QUEENSBURY — The constant in-and-out traffic at Cumberland Farms convenience stores could stand in the way of the company earning approval from the town Planning Board to locate at a busy intersection.
Cumberland Farms wants to put a 5,275-square-foot convenience store and gas station at the intersection of Route 9 and Route 149. It would replace the popular burger and ice cream spot called The Loft.
The Planning Board on Thursday spent an hour explaining to the applicants that traffic is already very busy at that corner.
Cars are often backed up along the entire Million Dollar Half Mile of outlet stores. At the intersection with Route 149, cars have backed up more than a mile as drivers wait to get onto Route 9.
The traffic engineer for Cumberland Farms offered a very different view, saying that cars only back up a short distance on each road and clear with each cycle of the light.
Board members reacted with disbelief, describing the many times they had seen cars backed up for long distances on Route 149.
The traffic engineer had studied the corner as if it were a commuter route, counting cars from 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays.
Board members said she should have analyzed the intersection at other times, to take into account vacationers and outlet shoppers. Commuters avoid the area because of backups.
“Who would commute?” said board Chairman Stephen Traver.
Board member John Shafer, who was a traffic engineer himself, criticized the analysis as being incomplete and wrongly relying on formulas derived from ordinary traffic.
“I think you need to do a very different traffic study,” he said. “I don’t know how the board could possibly approve something with this traffic study.”
Board members said they wanted The Loft’s replacement to improve the traffic situation, at least slightly. But Cumberland Farms could make it much worse, they said.
The store could create “a bottleneck from people coming in and out all the time,” board member William Magowen said.
Traver added that some drivers will try to “nose in” from Cumberland Farms to turn left onto Route 9, amid heavy traffic in both directions.
“People are going to try to push it and, bingo, we’re going to have an accident, and that is not a good situation,” he said.
At first, the engineer and a lawyer hired by Cumberland Farms tried to defend the plan. Traffic engineer Alanna Moran said the store would draw only about 200 more cars during peak commuter hours than use the intersection now. The rest of the customers at those times would be people who are already driving by.
“It’s not going to change the nature of what’s there already,” Moran said. “Yes, you are going to add more traffic, but it’s not significant.”
Board member Thomas Ford answered, “That’s like beauty. It’s in the eye of the beholder, or the person sitting at the wheel.”
Lawyer Stefanie Pitter also tried to persuade the board to support her client’s plan.
“How is this business contributing any different than any of those businesses?” she asked, citing outlet stores. “We’re not creating the problem. We’re just trying to become a participant in the community.”
But she and Moran agreed to study the traffic further and come up with a plan that would mitigate the Cumberland Farms’ impact.
“I think you’ve given us some homework,” Pitter said. “We knew this wasn’t an easy site. We’re familiar with challenges.”
The Loft’s owners have been marketing their land for years and want to sell. But even they said they weren’t sure if a Cumberland Farms would be approved there. They said they will market it to others if the Cumberland Farms project is rejected.