Paving the way for Kings Highway development

Ulster County sees the Kings Highway corridor, with recently-completed water and sewer access, as a prime location for business. A parcel next to the Army Reserve center is the first location for a county program called Ready2Go, which, working in coordination with town planners, will offer businesses building sites with approved plans, speeding up the development process.

The property in question is owned by Leading Edge Developers LLC, of which Saugerties contractor John Mullen is the principal.

Kings Highway, home to companies like Solite and Markertek, has been the subject of several public initiatives geared toward encouraging further development. An infrastructure project brought municipal water and sewer to a 3.4-mile stretch of the road directly south of Route 212, and the town has conducted a generic environmental impact statement for the entire corridor, which also speeds up the approval process for prospective developers.

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The county program is even more specific, as it provides required information on the site plan as well as environmental factors. “The Ready2Go program is focusing on the location of a building, parking, topography and other factors specific to a particular site,” said Ulster County Planning Director Dennis Doyle. Pre-approved plans could then be modified for the needs of individual businesses. The county would also contribute to development costs.

The plan, introduced by engineer Dennis Larios, shows a 224-foot by 440-foot building, with an attached 153×50-foot building for office space, and 175 parking spaces. The building, as shown on the plans, would contain 90,500 square feet. The entrance to the property would align with Tissal Road. The plan shows a row of trees along Kings Highway that would visually break up the large frontage of the building, as well as trees within the site. The size and location of the building and parking are likely to be modified to suit an individual buyer or tenant, but the plan is designed to be close to what a medium-sized industry or warehouse would need, Larios said. If the purchaser made substantial changes to the plan, it would come back to the Saugerties Town Planning Board for approval.

The 12.5-acre property is being subdivided from a 15.5-acre parcel. The map shows the remaining 2.9 acres as containing John Mullen and Sons’ office and garage area, plus a gravel area for machinery parking.

The deputy director for economic development acknowledged that the project is speculative, as “we don’t know who the user will be; we do not know ultimately whether Leading Edge could build the building and rent it out. Or many of these companies want to build their own building and own the property themselves.”

Planning Board member Ken Goldberg said Leading Edge is not planning to put up a building, or do any construction. “We don’t have a company that is looking for approval to put up a building immediately,” he said.

Saugerties resident Gaetana Ciarlante, an outspoken critic of tax breaks for development projects, grilled county planners on their raison d’être.

“So we have a government agency that’s promoting private development?” Ciarlante asked.

“That’s what the IDA does. That’s our function,” Doyle said.

“A non-elected government agency,” Ciarlante continued. “I think it goes beyond the scope of what you’re trying to do. I just don’t understand why we have to have officials from Ulster County down here because it feels like there’s a lot of pressure.”

“I don’t think it’s pressure,” Doyle said. “It’s a different way of doing business, and I think it’s a better way of doing business.”

Ciarlante asked whether the purchaser could negotiate a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) or other tax reduction. Gallagher acknowledged that a company moving into the corridor could seek a PILOT, but pointed out that whatever the company paid would be more than the tax on vacant land.

The county is interested in providing an incentive for companies to locate in Saugerties, Gallagher said. In today’s economy, landowners are reluctant to undertake the cost of getting approvals when they don’t have a guaranteed customer. By getting approval for the property development in advance, the county can offer businesses a faster approval process, making Ulster County and Saugerties more attractive.

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