A proposed Byrne dairy gas station/express mart on Port Watson Street in Cortland moved past the city planning commission.
On Monday (August 23) night, the board — which approved an initial site plan in June — held a public hearing for members of the community to voice their concerns with the project.
Several did so. Emotions flowed through passionate testimony over foreseen issues like increased traffic, groundwater safety and threats to local competition.
“They [Byrne] helped us build our store; now, they’re going to put us out of business.” said Eric Sears, whose family owns Bill Bros Dairy & Farm Market directly across the street from the project site. “There’s only so much money in this town and so many place for people to go. With their size, prices are going to drop to a point where we won’t be able to compete. Our families used to sit down and have dinner together; now they won’t even call us back.”
Some on the planning board argued a drop in prices could benefit the consumer. Others countered the idea that a new Byrne Dairy store would necessarily lead to the demise of Bill Bros.
Regardless, vice chair Jim Reeners affirmed that balancing a free market is not something that falls within the board’s purview.
“I don’t want anyone to close, but I’m also not going to control competition because that is not our job,” said Reeners.
Ultimately, other points surrounding traffic and groundwater were addressed to the satisfaction of Reeners and his co-commissioners.
By unanimous consent, they declared a negative environmental impact under the SEQR review, sending the project on to its next stages.
Pending action is set for discussion at a meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals next month on September 13.