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New ag, convenience stores proposed in Lowville

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LOWVILLE — Village planners are reviewing proposals for new agricultural and convenience stores here.

North Country Ag LLC, Seneca Falls, has submitted plans to build a 60-by-72-foot farm equipment and feed store on a 6.6-acre parcel off Ross Road next to Tractor Supply, while Valentine Stores Inc., Watertown, plans to build a 90-by-50-foot Nice N Easy store with a five-station gas pump island on Utica Boulevard at the site of the former Lighthouse Restaurant and Motel.

North Country Ag is a joint venture of Finger Lakes Dairy Services Inc., a livestock supply and equipment distributor, and Keystone Mills, which sells feed for livestock and pets.

The proposed store, about half of which is to be warehouse space, will provide a base of operations for the companies’ area salesmen and hopefully attract walk-in customers as well, said Merlin D. Kurtz of Keystone Mills.

“We can get the one-, two-, three-bag customers,” he said.

The companies have been using the former Lehman’s Farm and Home Supply Inc. on Route 26 just south of the hamlet of Denmark as a warehouse but not as a retail location.

The North Country Ag project requires a variance because the proposed side lot setback is only 20 feet, while a 75-foot setback is required in village zoning law.

North Country Ag bought the Lowville property in September 2011 from Rossdale Farms for $200,000 and has had a “coming soon” sign posted on the Number Four Road end of the parcel for several months.

Meanwhile, the Lighthouse has been closed since a Dec. 20 fire, originating in an upstairs office and storage area, caused extensive smoke and water damage.

Glendon J. Widrick, who has owned the restaurant and motel with his wife, Maribel, since 2007, has said that required upgrades to the electrical system and other aspects of the building ultimately were deemed too costly to consider reopening. The couple in May auctioned off everything of value and plans to raze the old restaurant, which opened in 1954, to make way for the new store.

“We feel that the convenience store will not create an undesirable change in the neighborhood and will replace a vacant, deteriorating structure which is detrimental to nearby properties,” states an application submitted by Valentine Stores, which operates numerous other Nice N Easy stores in the north country.

The convenience store project also needs a variance, since it would have only an 11-foot setback from the neighboring Kraft Foods property in the rear, while a setback of at least 25 feet is required.

“The applicant has looked at alternative site plans for the property but feels that for safety and security reasons it is best to locate the gasoline pump islands in front of the store,” the application states.

The Nice N Easy, when completed, would be the village’s fourth convenience store and fifth gas station.

Both the North Country Ag and Nice N Easy projects are to be reviewed by the Lewis County Planning Board at 5 p.m. Thursday in Room 322 at the Lewis County Courthouse, North State Street, then go before the village Zoning Board of Appeals for the variance requests. The ZBA has scheduled public hearings on the North Country Ag project at 6:15 p.m. Monday and the Nice N Easy project, if the application is deemed complete, at 6:15 p.m. Aug. 29, with both meetings at the municipal office on Bostwick Street.

The village Planning Board is slated to hold public hearings and review site plans on both projects at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 10, also at the Bostwick Street office.

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