Millerton shoppers, Hannaford and the Planning Board

Many of our Millerton readers were probably over the moon to read last week’s article entitled, “Hopes for Millerton grocery store look bright, Trotta goes on the record: Plaza is under contract.”

It’s no wonder news of the plaza’s potential sale was so welcome. The sale would be wonderful for the community as the village of Millerton and town of North East have been without a supermarket since 2019, when Millerton Fresh Market abruptly left the now vacant Millerton Square Plaza on Route 44.

That’s why this newspaper was so pleased to be able to share plaza owner Skip Trotta’s promising announcement.

However, in printing that Hannaford was primed to lease space at Trotta’s plaza we realize that was actually not accurate, and we apologize for that error.

Neither Skip Trotta, nor anyone else, had ever submitted an application to the Planning Board to bring Hannaford into the Millerton Square Plaza then or since.

The reality is that Hannaford and its representative, developer John Joseph (no relation to this editor), spent two years in a rigorous site-plan review process before the North East Planning Board. His plans were to open a 36,000-square foot brand new store on a 10-acre lot owned by Harlem Valley resident and businessman Robert Quinlan. It would have been located next to Thompson Plaza, with frontage on Route 44.

The Hannaford site-plan for Route 44 was granted final approval by the Planning Board on June 5, 2013, paving the way for a spanking new mega-market for local shoppers to enjoy for years to come.

That didn’t happen for a number of complicated reasons — none of which had to do with the Planning Board. (For more, read this week’s front page.)

One contributing factor? Wassaic shopkeeper Sharon Kroeger (owner of Calsi’s Market); she created a consortium called the Ten Towns to Preserve Main Street. The  group consisted of local grocers from 10 regional towns concerned Hannaford would offer better prices and therefore take away a chunk of their business.

The group enlisted a local Millerton resident, paired with the owners of Foodtown in Amenia (now Freshtown) and filed an Article 78 lawsuit, which was thrown out of court. It appealed the ruling and lost again on May 4, 2016, when the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, threw the case out a second time. The two lawsuits delayed the project by about two years, according to Planning Board member Chip Barrett.

We understand there has been a ton of information about the Hannaford application since it first hit our radars in 2011 and in the many years since, and it’s been a lot to sort through. What we want to make clear is that since the developer first approached the Planning Board with his site-plan application in hand, that board did everything in its powers to make the project happen.

As Planning Board Chairman Dale Culver explained, it does what all of our municipal boards and committees strive to do: “To give people the tools and resources needed to move businesses forward. It’s up to all of us to do our part.”

He is absolutely correct. Culver spoke also of the town’s Zoning Review Committee (ZRC), which works hand-in-hand with those in the Planning and Building Departments and its boards and committees, to ensure no bureaucracy “has created any roadblocks for anyone to come here, through updating the Comprehensive Plan… which I believe is working on a vision and future for the town that involves making a balance between residential and business zoning, with the town supervisor and Town Board.”

Clearly it does take a village, or a town, as the case may be, to make that village or town successful. Luckily for those who live in Millerton and North East, that’s exactly what has been happening in this instance of trying to bring a market to our community. In searching through town records and this paper’s archives, not to mention conducting countless interviews, it’s easy to realize that ever since Hannaford quietly withdrew its application, countless people have continued to work to attract other grocers to our area.

Trotta was successful at bringing the Cho family in for a short stint to his plaza with Millerton Fresh Market. Although that didn’t succeed in the long run, we appreciated the effort and hope his next attempt will be triumphant.

An important understanding is that Hannaford’s withdrawal wasn’t due to the Planning Board, but rather to legal and other issues. (For details, check out this week’s article.) The board voted “yes” to Hannaford’s request to open in the town of North East.

This paper applauded the seven board members for doing so back then. We again want to stress that they have consistently done their utmost throughout the years to ensure North East develops in a smart and sustainable fashion.

Which brings us to our final point. Despite any confusion around this supermarket issue, with its decade-long history, withdrawn application, lawsuits, various location scenarios, multiple players, etc., there is one thing that is certain: Everyone involved has had the same good intentions — to bring a grocery store to the Millerton community.

It’s incredible to see so many people on the same page hoping to accomplish the same objective. There are more people working on this than readers can imagine: town Supervisor Chris Kennan and the Town Board, the North East Planning Board, Mayor Jenn Najdek and the Village Board, our zoning boards and committees, Skip Trotta, the prospective buyer and myriad others behind the scene.

The public is optimistically cheering them on all the way.

We, too, sincerely wish them all the best of luck and hope the end result will be a grocer at the plaza in short order.

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