$58.5 million project proposed for Montgomery
United Natural Foods, a natural and organic food distributor, is seeking to locate a new 505,000 square foot distribution center in the Town of Montgomery—and hopes to break ground by as early as July.
“We’re excited about the project,” said Dan Peckskamp, the company’s director of real estate and construction. “Hopefully we can make the building work in your community the way we want it to.”
Dominic Cordisco, attorney for United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI), stated that the owner of the site has signed a purchase agreement with UNFI, conditioned upon successfully obtaining approvals for their project.
In addition to the main warehouse, the plan includes an 8,000 square foot maintenance facility, 49 truck bays, a fuel island and 650 parking spaces. Trucks will enter the property from Neelytown Road, however an emergency access may be built from Beaver Dam Road.
Peckskamp stated that, if approved, the Montgomery distribution center would be the second largest in their network, and serve the metropolitan New York area.
United Natural Foods supplies natural and organic products to companies like Hannaford, Costco, Kroger and Whole Foods—for which they have been the primary supplier for more than 12 years.
Peckskamp stated that Whole Foods is seeing growth and while they currently have 150 stores, they are looking to open another 150 in the near future. Right now UNFI handles approximately 30 percent of their volume and Peckskamp said they are trying to locate their new distribution centers near Whole Foods stores.
UNFI recorded $1.3 billion in sales in the fourth quarter of 2012, and has been averaging about 15 percent sales growth for the last couple of years. To handle that growth, as well as the growth of Whole Foods, Peckskamp said the company needs to increase their capacity by adding new distribution centers.
Peckskamp said they chose the site in Montgomery because it is closer to their targeted market, would increase efficiency and has a large workforce.
“Orange County came up as a tremendous place to be,” said Peckskamp, adding that the new center would be good for the county as well, since it was not a business they hoped would grow, but a business that would be thriving as soon as the building was constructed.
Peckskamp said United Natural Foods anticipates $460 million in sales in the first 24 months of operation of the new distribution center. At present, they are looking at filling 316 full-time positions by August of 2016, if their preferred timetable comes to fruition. Off the bat, they plan to hire 223 employees, with the remaining positions added over the following months.
“If we continue to grow by 15 percent, that could be significantly higher,” said Peckskamp.
They plan to proceed with a phase II expansion of the warehouse in 6-7 years which would increase the structure to 675,000 square feet, at additional cost.
Peckskamp said the warehouse will be a unique structure, with 50,000 square feet of freezer space, 40,000 square feet of cooler space and refrigerated docks. Their goal is to ensure that the organic products never reach ambient temperature, so the product remains in refrigerated containers from the moment it leaves its origin until it arrives at its final destination. The company uses CO2 to refrigerate its buildings, rather than the commonly used ammonia, in an effort to be more environmentally friendly.
The plans also call for an automated section with half a mile of conveyor belt and a two-story office space that will occupy 10,000 square feet.
The company plans to pursue LEED Gold certification and is already looking into a possible solar panel system for the building with NYSERDA. Stormwater management measures including bioretention areas and rainwater harvesting are included in the plans put before the Planning Board.
According to engineer John O’Rourke, from Lanc & Tully, the applicant plans to connect to municipal services and will install a small pump station on the site as well as a gravity-fed line that will connect to the existing force main.
The building itself will be constructed of insulated panels, with additional panels used to screen the air conditioning units on the roof.
According to Peckskamp, those panels also eliminate the noise from the units. He noted that there will be additional screening between the project and Beaver Dam Road, and that the company has a zero idling policy for its trucks, keeping down noise as well as the company’s carbon footprint.
“Not idling is a huge issue,” said Planning Board Chairman Fred Reichle.
“The elephant in the room is noise mitigation with the neighboring residents right there,” said Planning Board member William Kelly, stating that he appreciated the work done already to screen and mitigate noise.
“I like it. It’s got a lot less traffic,” said Planning Board member Richard Montemorano. “It’s a nice looking building and a nice fit.”
The proposal takes the place of a previous project approved in 2009, known as the Crossroads Distribution Center/Panattoni, but never built. Cordisco noted that “interest had lapsed” in that project and they were looking to amend that prior approval.
The board was advised that the applicants hope to break ground by July, have the foundation work done by Sept. 1 and the paving, walls and roof completed by Dec. 1. Peckskamp said their goal is to open for business in August of 2014.
Planning Board member William Kelly noted that the board and the applicant would need to move as quickly as possible in order to meet the timetable.
“It’s in our best interest to get you on that site as fast as possible,” said Kelly.
The board voted to circulate the plans as part of their intent to once again declare themselves lead agency on SEQRA. The applicant’s planners advised the board that they would begin working on the supplemental EIS.
While the Planning Board seemed welcoming, the reception of some of the project’s neighbors was not as warm. After the meeting they expressed disappointment that the project was larger than the previous one, and doubt that the noise mitigation and stormwater management measures proposed by the applicants would be enough.
In other business, the Planning Board held a public hearing on the 4-lot Marcinak subdivision located at South and West Kaisertown roads. With no public comment, the hearing was closed. The applicant assured the board that he intended to save the trees on the property as he hoped to use them as a buffer between his home and the new lots.
The board passed a negative declaration as to SEQRA and granted approval, conditioned on several items including the payment of fees, provision of a shared driveway agreement and minor corrections on the plans.
By RACHEL COLEMAN