Clarkstown Is Business Friendly, But At What Cost?

Government Industry

Vitane Pharmaceuticals Granted Variances After Four-Year Effort To Expand

By Tina Traster

Talk about a cliff hanger.

Two weeks ago, Clarkstown’s Zoning Board of Appeals unilaterally communicated its displeasure over the requested expansion of a pharmaceutical factory in Clarkstown. The board didn’t take an official position at the March meeting but it was clear its members thought the proposal to double the size of the building was troubling to the abutting residential neighborhood in Congers.

Monday night, in a 4-2 vote, the same board shocked the resident-packed room when it granted variances to Vitane Pharmaceuticals Inc. for its expansion. The company returned with a couple of compromises but not the one that would have appeased those who’ve been fighting the expansion for nearly four years. The company lowered the height of its proposed building from 40 feet to 35 feet, and promised to plant faster-growing evergreens to screen its property from neighbors on Wells Avenue.

But it did not eliminate the 6,300-square-foot addition on the southern side of the building which abuts the residential district.

It is difficult to say what won the day for the company’s protracted four-year journey through the town’s vigorous planning and zoning process because the issue was not black and white.

However, one does wonder if Vitane’s attorney, Brian Quinn, pulled enough members over the line when he turned his attention away from the details of the project and focused on Clarkstown’s temperament toward the needs for growing businesses.

I had to think about it.

Somewhat nonplussed, he told the board he’d been recently asked by a client ‘if Clarkstown is business friendly’?’ Maybe he had. Maybe it was a tactical flourish. Either way, it was a skilled setup. He paused, and said, “I had to think about it.”

Clarkstown, like every suburban town, is under immense pressure to generate ratables. ZBA members need to balance the interests of residents and growing businesses, and an application like this one is especially difficult when one must pit a business’s need to grow against the desire of a community to stem the growth of a structure, and potentially noise or truck traffic.

Ultimately, residents were unable to prove Vitane is the source of trucks that inadvertently wander onto their residential streets or whether the company’s growth would bring unwanted noise or odors.

And Quinn may have pushed the needle when he said “the applicant is ready to sell the building.” And added, “that leads me to think about just how business-friendly Clarkstown is.”

Vitane Pharmaceutical Inc., the American arm of an international Dubai-based company with plants in Europe and India, packages and distributes nutraceuticals and over-the-counter drugs to more than 50 countries. The company wants to expand its plant to include manufacturing on site.

Vitane bought the one-story, 17,269 square-foot building at 125 Wells Avenue in Congers’ 60-acre industrial area known as Brenner Corporate Park 11 years ago. The company plans to expand to more than 35,000 square feet by adding extensions to both the south and the north of its footprint. The building extensions would stand 35-feet high, compared to the existing 21-foot high building. The application also requested 77 parking spaces, down from the required 94, and to shrink each space from 10 feet to nine-feet wide.

Vitane spent more than $4 million to buy the building, and another $1 million to renovate and qualify the building for FDA regulations. Plans for the expansion include distribution to the domestic market.  The company would grow its workforce from 50 to 70. New jobs created would include manufacturing operators, warehouse and lab technicians.

On the southern side, which is closest to the residences, the company needed 80 feet between its building and the lot line. The proposed 6,300-square-foot addition would shrink the required 80 feet to 45 feet. On the northern side, where the company wants to add 12,000-square feet, it’s looking to extend 14 feet into the 60-foot setback.

The company plans to spend more than $5 million to complete the expansion, and another $2 million to purchase equipment.

see also:

Battle Lines Drawn in Vitane Pharmaceuticals’ Fight to Remain in Clarkstown