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Ballston Residents Welcome Supermarket Proposal

Frank Rossi Jr. speaks to the Ballston Planning Board on July 25th, 2018
Lucas Willard
Frank Rossi Jr. speaks to the Ballston Planning Board on July 25th, 2018

In a saga that dates back more than a decade, development may be coming to a hotly debated property in the Saratoga County town of Ballston.

In 2004, Walmart expressed an interest in locating a 180,000-square-foot store near the corner of Routes 50 and 67, just south of the village of Ballston Spa.

Community division ensued. In 2005, the Ballston town board instituted a moratorium on large-scale commercial development. In 2006, the town adopted a new comprehensive plan.

Five years later, the town board approved a special development district for the land owned by the Rossi family.

In 2014, Walmart returned, seeking a smaller, 137,000 square-foot store. Debate began all over again. The plan was approved, but Walmart walked away from the project on November 30th, 2016.

Frank Rossi Jr. said the next day, on December 1st, Hannaford reached out to his family.

“And it was a relief because honestly, here’s a full-service supermarket. And sure, we looked at other markets at the time, because we had to do our diligence. We were fresh from the wounds of what happened. But they had to do their diligence as well,” said Rossi.

Though the prospect of a Walmart store opening in Ballston had been divisive for more than a decade, much of the community rallied around the idea of a full-service grocery store after the closure of a Grand Union supermarket in the Village of Ballston Spa.

Since then, a smaller ALDI market has opened in the village.

On Wednesday night, Hannaford Supermarkets appeared before the Ballston Planning Board to introduce its proposal to build a 38,000 square-foot store on the Rossi property.

Planning Board Chair John Van Vorst cautiously opened the public hearing.

“There will be no foul language, swearing, or cursing. And I’m serious about that. Because I had enough of that in the last go-around,” said Van Vorst.

But there was no foul language, swearing or cursing. Those previously opposed to the Walmart store embraced the idea of a smaller grocery store locating to the area.

David Stern is a member of the group Smart Growth Ballston. He said the store fits what the group has been pushing for.

“It fits the size of the community. It services the local community, the people here. I know on Facebook there has been a lot of posts, they’re going ‘Oh! There’s just one down the road.’ Yeah, but supermarkets sort of hit your small area. Everybody has to eat. Everyone is there all the time. So that’s why the attitude has changed and it wasn’t a knock ‘em down sort of meeting tonight,” said Stern. 

There were some concerns expressed, including traffic, noise, and delivery hours, which representatives from Hannaford said they would attempt to address.

Elizabeth Kormos, another Smart Growth member, said the store is what residents have been asking for. However, she still has some concerns, and wants to see sidewalks installed at the site. 

“I drive Route 50 almost daily. There are kids walking in the road. There have been accidents. It’s dangerous for people. And they will continue to walk in the road. Because if there isn’t a sidewalk on that side, they’re still going to walk on that side because it’s the shortest route,” said Kormos.

Kormos also is seeking a stylistic change to the front of the building, apart from the typical big box appearance.

The Planning Board said dialogue on the proposed supermarket would continue.

Former Ballston town supervisor Patti Southworth, who served three two-year terms beginning in 2008, previously worked for Hannaford in opening the company’s stores in nearby Glenville and Saratoga Springs. She welcomed the arrival of the supermarket in Ballston.

“It’s been a really long process. I was really happy to see that we were finally getting a grocery store. And the size that Hannaford is bringing is definitely appropriate for this community; limited hours of operation, which fits with this community and lifestyle. So it’s pretty exciting to finally see it happen,” said Southworth.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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