By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
COEYMANS — A public hearing for a proposed Carver Companies project drew so many people that the crowd spilled out into the street.
After a lengthy presentation by Carver Companies and statements from its employees, fellow businesses and other supporters, most of the town residents who turned out for the hearing voiced strong opposition and concern for the project.
The hearing by the joint town/zoning board of appeals gathered input for an area variance and site plan review for a pair of properties owned by Ten Eyck Power III and Atlantic Cement Company, now known as Holcim.
The hearing opened with a presentation by a number of company employees and consultants outlining the project and proposal to build a manufacturing site for GE.
“The GE manufacturing site’s project purpose is manufacturing wind blades for use in the offshore wind projects which have been planned in New York state,” said engineer Dave Ingalls from Ingalls and Associates. “They’re also in support of the state’s and the governor’s goals for clean energy standards, where 70% of the electricity will come from renewable energy by 2030.”
If approved, the facility is expected to bring up to 650 permanent jobs to the town, including 900 indirect jobs and 500 construction jobs as the facility is built, Ingalls said.
“Plus, there will be millions of dollars in indirect investment to the local economy,” he added.
The manufacturing facility would be built north of the Port of Coeymans and would span from Route 144 to south of Bronk Road. Access to the facility would be from Route 144.
“Overall, the project involves a construction of approximately 515,000 square feet of buildings,” Ingalls said. “These would include manufacturing buildings, warehouse buildings, office space, including 400 parking spaces.”
The wind power blades, which are 400-feet long, would be manufactured on site and then stored in a storage yard on the present Powell property, which has been residential for more than 200 years, according to the presentation. About 180 blades would be made every year, Ingalls said. They would then be shipped down the Hudson River to their intended destinations, with nine blades transported at a time.
Carver Companies President and CEO Carver Laraway said the company has been investing in the local community for decades.
“Over the past 20 years, Carver has invested over $200 million in the port, the industrial park and in the community,” Laraway said.
“At the end of the day, these are investments in our people and our town,” he added. “Today, the Port of Coeymans and Coeymans Industrial have more than 800 employees on our site working each day with nearly one-third of these jobs being unionized employees.”
The company has also purchased more than a dozen dilapidated residential buildings in the town and renovated them, he said.
Several speakers supported the project for its economic development and job creation.
But local residents voiced many concerns, including the expected increase of truck traffic on already busy rural roads — particularly Route 144 — noise, odors, reduced property values, and a change in the character of the community.
Of concern to several residents was the possibility of the expansion of industry in the town.
“When things start creeping, the burgeoning issue is trust,” resident Robert LaCosta said of the possible expansion of industrial activity. He also expressed concern about the current level of truck traffic in the town.
Lisa Travis voiced similar concerns and how approval of the project could set a precedent for future projects.
“I’m not saying that industry isn’t good. I’m just saying that we’re setting a precedent here of using this residential property for storage,” Travis said. “What happens when it starts creeping further and further because now that we did it once, we can do it again. That is my concern, that this is not going to stop and we’re just going to be dealing with this again down the road.”
Resident Zachary Assael noted the size of Route 144, also known as River Road, and questioned its ability to handle the traffic load the project would bring.
“River Road is not an expressway, it is not the Northway, it’s not the Thruway,” Assael said. “It’s a two-lane road. It is not meant to accommodate over 500 vehicles and many semi-tractor trailers.”
One speaker said most of the project supporters do not live locally.
“I would like to remind the community that those representatives of Carver’s, most of them don’t live here,” she said. “This isn’t going in their backyard, this is going in our backyard.”
“We’re worried about our homes depreciating, we’re worried about the wildlife,” she added. “I would like to appeal to the members of the planning board to take this slow, do a lot of research, and make an informed decision. We don’t need this in our community.”
Michael Stott said the project has “many areas of concern.”
“The zoning and planning board has two issues to consider here. First is, should a massive industrial complex be built? And secondly, and perhaps more pressing, should the zoning and planning board allow residential and agricultural land to be used as part of this industrial endeavor.”
“What guarantee do you have for the people that if this goes through, we’re not just going to keep creeping forward?” Stott added.
No decision was made about the project by the planning/zoning board of appeals.