Community Again Protests Storageland Expansion
By Edie Johnson
New Windsor – About a dozen residents who live near a proposed expansion of existing storage units at the corner of Toleman Rd. and Route 207 came to a well publicized continuation of the New Windsor Zoning Board of Appeals public hearing chaired by Michael Kane about this project whose owner not only wants to place additional storage units on a corner that once had mountain views, but also wants to rent space to store recreational vehicles and boats at the north end. There was nearly an hour of exhaustive detailed review. At the outset one resident almost had to be escorted out after loudly speaking out of turn. Losing patience, Kane told him “Don’t play with me”, (but the resident then left of his own accord saying “I’ll make a deal with you… Goodbye.”). Other attendees were well mannered and listened intently.
The residents say they understand that the owner has a right to use his land and to expand, but that the proposed expansion is just too much. A compromise offered was to lessen the expansion from 150.3% to 132.4%. Further, they argued that an agreement to meet with residents and come up with a compromise ended up being just a meeting between the business partners and did not include any community members at all. Lastly, they raised questions about the owner’s claim that he has a “vested right” to expand the existing business on the basis that expansion was discussed during negotiations made during purchase of adjoining acreage, thus grandfathering the use, despite a subsequent ruling of the town of New Windsor NOT to allow any more storage facilities in the OLI Zone. Attorney for the owner presented complex case law that brought into question just what the circumstances were around that planning session, i.e. was it a discussion with the town’s planning board and was there a clear understanding by the town that future storage unit expansion was likely? Additional complaints by residents included stories of flooding they said resulted from about 700 trucks worth of fill that was added across the street to level the property, and one gentleman who had suffered a heart attack during past construction at the site and was unable to even use his telephone due to the numerous times that lines were accidently cut during the work.
The property owner’s position is that the existing number of storage units does not support a long term business plan. To complicate the matter even further, during purchase of the adjoining land there was a deed restriction placed by the owner that there were to be no additional storage units. That deed restriction was eventually “dropped between the land owners” so the business could expand.
In the end the ZBA board decided that the details of case law about “vested interests”, “grandfathering” and the details of prior years’ conversations about expansion and how the timeline of those discussions related to the change in town code, along with more clarity about what was discussed between buyer and seller and what was actually formally accepted by the town during the additional land purchase, need a closer legal look, and more information about any prior planning board decisions. The Public Hearing portion was closed on the issue and the Board will disclose their decision at a ZBA meeting planned for November 25. .