LaGuardia plan is fast-tracked

07 Apr 2016 | 10:55

By Edie Johnson
— Officials in Chester and Blooming Grove are working to get the former Camp LaGuardia campus in shape for the next chapter in its long history, now that a 700-unit condominium complex long planned for the site has been turned away.
The first step, they say, is to send their departments of public works to clean up the badly deteriorating entry way so that it looks instead like the portal to an appealing business park. They also plan to save three abandoned buildings, change how the site is zoned in both towns, and, in keeping with the county's promise it would see only light industrial use, impose strict weight limits on access roads.
The kick-off meeting, held at Blooming Grove's work session this week, aimed to put plans recently announced by Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus into action. He agreed to pay the would-be condominium developer, Mountco Development Corp. of Scarsdale, $1.1 million to break its contract with the county.
At the meeting, Blooming Grove Supervisor Bob Fromaget, Councilman George Kydon and planning board Chair Ralph Maffei outlined the steps forward they had discussed earlier in the day with Neuhaus; Chester Supervisor Alex Jamieson; John McCarey, the county's real properties commissioner; and county legislators Katie Bonelli, John Vero, Kevin Hines, and Phil Canterino.

Zoning change
Chester and Blooming Grove will have to rezone the 258-acre site, which spans the border of both towns. That means a change to Industrial from its current Office Park zoning in Chester, and its Rural/Residential zoning in Blooming Grove. Officials in both towns said they are eager to get the site back on the tax rolls after nine years of county ownership.
Maffei said only companies safe for the environment will be welcome at the site. Officials shared what they'd heard about businesses that had already expressed interest. Jamieson said a solar company was considering installing an array in an area of the site previously considered unbuildable. Fromaget said he heard talk of a book publishing company that might be interested in warehousing its stock there. He said the three buildings to be saved might be stripped down to their frames, and then renovated. McCary said he had examined the derelict buildings at Camp LaGuardia and, despite superficial damage, the three to b saved are structurally sound.
Companies that do assembly-type work will be encouraged to locate there. Maffei called the new direction for Camp LaGuardia "a rare opportunity, if it is handled correctly."
Weight limits
At its next meeting, Blooming Grove will seek to impose a new weight limit of 5 tons (10,000 pounds) on Greycourt Road and White Tail Run, which Maffei said cannot handle heavy loads. They are the "tar and chips" type, he said, and are "paper thin." Fromaget said White Tail Run used to be an actual goat trail. Museum Village Road, upgraded when Mediacom came in two years ago, may be added to the list, since it was not upgraded to full town road standards.
The current estimate is that the new industrial park at Camp LaGuardia could increase local traffic up to 1,000 vehicles a day.
Sewer and water
The property sits on a lot of water, as Mountco's test wells showed. But no sewer lines extend to the site, which went far to stall the condominium project. Maffei said any business that moves to the site will be limited by the available sewer capacity. Additional capacity might be available from the Village of Chester because of problems that have held up BT Holdings, another condominium project, behind the ShopRite Plaza.
Public hearings coming
Officials are also discussing how the project will affect taxes, balancing new tax revenue and job from businesses moving in, with tax incentives and infrastructure upgrades that the towns and county might provide them. Using municipal public works employees to clean up the site is one attempt to keep costs down.
The public will have a chance to give input at regularly scheduled public meetings, work sessions, and public hearings.