By Jessica Dinapoli
MONTGOMERY — In March, United Natural Foods, a natural and organic foods distributor, came to Montgomery hoping to build more than half a million square feet of warehouse space.
Tuesday night, a mere four months later, the Montgomery town Planning Board approved the $58.5 million distribution center, which is expected to eventually employ more than 300 people. United Natural Foods expects to open the warehouse by the fall of 2014.
Maureen Halahan, president and CEO of the Orange County Partnership, said after the Planning Board meeting that the speedy approval process shows the benefits of having shovel-ready development sites. Halahan worked to attract United Natural Foods to the county.
The company, the main distributor for Whole Foods Market, only had to tweak existing approvals for the new warehouse.
In 2009, the Montgomery town Planning Board approved a 500,000-square-foot warehouse on the same 110-acre site for Panattoni Development Co. Panattoni began the approvals process in 2006, and by the time the board approved the project in 2009, the real estate market had nosedived. Panattoni had originally hoped to build on spec.
United Natural Foods is now in contract to buy the land.
The size of the United Natural Foods warehouse is one main difference between the two projects. The first phase of the food distribution warehouse is about 500,000 square feet. The company plans to build a 165,000-square-foot second phase in five years.
The new warehouse also only has 51 truck docks, half the 99 proposed for the Panattoni project, and the project architects moved the bays to a side of the building that would least affect neighboring homeowners. The company also plans to pursue the gold level in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for the building.
The Montgomery Town Industrial Development Agency will meet Wednesday evening to consider giving the project a 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement, plus sales and mortgage tax exemptions. New York state offered $3.6 million in tax credits through the Excelsior Jobs Program.
"It's more than likely they need the PILOT," Montgomery town Supervisor Michael Hayes said on Tuesday, adding that New York is in competition with neighboring states, especially Pennsylvania, for economic development projects like this one.