By Neal Rentz
With the public hearing process concluded earlier this summer, it was time for the Southeast planning board to address a controversial proposal to create a logistics center that would be located off Route 312.
The board discussed the project’s draft environmental impact statement and a lot line adjustment that would be needed for the state Department of Transportation to make road improvements in the area.
Northeast Interstate Logistics is seeking town board and planning board approvals for its proposed 100,000 million square foot center on a roughly 328-acre site.
The project, which would essentially be a distribution center, located between Route 312 and Pugsley Road, needs the town board to include the use of a logistics center into the zoning code that the zoning code doesn’t currently address. There would be four buildings on the land once it’s developed with the closest warehouse 950 feet from Route 312.
Town approvals were previously provided for a mixed used development on the property, which would have included the construction of 143 homes. The developer has the right to create the mixed use development through 2020.
Barrett Road would need to be privatized and the town would need to send a letter to the state department of transportation requesting Puglsey Road be an access highway support.
Though public comments were not accepted at the meeting, several residents came to the meeting with “Vote No” signs.
Dan Richmond, an attorney representing the developer, said the project includes working with the DOT to make significant improvements to the intersection of Route 312 and Puglsey Road, with potentially a roundabout. The DOT has told representatives of the developer a lot line adjustment at 51 Pugsley Rd. that would be needed for the road project. If the project was not approved by the town the lot line adjustment would not be used, Richmond said. For the DOT the estimated eight to 12-month approval process to start the lot line adjustment would need to be approved by the planning board, Richmond said.
Planning board member Daniel Armstrong said if the lot line adjustment was approved a non-conforming lot would be created. Even though he understood the purpose of the proposal of the lot line change, Armstrong said the planning board did not have the authority to create a non-conforming lot without a Zoning Board of Appeals variance.
Armstrong said he was concerned that if the planning board approved the lot line adjustment it would be “prejudicing ourselves” and would be legally commenting the town to approving the project itself. If the lot line was approved and the project overall was not approved the town could face a lawsuit, he said.
Richmond told Armstrong that the lot line change would not commit the planning board to approve the project. If the lot line adjust was approved by the planning board at the end of the process, “This delays the project by almost a year,” he said.
“We don’t need this to be done today,” Armstrong replied.
Richmond said if the lot line adjustment was approved, “We have no expectations” that it would commit the planning board to approve the project.
The planning board voted 4-2 to approve a negative declaration on the lot line adjustment, meaning a potentially lengthy environmental review of the proposal would not be needed, with Armstrong abstaining and David Rush and Michael Hecht voting against it.
The planning board also discussed the project’s DEIS last week.
Board chairman Tom LaPerch said there has been much public input on the DEIS since the oral comment period was closed in July. The planning board has received 135 letters and emails about the DEIS.
LaPerch said comments made by planning board members at the meeting would be addressed by the developer in the final environmental impact statement.
Rich Pearson of JMC Site Development Consultants said his client had agreed to make changes to the project based on public comments. “We look forward to public comments,” Pearson said,
Pearson said the developer has heard concerns expressed the additional traffic the project would generate. A two-lane road in both directions in the area is being proposed in the revised plans, he said.
Planning board member Jack Gress said the applicant had the right to go forward with the project, but the FEIS must address comments made by the public. The developer has made positive changes to the proposal, including reducing the impact of lighting in the area, Gress said. “I don’t think it’s going to be any problem,” he said,
Gress said the property where the development would be built should be connected by a new entrance to Route 84 off Simpson Road, Gress said.
Planning board member Eric Larca said he want the FEIS to include information on the type of vehicles that would use the site once it is constructed. Larca said he did not understand why the project required construction of four buildings.
Armstrong said, “My issue with this project from day one has been traffic” and he was not satisfied with proposals from the applicant to reduce the traffic impact of the project.
Rush said the most important issue regarding the project is traffic on Route 312.
“Route 312, the way it is now has outlived its functionality,” Rush said. “It’s just going to get more traffic.”
The development must be adequately screened from neighboring homes, Rush said.
LaPerch said the DOT was opposed to a new exit to Route 84, but he did not get a good answer for its opposition.
LaPerch said there was discussion of having trucks come to the site earlier on the road to help mitigate traffic.
The planning board needed comments from local first responders about the project, LaPerch said. “I need to understand that,” he said.
Town Planner Ashley Ley said the planning board will have the opportunity to make changes to the FEIS before accepting it.