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Stewart's announces West Utica location, east location gets thumbs up

By ANNA MEILER

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) -- The debate on the proposed Stewart's shop in Utica has been one of East versus West, but at a public meeting Wednesday night the company announced they have plans to do both.

The company signed a contract Wednesday for a second location on the corner of Court and State streets.

West Utica residents have been welcoming the idea of a Stewart's store, saying they need economic development and a place to buy groceries. Stewart's now wants to fill that hole, but they're determined to move forward with their East Utica plans despite residents complaints.

"Because we're doing the East Utica location, we participated in a forum with the concerned citizens of West Utica, we consulted with the mayor and his staff, and we think that doing two stores simultaneously is beneficial for our company. For entrance into a market, it's huge and from a project management perspective, logistically, two stores is better than one," said Chuck Marshall, real estate representative for Stewart's.

East Utica residents have been protesting the Stewart's store proposed for Culver Ave, saying it will disrupt their quiet neighborhood and pose a safety risk with increased traffic for both kids and senior citizens. At the public meeting, many of them carried picket signs and several took the podium to make their opinions heard.

"It's going to really destroy the quiet, peaceful neighborhood that we have and really commercialize it and they feel as though their life investment has been wrapped up into their home. They've really done everything they can to keep up their homes, to preserve it and they feel betrayed I would say by the city," said Anjela Mescall, a concerned resident, speaking on behalf of the senior citizens in the neighborhood.

In order for Stewart's to move forward with their Culver Avenue building in East Utica, there needs to be zoning changes in the residential area of Monroe and Allen streets. The City of Utica applied to change the zoning from residential to commercial. From there, they hope to get an auto overlay zone, which would allow a business with auto-related use, such as a Stewart's gas station, to be built on a commercial zone.

On Wednesday night the planning board voted in favor of that recommendation and it will now head to the Common Council. The council has said they will likely vote it down.

Marshall didn't say how that would affect their plans in West Utica, but they hope to build both stores this year.

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