Proposed Parking Lot Includes Revenue-Sharing with Southeast

MTAFollowing a proposal from the MTA regarding the possible creation of a new 500-space parking lot for the Southeast train station, a private company has come forward with a proposal of its own to build a 500-plus parking lot that would service commuters who use the train.

Representing WB New York LLC, the entity that owns acreage near the Southeast train station, consultant Richard Levien presented the proposal to the Southeast Town Board at its Thursday, July 12 meeting.

The plan is for a 30.8 acre parcel of land that lies to the south of the Kohl’s Shopping Center and north of Independence Way to be donated to the Town of Southeast. The private company would then construct a parking lot on 6.7 acres and share a percentage of the annual revenues with the town over the course of a 30-year private-public partnership.

Levien said there was a great need for additional parking at the train station and that there were no available parking permits.

“I think they are handed from family to family,” he said, noting that the last time he checked the numbers, there were more than 400 people on the waiting list to request a parking permit.

He also said that some commuters had to walk a long distance from some of the spots that now exist.

“If you park in the last parking lot, you have ¾  of a mile to walk to the railroad station in rain, snow  and sleet,” Levien said.

With this proposal, Levien said the private company would pay for the construction, operational and maintenance costs of a 535-space parking lot. He said the town would decide what to do with the remaining acreage and that the developer could help the town to possibly develop a passive park.

The parking lot would be serviced by a shuttle bus that would pick up and drop off commuters between the hours of 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. and that it would be patrolled 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by security. Levien also said the parking lot would have services including restrooms accessed by key codes, ATMs and vending machines.

“We are trying to give parkers upgraded service,” he said.

Levien said the proposed cost of a permit for an individually reserved spot would be $200 per month, or $9.23 a day.

If the 30.8 acres, including the land on which the parking lot was built, was donated to the town, it would come off of the local tax rolls.

Currently that property is paying an estimated $14,000 in property tax.

Southeast Town Assessor Laurie Bell, who was present at the meeting last week, said that after the project was built out, based on rough estimates and if the land stayed on the tax rolls, the taxes on the property would rise to approximately between $30,000 and $40,000 annually.

If the town did agree to accept the donation of the land and enter into a public-private partnership to receive 15 percent of revenues, the Town of Southeast could expect to yield $238,000 annually during the first years of the agreement, rising to $440,000 annually towards the end of the 30-year agreement, Levien said.

Peter Bell spoke during public comments and suggested the plan should be amended to keep the 6.7 acres on which the parking lot stood private, so that property taxes could still be collected on it. The town could then still participate in revenue sharing and accept the donation of the remaining open space.

With the similar proposal from the MTA, as well as the proposed hotel-retail Crossroads project in close proximity, Councilwoman Elizabeth Hudak expressed concerns regarding the traffic impact on Independence Way that leads to the intersection of Route 312 and Interstate 84.

During the meeting, Town Supervisor Tony Hay said that the MTA proposal, as it is a public entity, may not be subject to environmental impact reviews.

In comparison, Levien told the town board that the project he was proposing would have to go through such a review process that would include a study on the impact on traffic in the area.

When asked, Levien said the developer was ready to move forward with the project, regardless of whether or not MTA moved ahead on its proposal, but that he didn’t believe the MTA project was going to come to pass.

Levien said that is because the MTA proposal includes a new interchange be constructed for Interstate-84 and he did not believe there was public funding for that now, or heading many years into the future. In addition, Levien said he believed there would be concerns regarding the watershed with the MTA proposal.

Last week’s presentation was only an introduction to the proposal and Levien is expected to appear again in front of the Southeast Town Board in the coming weeks to answer questions and to seek a memorandum of agreement regarding the town’s possible interest in the project.