A planned 44,400-square-foot addition to packaging manufacturer Viking Industries’ facility at 89 South Ohioville Road inched forward Monday, January 24 when the New Paltz Town Planning Board set a public hearing for the project at its next virtual meeting February 14,. at 7 p.m.
The board decided unanimously to set the public hearing after spending nearly an hour discussing the project’s landscaping and screening, lighting and the proposed project’s effect on wildlife habitats nearby.
Caren LoBrutto, representing the project for LaBella Associates, described the landscaping plan after town engineer Andy Willingham suggested mixing oak trees with spruce to give the landscaping variety.
She said present plans call for 12 14-foot Norway Spruces and that the applicants were not opposed to mixing in oak trees.
The board also questioned a fence that will screen projects from several homes at its south end.
LoBrutto said the fence is proposed to be six-feet tall and it could either be white or natural cedar color.
The project also has to receive several variances from the Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals and that can’t happen until the Planning Board does SEQRA.
As for lighting, LoBrutto said it will be dark sky compliant LED lighting and this includes replacing existing lights at the southern end to bring them into dark sky compliance, she said.
“This can affect many things, if they are downward directed and do they have anti-glare lower Kelvin color,” board member Jane Schanberg noted. “The higher Kelvin are very white, while the softer lower Kelvin lights are more yellow”
LoBrutto said they plan to use 3000 Kelvin lights and that’s down from the 4,000-5,000 Kelvin lights at the existing facility.
She said two light poles will also be consolidated into one and that should help reduce glare for people on South Ohioville Road.
Schanberg also questioned if all the lights need to be on all night, which LoBrutto said the applicants could be open to seeing which lights are most pertinent for night-time security.
When asked if anything could be shifted, LoBrutto said this is pretty much where the expansion could go as the facility is hemmed in by state Department of Environmental Conservation wetlands on one and a transmission corridor and telecommunications facility on the other.
The board also discussed the effect of noise from the facility on neighbors.
Planning Board chair Adele Ruger said there are better ways to address noise than trees alone and she suggested perhaps installing acoustics in the fence.
Schanberg questions if building the fence out of different material like freeway sound walls would better help insulate the noise.
Noise travels line of sight, LoBrutto noted, and she said that’s why they have high walls along freeways. She added she hasn’t seen instances of such walls being placed around industrial projects
Willingham said even conventional wooden fences can be pretty good at knocking down noise so long as they do not have spaces. He said a fake membrane sandwich inside could further deafen noise.
Rich Croce, also representing the project, said the expansion will actually reduce noise in the future by allowing Viking to move a “cyclone” machine that bails corrugated cardboard scraps for recycling indoors from its present location on the roof of the plant. “This should make a big dent in the amount of noise,” Croce said.
The present machinery uses forced air to process the material making a vacuum cleaner like sound, he said.
He estimated that Viking will spend $1 million extra to bring this equipment inside because they had to raise the roof in the expansion.
The board then expressed concern over idling trucks.
Croce said the loading docks will close at 9 p.m., but incoming deliveries will start at 7 a.m. with outgoing trucks leaving the site, which is to feature four new loading docks, as early as 5 a.m.
Croce said idling by truckers is prohibited by Viking and it will not be tolerated. “Our staff go out and make sure people aren’t doing that,” he asserted.
Croce said the trucks serving the facility don’t have back-up beepers after Gotto questioned if residents nearby would have to endure near constant beeping. ‘That beep, beep drives me nuts, especially at 5 a.m.,” Gotto commented.
Wildlife was also a key concern brought up by the board, particularly in regards to the project’s effect on the Indiana Bat and bog turtle. Willingham noted that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers the site a habitat for both the Indiana bat and bog turtle. LoBrutto said the applicants have had a licensed bog turtle surveyor come out to the site and they didn’t find any habitats in the path of the project.
LoBrutto said Viking is in a rush to expand the facility to keep up with sky-high demand for packaging as online shopping has exploded in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. LoBrutto said they hope to cut down 19 trees to make way for construction to begin before bat season in the spring. She noted this would be the only way for them to finish the project on a November deadline.
Planning Board attorney Rick Golden cautioned that the applicant would have to engage an environmental expert and they may be required to interact with DEC.
“They’re not allowed to start tree removal until site plan approval,” he said. But in some cases that could be bypassed by the building inspector.
Board member Lyle Nolan suggested that Viking should reach out to the building inspector to see if they grant approval to remove the trees.
Golden said he’d like to see a written agreement for the trees to be replanted should the project not come to fruition.
As for next steps for the board, Ruger suggested board members go out and take a look at the site.
“I think that would be helpful,” Gotto said.
Information for attending the public hearing online can be found at https://www.townofnewpaltz.org/planning-board.