Orangetown Votes on limiting Anellotech Emissions

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The Orangetown Town Board was scheduled to vote Tuesday evening on amendments to its land use regulations which if enacted could prohibit the types of emissions being proposed for the new Anellotech Corp. facility at the former Lederle campus in Pearl River.

The amendments were the subject of an hour-long public hearing by the Town Board on June 16, when about a dozen residents spoke vociferously in favor of the changes. No one spoke against the changes, even though Anellotech Corp. had at least one high executive in the audience.

When it came time for the five-member Town Council to actually take their vote at the end of the hearing, however, Town Attorney John Edwards derailed the process by noting that an analysis and opinion had not yet been received from the Rockland County Planning Department, which is required before the town can take official action.

The reason for the missing document, Edwards explained, was that his office had not been able to complete the final wording of the draft ordinance change until a week ago, and immediately forwarded it to the Planning Department in Pomona. Under state law that agency has 30 days to review the proposal and send its analysis and recommendation back to Orangetown.

Under the best scenario, this would give the Planning Department until June 26 to notify Orangetown of its findings, Edwards said, noting that the council was on its summer schedule of limited sessions, and that this Tuesday’s gathering (July 7) would be the first one to be held since the deadline.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that this week’s council gathering is billed as a workshop meeting, devoted solely to discussion of pending topics of interest, and at which no votes are normally taken. Edwards explained that the board could also declare a “special” meeting during Tuesday’s workshop meeting, and could then vote on the Anellotech amendments, if it so desires. He offered no opinion as to whether or not this was good or even proper procedure, but said it was within the board’s power to decide.

The Amendments

The proposed amendments to the town’s codes would specifically be to three existing provisions of Orangetown’s zoning code.

Chapter 43 of the code defines what things are prohibited from being built or created in the township, and prohibits the town’s building department from issuing approvals or permits for structures or land uses which violate this ordinance.

Section 4.1 of that chapter defines prohibited uses in Orangetown, and would add the new phrase “solvents and similar materials, including benzene, toluene and xylene.: Those three substances are not currently prohibited because no one is known to produce them. They are the three chemicals, known to be toxic at certain concentrations, which Anellotech has acknowledged it will manufacture at Pearl River.

Sections 4.4 and 4.5 define similar prohibitions, to which the Town Board wants to add the phrase “waste gasification and similar such facilities” to the existing list. Again, the process was listed by Anellotech as one of its production procedures.

Pearl River resident Michael Mandel also requested that the board add the phrase pyrolysis to the list, noting that in their literature, Anellotech says this is another of its processes, and is one known to be chemically dangerous. Mandel noted that he was speaking as a resident only, and not as a member of the Planning Board, where he was among the two-member minority when that board approved Anellotech’s application this spring on a 5-2 vote.

At the June 16 hearing,

The issue arose when Anellotech applied for building permits for an experimental plant it is constructing within the northernmost building of the former Lederle Laboratories complex on Middletown Road, straddling the Pearl River – Nanuet border.

Lederle, now called Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, is reducing its presence at the sprawling campus and selling or leasing vacant buildings to other companies. One of those is Anellotech, which is already occupying their new home there but it not yet manufacturing gaseous chemicals on a commercial basis, pending final approvals from Orangetown.

Neighbors in Nanuet and Pearl River have objected strenuously to the arrival of Anellotech, and have mounted a furious campaign to derail their approval process before it is completed.

The company’s application has already been approved by the town’s Planning Board and Zoning Board, leaving the opponents’ only hope to stop Anellotech as the Town Board itself.

Ex-Post Facto?

That effort, through a group called “Stop Anellotech,” is now focused on getting the Council to enact the new restrictive clauses in the town zoning code, hoping this will generate a last minute “stop work” order and a cessation to the firm’s plans to expand operations at the Pearl River site.

Edwards, as the town attorney, and the attorney for the council, has warned the board repeatedly, however, that passing a new law after the fact outlawing something that is already in effect is not legal in New York or the United States. It is called an “Ex-Post Facto” law, according to Edwards, and can bar anything new from occurring under its provisions, but cannot retroactively bar something already approved under older existing laws.

All of these views were expected to erupt at Tuesday’s workshop meeting of the board, which was expected to draw the usual large attendance because of the controversial subject matter.

“Stop Anellotech” leaders and supporters, neighboring residents, and supporters of the company were all expected to attend and voice their opinions. It was unknown at press time whether or not the Town Board itself would attempt to take a vote Tuesday, drop the issue, or postpone a final decision to a later date when more clarifications might become available.

Edwards also warned the board that making more changes to the amendments at this time in the procedure could also scuttle the board’s wishes. Once the exact wording was sent to the county Planning Department, which finalized the amendment. Any subsequent changes, such as proposed by Mandel and others during the hearing, would be considered “major” changes to the law and would require an entire new process, with a new public hearing and a new 30-day review period by the county agency.

In Other Action

In other action at the last board meeting, when votes were actually taken, the council voted to:

·      Hire grant writer Sylvia Welch at a fee not to exceed $1,500 to help seek a $713,000 grant from the New York State Green Innovaton Grant Program to dig up the paved parking lot at the old Nike missile base off Western Highway in Tappan, and dig a water retention basin at that location to help reduce flooding and assist drainage in the area. The site is adjacent to the “Homes for Heroes” housing project for homeless veterans located on another portion of the abandoned Nike base.

·      Grant usage of the town’s “showmobile” to the Nyack Chamber of Commerce for $350 for use during its annual Halloween parade, to the Rockland-Bergen Music Festival for $350 for its June show and to the Village of Nyack for $1,400 for its three “mostly music” summer concerts.

·      Hire three new police officers from the Rockland County civil service list, including Martin J. Fogarty, Mark T. Durney and Shane M. Curran; and also authorize sergeant Terence J. Hutmacher to attend the school resource officer training class at the Auburn Police Department, at a cost of $1,479.

·      Approve the retirements of Helen Schwarzler as records clerk in the police department and Bernard Maurer as maintenance mechanic in the sewer department.

·      Award the construction contract for the revitalization of downtown Pearl River to the Gemrose Utilities, the lowest qualified bidder, at a cost of $258,984. The cost is covered by a federal grant the town received for the project, which includes new curbs, sidewalks and landscaping along Central Avenue and Main Street in the town’s largest hamlet.

·      Reappoint Blythe Yost to the Architectural and Community Appearance Board of Review (ACABOR), appoint Brian Aitchison as a new member, and reappoint Jill Fieldstein as chairperson of the board.

·      Deny reappointment to ACABOR of member Paul Papay on a 4-1 vote, with only Supervisor Andy Stewart in support of another term.

·      Reappoint Larry Bucciarelli to the Historic Areas Board of review.

·      Reappoint Robert Dell to the Planning Board and Kevin Garvey as chairman.

·      Reappoint Michael Bosco to the Zoning Board of Appeals and Daniel Sullivan as chairman.

·      Reappoint Leonard Feroldi as an alternate member of the ZBA.

·      Appoint Lisa Shumate to the traffic advisory board.


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