Clarkstown’s “one-stop shopping” lures developers, cutting lag time
BY KATHY KAHN
If you’re a mall shopper, chances are you enjoy “one stop shopping.” The same idea has been replicated in Clarkstown, where the concept has been modified to create a streamlined process for businesses eager to expand or relocate to the town.
“We started this process some time ago,” said town supervisor Alex Gromack. “The developer, his/her attorney and their engineer meet in my office with me, our town attorney, our engineer and our building inspector. We also have the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation at the initial meeting, and, if necessary, the NYS Dept. of Transportation. I consider it a ‘mini-technical advisory committee.’ They can ask questions, and we let them know what’s needed before they make a formal application.”
When the developer formally makes its first appearance in front of the Planning Board, they will have already met with several members of Clarkstown’s municipal departments. “Rather than have them tied up for months waiting for meetings, it’s already been determined if what they have proposed is feasible and what they need to do to move forward,” continued Gromack.
“We meet with them as often as needed to solve problems and correct them….since the Planning Board only meets twice a month, this saves time for both the developer and the board. If they need state or county approvals, we work with them in moving the application forward in a timely manner.” Developers also have the opportunity to meet with Rockland County’s Industrial Development Agency to see if any tax incentives are available.
Gromack says while the Shops at Nanuet officially took five months to move from its first formal presentation to final approval, the town’s department heads “met” with Simon Property Group in its Indianapolis headquarters via weekly telephone meetings, which helped cut the approvals time by 50 percent.
“Typically, for a small to mid-sized project, we might have 10 meetings,” said Gromack. “With the Shops at Nanuet, we held 30-40 meetings and also had a weekly conference call with them. We aren’t looking to ‘cut corners,’ but to cut the time it takes to get through the process. We have the capability to allow the key players to solve potential problems, not create them. We go over a checklist, look at roadblocks and come up with solutions—these conference calls were a tremendous help when it came to Shops at Nanuet.”
The positives of one-stop shopping for the municipality, say Gromack, is that the Planning Board process presents a detailed description of the proposed project. “When it’s time for public hearings, the residents have the opportunity to come and discuss the project and give us feedback on what’s being presented.” Potential pitfalls—i.e., drainage, water/sewer, infrastructure or DEC concerns, have already been successfully mitigated. “It’s such a good application,” added Gromack, “Planning Board members may make further recommendations, but the ‘meat and potatoes’ issues are very black and white in many cases.”
Gromack believes Clarkstown Triple A Standard & Poors bond rating attests to the town’s financial stability, and its timeliness during the approvals process also adds to its appeal.
Orange & Rockland’s development team have also had their eye on Rockland, putting in a new substation near Tilcon on Snake Hill Road. “The utility has seen growth in both residential and business, and it is putting some of its infrastructure investment here because they see we are moving forward and growing,” Gromack said. “O&R talks with us often, and it has made some very positive decisions to meet the demand of a booming community.”
The Shops at Nanuet has spurred the Pyramid Cos. to give its sixth largest mall in America, Palisades Center, a $20 million indoor makeover. “They are lowering ceilings, putting in new flooring and carpeting, installing lots of greenery and sofas for people to relax on,” said Gromack. “I was just there last week, and it looks fabulous. I think Clarkstown is well-situated to see both Shops at Nanuet and the Palisades Center continue to draw traffic 12 months out of the year.”
Clarkstown has been noted for its business-friendly environment in recent years, winning awards from the Rockland Business Association.