By Alberto Gilman
The public hearing for the project known as ‘Unity Place Warehouse’ will remain open as approved by the Town of Newburgh Planning Board on Thursday, January 5. Traffic increases, loss of neighborhood character and sound and light pollution concerns were brought forward during public comment on Thursday night. The public hearing will continue on Thursday, March 16 at the planning board’s next meeting at town hall.
The proposed project is a 154,700 square foot warehouse on a 12.8 plus-or-minus combined acre parcel on the northwest corner of Old Little Britain Road and Unity Place. The project includes 160 passenger vehicle parking spaces, 79 loading docks and 40 trailer parking spaces. Municipal water and sewer will service the site, and the site is currently zoned as an interchange business [IB] zone. The parcel is opposite Lake Washington and neighbors the Jehovah Witness’ Kingdom Hall along Unity Place. Prior to the new year, the planning board approved a negative declaration on Thursday, November 17, 2022.
John Cappello, a partner of the firm Jacobowitz and Gubits, LLP, began the presentation introducing several engineers and consultants on the project with additional comments. “We’ve been before the board for about a year now refining this project and as we’ve gone, we’ve made improvements to address issues related to traffic, relating to stormwater and relating to design of the building,” said Cappello.
Brooker Engineering is the engineering firm representing the applicant for the project. Dennis Rocks of Brooker Engineering shared to the public that along Unity Place, opposite the Jehovah Witness’s Kingdom Hall driveway, would be one of two access points. That access point would only allow vehicles to enter. The other access point would be off Old Little Britain Road and would allow for entry and exit. The loading docks would be at the rear of the building, and parking of vehicles would be on opposite sides of the building. Stormwater management and bioretention facilities are also to be included on the project site, according to Rocks.
The traffic study for the project was conducted by Colliers Engineering & Design and was worked on by Engineer Philip Grealy. “This study looked at Unity Place, looked at Old Little Britain Road, looked at Route 300 and looked at Route 17K. That was the basic scope of the study,” said Grealy. “Over the period of the process, there’s been numerous correspondence back and forth between the town’s consultants and our office, as well as New York State DOT [Department of Transportation].”
According to Grealy, the project received in October 2022 an Access Highway Designation which allows larger vehicle types such as trucks to travel along Unity Place and Old Little Britain Road. However, trucks are not allowed to travel beyond the Unity Place and Old Little Britain Road intersection heading east. Additional road improvements at the Route 300 Old Little Britain Road intersection were also discussed within the conducted study.
The building is currently subdivided into two units which indicated the possibility of one or two tenants at one time with the potential creation of about 100 jobs. However, it was clarified during the meeting that there was no immediate tenant(s) identified, and tenant discussions would not proceed further unless there was site plan approval for the project. Depending upon site plan approval, the project would take 18 months to complete.
Karen Arent, Landscape Architect consultant to the planning board, recommended to the applicant to review the newly passed tree preservation law in the town and to add additional screening and trees around the property so as to hide the building. “The warehouse is in an area where there aren’t any other warehouses. It’s out of character with the road and neighborhood. I’m asking if you could landscape it more completely,” Arent said.
Patrick Hines of MHE Engineering also provided comments on behalf of his office that a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan has met town and Department of Environmental Conservation [DEC] requirements. A City of Newburgh Flow Acceptance Letter will be required for the project, the town board will need to review the weight limit for vehicles along Old Little Britain Road and review a user agreement for sewer and a lot confirmation has been received by MHE. A State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System [SPDES] Permit from the DEC will be required for construction. According to Hines, there are no restrictions on hours of usage for the site but there are restrictions on hours of construction when addressing a comment about hours of operation.
Conor Eckert, Senior Development Officer and Vice President of Business Attraction for the Orange County Partnership and Steven Gross, Economic Development Director for Orange County, both shared their support for the project with job creation and tax revenue benefits for the town.
“It was a shock 14 months ago when we received the notice from the town planning that a warehouse is planned to be built 500 feet from our home,” said resident Nancy Joanides. “We always knew that something would be built on the land but never envisioned it could possibly be something like this. We thought maybe a medical building or an office building or even some strip storage unit, but not this.”
“What does this bring to the Town of Newburgh that something like restaurants, medical, research [facilities] would not bring? I mean, what is this going to provide for us,” said resident Erica Otlowski. “If the road isn’t designed or meant to be for the heavier traffic, if we could rezone where the industrial is for residential,” said resident Lou Cirillo.
Resident Jim Ascione, who previously worked as a truck driver, inquired if a noise study had been conducted, which it was clarified it was not required. A post construction noise study was considered in further discussions about the project. “It’s a leap of blind faith here,” said Ascione.
Elaine Simpson, who was not able to make the Thursday night meeting, sent an open letter to the planning board with her questions and shared neighbors’ concerns about the project. “With the addition of BJ’s, several car dealerships and garages, a wide variety of stores (Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart and Target plus!!!) only Adams has served to nicely replace Lloyd’s and Palmerone’s service to us. All the others seem to provide additional services designed to enrich our lives,” said Simpson in her letter. “In contrast, their presence has greatly affected our former sense of peaceful living by the addition of multiple layers of noise and activity. I was astounded by the thought of the building being 40 feet high as it equals the size of several pine trees on my property – how many years will it take for other trees to hide the building? What will the tenants of the warehouse bring to this list of concerns? I was surprised to hear that no selection was even identifiable as a possibility.”
Additional comments continued for the remainder of the meeting, with planning board members expressing their thanks for the comments given and will review future materials and comments in preparation for the March 16 meeting.