The Town of Montgomery planning board and the developers of Real Deal Management’s warehouse, a project proposed for Bracken Road, draw even closer to moving forward as both parties overview the warehouse’s plans and concerns.
Justin Ferrazzano, senior project manager of Collier’s Engineering and Design, opened the hearing and provided a brief update on the project’s buffering and their collaboration with Karen Arent, or KALA, the town’s landscape architect.
“Since the last time we appeared, the last open item was the buffering compliance. So we’ve been working, as directed by the board, with KALA on that issue,” Ferrazzano said. “We had some back and forth, we made some ancillary submissions, and at this point, we feel that item is also closed.”
Ferrazzano also requested that the board close the public hearing so that the applicant and developers can finalize the project’s negative declaration and resolution.
“We are here tonight to ask to proceed forward, we would like to close the public hearing if possible. We would like to also move forward on the neg dec and resolution if possible,” Ferrazzano said.
Jay Beaumont, the planning board’s vice chairman who filled in for Chairman Fred Reichle’s absence, read a letter from Matthew Hunt, chief of the Coldenham Fire Department, who expressed concerns for the project’s fire safety and collapse zoning.
“The proposed warehouse project for 31 Barron Road still poses safety risks that have been addressed by the fire department on numerous occasions,” Hunt wrote. “The one outstanding issue that is of the utmost concern is the lack of a collapse zone or etiquette for effective fire operations around the structure.”
Beaumont noted that the board cannot halt the project based on these concerns, but asserted that the fire department can devise a plan to assess the project’s fire safety challenges.
“We, the planning board, don’t have the power to stop the project because of this issue,” Beaumont said. “The fire company prepares a plan for every building that they have in the district as to how they’re going to fight that fire, and they’ll just have to take into consideration the letter that they wrote with those considerations in play.”
Beaumont also noted that the board is currently working on the project’s negative declaration and resolution draft, including some concerns that the developers need to address.
“We and our consultants are working on the neg dec and the resolution; 18 pages and the resolution’s not much shorter. And so we have several items that we need to talk about here,” he said.
During public comment, resident John Brown raised his disapproval of the project’s current state and argued that the warehouse, if built, would have major consequences for the neighboring residents.
“What I’m not thankful for is how the town changed character as a result of the focus on industrial and warehouse development,” Brown said. “But my biggest concern is the negative impact on homes and of the long-term residents who live next to these proposed facilities who really are going to be affected by these projects and have a major impact on their lives, their home value, and a number of other things.”
Brown suggested that the board and developers should flip the warehouse to face the other way, which would give the building adequate collapse zoning and mitigate noise and light pollution.
“Turn the building around so the docks are not facing the residents. Because it’s not the building that creates the impact on the community, it’s the activity that goes on,” Brown explained. “There isn’t any amount of screening or noise production that can save that. If you turn it around, you can solve the collapse problem also.”
Brown also stressed concerns about stormwater runoff and mentioned a resident who previously dealt with runoff from the project’s preconstruction process.
“The second big concern is stormwater runoff, and that’s a particular interest to me because our farm lives with the impact of the stormwater runoff from the industrial properties around us,” Brown said. “One particular owner on the north side has had problems already due to some preconstruction activity with flooding and their sewer system. And that to date has not been resolved.”
Connor Eckert, a representative from Orange County Partnership, thanked the board, the developers, and the residents for their continued work on the project and also requested that the board close the public hearing.
“Now is the time to advance the economic development opportunity. I respectfully request that you consider closing the public hearing tonight, it just feels as if we’re at that time,” Eckert said. “The project’s been refined and there’s a market opportunity to advance higher-end economic development, and this project could be a welcome addition to our growing economy in the county.”
Bill Kelly, the town’s lighting consultant, mentioned the project’s lighting status and speculated that the lighting plans will likely be finished within a week or so following November 27’s meeting.
“I have done my best to protect the people over on the east side, and I’m using a combination of two different types of shielding,” Kelly said. “Something where the back of the luminaire facing over the folks will not allow illumination coming off the rear of the fixture more than 20 or 30 feet, which keeps everything on their property.”
Right as Beaumont asked if the board wanted to close the project’s public hearing, resident Patrick Sandhage rose to the podium and requested that the board think carefully about this decision and how it would affect residents.
“Before you make your decision, did you think about anybody on that road? Do you live in the Town of Montgomery? Do you feel about your neighbors where you live?” Sandhage questioned.
“The decision you have to make tonight is up to you, one and only. Do what you think is right in your heart,” he continued.
After reconsidering, the board motioned to hold one more public hearing session for RDM’s warehouse on December 7 at 7:45 p.m. before the discussion is officially closed.
“I am responsive to your feelings, I know how you feel,” said Cheri Zahakos, a planning board member. “I think it’s a very important consideration as well as it is to the business that wishes to come here and needs their due diligence done for them as well.”