Waiting for Walmart

GLOVERSVILLE – The new Walmart Supercenter at the end of South Kingsboro Avenue is under construction and expected to open this summer. While the massive retail development is expected to have many benefits to the city, including sales tax revenue and the prospect of stimulating more commercial projects, many neighbors of the site have concerns.

Residents interviewed this month said they were told the Walmart was supposed to be farther back on the hill so it couldn’t be seen from the houses situated in front of it, but as the building gets closer to completion, it is quite visible.

“We were told the store wouldn’t be seen from our backyards, but it is right there and much closer than any of us expected,” said Tom Lehr, of 238 S. Kingsboro Ave. Extension. “It isn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but it is also a lot closer than we thought, too. We will see when people start using it.”

Larry Poyfair said he has lived for more than 30 years at 228 S. Kingsboro Ave. Extension, just down the hill from the supercenter.

“None of us have any privacy in our backyards anymore,” he said. “We used to have guests come and visit with us on our patio in the back, but I don’t how much that will happen anymore, with that entrance right there,” Poyfair said as he pointed to one of the Walmart entrances along his property line. “One of my neighbors has a pool, and I don’t know how willing they will be to swim with all these people that will be next to our yards.”

Poyfair also said the posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour is ignored by many motorists, and traffic could get worse when the store opens.

“Cars come through here really fast right now, and I don’t think anyone is following the speed limit,” Poyfair said. “That could be a real problem when it gets busier around here.”

Police Chief Donald VanDeusen said local authorities keep an eye out for speeders in the supercenter area.

“We have had details out there to monitor and enforce the speed limit, and we will continue to do that,” VanDeusen said.

The resident living at 244 S. Kingsboro Ave. Extension, who asked not to be identified by name, said the lights on the supercenter have caused problems for his family. When the lights are on, he said, they shines directly into his daughter’s bedroom, which can make it difficult for her to sleep at night.

He also said the snow being moved for the construction caused his basement to become flooded once it began to melt.

All of the Walmart neighbors interviewed this month said when the construction first started, it created dust and noise, and the vibrations from heavy equipment could be felt throughout their homes.

Many residents said they are worried the value of their homes will be diminished because of the development in the area.

“No one is going to want to move here with all the traffic and people that will be coming here,” Lehr said. “If anything, I could see it being sold so an outlet or some other business can use the land, but the price would have to be right for us to consider that.”

Leeasia Wynn, who lives in a small house at the bottom of South Kingsboro Avenue, said the development in the area is going to make it almost impossible for her to exit her driveway because it connects to the turning lane at the intersection with Route 30A.

“On busy days, now, I almost have no choice but to turn right sometimes,” Wynn said. “When traffic really comes, I don’t know what is going to happen.”

Wynn said when workers were changing the lights and improving Route 30A for development, it was taking her about 40 minutes to get out of her driveway and to Johnstown for work every day.

She also said when construction was going on earlier in the year, it created an inconvenience because she had no water for a few hours since the construction workers at Walmart needed it turned off for something they were doing.

Fulton County Planning Director James Mraz said most of the construction on the exterior portion of the Walmart building was completed before the first major snowfall this winter, so the workers could continue on the interior portion.

“There is work going on in all aspects of the project right now,” Mraz said. “[The builders] are moving towards trying to complete the building in June to hand it over to Walmart for them to come in to put in all their shelving, training and stock the shelves to get everything ready for a July grand opening.”

Mayor Dayton King said the store’s grand opening could take place July 24.

“I’m happy to announce that Walmart appears to be on schedule for a summer opening,” King said. “This has been a very long time coming.”

Mraz said the new store will have grocery, gardening, pharmacy and the typical retail products that all Walmart locations have, but he doesn’t think it will have an automobile service department.

Mraz also said there is space within the Walmart structure that could be dedicated to other uses as well.

“Whether that is going to be for a Subway, whether there is going to be a small bank or something of that nature is internal to [Walmart], and I haven’t heard anything on that,” Mraz said.

Walmart in July selected Bast-Hatfield Construction of Clifton Park to lead construction.

The 157,100-square-foot building is projected to bring an additional $250,000 in sales tax revenue this year, said Gloversville Finance Commissioner Bruce Van Genderen.

“This is going to bring significant sales and property tax to the city of Gloversville,” King said. “It will also bring additional revenue with the retail businesses that will typically follow a supercenter.”

King and Van Genderen said they expect an additional $600,000 to $800,000 in revenue in a full fiscal year from Walmart once it is fully operational.

While no additional businesses have been officially approved to move near the supercenter, the city and county are expecting additional development in that area, Mraz said.

According to the New York State Route 30A Break-in Access Traffic Study presented to the Common Council, potential development in that location could include retail, church, fast food, hotel, offices, a supermarket or a gas station.

City DPW Director Kevin Jones said some of the potential businesses cited in the study were chosen based on the traffic they would bring, not any specific plans to build them.

King previously said there would be a fast-food business at the South Kingsboro and Route 30A intersection, but he didn’t name a specific company.

He said a lot of developers and commercial businesses have been contacting the city over the past several years about the possibility of moving near the new Walmart.

Walmart has more than 2,900 supercenters in the United States, including sites in Amsterdam, Herkimer and Cobleskill.

An associate real estate broker with Corporate Commercial Real Estate Services, John McCaffer, said he is marketing land to a variety of businesses that may want to move onto the 20 acres between Dr. Thomas Eagan’s office and the Cataract Care Center near the intersection of South Kingsboro and Route 30A.

“There has been some good interest,” McCaffer said this week.

He said many retail users have expressed interest in the property, although he didn’t provide any specifics.

City Building Inspector Rob Robbins said the Walmart project originally was estimated to cost $6.7 million, but the cost likely has gone up.

When the new Walmart opens, the existing Walmart store on Fifth Avenue Extension in the town of Johnstown will close. Walmart officials could not be reached for comment for this story.

Levi Pascher can be reached by email at lpascher@leaderherald.com.