Swatting mosquitoes with shotguns rarely works. That’s what a national company is learning as it applies for a special use permit to move its bulk salt oper-ation from one side of the Rotterdam Industrial Park to another.
What seemed like a routine application before town planning commissioners turned complicated, and commissioners remained unconvinced after hours of lobbying by the firm’s representatives. They declined to assume lead agency status for the permit, an important first step in such matters.
Riccelli Enterprises, a Syracuse-based company, last week asked the town’s planning commission to issue a permit to move from Lot 5, which they have leased for the last five years from The Galesi Group.
Riccelli’s seven-man contingent argued more than two hours for issuance of the permit.
The salt company’s lawyer, Frederick Micale, brought six witnesses with him to bolster the company’s case.
It is a safe, non-hazardous operation that has operated without incident, Micale said, adding that Riccelli Enterprises has added many jobs, and millions of dollars in revenue, to Rotterdam over the years. `Denying this application has no basis in law. It would also have an adverse effect if it forced Riccelli to leave this community, which would be unfortunate.`
When asked afterward if `case` implied possible or pending litigation, Micale said he was referring to the special permit application.
`We have a lot of concerns,` planning commission chairman Lawrence DiLallo said after the meeting, noting the new site will hold a salt pile three times as large as its existing one. `They’re doing their best to try to address our concerns, but they have a lot of work to do.`
DiLallo said the town has asked Riccelli to look at alternate sites, but the company replied that it is hard to find suitable sites for its operation.
Complicating matters is the push to complete the ongoing Railex project that proponents say will employ 300 people.
Riccelli’s salt pile sits in the middle of the $18 million construction project, which may explain the sense of urgency noted last week.
Railex will link the state of Washington to the Rotterdam Industrial Park, delivering produce in five days. That is equivalent to the time taken by trucks to deliver goods. When each week’s mile-long train of refrigerated cars arrives in Rotterdam, the produce will be offloaded to a 200,000 square-foot refrigerated distribution center under construction.
`Hopefully we can successfully relocate the existing tenant, because they supply a lot of the local municipalities with salt,` said Dave Buicko, Galesi Group’s chief operating officer. `It’s cheaper if they don’t have to ship it too far.`
Buicko doesn’t believe there should be a problem, noting that there has been a salt operation at the industrial park for the last 30 years.
He pointed out that Riccelli’s current neighbors are Papa John’s(r) and a dough manufacturer; neither one has ever complained to Galesi about the salt company, nor noted any health risks.
`It’s pretty simple,` Buicko said. `It’s moving a tenant from one side of the park to another. Riccelli’s been cooperative and agreed to move.`
What happens if Riccelli’s permit application is denied and the company can’t move to make way for Railex?
`We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,` Buicko said. `As of right now, we’re on schedule. We hope this isn’t a major issue.`
Galesi attorney Stephen Porter told commissioners that the salt company was a good tenant, urging them to approve Riccelli’s request.
Frank Alexander, an air quality expert whose career began more than 30 years ago with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, opined that salt was a safe substance, after giving a lengthy presentation.
`Salt is a crystal with high density area that wants to go to ground,` Alexander said, adding that New York has ruled stockpiling salt `a trivial activity.`
Vice chairman of the planning commission, Frank Renna, questioned just how safe it was. Renna noted that he observes salt dust spray from the bottom of his spreader after applying salt to his parking lot.
Renna said that he was concerned about windblown salt particles because the proposed site of the new salt pile is across the street from a field where over 200 area youth play Pop Warner football.
Alexander replied that Renna was standing right next to his spreader and pointed out that the football field is much farther away, which he said should preclude airborne salt particulate reaching the lungs of the pee wee football players.
Renna said he observed the airborne matter from just one bag of salt, and pointed out that Ricelli’s new salt pile will reach 50 feet in height, and occupy as much as 3 acres of land.
`That’s from a small spreader and a bag of salt,` Renna said. `You have a large pile of salt with equipment moving it around. There’s going to be dust.`
After the salt company’s experts concluded their presentation, a Pop Warner board member addressed the planners.
`My concern is, it’s right on top of my field,` Pop Warner board member Joe Pryba said during public comment. `I’m a little concerned about the look of it, and I do have concerns about the salt powder.`
Porter pointed out that the youth football league leases the field from Galesi for $1 per year and is looking for a compatible solution.
In addition to the Railex project, the park expansion includes a new Price Chopper facility, a FedEx facility, a regional Department of Environmental Conservation office, and an office park.
`It is probably the most intense expansion in the Capital District in terms of building and it’s great for Rotterdam,` Buicko said. `Both the town and the county have been terrific for us. We ‘re taking excess land that has never been developed and putting it on the tax rolls.“