RCBJ-Audible (Listen For Free)
Applicant Lowered Height On Proposed Building; Eliminates Need To Go To Zoning Board of Appeals
By Tina Traster
A developer proposing to build a huge warehouse in Valley Cottage off Route 303 has come up with an amended plan after twice being told by the Town of Clarkstown Planning Board that the project was problematic in terms of traffic and scale.
In an effort to address the Board’s concerns, Lincoln Equities Group of Rutherford, NJ, the landowner/developer that wants to build a 220,000 square-foot distribution warehouse on a 20-acre parcel it owns at Executive Corporate Park on Route 303, has lowered the building’s height, decreased the number of bays, and has agreed to work with New York State Department of Transportation to make improvements to the Five-Corners intersection at Lake Road and Route 303 in Valley Cottage.
The changes were proposed at Clarkstown’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) on Wednesday.
By lowering the height of the building from 43 feet to 40 feet, which it had been asked to do by the Planning Board, the applicant has eliminated the need to obtain a height variance from the Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals. The height restrictions for the zone are 40 feet. Presumably the applicant recognized this hurdle, though at past Planning Board meetings it had insisted that this height was necessary for the newest generation of distribution center structures.
Lincoln Equities had told the board in late April that the height was necessary for modern racking standards, and that with an increase in commercial rents and higher material costs, tenants are looking to maximize vertical space.
Board members have told the applicant it is difficult to gauge the impact without an understanding of what tenant might occupy the site. Lance Bergstein, managing director of development and acquisitions for Lincoln Equities, said the landlord did not have a particular tenant planned for the site, but a tenant in the executive park who preferred to remain anonymous said Amazon is the prospective tenant, and that a previously tapped potential tenant was a Target distribution center.
The developer has also proposed to reduce the number of dock doors from 54 to 34, and to eliminate the 21 knock-out doors. At the previous Planning Board, the applicant told the board it was planning knock-out doors, which would allow for carving out doors to expand the distribution center down the road. Knock-out doors are framed outlines set in nine-inch-thick walls of concrete that are a map for future cutouts in the building if more truck berths are needed.
To address concerns about the project’s viewshed, the developers have told the town they would land-bank several parking areas to provide additional green space and add evergreen landscaping around the east and north perimeters of the property.
The developer is planning on dedicating a parcel of land to the Town of Clarkstown located to the north of Executive Boulevard which would remain “forever green.”
The application is a Type-1 SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act), which means it should be subject to a full environmental review before the Planning Board. Environmental issues for the Board to consider might include noise from a 24/7 operation, diesel exhaust and the release of particulate matter from idling and operating trucks, air quality monitoring, and the potential restriction on operating hours.
There has been much dispute over traffic reports that say Route 303 and nearby roads will not be impacted versus commonsense perceptions that adding trucks to the busy highway could be problematic in terms of safety, congestion, air quality and noise.
It remains unclear as to whether the changes will reduce the traffic projections. The applicant is asking for 41 trailer parking spaces.
The developers told TAC they would agree to work with NYS DOT to make improvements to the Five-Corners intersection at Lake Road and Route 303 in Valley Cottage. The improvements include a grid-smart camera and a smart/adaptive signal to allow DOT to adjust the timing of the stoplights located there, as well as a proposal to allow right turns on red at that intersection to facilitate the flow of traffic off Route 303 onto Lake Road.
The applicant says the project is a “standard warehouse” but on Lincoln Equities website, the yet-to-be-built facility is being marketed as a “distribution warehouse.” Additionally, Lincoln Equities has applied to the Rockland County Industrial Development Agency for mortgage tax abatement, sales tax abatement, and a pilot tax program that would give them multiple tax breaks. In that application, Lincoln calls its project a “modern warehouse facility for warehousing or distribution.” To date, Lincoln Equities has been approved for a sales tax exemption up to $2.5 million and an exemption for mortgage recording taxes totaling $388,500. They’re also negotiating with town, county, and school districts for a payment in lieu of taxes.
The project is scheduled for a public hearing on June 22nd before the Planning Board.