TUPPER LAKE - Planning board members called concerns premature regarding congestion on Park Street, one of the village's main business districts.
The board held a hearing Tuesday night and ultimately approved Bima's pizzeria moving from 291 Park St., the former Sarvis' Mini-Mall, to 95 Park St., where Well Dressed Foods was housed until it moved across the street recently.
No one showed up to the hearing to comment on the project, but Assistant Town Planner Mike Fritts said Jim Foti, owner of the White Birch Cafe, called him with some comments.
Fritts said Foti was concerned that "Park Street is turning into Restaurant Row," listing other restaurants there now or ones that are planned for the future. Foti is worried that there isn't enough room for parking, including parking accessible to people with handicaps, on Park Street and in the alley behind the block, Fritts said.
Foti also brought up worries about increased garbage in the alley, which he said could lead to rodents, about access for emergency vehicles there and about increased traffic in the alley if children play there.
Planning board member Shawn Stuart said he believes Foti's concerns are valid, but "I just think they're premature to where Park Street is right now."
Stuart said he recently walked the length of the main business district on Park Street, from the sports shop at the corner of Wawbeek Avenue to Stewart's Shop at the top of Mill Street, and he counted 12 vacant storefronts in that stretch.
"If there was two vacancies, I think we should take a hard look at these issues," Stuart said. "But with 12 storefront vacancies, I think we're clear sailing and should welcome any business who wants to unlock a door, turn a light on."
Board Chairman Jim Larkin said he thinks the uptown business district needs a new parking lot.
"We do need more parking," Larkin said.
Board member Jim Ellis and resident Rob Gillis both noted that there is usually plenty of parking on the side streets up and down Park Street as well as on Lake Street, which is parallel to Park.
"When you go to Lake Placid for dinner, when you go to Plattsburgh shopping, how far do you walk, guys?" Gillis said. "We get spoiled over here, that we think we have to be able to park within one block of our destination."
Magnus Stalhammer, who owns Bima's, said the building he's moving into has four corresponding parking spots in the alley, and he doesn't plan to use more than that. He plans to have his delivery drivers park in the alley to free up parking in the front of the building for customers.
"As far as parking's concerned, I don't see any problems at all as far as employees," Stalhammer said.
He said he plans to plow the alley so his drivers can get in and out.
Board member Bob Collier asked who owns the alley. People who own the various buildings on the block own corresponding parts of the alley, other board members said.
Larkin said the alley has been used by the public so long that "I don't think you could stop anybody from going in there, period."
Ellis suggested that the village government take a look at the alley and how it's maintained. The village has easements to maintain utilities in the alley, he said. Village Code Enforcement Officer Pete Edwards said village utility crews have access to the alley if they need it, but they generally leave it alone.
Ellis said the village should consider plowing both that alley and the one behind the block on the other side of Park Street. He said it would be more business friendly, and he suggested that local businesses don't get much for the village property tax money they pay. The village provides garbage pickup for residences if they put paid stickers on their garbage bags, but Ellis said you can't put a sticker on a dumpster.
The board unanimously approved Stalhammer moving to the new location, which requires approval for a change in use from retail to restaurant.
The board also approved two minor two-lot subdivisions Gillis and his family asked for after a hearing with no comment.