Phase One?

When Newman Development Group’s plans for a big box retail development in the Gateway were first unveiled in March 2005, those plans included a Lowe’s, a pharmacy, and six to eight other medium and small-sized chain retail boxes. Each store was oriented toward Route 20A, with three curb cuts providing access to 20A and two more access points on Volunteer Road.

The 8-store version of this plan included the familiar 170,000 square foot Lowe’s and a 45,000 square foot store (perhaps a Bed Bath and Beyond, a common tenant in Newman developments) sitting back from 20A, fronted by six smaller boxes, including a pharmacy, a chain restaurant, and, perhaps, a bank, closer to 20A.

The 10-store version included the Lowe’s, a 90,000 square-foot box (perhaps a Kohl’s) next to it, and eight smaller boxes fronting 20A in a development that took in additional land sprawling all the way to the existing homes on the north side of 20A.

Perhaps because the Town Planning Board expressed concern about the number of curb cuts or perhaps because Newman took a glance at the Gateway zoning and realized just how out of scale their proposal was, Newman soon put forward a revised, scaled-down proposal including just the Lowe’s and the pharmacy.

Three years later, the status of those original plans remains uncertain. Though I have been mostly content to believe that Newman put aside its original plans for good, satisfied to complete its two-store development and move on, recently I am less comfortable with that conclusion.

Watching how much Newman has resisted the Planning Board’s demands that it submit plans orienting its buildings toward Volunteer and removing access to 20A, as the existing zoning requires, and that it complete an analysis of likely future retail development in the Gateway, I am increasingly concerned that Newman views its original plans as an unacknowledged second phase of its development.

After all, why resist facing buildings toward Volunteer Road and losing the 20A access, steps that would surely ease approval, unless there were plans or hopes for additional development to the east? Why not complete the required “precedent analysis” unless that analysis were to show that communities in which a Lowe’s follows a Wal-Mart are soon home to the next wave of chain boxes?

There remain good reasons to think that Newman’s present proposal is the only project under consideration for the Gateway. Our small, rural county can only support so much sprawl, particularly as economic conditions worsen. The overheated retail economy of the past few years has probably left us with more than enough capacity for a while. On top of that, the difficulties Newman has faced in pursuing approvals this time around would surely be multiplied next time, as traffic worsens and Geneseo’s character erodes further.

However, we would be naïve to think that this is the end, the market has found its level, and Lowe’s will bring no further sprawl. Newman’s original plans indicate they believe there is room for a lot more sprawl here. What better evidence could there be?

For more evidence, look no further than Canandaigua, home to Wegman’s, Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, JC Penneys, Bed, Bath & Beyond, PetCo, Applebee’s, Panera, Raymour & Flanigan, Big Lots, TJ Maxx, and other chain retail. Proof positive of the “retail clustering effect” taking hold in Geneseo, Canandaigua is already experiencing the next generation of sprawl.

It is also experiencing the next generation of traffic congestion, with approximately 30,000 cars a day using Route 20 in the commercial corridor (thanks to six lanes of traffic). That compares to the 20,000 cars that pass our Wal-Mart every day.

If we have any hope of controlling our own future, we would be wise to enforce the original vision that the Gateway develop along Volunteer Road. Ensuring that a quality precedent analysis is completed would also allow us to go forward eyes wide open.

Otherwise, we might be surprised by how many chain stores want to sprawl along 20A. Below is a listing of Newman’s “partners” from their web site:

newmanpart.jpeg

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8 responses to “Phase One?

  1. Thanks again Bill for everything you’ve done to keep us informed.

    A quick question: I seem to remember that Newman called it’s original 8 store plan “phase one”, indicating that they anticipated sprawl even beyond that original monster. Is my memory correct?

    Regardless, you’re reminding us of an important point: we’re not talking about just getting one Lowe’s store. If we get the Lowe’s, we also get a lot more.

    Thanks,

    Jim

  2. Bill,

    I believe that Newman, at one point, stated that the 20A curb cut was proposed to allow future expansion toward the east side of the proposed development. I’ll try to sift through a raft of papers and clippings to see if I remember correctly.

    Phil

  3. Jim and Phil:

    With all of the different plans that have been submitted at one time or another, it is difficult to keep track of the sequence.

    My recollection is that the original plans included the eight and ten store alternatives discussed in my column (a rendering of the 10-store plan is now available as a link in my column). Several months later, Newman had changed these plans to include a six-store Phase I (indicated by bolder print on the rendering) and a four-store Phase II (indicated by lighter print).

    Orienting the Lowe’s toward 20A and having access to 20A across from Morganview are critical to the viability of these plans. That is precisely why the underlying zoning was written as it was: to prevent retail sprawl along 20A to the east.

    Bill

  4. Bill,

    In my files, I came across a March 31, 2006 letter from Thomas Lucey of APD Engineering to the Town Planning Board. This is a cover letter for the submission of a revised “Preliminary Site Plan” . Page two, paragraph two reads in part:

    “The revised project reduces the Site Plan application to development of the +/- 137,933 SF Lowe’s Home Improvement Center… Other associated improvements have subsequently been reduced, including the elimination of an access point from NYS Route 20A and other off site improvements.”

    I can not find a copy of the revised site plan referenced in the letter. Do you have a copy? I think the community might find it useful to be reminded that at one point Newman had agreed not to take 20A access.

  5. Bill Lofquist

    Kurt:

    The original plans called for three curb cuts on 20A. When the plans were scaled back, two of those curb cuts were removed. Newman has never agreed to remove all access from 20A.

    While going from three curb cuts to one may appear to be a compromise we can live with, the existing planning and zoning are explicit that there should be no curb cuts other than Volunteer Road. Also, remember that the curb cut they are asking for may not does not be justified by the traffic this project will generate but is critical to opening up development to the east.

  6. Bill,

    You are the detail guy! We all owe you a round of applause. Thanks for the clarification. You nailed it again! Well done. …!!!!

    Later this evening , I located a copy of the “revised site plan” and clearly see that despite the 2006 community request for a site plan that conforms to the underlying zoning for the gateway district, Newman submitted yet another “revised” non-conforming plan that included a 20A access cut,

    So how long does this go on?

    The community requests a site plan that conforms to the underlying zoning… the developer submits a site plan that is not in compliance … The community requests a site plan that conforms to the underlying zoning… the developer submits a site plan that is not in compliance … The community requests a site plan that conforms to the underlying zoning… the developer submits a site plan that is not in compliance……. The community requests a site plan that conforms to the underlying zoning… the developer submits a site plan that is not in compliance……2004….2005…2006….2007….2008?

    Members of the Town Planning Board must be exasperated, frustrated and ready to pull their hair out at this point. Their message to Newman should be “Fish or Cut Bait”
    Offer us a project that fits or try to seduce some other community…

    Good God, this isn’t rocket science. Newman should submit a proposal in compliance with the underlying zoning or stop wasting our community’s time and money in an attempt to turn Geneseo into something that it has no interest in becoming.

  7. Huzzah!! Huzzah!!

  8. Bill,

    I appreciate your Canandaigua reference as I grew up in that city. The city certainly has changed over the past few years with several large housing developments spreading the city into the countryside (my parents home, previously well in the country, now is surrounded by several hundred homes, and our country road even has a cemented drainage culvert down its side that one sees in housing developments) and the huge influx of retail and other chain stores now dotting the landscape (Cdga. has almost every chain store, not to mention the fact that there are some chains with two, or even three stores in the city).

    The traffic is a constant problem, I no longer want to take a drive downtown, it is just too congested. It is unsightly too, with 4 lanes entering and leaving Cdga. and the box after box, it really makes me regret what has happened.

    Cdga. has nice qualities such as its large and vibrant main street district. I would never considering moving back to Cdga., it really has lost its sense of community.

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