A story that people involved in planning for New Paltz often repeat is the story of a community where it’s hard to build a business. In this story, the reasons include bureaucracy that impedes construction development, limited infrastructure and the high cost of land. Town Planning Board members heard about a way to reduce those barriers from Matt Eyler, one of the members of NP Industry Hub, LLC. Through this limited liability corporation, Eyler and others own close to 60 acres of land at 53 North Ohioville Road, in the town’s light industrial zone. At the June 28 town Planning Board meeting, Eyler discussed plans to make this into a hub where businesses that are perhaps a bit too noisy for residential neighbors — but don’t involve hazardous materials — could be operated.
The proposal would see four steel buildings erected that could be divided to suit tenants in need of space to put a commercial kitchen, art or music studio, contractor workshop, flexible office space, or another light industrial use. Eyler first spoke about the idea in a New Paltz Times interview in June, 2019, expressing at the time that the community is getting “hollowed out” by young people leaving to seek opportunity elsewhere because it’s often too expensive for anyone to get a start in a town where rental prices are distorted by the dependence on outsiders such as students and tourists.
The vision is to make four solid, low-cost buildings with relatively low commercial rents, in an area where private residences are not even allowed under the zoning code. Light industrial zoning is about places to make things that are sold somewhere else, and to that end retail is also not among the acceptable uses — although moving merchandise wholesale is fine. Eyler rattled off examples such as electricians, sculptors and creators of artisanal beverages, and said that the industrial park on Steves Lane in Gardiner is an example of what it might look like, although this project would have the buildings more tightly clustered.
On the land right now are “two single-family homes and several outbuildings in various states of disrepair,” according to a letter from the project engineer. Eyler described those residences as an empty old farmhouse, and a trailer that’s currently occupied. The building inspector is not looking to get the residential tenants to move immediately, and it’s hoped by the applicants that abandoned farmhouse won’t have to be torn down right away, either. Keeping construction costs down is central to setting affordable rents, and at another point during the meeting, Eyler signaled that the list of uses might be reconfigured to avoid having to install a sprinkler system, if necessary.
Another aspect of this is a desire to get this property included in the town’s sewer district 6. The property is right on the border of that district, which has financial and technical problems. Eyler, who is familiar with efforts to study the extent of the problems in order to seek state funding to fix them, expects to be able to keep the usage on this property low enough to avoid “issues.” That would probably involve capping the amount of space that could be used as commercial kitchen, as that’s the most intensive use that’s proposed for this site. The review of this application will involve a negotiation as to the variety of uses that will be included. The more uses, the more attractive the space will be, but it will also increase the cost of this review, and likely the cost of complying with the requirements of the approval, as well.