The state may have pulled the plug on its plan to build a train station in Orange, but it is sweetening the blow with a $6.1 million grant to the town to acquire the 8.091 acres it would have been built on. The town will incur no expenses to buy the $5.5 million property of Salemme Drive real estate as well as related acquisition, survey and legal fees.
Residents will have an opportunity to vote on whether the town should acquire the property at the town meeting to be held at 7:30 September 5 at High Plains Community Center. Both the Town Plan and Zoning Commission and the Board of Selectmen are in favor of the plan.
The property is currently part of a new “transit-oriented development district “(TODD) developed by the Town Plan and Zoning Commission and intended to include desirable housing, shops, restaurants and retail establishments tailored to the needs of professionals commuting to New York City. The TPZC has held countless meetings over the past few years to outline the regulations and requirements for the new district and to incorporate it into the town’s comprehensive plan of development. Now with the construction of a train station unlikely, the Commission may consider reverting the property back to its original light industrial zoning. “We have to react to this change, reevaluate and possibly rezone it back to an LI-2 district,” said Commissioner Judith Smith.
The grant money will allow the town to purchase the land from current owner, Ed Crowley, Dichello Distributors’ co-owner and former president and principal in Orange Land Development LLC. Crowley has been involved in the train station planning since its inception and was the first to have his application approved to build a 799-car parking garage, 200 residential apartments and 22,000 square feet of commercial space at the TODD site, contingent on the construction of the train station.
According to Town Attorney Vin Marino, Crowley is not interested in developing the parcel without a train station. “He could have flipped the property, but he has a fondness for Orange and First Selectman Jim Zeoli and does not want the town subject to a third-party developer,” Marino said. “If he can be satisfied with the appraised value of the property, the town will have for itself direction of this property.”
The grant does include a stipulation that the state would own an easement over the property for a train platform. “If there is no train station after 25 years the easement expires and the state would have no more interest in the right of way,” Marino said. “This is a great opportunity for the town to reconfigure the location of Salemme Drive and possibly have it front on an adjoining parcel.”
Zeoli is pleased with the possibility of the town owning a chunk of commercial/industrial land in a prime location. “It’s a nice site, close to I-95, a new hotel and the gas company,” he said.
No matter how promising plans seemed to build a train station over the past few years, TPZC Chairman Ozzie Parented had remained cautious about whether the project would come to fruition, always stressing to potential developers that any TODD-related applications were dependent on whether the train station was actually built.
By Laura Fantarella – Orange Town News Correspondent