The proposed project “Treetop Planned Industrial Development Project” seeks five warehouses to be constructed on an undeveloped site along Route 9W in the Town of Cornwall. A public hearing on Wednesday, January 17 at Cornwall Central High School received many comments against the project.
The project applicant TreeTop Companies, based in Teaneck, New Jersey, proposed before the Town of Cornwall Planning Board five warehouses, all varying in size, with parking spots all around and two entrance ways off Route 9W. A tenant for the site has not been identified yet but the project predicts the generation of 2,000 permanent jobs once completed and 250 to 300 people working on site during project construction.
The land, 197 acres, at 2615 Route 9W is currently undeveloped woods owned by Cornwall Commons, LLC. The site was once proposed for the project known as Cornwall Commons which included residential dwelling units, a retail shopping center, a restaurant, an office building, a hotel and a congregate care facility. The project was proposed in 1999 but was never built. The site was also once proposed for the town’s high school, which would eventually be constructed in New Windsor along Route 94.
Along the property runs the Moodna Creek which ends in the Hudson River. The creek also runs along the border between Cornwall and the Town of New Windsor. Several residential areas adjacent to the project include the neighborhoods of Knoll Crest Court, Stately Oaks, Forge Hill Road into the Butter Hill Estates and so on. Route 9W, which begins in Fort Lee, New Jersey and ends in Albany, is already a heavily traveled roadway for residents, visitors and working individuals in Cornwall, New Windsor, the City of Newburgh, the Town of Newburgh and other municipalities.
At the public hearing Wednesday night, Cornwall Planning Board Attorney Dominic Cordisco provided an overview of the project process and planning board’s role with proposed projects such as Treetop.
“The planning board has been reviewing this application since it was first filed with the town two years ago in January 2022,” Cordisco said. “The planning board has to review every application that comes before it regardless of public interest or controversy. They cannot simply say that a project is a bad idea and then not review it. There are standards and procedures that apply to all projects.”
With the project application filed on January 25, 2022, the town planning board declared its intent for lead agency on February 7, 2022. This would allow the Cornwall Planning Board to review the project. Later on April 4, 2022, the planning board declared itself lead agency and a positive declaration was adopted.
The positive declaration by Cornwall means that the applicant will have to conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS). This prepared document outlines the impacts of a proposed project on the surrounding environment. A public scoping session was held in May 2022 and a final scope was adopted in June 2022.
A proposed draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) was submitted to the town planning board in January 2023 and underwent several revisions requested by the board according to Cordisco. The document at the November 6 meeting was deemed adequate, thus commencing public review.
Cordisco explained that the Cornwall Commons project was once permitted as the land was zoned planned residential development (PRD) back when the project was proposed. In 2019, the Cornwall Town Board amended the zoning code and removed the PRD designation from the site and it was formally adopted in 2020. Cordisco clarified that the zoning designation which allows commercial and industrial uses were permitted even before Cornwall Commons was proposed in 1999.
At the high school public hearing, over 100 residents and stakeholders from Cornwall and surrounding area came and many comments did not support the project. Other comments called for more extensive reviews of the project by the planning board and its consultants, expressed the need for more time to review the DEIS documents, and requested extension of the written comment period to 60 days.
“Most of the project site that’s being considered tonight is zoned planned commercial development, the proposed development is not a commercial project but it’s really an industrial one, pure industrial,” said Christine Ruppert.
“This whole development, it really breaks my heart,” said Pamela Hudson.
“This plan must be rejected in its entirety. It goes against zoning regulations, it violates most environmental requirements, the plan doesn’t just impact a small area, it will impact a huge part of Cornwall,” said resident Nancy Bryan.
“We are vehemently opposed to this project,” said Stephanie Joseph. “To allow the building of this type of facility is sending us the direct message that you do not care about us or our children, that you do not care about the health of our community or health care costs, that you do not care about the devastating environmental impacts this warehouse and the construction of it will cause to the habitat, fauna and flora.”
Quoting from Cornwall’s Comprehensive Plan Vision Statement Wednesday night, Town Supervisor Joshua Wojehowski was concerned about the stormwater, the traffic impacts, the visual and noise impacts and financial implications.
“This could fundamentally alter the community character of the Town of Cornwall. We’re not against commercial development, but we want it to be smart development that doesn’t impact our community character,” he said. “I just think that if you look at what’s being proposed at that site, it just seems to be a fundamental mismatch with the town’s vision.”
“I think this is going to be a long time in the making, I really do. Usually, when things like this occur, it takes a long time, nevermind, whether there’s objections to it and all,” said Assemblyman Chris Eachus.
“We have not received one single positive comment,” said Senator James Skoufis.“I hope that if they decide to continue here, they better know that we’re in this for the long haul and we will fight them with everything we’ve got and we will make this fight a very, very, very expensive proposition for them.”
A comment letter submitted by the City of Newburgh Office of Corporation Counsel requested the town consider commissioning an impartial, third party traffic study and raised concerns about the impacts that could come about on Route 9W. The city also requested the applicant clarify any alternative routes for truck traffic in case of road closures.
Cordisco emphasized that all of the planning board meetings are open to the public and the public has the opportunity to review all documents on the current proposal either online or through the town hall. More information on the project and a review of the DEIS can be found at www.cornwalllogistics.com/. Comments on the project must be sent to the planning board in order to be considered by the board and so as to have an official record on the project. The planning board voted to extend the written comment period 30 days after the close of the public hearing. Comments can be emailed to email@example.com until Friday, February 16.