What should Corfu become? That was the question hanging over a village planning board meeting Tuesday evening when an agenda item about rezoning evolved into a discussion about how to boost business and get more people to visit.
The conversation was partly spurred by resident Tsabelle Cyra raising concerns about Dollar General looking for a store location in the village.
"It's ugly," Cyra said. "Did you see the facade of this place. It's not only ugly outside, it's ugly inside. It would do nothing for the esthetics of this village. On weekends, it's just packed with kids and indigent people. Is that what we want image-wise for Corfu?"
Trustee Art Ianni quickly turned the discussion to what it would take to get people to stop in Corfu.
He said one problem in Corfu is the village itself is ugly.
"I'm going to raise my hand and say it's ugly," Ianni said. "Yes, it's ugly."
He had a copy of a 2007 study that offered suggestions for improving the esthetics of Corfu, such as applying design standards, putting in sidewalks, street lighting, landscaping and attractive crosswalks, among other things.
"These are the recommendations of 2007 and nobody's moved on it," Ianni said. "Nobody's touched it and some of it is simple."
Several residents and board members agreed that what Corfu needs is a small grocery store.
"Right now, you have to go 26 miles round trip to get groceries," Dave Stehlar said.
Stehlar thinks a five-acre parcel on the east side of the village would be a good location for a new grocery store and bring people into the village and down Main Street.
The problem is, the owner wants top dollar and won't sell the property in divided parcels.
Cyra said when she worked in one of the state prisons years ago, all of the employees would drive out of their way to come to Corfu because they could get great meat at the grocery store. That kind of quality grocery store is needed again, she said.
The other problem, David Saleh said, based on his discussions with previous grocery store owners, is that the stores always did great in the summer, but business would come to a crawl in the winter. That makes it very hard to stay profitable, Saleh said.
Stehlar pointed out that there are about 10,000 people living in a 10-square mile area around Corfu. Those are a lot of potential customers for Corfu businesses if more of them could be enticed into the village.
One of the problems Corfu faces, Cyra noted, is the perception that it's a speed trap, so people avoid the village.
"Would you go on the record with that?" Ianni asked.
Ianni also raised the idea of exploring historical designation opportunities and maybe the village should bring in somebody to talk with them about that process.
Stehlar pointed out that the now vacant Union Hotel has a lot of redevelopment potential.
Ianni mentioned an article he'd seen about all the success with old building redevelopment in Perry, so maybe Rick Hauser should be asked to share his knowledge on the subject.
Whatever the village residents want to do, Saleh noted, it's going to take more support than the handful of people at Tuesday's planning board meeting.
"All of these things take a commitment of time and effort," Saleh said.