The Putnam Examiner

Split Southeast Town Board Approves Crossroads Rezoning

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By Neal Rentz 

A split Southeast Town Board approved rezoning for the proposed Crossroads 312 retail and hotel project during a special meeting on Feb. 26, a defining vote for a proposal that has proved to be wildly controversial, especially in recent months.

Voting to amend Chapter 138 of the town code were Councilmen Edwin Alvarez and Robert Cullen and Councilwoman Liz Hudak. Supervisor Tony Hay voted against the resolution and Councilwoman Lynne Eckardt, who did not attend the meeting, in a statement read by Hay, said she would have voted against the rezoning.

The resolution changed the zoning on the parcel from RC (rural commercial) to HC1 (highway commercial).

The Crossroads 312 development plans to create 143,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space with a 100-room hotel situated on 50 acres of land between NYS Route 312 and Interstate 84. The residents that have supported the project voiced their desire to shop at big chain stores locally and believed the development would create jobs and lower taxes, while residents against the proposal have said they do not want to see the character of the town changed and expressed concerns over increased traffic, visibility pollution and the menial jobs it would produce, while being skeptical of the lower taxes promised by the development team.

The project was originally proposed to cover nearly six acres on Route 312 by Crossroads 312 LLC and JPH Development Corp. in August 2009.

Alvarez said he supported the rezoning because the project would add many positive aspects to the town. The development would be located “in an appropriate location,” he said.

Crossroads would generate additional tax revenue in both the town and Putnam County, Alvarez said.

“The project would benefit the town,” Alvarez said.

Cullen said the current smaller Crossroads concept was an improvement of previous plans. “The project has gone through at least three designs,” he said.

Crossroads would provide additional jobs and tax revenues, Cullen added.

Hudak said she supported the rezoning because “Putnam County needs a hotel” and the additional commercial development the Crossroads project would generate. The property, located near two major highways, was an appropriate site for the proposed development, she said.

Hay said he could not support the rezoning because it “sets a very bad precedent” in town. Other owners of property zoned RC would seek to have their zoning changed to RC1 in the future, he said.

Hay said he was concerned that with the rezoning the developer may decide in the future seek to build commercial development that was not a hotel. Hay called on the developer to build a hotel within a decade and if they did not, donate the land where the hotel is currently being proposed to the town for parkland.

Eckardt in her statement read during the meeting stated the project would negatively “impact the quality of life for many Southeast residents.”

Crossroads would be “far from an economic silver bullet” for the town, Eckardt stated.

Two residents spoke against the rezoning and two others supported it.

Ann Fanizzi said one of several issues she had with the rezoning was that the owners of property located near Tilly Foster Farm zoned RC would seek to have their land rezoned and put up commercial development in that area.

Samantha Jacobs, president of Residents for Responsible Development in Southeast, said she was skeptical about the economic and tax benefits those in favor of Crossroads have said it would generate. Jacobs also said she did not know how the developers came up with their estimate that Southeast residents would have their property taxes reduced by $860 a year if the development was constructed.

Tim O’Brien said Crossroads would generate additional tax revenues and jobs and he supported it.

Another Crossroads supporter, Ed Coke from Carpenter Union Local 279, said many of his union’s members travel to New York City from the local area to work and the project would create several jobs close to their homes.

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