Stewart’s gets OK for Saranac Avenue rebuild

Stewart's Shops on Saranac Avenue, Lake Placid (News photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — Stewart’s Shops has the green light to remodel its convenience store and gas station on Saranac Avenue in Lake Placid.

The Lake Placid-North Elba Review Board on Wednesday, March 15 unanimously approved the rebuild. The company is expected to demolish the Stewart’s convenience store and neighboring former Desperados restaurant on Saranac Avenue, construct a new gas station and a Stewart’s district office in their place, and build out a four-pump gas and diesel fueling area under a 122-foot-long LED gas canopy.

The finished product will closely resemble Stewart’s remodels in the town of Keene and the hamlet of AuSable Forks, according to Stewart’s representative Chuck Marshall — the gas canopy will have a slightly peaked, mansard-style roof with warm LED lights, and the gas station and canopy will feature earthy brown and tan tones on their exteriors.

Marshall told the review board on March 15 that the project is scheduled to be completed this year. Stewart’s expects to start construction around July 2, Marshall said — crews will first start demolishing the former Desperados restaurant, he said, where the new Stewart’s convenience store and district office will eventually be constructed. The existing convenience store is expected to stay open for the duration of construction until the new convenience store opens in the fall, when the existing store will be demolished.

The station could be without functioning gas pumps for around a month this fall. Marshall said the three existing gas pumps would likely be taken out in October and the four new gas pumps — which will be widened and slanted to improve traffic flow and include both gas and diesel pumps — would open on Nov. 16, according to Marshall.

The town and village Zoning Board of Appeals last month granted an area variance for the rebuild, approving an 86-foot variance from the town and village land use code’s 36-foot limit on gas canopies.

Traffic concerns

The review board fielded nine written public comments about the project, according to the village Codes and Zoning Coordinator David Wright. He said most of the comments were from residents around Algonquin Drive who were concerned about the potential of increased traffic on Algonquin as a result of the Stewart’s rebuild, which is designed to have one entrance on Algonquin and one entrance on Saranac Avenue. That’s a change from two existing entrances on Saranac Avenue.

“Every comment we got was basically OK with the project, but they were concerned with the traffic issue,” Wright said.

To address the traffic concerns, Stewart’s Shops hired Creighton Manning Engineering to perform a traffic analysis at the site. Mark Nadolny, who presented the results of the analysis at Wednesday’s meeting, said the analysis showed that the site would “not generate an exorbitant amount of new traffic” as a result of the rebuild.

“In terms of new traffic that you may generate … we would anticipate that this site would generate about 22 to 20 new a.m. and p.m. trips to the area, so we’re not talking about a large influx of trips,” Nadolny said.

The engineering firm studied traffic at and around the existing Stewart’s during “peak hours” over a total of four hours — from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 9 and from 7 to 9 a.m. on Friday, March 10. To account for any discrepancies in the data that might result from performing the traffic analysis outside of peak busy season, the firm compared its March analysis data to a previous traffic analysis for the Quality Inn rebuild in August 2019. Engineers increased counts in their March analysis by between 33 to 55% to better account for peak seasons.

The full traffic analysis is available online at tinyurl.com/m2w8u52e.

Marshall also noted that the new district office, which will be located directly behind the new convenience store, will only be used for once-weekly district meetings. He added that the slanted gas canopy was designed to make entering and exiting the gas station easier.

Review board member Laura Yerkovich expressed concerns about the potential for increased traffic around the Stewart’s despite the results of the traffic analysis, saying she’s heard from locals that traffic there is “already a problem.” Thompson advised Yerkovich to direct her concerns to the town and village’s code enforcement office if she wanted to seek any further traffic analyses.

The review board opted to not hold a public hearing for the project because the Zoning Board of Appeals held a public hearing for the area variance last month. Commenters during that public hearing were only able to speak about the area variance request, not the project as a whole. Review board Chair Rick Thompson asked for informal public comment on March 15, but no one spoke.

The review board did a site visit of the shop on March 7 and completed a State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) determination for the project, which assessed the environmental impacts of the project. Through the SEQRA questionnaire, the review board determined that the Stewart’s rebuild wouldn’t have significant adverse effects on the environment.

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