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City Council ignores neighbors’ pleas about Sunoco expansion

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Chestnut Street resident Mary F. Espinoza and others in the neighborhood already have concerns that four stores sell alcohol or tobacco across the street from the Watertown city school complex.

So they do not want Sunoco to expand its building at 1222 Washington St. by adding a walk-in cooler popularly known as a beer cave and offering large glass containers of draft beers known as growlers.

On Monday night, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham told the residents opposing the convenience store expansion that the Watertown City Council cannot do anything about it. The project is permissible because it meets zoning laws and building codes, he said.

“That’s unfortunate,” Mrs. Espinoza said.

The city Planning Board unanimously agreed three weeks ago to waive site plan approval; the expansion is not large enough to require the business to go through that process.

“They have the right to make modifications to their building,” the mayor said.

Neighbors contend that the beer cave and expanded inventory of beer will influence students from Watertown High, Case Middle and Wiley Elementary schools when they walk by the business.

They have not given up the issue. On Oct. 11, the group sent a letter to state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, to see if she can help.

“I’m disappointed, but we’ll go on from here,” Mrs. Espinoza said after the meeting.

The neighbors opposed the expansion by Sunoco Inc., Rochester, when it was first proposed nearly two years ago as a larger project that required a zoning change.

Sunoco wants to expand the store by 508 square feet, with small additions on the north and south sides of the building. The original plans called for demolishing the 1,568-square-foot building and constructing a larger one behind it.

In December 2011, the Planning Board unanimously denied Sunoco’s request for a zoning change from Residence A to Neighborhood Business after neighbors expressed concerns that the new shop would devalue their property and be too detrimental to the neighborhood.

A zoning change is not needed for the revised project.

Sunoco officials said they hope construction will start in the spring and take about 60 days to complete. Christopher Quirk will continue to operate the store, Sunoco marketing engineer Thomas C. Boje said.

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