“I’m surrounded by warehouses,” said Montgomery resident Tom Weber. “The trucking industry in this neck of the woods is getting horrendous and it’s going to get even worse.”
Weber was one of many residents to voice concerns about ongoing warehouse issues at the regular Montgomery town board meeting Oct. 7. He added that warehouse applicants promise the town everything and at first “everything looks good on paper, but then when you say yes, the eraser comes out and this gets changed and that gets changed.”
Town resident Karina Tipton asked the board to revoke RDM’s waiver from the warehouse moratorium based on their “inaccurate presentation” to the town board that did not include the parking lot for 300 tractor trailers that now appears in their plans. Originally the plans entailed only the two large warehouses at Neelytown Road and Beaver Dam Road. Tipton said it would have a significant impact on the residential community and the rest of the town.
“The fact that RDM went ahead and presented this in front of the planning board after sending you something entirely different for the public hearing process, I find it to be a gross negligent oversight at best, and disrespectful at worst,” said Tipton.
She argued that if the town board were to reject the project’s moratorium waiver, it would give the town planning board a chance to ask RDM to resubmit their application and force the applicant to restart the SEQRA timelines.
“I’m asking you to stick up for this town against this giant,” said Tipton. “I’m tired of Montgomery being taken advantage of.”
While the board did not address the issue during the board meeting, other residents added their voices to Tipton’s.
“They’ve done nothing with this property in 30 years,” said town resident Susan Froehlich. “They haven’t mowed a thing, they haven’t cleared a tree, and now we’re going to give them what they want because of their hardship? What hardship? You’ve had 30 years and you’ve done nothing. That’s not our problem as residents—we deserve better.”
Montgomery resident Don Berger said that the two things he consistently hears from applicants during the process is that they’re good neighbors and their business will have no impact on the community.
“Well, we’re finding out now that perhaps they’re not good neighbors and this is a huge impact to our communities,” said Berger.
Berger spoke of his frustration that Medline has gone to the Supreme Court, asking for their assessed value to be reduced 81 percent.
“I think this board, the planning board, and particularly the IDA board, have to really rethink how they approve things,” Berger said, noting how Medline promised for well over a year that they would be good for the town. “I think it’s disgusting and I don’t call them a good neighbor. I’m really tired of all these corporations coming here and telling us how good they are to us.”
“I don’t like that the town is giving itself away, giving the landscape away to these warehouses,” agreed Daniel Atonna, another town resident. “I’m sick of seeing companies walk all over our town. I’ve lived here and worked here for ten years. I love this town but it really makes me think about my future here when I see all these changes.”
Atonna said the companies come in to make some money, grab a tax break and then they want to get out of town.
“They don’t care about this town, so please, stand up for the people who do,” Atonna urged the board.
Tipton noted that the comprehensive plan has been updated, but the zoning codes haven’t and there still has not been a comprehensive look taken at the traffic impacts in the town. Now more warehouses are coming to the neighboring town of Hamptonburgh, just a few miles from the RDM warehouse site.
“We have more warehouses and more traffic across this entire region and we don’t have a comprehensive understanding of how that’s going to impact the people that live and work in this town already,” said Tipton. “Your decisions have consequences and I’m asking you to take immediate action to protect the town.”
Road weight limit law: Targeting one of the issues created by the proliferation of warehouses, the town board held a public hearing that same evening for a proposed local law that would replace the current town ordinance for weight limits on town roads that dates back to 1972.
“It’s nice to have these local laws on the books and to change them and to create it as a deterrent for certain trucks to be on local roads that shouldn’t be, but we also need to be able to enforce those laws,” said Supervisor Brian Maher.
Maher explained that the town police department needs more credentials in order to enforce some of the tickets, so in the meantime they are working with outside agencies for enforcement. After being advised that Walden has inspectors, he said he would give them a call and possibly work out an inter-municipal agreement.
“But eventually we want our own town police department to be able to do the enforcement,” said Maher. “That’s something we’ve been working on for about 6-8 months.”
“I appreciate all your hard work. It’s a constant problem with the oversized trucks,” said resident Mary McCabe.
The proposed local law is only for town roads, as the town does not have authority to pass laws for village roads. It was pointed out however, that most vehicles will have to travel on town roads to reach the village roads. Residents wanting to change the limits in one of the villages would have to approach their village board.
Tipton said she was in favor of the law and appreciated the effort to “bring uniformity to our town streets” but thinks the town needs a comprehensive street condition survey to be able to prove damage to town streets in the future by violators of the law.
“Personally I think there’s a wave here, or concern about particular projects and you are going to make a tidal wave that is going to affect a lot of other people, maybe unintended,” said town resident Mark Hoyt. “I think that’s where the verbiage of the law gets very important.”
Hoyt thinks the weight limit is too restrictive.
“I think you’re going to make a lot of people criminals. I don’t know that people understand that 10,000 pounds really is not that much,” said Hoyt, explaining that farmers and landscapers in the town may not be able to meet that limit when transporting equipment.
Hoyt also pointed out that changing the limits may end up funneling traffic to the state and county roads which run through the hearts of the three villages.
“That’s exactly what the village of Montgomery doesn’t want to see,” said resident Dan Byam. “All these tractor trailers and larger vehicles—there’s too many now.”
Byam, who was formerly employed with the NYSDOT, proposed that the town and village look into having the state abandon the section of Route 211 in the village of Montgomery between County Route 416 and State Route 17K. Then the village or town law would apply, not the state weight limits.
“You won’t have tractor trailers going through the village anymore, or large vehicles. Because we can control it. We can’t control it now, and it’s going to get worse,” Byam said, referring to the expected increase of traffic caused by the law. “Please, for the sake of the people in the Village of Montgomery, please take over that portion of the road.”
Supervisor Maher said he would look into the option.
The law also includes exemptions for local delivery and the penalties for offenses have been increased. The first offense could carry a $500 fine, and up to $2,000 for subsequent offenses within a five year period.
Town resident Sylvie Rainaldi stated she was very much in support of the proposed local law, but recommended a few changes including adding definitions of “local delivery” and “local business.”
She also asked if the law would have any impact on the planning board, pointing out that if a potential project wants to come in, but every truck they have will be over the weight limit, then she believes they should have to prove some hardship or be denied. The board did not confirm that.
“There would be an expectation for the town residents, based on my conversations with them, that if this law gets passed, it would somehow protect them from future businesses building on their roads that have overweight trucks—and it would absolutely not protect them,” Rainaldi concluded.
The town board agreed to keep the public hearing open and look into the issues raised by the comments. The next date will be Nov. 18 at 6:45 p.m.
Annexation: The board also addressed the proposed annexation with the Village of Montgomery. A joint public hearing with the two municipalities was held on Sept. 21. At that time, the village took lead agency under SEQRA and approved the annexation petition, however the town board must also approve the application.
“The reason I’m for it is because the Village of Montgomery is for it and it’s going to be a tax asset to them,” said Councilwoman Sherry Melick.
Meanwhile, residents spoke against the move, pointing out that the real reason for the annexation was because the town’s planning board and zoning board had already denied the applicant.
“So now this company is trying to have it annexed into the village of Montgomery so they can change their laws to then make it the same thing that they didn’t get from the town of Montgomery,” said Rainaldi.
Rainaldi noted that the applicant’s argument for the annexation was to access the village’s water and sewer, but they could have simply applied to be an outside user.
“I think that it’s trying to go around your current zoning laws and also your future zoning laws, because my understanding from the comprehensive plan is that this piece of property would never be appropriate for a large-scale construction storage site. That it would be high tech, based on the comprehensive plan,” said Rainaldi. “So I would just like to voice that I’m not in support of this annexation going through.”
Supervisor Maher stated that the reason why he liked the annexation was because it “cleans up the gateway into the Village of Montgomery.”
“To me that’s a huge value and that’s a big reason why I would support the annexation moving forward,” said Supervisor Maher.
“I completely agree with moving the location of that business, I like keeping the business in the town of Montgomery,” said Councilwoman Kristen Brown. “But I don’t like [that] they circumvented the process.”
The annexation was approved with a vote of 3-1, with Councilwoman Brown voting against the move.
In other business, the board accepted the retirement of Paula Balogh, who has served the town’s court since 1998 and has been chief court clerk since 2009.
The board accepted the resignation of Anna O’Donnell from the town’s highway department so that they could subsequently hire her for the full-time court clerk position vacated by Balogh.
The board also set a public hearing for the comprehensive plan recommendation and zoning update for Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m. and the public hearing for special districts for the annual budget on Nov. 4 at 6:30 p.m.