to get an answer to,” said Reichle. “It’s not an issue now because they’re not going to walk across the highway into the woods. It’s never been a temptation to walk across the street before, but if you put that in there, there is going to be a lot that are going to try it.”
Hamula suggested that requesting a reduction in the speed limit from the current 40 mph might help, and if lowered to about 20 mph, perhaps a crosswalk would then be possible. He said they would approach the DOT, but “the school district and town have way more influence to persuade them.”
Hamula planned to set up a meeting with the state DOT and include members of the Planning Board and Valley Central School District.
By RACHEL COLEMAN