Proposals For Large Warehouse Projects Weigh On Town Planners In Town Of Orangetown

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Developer Gabe Alexander Wants To Construct Two Warehouses Totaling 543,000 Square Feet On Industrial Zoned Land Close To Clausland Mountain On South Greenbush Road

By Tina Traster

Once again, the Town of Orangetown is being asked to approve a large warehouse proposal that raises thorny issues over truck traffic and environmental impact in the Route 303 corridor.

The proposed plan, which has been before the Orangetown Planning Board since 2019, calls for the construction of two warehouses totaling 543,000 square-feet on two adjoining parcels at 155 and 125 South Greenbush Road. Developer Gabe Alexander of Alexander Properties of New City plans to expand a warehouse building and construct a second warehouse. The 12-acre parcel at 155 Greenbush Road is a wooded tract.

Concerns have been raised by neighbors, the town, and county planners over the possibility of increased truck traffic, loss of permeable land, adverse impact on the flood-prone Sparkill Creek, and proximity to Clausland Mountain State Park. The eastern boundary of the proposed development abuts Clausland Mountain State Park.

Alexander plans to demolish a single-story office building and construct a 147,000 square-foot addition along the west side of an existing 268,000 square-foot warehouse (a total of 415,000 square feet) on 24.5 acres in the LI (light industrial) zone. Also, the developer intends to build a 128,000 square-foot warehouse on nearly 12 acres of adjacent vacant wooded land, also in the LI zoning district.

The developer’s traffic reports indicate the elimination of the office building and the termination of a lease the developer has with a bus company will reduce traffic. However, the Town of Orangetown has hired AKRF to undertake a planning review, and to subcontract to an independent party to perform a new traffic study.

The traffic issue expands beyond this one project, as the Route 303 corridor and its Overlay District, has become a magnet for warehouse development. The town is still considering a plan that calls for a 175,760 square-foot warehouse to be built on a 14-acre parcel at 13 and 21 Mountain View Avenue and 516 Route 303.

The town in 2021 also greenlighted the 220,998-square-foot FedEx warehouse distribution center at 622 Route 303, which is also located in the Route 303 Overlay District.

Alexander has told the town he has a “Letter of Intent” from the current tenant, which stores packaging materials, to expand. He has represented that both buildings would be part of that tenant’s expansion plans.

Neighbors in the immediate vicinity of the warehouse have been pushing back on the proposal since it was introduced in late 2019. Eric Bosley, who owns the house at 220 South Greenbush Road with his wife, relocated to Nyack and rent their house because of truck traffic. Barry and Margie Seitles sold their house at 210 South Greenbush Road to a couple from the New York City. Duilio and Lilly Rinchiera, who live at 231 South Greenbush Road, continue to fight the project.

But opposition to the proposal is growing among others in Orangetown who are worried about the impacts of warehousing and the rapidly increasing volume of truck traffic on state and local roads.

CUPON, which represents neighbors’ concerns over development town-wide, has weighed in on the proposal.

“As you know, the town is very close to approving the Comprehensive Plan that will shape the development of this town into the next generation,” said CUPON’s Elizabeth Dudley, in an email to the Orangetown Town Board. “We strongly suggest that the Planning Board not approve any large projects until this plan is in place and the 303 corridor Overlay is updated. To approve this project sets a precedent when considering the impact to our comprehensive plan.”

In her letter, Dudley points out that more than 55 percent of residents in a survey for the Comprehensive Plan said that traffic, particularly truck traffic, has negatively impacted quality of life in the town.

“What will adding 96 loading docks do to an intersection,” said Dudley, referring to both the South Greenbush and Mountain View Avenue warehouse proposals. “The intersection is already a Grade D by New York State.”

CUPON has collected more than 2,050 signatures on a petition to oppose the project.

Alexander’s proposal is an “as-of-right,” meaning the developer does not need a use variance, though the project does call for height and parking variances because of the proximity of the two structures. The developer would also need permission from the Zoning Board of Appeals if it wanted to operate trucks between the hours of 11:00pm and 6:00am.

The plan proposes 56 open loading docks, which could accommodate up to hundreds of trucks daily and 40-foot ceiling heights.

Eric Bosley, who objects to the proposal, said the warehouse developer “is not a good neighbor.” He said truck traffic going north constantly on Greenbush Road is prohibited, and there is no enforcement from the town.

Neighbors are hoping the town will give the project a positive declaration on SEQRA.

The County Planning Board has weighed in with concerns over storm water runoff draining into the Sparkill Creek and encroachment into Federal wetlands that border the tributary. The report also states that “the eastern portion of the…site is part of, and adjacent to, a Significant Biodiversity Area.” SBAs are landscapes in the Hudson River Estuary that have significant habitat.

Bosley says he’s concerned the proposed project, if built, will obscure the viewshed of Clausland Mountain.

“If you’re coming down Route 303 and you turn left onto Mountainview Avenue, the Tappan Zee Rock and Clausland Mountain are right in front of you,” he said.  “But the development will mean a 40-foot wall as far as you can see to the north. The two complexes will be a quarter mile long. It would obstruct the view forever.”