By Edie Johnson
Town of Blooming Grove – One after another very large business projects have entered the eastern half of Orange County over the past 2 years, and like dominos the word got around that it’s a great place to locate, and other companies joined the parade after Legoland broke the ice. Last week it was Resorts World Casino deciding to put a gaming venue at the Newburgh Mall (Town of Newburgh), and official news of the $18M purchase of Sleep Inn (Village of South Blooming Grove) along with a big commercial complex by Old Mansion Road (also in VSBG).
703,000 sq. ft. Warehouse Proposal Plus Hotel Proposed On Craigville Road By Oxford Depot Rt. 17/6 Exit
This week Blooming Grove’s Town Board listened to a presentation about a proposed Warehouse and Hotel Project that would span 703,000 sq. Ft. on about 25 acres. A hotel recently added to the layout at the east end would encompass about 30,000 sq. ft. It was the first of what will be many presentations to both the Town Board and Planning Board along with their professionals. Supervisor Rob Jeroloman introduced the Councilmen to the applicant and the applicant’s representatives to the Board; the ZOOM meeting including the town’s engineer and consultant, a traffic specialist, an architectural group and engineers for the applicant, and Town Planner, Bonnie Franson. Planning Board Chair Ed Gannon said he thought the plans looked very good, but they were perhaps moving a bit fast on the traffic and sewage issues before presenting to his board. The applicant’s representatives assured him that the details were very preliminary and flexible. Board members had generally positive reactions, including Ward 6 Representative Steven Amante in whose ward the project is located. Amante said he especially appreciated the detail given to what impact that the project would have on its surrounding environment. He asked them to be transparent about the sewage disposal issues as they progress, especially since it borders wetlands. The wetlands have been walked and flagged by DEC and there is a 100 ft. buffer. He also asked that special caution, possibly several signs, be posted that there are a lot of visitors to Goosepond Park who cross the road at the 17M Intersection. Councilwoman Sonia Ayala said she is anxious to see more design details about what the building will actually look like, and what exactly they expect the business to be. She noted that the warehouse shows three floors while the hotel shows only one. Councilman Tom DeVinko said that for him water and sewer are at the top of the list, along with the exit strategies on 17M, and drainage plan for a planned flat roof. The parapet measures at 43 ft. 6 inches at the top, and the main roof is 3 ft. 6 inches lower.
The buildings for this project would be on a large piece of land just west of the Quickway and Oxford Depot Exit on Craigville Rd., and adjacent to the Trestle Tree Overpass (across which the Heritage Trail runs and continues behind the meadow and marshland of the property.) Town Planner, Bonnie Franson emphasized that the height of the 3-story building would have to be taken into consideration, especially with regard to buffering between it and the Heritage Trail, but the applicant’s architectural group said that they are very aware of the buffering needed. The site already includes a large number of tall evergreen trees and bushes, will have a retaining wall between it and the trail and an adjacent development on the far side of the trail. It is also planned on a low area with a ridge that will buffer it from view. Franson also pointed out that there are still many missing details, including ownership information, grading which will affect visual impact, decisions on sewage treatment, what trucking businesses would be using it, and why the warehouse design featured so much office space since retail is not permitted. She cautioned the Council members that it only takes one issue to trigger a need to have a POS DEC (positive declaration of environmental impact) rather than a NEG DEC and that an archeological study is likely to be required. The town will also have to decide whether its Town Board or Planning Board will be Lead Agency, or as is sometimes done they function as Co-Lead Agencies.
The applicant expects to be hiring several hundred employees. There are sparse details about the proposed hotel since it was just added to the plan recently.
A very preliminary traffic presentation uncovered several upcoming issues. First, any traffic studies to be done during this year will have to take into consideration that traffic is much lighter due to the pandemic. Second, site distance upon entry and exit have already been measured, and are adequate due to the length of straight road from it toward the Oxford Depot exit. The applicant’s representatives insisted they will require all drivers to exit the site toward Route 17M and not Craigville Rd. A left turn from the site would send them under the Trestle Tree overpass which would only have room for one vehicle to pass if it was a large truck, and that is an important problem to be avoided, as would be major truck traffic into residential neighborhoods. Most traffic they said will likely be coming from New York City to the Oxford off ramp. However, there is no on ramp, and so they would have to continue across the overpass to Route 17 M where there is an on ramp nearby toward the east, or to the major Chester intersection which has both on and off ramps. The Third issue was a bit thorny however, in that truckers coming from New York City will likely have GPS send them to the Route 208 exit, where there is already a big congestion issue. Instructions not to use that exit may or may not work and the issue will need further study.
This applicant has not at this point stated they intend to request any PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement from the County. Several warehouse projects (Medtronics and Amazon) in Montgomery and New Windsor faced strong opposition because of a PILOT request and low starting pay for workers. Amazon has since started to unionize.
Supervisor, Jeroloman did not say how long the project has been percolating, but it was clear that while the applicant representatives gave great detail and expect it to progress quickly, there are many presentations to go and details to work out, especially regarding water, sewage treatment, parking, ownership, trucking route and opportunities for fair hiring practices and use of local contractors. Distance and effective natural visual barriers between it, the Heritage Trail and adjacent homes, is sure to be a prime issue, with homeowners nearby already voicing some concern.