BY RICK REMSNYDER
Nearly 22,000 signatures have been collected on a petition to save the Plattekill Corners General Store from the wrecking ball.
Opposition has been mounting in the community after representatives of Newburgh Fuel Distributor Inc. presented plans to the Town of Plattekill Planning Board to demolish the building that is located at the intersection of Plattekill Ardonia Road (Route 32) and Huckleberry Turnpike.
The petition was started by Jeff Hoppenstedt, whose family ran the general store for 20 years until it closed on March 31, 2020.
John Nosek of Arden Consulting presented plans for a new convenience store and gas station to the planning board on July 13 and Oct. 26.
The company’s site plan application was forwarded to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a Dec. 9 meeting attended by the Newburgh-based company. Five variances need to be reviewed by the zoning board of appeals along with variances granted in 1999, according to Town Code Enforcement Officer Scott Mandoske.
A public hearing on the application has been scheduled by the ZBA at 7 p.m. on Jan. 27. Hoppenstedt said he plans to present the petition to save the Plattekill Corners General Store to the ZBA at the hearing.
“I would like to give it to them,” Hoppenstedt said. “I want them to see how many people are against this. I didn’t expect to get this many signatures. The store is a landmark. Something that people recognize.”
Though Hoppenstedt declined to say who from his family sold the property to the fuel distributors, he didn’t think they were aware the new owners would tear down the original building and turn it into a convenience store and gas station.
The petition, which Hoppenstedt now hopes will get at least 25,000 signatures, reads in part:
“We the undersigned would like to save the former Plattekill corner store from being demolished. This building has been part of our small-town history for many years from horse and buggy days.”
This store can be found on old postcards to the very history book that the Town of Plattekill helped put together. The Town of Plattekill history is slowly being erased right in front of our eyes. Plattekill history should be important to the Town of Plattekill leaders. Current leaders are taking away from what the original Town of Plattekill started.”
The first mention of this building being a store dates back to 1870, according to a local newspaper, the New Paltz Independent.
Even older is the cemetery that is located adjacent to the Plattekill store, dating back to 1793. It is often referred to as the Plattekill Valley Community Ground.
Shirley Anson, the former Town of Plattekill historian and president of the Plattekill Historical Society, voiced her concern over the possible negative impact the proposed convenience store and gas station could have on the nearby cemetery before her passing on Dec. 14. She presented documents detailing the historical significance of the store and the adjacent cemetery to the ZBA on Dec. 9.
“The cemetery is very sensitive,” Anson told the Southern Ulster Times in a telephone interview before her death on Dec 14. “Stones dating back to 1793 mark the graves of some of the town’s earliest residents. It was there before the Town of Plattekill was formed in 1800. We’ve got to preserve our old cemeteries.”
Anson said she was worried that the cemetery could be damaged since it is so close to the proposed store and gas station.
Anson’s daughter Jami said her mother was committed to making sure the cemetery wouldn’t be affected by the new project.
“The last thing my mom said before she passed was that we have to go to that meeting (on Jan. 27),” Jami Anson said. “My mom was passionate about the condition of cemeteries and how some weren’t cared for. She also worried about preserving the historic buildings in the town.”
Current Town of Plattekill historian Libby Werlau wants to make certain nothing happens to the cemetery since it is so close to the Plattekill Corners General Store.
“I just don’t want to see any further damage to the cemetery,” she said. “This has undergone a lot of change over the years. It’s faced vandalism damage before. I’m just concerned that they’re extremely cautious when they’re digging and they understand where the boundaries are. I want everyone to be aware of the importance of this cemetery, which we believe is the oldest in town.”