TOWN OF MONTGOMERY- Another lawsuit filed by Montgomery property owners is challenging the proposed Amazon warehouse, claiming the developer misrepresented the nature and character of the area as well as the environmentally sensitive nature of the site.
The lawsuit, filed with the Orange County Supreme Court, is to vacate the SEQRA approval the town’s Planning Board and Town Board ruled for a proposed 1,010,880-square-foot warehouse on about 190 acres of land at the intersection of routes 17K and 747.
The development has been given the green light from the Town Board and the Planning Board through changing the zoning of 77 acres from interchange business to an industrial park major access district and approving its site plan and a special use permit.
Petitioners – a citizen group Residents Protecting Montgomery and a local business Lerner Pavlick Realty Company – contend the environmental reviews failed to consider cumulative impact of all projects proposed before the town boards and did not review critical socio-economic effects of adding 1,100 employees to the town’s 4,100 workforce.
There are 49 projects pending before the Planning Board, including 11 warehouses and distribution centers totaling more than 3 million square feet.
Don Berger, a founder of Residents Protecting Montgomery, said the lawsuit is intended to raise people’s awareness of warehouses’ impact on the quality of life. The group is urging the town to update its comprehensive plan and impose a moratorium.
Attorney Michael Sussman said the warehouse jobs are not the future of the economy and the development would jeopardize the environment and the quality of life. He added the lawsuit would block the developer from using the site if the court rules in favor of the petitioners.
“The vision of those people who have significant interest in developing the county is different than most of the people in the county. The residents came here to enjoy their quality of life that is characterized by a bucolic and rural atmosphere,” Sussman said.
Another lawsuit filed by Barbara Lerner, owner of Lerner Pavlick Realty Company, asserts part of the warehouse property is improperly zoned. Lerner, who joins the new lawsuit with concerns that the project will cause substantial flooding to a vacant parcel her company owns contiguous to the development and congested traffic for tenants in her property.
“The scope and scale of the project is way out of character with anything in this area,” Lerner said.
Town Attorney Stephanie Tunic said at the Jan. 23 Town Board meeting that the lawsuit would not affect the board at this point because it does not include an injunction of any form.
Two days after the lawsuit was filed, the warehouse developer, Bluewater LLC and USEF Sailfish, offered a modification of its PILOT application at a special meeting of the town’s Industrial Development Agency, which increases the amount of PILOT payment. Under the new 15-year PILOT agreement, a 20 percent PILOT payment would be assessed during the first five years.
With the modification, the proposed PILOT would enable the taxing jurisdiction to receive approximately $2.7 million over the first five years, compared to the zero PILOT payment in the first five years proposed in 2018. Over the 15 years, the project would contribute nearly $26 million in PILOT payment.
“The companies intend to be strong partners within the town,” the application reads. “Since the Jan. 6 public hearing, we have considered the fiscal concerns expressed by the Town Board, supervisor, the Valley Central School District Board of Education, superintendent and members of the public.”
The IDA will continue the public hearing on Feb. 11 and may make a decision a couple days after closing the public hearing.