Schoharie’s Planning Board got an update on plans for a 24-hour travel plaza at the corner of Routes 7 and 30A, just off I-88, Tuesday—even as neighbors sounded the alarm over what it could do to their wells.
The project—fuel, parking, and services, including showers, for 88 tractor trailers, as well as parking for 39 cars, a convenience store with two fast food restaurants, much like the PILOT 20 miles down I-88 in Rotterdam—was first proposed by Narinder and Ranjeet Singh last September.
Since then, Bohlert Engineering reps Caryn Mlodzianowski and Matt Lessard have been working on how to best place the facility on the 42 acres and having initial discussions with DOT over traffic studies and access roads.
They’ve completed the draft Environmental Assessment Form, which the Planning Board will begin reviewing in February, and offered a first look at what the travel plaza might look like.
Planning Board Board members said they’d like the developers to consider using the Schoharie Dental building or the new firehouse as a guide; Narinder Singh said the food franchises they’ve been talking to include Wendy’s and a Schenectady-based coffee house.
But most of the discussion was over water and what neighbors fear the project will do to their wells, many of them 625-650 feet deep, often barely flowing, and already contaminated by with sulphur, salt, and even bacteria.
The engineers said the Singhs plan to drill new wells at the site for some 9,000 gallons a day; they could also possibly store water on the site.
“I just don’t think wells will be the answer,” said Kelly Shultes, who lives nearby.
“Water’s a huge issue. The water has to come from somewhere, even for new wells.”
Lamont Engineer Mike Harrington, working for the Planning Board, said developers could be required to bring in a hydrologist to test and monitor the wells before building.
“If there’s an impact, something would be done,” he said.
Schoharie needs to take a bigger look at its water issues, said Mike Rivette, who’s selling the site to the Singhs, especially with the proposed Highbridge warehouse project—which would also require 9,000 gallons of water a day—just across the street.
Neighbors also expressed concerns about lights, noise, and air pollution from trucks—all of which will be covered in various required studies, said Planning Board chair Kathryn Saddlemire.
Planning Board member Dawn Johnson pointed out the town’s Comprehensive Plan considers Route 7 part of its scenic viewshed.
She also said it speaks to the need to protect existing, local businesses, including convenience stores and fast food restaurants.
“We want to do it right,” said Ms. Mlodzianowski. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”
If the project is approved, construction could start in 2024, she said.
Answering questions from the Planning Board, Mr. Singh said analysts have said the plaza could be expected to generate as much as $40 million in revenue annually; 80 percent of its businesses would be from tractor trailers leaving—and then returning to—I-88.
The Rotterdam travel plaza is already out of room, he said, with trucks double-parked on the ramps waiting for a spot.
“Just because it sounds like a great idea doesn’t mean it’s a good idea,” said Pam Foland, another neighbor.