Developers seeking to build a facility for the fabrication of metal parts on land just south of New Paltz High School got a lot of feedback about the challenges ahead during a conceptual review provided at the September 27 Town of New Paltz Planning Board meeting. Conceptual reviews are 15-minute conversations to allow potential applicants to get a sense of what will be needed to obtain approval, before they invest heavily in developing those plans. In this case, the challenges involve heavy trucks being driven over a packed dirt road through multiple wetlands.
Engineer Michael Gillespie laid out how the three parcels at 140-150 South Putt Corners Road would be used, acknowledging that the property is “heavily constrained” by wetlands and the buffers around them, neither of which can be built within unless a wetlands permit is approved. The engineer has identified a “small upland portion” of the land, out of sight of the road, where a proposed 60,000-square-foot facility would be built for the purposes of taking rolls of steel coil and turning it into “studs and such.” Access to the structure and parking area would be via a driveway 1,200 to 1,500 in length that would have to go through the wet areas which Gillespie says cover 85% of the land.
Most of the work would be automated, which would reduce the number of vehicle trips that would involve at least one pond crossing. It’s expected that an 18-wheeler would be driven onto the property three times a day, but because the site is very close to the Thruway the impact on traffic in the community at large is not expected by the developers to be significant at all. Those trucks, according to Gillespie, would account for “99%” of the traffic to and from the site.
Board member Lyle Nolan was particularly underwhelmed by this proposal, saying, “Someone should be embarrassed for even proposing this as a project.” Nolan noted that a “dirt road along a pond is a bad place to bring trucks,” and that the road would not only need changes to handle the weight, but would also need either a second lane or turnouts to ensure that drivers wouldn’t be forced to back hundreds of feet up the road if another vehicle is encountered. Utility lines would also likely run through that area. Nolan also observed that this property is adjacent to school athletic fields.
There is some history of controversial projects proposed for this site; in 2014 the revelation that a Town sewage treatment plant was being considered generated a firestorm of community input dubbed “sewergate” because a Town Council member was also the landowner. Town Council meetings at the time became increasingly tense, with elected officials sometimes interrupting and arguing with residents speaking during public comment, or vilifying each other on camera.
Both Nolan and Amanda Gotto were clear that it could be extremely difficult to secure a wetlands permit, given the number of incursions they observed on the concept plan. Gillespie characterized it as the least possible disturbance, but board member Matt DiDonna said that perhaps it just isn’t “feasible” to put this kind of facility on the site.
Amy Cohen, however, reminded other board members that this is a light industrial zone. “We all care about wetlands,” Cohen said, but “we want industry” as well. “Possibly, it’s really not that bad.”
“It actually goes through a pond,” said Gotto of the proposed driveway.
As this is was just a conceptual review, it remains to be seen what the proposal will look like when and if it’s brought forth in a formal application.