LAKE PLACID - Town planners told Tractor Supply Company developers Wednesday, Dec. 18 they have several issues with the proposed designs for a Ray Brook store, but they are all issues that can be worked out as long as they comply with the land use code regulations.
"We're protecting this book and the community," said North Elba-Lake Placid Joint Review Board Chairman Bill Hurley, holding a copy of the land use code.
He was speaking to Christopher Kettler, of Michigan-based DMK Development. Kettler and engineer Cindy Garso, of North Woods Engineering in Saranac Lake, presented plans to the board for a Tractor Supply Company store on Route 86 on the former Pioneer Village property next to the High Peaks Animal Hospital. Tractor Supply Company sells products such as clothing and footwear, fencing, tools, outdoor and heating equipment and supplies for pets, horses and livestock. The Ray Brook store would hire 12 to 18 employees.
Christopher Kettler, of DMK Development, presents the design of a proposed Tractor Supply Company store in Ray Brook to the North Elba-Lake Placid Joint Review Board Dec. 18 at the North Elba Town Hall. Kettler is explaining a point to board Chairman Bill Hurley.
(Photo by Andy Flynn)
"As developer for the project, our role is we have the land under contract to purchase from Mr. (Ed) Yanchitis," Kettler said. "If we're successful in getting our approvals, we'll actually purchase the land, construct the building and lease it back to Tractor Supply. So we play landlord; they play tenant."
DMK Development has built about 20 stores of various sizes for Tractor Supply Company, mostly in Michigan and including one in Olean, N.Y. The building proposed for Ray Brook is the smallest they design at about 19,000 square feet. That's almost the size of Coakley High Peaks Ace Hardware in Saranac Lake, which is 20,000 square feet.
The problem for Tractor Supply Company is their outdoor retail space. The North Elba-Lake Placid Joint Land Use Code is capped at 40,000 square feet of retail space, both indoors and outdoors. The Price Chopper and Hannaford supermarkets in Lake Placid are maxed out at 40,000 square feet each.
"We need that all added up because, if you're over 40,000 square feet, you're too big," Hurley said.
With its building and outdoor retail space, the Tractor Supply Company site plan currently calls for about 40,220 square feet.
As Kettler explained the project, he and Garso periodically pointed to the black-and-white site plan schematic on an easel. Garso explained that the building falls within the setbacks required by the land use code: 172 feet in the front, 86 feet on the side toward the High Peaks Animal Hospital and 40 feet in the back.
The proposed parking lot does not comply with the land use code, but planners said they were confident they could find a compromise. According to the code, parking should be in the back of the building, they said, but the site plan calls for most of the 69 parking spaces in the front toward the highway. Since the property is elevated from Route 86, and there is a possibility of creating berms or other types of screening, that may not be an issue in the end.
"If you go drive by Price Chopper, you'll notice you really don't see the massive parking lot in front of it because it's all bermed around it," Hurley said.
Planners also asked for a more detailed plan for lighting the property.
"You mentioned lighting. It will be an issue," Hurley said. "We never use the term 'dark sky,' but it must stay on your property and not go out."
"I'm not sure what the ordinance says, but whatever we need to comply with, we'll do," Kettler said.
Once Kettler replaced the site plan on the easel with the color building design drawings, planners noticed that the box-like structure doesn't meet guidelines for the mountain community feel the land use code was designed to create.
"You want it blunt?" Hurley asked. "Start again. We don't accept cookie-cutter, out-of-the-box buildings, period."
"I want to fit within the community. I want things to work," Kettler replied. "So I'm kind of caught in the middle. What I would like to do is get everyone's suggestions about what we can do to change what we have here in order to work better for everyone in the community and fit better, and take those suggestions back to Tractor Supply to see what they can and can't live with."
The building is typical of what Tractor Supply Company designs for its stores around the country, according to Kettler, and having a uniform design is part of corporate branding. As the middle man, Kettler said he's already brokered a change in the color of the awnings.
"Quite frankly, that was a task in itself," Kettler said. "They've agreed to the green awnings."
Tractor Supply Company also agreed to earth tone colors as opposed to their standard white buildings.
"To me, this is a big improvement," Kettler said.
To Hurley, there are a lot of design changes that need to be made, especially on the sides and the back of the building, where there are no features, which are required by the land use code.
"The sides are 150 feet of wall, just straight wall. We don't do that," Hurley said.
Planners said the success of recent chain-store development - such as Aubuchon Hardware, Price Chopper and Rite-Aid - shows that the Tractor Supply Company can work within the joint land use code for its building design.
"Everybody says the same thing," Hurley said. "We understand branding. We understand you're here to make money. We want you to want to be here, but it looks the way it does. I believe one reason we're successful and every other retailer is successful is because the buildings and the look of the area is successful."
Instead of having 150 feet of wall, Hurley suggested Tractor Supply breaks the wall up into sections somehow. Other joint review board members agreed and continually pointed to Price Chopper as an example.
"I want it to look like a creative Tractor Supply Store in Ray Brook, and I'm sure that they can come up with it without losing their shirts doing it," joint review board member Chip Bissell said. "It just takes a little imagination."
Board member Mike Orticelle said Wednesday's dialogue was a "good start."
"Glad to have you in the neighborhood," Orticelle said.
After his presentation, Kettler reflected on the board members' suggestions and comments about the building being a cookie-cutter design.
"I think we're a long way from cookie cutter," Kettler said. "Tractor realizes that we're in an environmentally sensitive area. They want to be here, and they're willing to do some things differently than they would normally do in order to enter the market."
The proposed Tractor Supply Company store also needs state Adirondack Park Agency approval, and DMK Development has filed a permit application with the APA. Since the snow cover will delay a site survey, Kettler said he expects to purchase the property in May or June, break ground in July and open by early 2015.