Orange County Partnership - News

  • Conor Eckert, Senior Development Officer & Vice President of Business Attraction for the Orange County Partnership, presenting on the recently launched Site Inventory Program (SIP)
  • Kimberly Semon, P.E. Senior Project Manager for the environmental group Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, provides an informative update on PFA contamination.

ABG Hears Updates on Site Inventory Program and Environmental Reform Impacts

By John Jordan


In a highly informative session that covered the latest economic development and environmental protection trends, approximately 85 people attended the Alliance for Balanced Growth meeting on Aug. 16. The session held at Delancey’s in Goshen featured remarks by Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, and updates on the Orange County Partnership’s Site Inventory Program (SIP) and key environmental regulation changes that could impact property and commercial development projects in the coming years.


The session moderated by ABG Co-Chairs John Lavelle of Rand Commercial and Andrew Fetherston of Colliers Engineering Design, included a presentation by Conor Eckert, Senior Development Officer & Vice President of Business Attraction for the Orange County Partnership on the recently launched Site Inventory Program (SIP). Eckert is heading the initiative along with Kaitlynn Lancellotti, Director of Business Retention and Expansion.


The ABG’s Lavelle noted that there is strong demand for commercial sites in Orange County, but brokers are frustrated by the lack of available sites and the lack of infrastructure for those that are available.


Eckert said that since its launch in June, Partnership representatives have met with chief officials of Blooming Grove, Monroe, Goshen and the Town of Wallkill. Upcoming meetings are planned with the City of Middletown, Port Jervis, the City of Newburgh and other municipalities.


The Site Inventory Program seeks to take advantage of some of Orange County’s key growth industries—food & beverage processing, advanced manufacturing, clean energy and life sciences—that the Partnership believes will be investing and creating jobs in the county over the next two decades.


Eckert and Lancellotti are seeking to secure information on suitable properties that are on and off-market, as well as their zoning, infrastructure, tax and regulatory approval requirements. The SIP’s focus is to obtain information on properties that could accommodate new development of 20,000 square feet or more in communities across Orange County.


Eckert told the ABG gathering that the SIP is another example of the Orange County Partnership “being proactive as opposed to being reactive.”  This information will inform an industry attraction strategy focused on creating higher paying jobs and attracting diverse industry sectors. 


He continued, “So, what is the Site Inventory Program? In a nutshell it’s the thought and belief that we need to be thinking about the next 10, 15, 20 years of our economy and what we want our development to look like.”


The Town of Wallkill was the first municipality to meet with the Partnership’s SIP officials back in June. Supervisor George Serrano, who attended the ABG meeting, said of the SIP session: “I think that it is great that the organizations—the Orange County Partnership and the ABG—are coming together because we must have smart development. It is good to develop but being smart is getting all the parties together. That is the best way.”


He added that good communication with the public is important so that all parties know what could be developed at a particular site. In addition, the development should conform to the available infrastructure so that an area is not over-built.


Eckert noted that the Orange County Industrial Development Agency is undertaking a “Shovel Ready Initiative” and issued a Request for Qualifications back in April. The IDA was poised to decide on a firm to oversee the initiative that is geared to create a new prime list of sites and buildings for economic development in the county.  (see note below)*


Eckert knows that the value of the SIP program will be an asset to the IDA when completed.  “Having a portfolio of sites with updated infrastructure information will be beneficial to the IDA when they make decisions on properties, they might invest in, similar to the highly successful adaptive reuse of the former corrections facility in Warwick.


The ABG meeting also focused on environmental issues and changing regulations. Kimberly Semon, P.E. Senior Project Manager for the environmental group with Langan Engineering & Environmental Services in New York, offered an informative update on PFA (polyfluoroalkyl substances) contamination and changing federal and state regulations that could impact development costs.


She noted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an advisory in June of his year that it was going to change its health advisory threshold for PFAs in water sources from 70 parts per trillion to four parts per quadrillion.


Semon related that the new threshold “is the size of a stamp on a letter the size of California and Oregon combined. A square inch over 260,000 square miles.”


She added that at present no scientific equipment exists to measure those new levels of PFAs. PFA contamination has been uncovered at property at New York Stewart International Airport in Newburgh. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Region 3 Director Kelly Turturro, who attended the ABG session, noted that the agency has uncovered PFA contamination at some landfills throughout the state.


The session concluded with James A. Bates, CPESC, CPSWQ, managing member of Ecological Analysis of Middletown.  Bates said a key headwind for developers going forward is the changing environmental regulations, coupled with manpower shortages at the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers and at the state DEC.


One of the key state environmental regulation changes include the lowering of the threshold for mandatory permitting for freshwater wetlands from 12.4 to 7.4 acres by 2028.


Region 3 Director Turturro acknowledged the changing regulations but advised the attendees that there will be a process for implementing the new regulations, including soliciting public comment.


She stressed that in the future while implementing the new freshwater wetland regulation, the DEC wants to have a conversation with property owners and developers as to “how can you adjust your project to the point where we can balance economic development with the protection of fresh water wetlands.”


The ABG program also featured Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus who briefed the gathering on ongoing county budget negotiations. He said that the county has a massive surplus and that he plans to double the county’s infrastructure spending with the surplus and federal American Rescue Plan funding. He added that he also plans to implement a tax cut for county taxpayers.


*Hours after the ABG meeting, Delaware Engineering was selected unanimously by the OC IDA Board to conduct the Shovel Ready analysis. 


Sponsors of the ABG meeting were Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union and McKesson Corp.