Public expresses support for Woodbury Common expansion

Woodbury. Concerns regarding traffic, EMS travel still remain.

| 10 Jun 2024 | 02:33

Woodbury Common store managers, school officials, county representatives and others came out in support of the Woodbury Common expansion during the public hearing for the project at the June 5 village of Woodbury Planning Board meeting. The proposed expansion includes additional retail space and parking, a hotel, and a helipad.

Woodbury Common support

Addressing the board and the public, Timothy Fox, vice president of Simon Property Group, which owns Woodbury Common, spoke of the anticipated benefits of the expansion. According to Fox, the expanded Woodbury Common shopping center would bring in another estimated $20 million annually in taxes on top of the more than $70 million it already generates. He also highlighted the Common’s status as a major employer, noting that during peak season the property employs over 5,000 people.

Woodbury Common’s importance as a tax generator and economic engine for Orange County is also being endorsed by Orange County officials, including County Executive Steve Neuhaus. In a letter of support read by Steve Gross, director of Economic Development for Orange County, during the June 5 public hearing, Neuhaus wrote in favor of the outlet center’s ability to increase tourism to the area and benefit the local economy, including through the creation of local construction jobs.

“The revenue will lessen future tax burdens for Village [of Woodbury] residents and businesses and provide crucial revenues in this area of inflation and post-pandemic economic recovery. Continued job growth in multiple sectors is critical for a vibrant robust and economic future in Orange County.”

Speaking to Woodbury Common’s role as a creator of construction and related opportunities, Matthew Stoddard, business manager of the local 417 Ironworkers Union and officer at the Hudson Valley Building Trades, thanked Simon Property Group for using local construction workers for their past expansion efforts and their commitment to employ them for future projects. He noted that more than 30% of the construction workers in the area were unemployed and pointed to the lack of retail development in the country.

Multiple Woodbury Common employees addressed the board to share their appreciation for the outlets. Sarah Kahan, a Kiryas Joel resident who operates the Everything Kosher Food Truck at Woodbury Common, reminisced about her time spent at the mall as a child and her appreciation to the management for supporting her family’s efforts to bring kosher food to the shopping center.

“The fact that I have now the opportunity to give back to my community and to provide them kosher food at their favorite shopping mall this is just mind-blowing.”

Other commenters, including Scott Perry, spoke to Woodbury Common’s support of businesses that serve the retail industry. Perry, who runs Atlas Security Services based in Goshen, which provides security services for several stores at Woodbury Common, credited the retail center for the growth of his business. Speaking to the board, Perry said, “I know you have your due diligence to do but I hope you’ll see fit to approve this project because there’s a lot of small businesses that do business with each individual store even if they don’t work directly for Simon.

Several commenters, including Patrick Cahill, assistant superintendent for Business and Management Services with the Monroe-Woodbury Central School District pointed to Woodbury Common’s role in generating tax revenue that benefits local schools, and the retail center’s donation of equipment, support for their school programs and employment of many M-W students.

“We’ve had an excellent collaborative and supportive relationship with Woodbury Common for many years. These new improvements will provide additional tax revenue to the district,” said Cahill.

Project concerns, hurdles

While the public comments expressed strong support for the expansion, the Woodbury Village Planning Board voiced their concerns about the project’s impact on area traffic and strain on local resources. Board members noted that the area around the retail center is already a busy area and that a bigger footprint would only worsen the traffic situation. The planning board engineer said the board is looking for additional analysis on traffic along the Route 32 corridor as well as written correspondence from the New York State Department of Transportation.

Planning Board Chairman Christopher Gerver called out Simon Property Group for what he thought was an inadequate account of how the Woodbury Common expansion would impact local emergency services. He disputed their claim that the project would have minimal effect on the village’s fire and emergency medical services, which are all volunteer supported and strained.

“I would like to understand how the commons came up with the fact that there’s going to be little to no impact or strain on current Village resources. I know our EMS providers are there constantly, especially on busy holiday weekends, and unfortunately, it’s a 40-minute ride to a hospital from here — that’s a long time being out of town,” said Gerver.

The board also questioned the need for a helipad and whether it would provide any benefit to the residents in the village, noting that the village of Woodbury already has means of accommodating helicopters for emergency purposes. This notion was contested by a few speakers during public comment, including Amanda Dana, head of the Tourism and Film Office for Orange County, who said her office gets a lot for helicopter accessibility and that is not just for the very wealthy.

Other business

During the meeting the planning board also reviewed the environmental impact of the proposed Homewood Suites 97-room hotel. The board noted that the project’s draft environmental impact statement had incorrect data regarding its impact on the local water supply and that the village of Woodbury does not have the capacity they cited to support new development.

The board also approved a draft resolution in support of the amended site plan and special permit for Rushmore Estate. The applicant has received a waiver from the village of Woodbury’s water-related moratorium on new construction. Rushmore Estate will be limited to 24 events per year until the moratorium is lifted.