The question of how much of a 540,000-square foot warehouse off I-88 and Route 30A in Schoharie would be seen—and from where—dominated the conversation at a public hearing on the proposed project Monday.
The Planning Board has begun reviewing preliminary plans, but Highbridge Development needs a height variance on the warehouse from the Zoning Board of Appeals if it’s going to be marketable—to anyone--attorney Terresa Bakner said.
It’s the second meeting the ZBA has had on the variance—zoning allows a height of no more than 35 feet and Highbridge needs 45--and ZBA chair Don Massey stressed public concerns will play a critical role in whether or not they eventually grant it.
“We saw this as an opportunity to guide our decision-making,” Mr. Massey said.
The public hearing remains open; Highbridge is expected at the Planning Board’s December 20 meeting with some of the still-needed reports and studies, said Planning Board chair Kathryn Saddlemire.
“At this point, I don’t know if we even have a timeline,” Ms. Saddlemire told a crowd of about 20, evenly divided between neighbors and Highbridge reps.
“We’re waiting for more information before we can begin our environmental assessment.”
The 48-acre site is zoned commercial, which means the Highbridge project—a warehouse, office space, and two “pads” for a convenience store and fast food restaurant—is an allowed use.
But still not appropriate, said Corrie Schrader, who lives next door in a 1798 Colonial.
“We love Schoharie and the character of Schoharie,’ she said.
“I agree our town needs progress, but I don’t think this is the answer. This is a monstrosity. This is not the look we need and I hope you agree.”
Other neighbors did agree; they don’t want the warehouse in their backyard, several said, and they don’t want to see it.
Jon and Kelly Shultes, who live on Route 7 above the site, said the height of the building alone will make it an eyesore.
But there are also things like noise and traffic to consider, Mr. Shultes said.
“It does not fit. The only one benefiting from this is Highbridge.”
“It you let one in, you let in more,” said Ashley Boreali, who also lives on Route 7.
“These four corners are not the place for more warehouses.”
Again, said Ms. Bakner, zoning allows the warehouse; because of changes in how warehouse items are stocked and stored, any developer is going to need 45 feet.
The additional 10 feet won’t have an adverse effect on the character of the neighborhood, she said, adding “You simply can’t build a warehouse that will be marketable under the current height restrictions.”
Tim Bailey from engineers McFarland Johnson said the warehouse will be screened by a double row of trees.
“In 15-20 years, you won’t be able to see the building from the highway [I-88],” he said.
Mr. Bailey also said surveyors will soon be staking the site so the Planning Board can get a feel for the warehouse’s dimensions.
Among the issues the ZBA will need to consider when deciding on the variance will be whether it creates an undesirable change in the character of the neighborhood, whether there are reasonable alternatives, whether it will have an adverse impact on the environment, and whether the difficulties are self-imposed—again, for the height variance, not the project itself.