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Light Industry in Croton: Major Changes Ahead

February 5, 2008

real deal by a.w. leo wiegman

Today in Croton-on-Hudson, fourteen acres of prime light industrial land on two different sites may be headed for big changes. The two significant sites are wedged between the Route 9 state highway and Metro-North’s rail yard. One is on the market now, the Max Finkelstein Tire Warehouse, and the other, 1A Croton Point Avenue, is the subject of an active acquisition effort by the Village.

croton-light-industrial-zoned-properties.png
Two Lots in Croton’s Light Industrial Zone that are headed for change (click to enlarge picture).

What land uses do we currently find in Croton-on-Hudson’s Light Industrial (LI) zone? The major uses revolve around rail transit. From largest to smallest, the current uses and whether they pay property taxes are as follows:

Croton’s Light Industrial Zone Occupants Area Tax Income?
Metro North’s Harmon Yard and Croton Harmon Train Station 100+ acres No Tax Income
Village’s Parking Lot, Public Works Garage, Salt Shed and Canoe Launch 16 acres No Tax Income
Greentree Realty (1A Croton Point Avenue, former waste transfer site) 9.5 acres Taxable
Finkelstein Tire Warehouse (special permit required) 4.5 acres Taxable
Office Buildings (at 1 and 2 Croton Point Avenue and Senasqua Road 2 acres Taxable

Financially, two facts stand out. First, the 130+ acres in our Light Industrial zone yield only 16 acres of taxable land. About 90% of the light industrial acres produce no property tax income to the village. Metro-North is tax-exempt and so is the land the village owns.

Most communities that create light industrial zones do so explicitly to generate property taxes (or payments in lieu of taxes) and local jobs, while consolidating the location of such businesses. Think of all the industrial or business parks that spring up near transportation hubs all over the Northeast.

Second, the Village owned Parking Lot generates over $2 million dollars revenue from annual parking fees. But fixing the flood prone section of the lot will cost $1.5 million. That capital expense alone (before any borrowing costs) comes to roughly $750 per commuter or $400 per village household. Borrowing to fix the lot will increase the village tax rate which village homeowners disproportionately shoulder compared to non-residential property owners.

Village property tax rates have climbed 22 percent in the past three years alone. The major challenge facing the village is trying to stimulate revenue from sources other than the homeowners. One way to lower residential tax hikes is to have more and better commercial properties contributing taxes to the village coffers. So it matters a great deal who the next operators on these light industrial lots will be and what they will be doing.

Max Finkelstein, Inc, a wholesale tire distributor supplying tire dealers from Maine to Washington, D.C., has put their Croton warehouse on the market with a reported asking price in the $4.5 to $5.5 million range. Located on Half Moon Bay Drive, the site offers 4.5 acres of level ground with a large (120,000 square foot) warehouse and office building in very good condition. Located just 150 yards from Route 9 access ramps at Municipal Place, the entire lot is zoned for “Light Industrial” use, and borders the rail yard along its entire western edge.

Just to the south of Finkelstein’s warehouse, the larger 9.5 acre site owned by Greentree Realty at 1A Croton Point Avenue is also in state of flux. The Greentree site is located just 150 yards from Route 9 access ramps at Croton Point Avenue. It has an active rail spur that enters the site and abuts the village’s upper commuter parking lot. Its buildings are smaller and older than those at the Finkelstein site.

Greentree or Finkelstein could either sell, lease, or redevelop the lots they own in Croton’s Light Industrial zone. Finkelstein has a special permit to operate a wholesale warehouse on the land, a good building suited to that purpose with easy highway access. It seems reasonable a new owner would continue the warehouse use at this site.

At 1A Croton Point Avenue, after years of expensive litigation between the village and the site’s owner and lessees (over whether the site may be used as a truck-to-rail waste transfer station), the village announced its intention to acquire the property this past summer. The village has already spent tens of thousands of dollars on this acquisition process. See village board meeting minutes for 8/30/2007, 9/4/2007, 10/2/2007, 11/26/2007.

What uses are allowed in the Light Industrial zone that would be beneficial to both the village and to new operators or owners? In 2001 after careful, lengthy deliberation, the Village adopted major changes to the zoning code, including a reduction in the number of “as of right” uses, a reduction in the number of ‘special permit’ uses, and a specific prohibition of waste transfer stations in an LI zone.

The Village Code spells out what owners or operators can do in an LI zone without any special permit. Some potential uses for these sites might take one or both sites off the tax rolls altogether. For example, if a government agency purchases a site, that would remove it from the tax rolls.

The three land uses currently permitted in Croton’s LI zone as of right—without the applicant’s seeking the grant of a special permit—are each related to supporting a rail transit hub:

  1. Business and professional offices, including related showrooms, (e.g. the office buildings at 1 and 2 Croton Point Avenue and Senasqua Road);
  2. Railroad lines and stations, (e.g. the Metro-North Croton Harmon station);
  3. Motor vehicle parking structures and parking lots, (e.g. the village’s commuter parking lot).

Seven further uses are permitted in Croton’s LI zone upon the applicant’s being granted a special permit by the Village Board. These seven potential uses have different impacts on traffic, safety, and neighboring lots, which is why a special use permit—if approved—would be tailored for that use on a specific piece of land.

  1. Light manufacturing, assembling, converting, altering, finishing, cleaning or any other processing of products.
  2. Research and design and development laboratories, excluding laboratories that use or process biological, radioactive and hazardous materials, heavy metals or asbestos.
  3. Storage and dispensing of motor fuel and lubricants, but only as part of motor vehicle parking lots and of structures for the parking of motor vehicles.
  4. Hotels, inns and restaurants.
  5. Occasional retail sales incidental to the conduct of any of the uses permitted under this subsection and subject to such frequency and other conditions as may be imposed by the Village Board of Trustees.
  6. Utilities, including but not limited to structures for the provision of electricity, gas and water; radio and television transmission stations; telephone, telegraph and cablegram facilities.
  7. Warehousing and wholesaling; freight distribution centers and terminals; except that any handling, storage or distribution of flammable, combustible, explosive or hazardous materials shall be prohibited. (The Finkelstein Warehouse has a special permit under this clause of the code.)

Croton’s code prohibits one specific use, whether by as of right or by special permit, “Solid and liquid waste transfer and storage stations and landfills (including construction and demolition materials) are prohibited.”

The LI zone requires a 3 acre minimum site, but this can be reduced to 1 acre by the Village Board. This flexibility may play a role if the Village pursues discussion of the potential commercial redevelopment to allow smaller businesses or a restaurant to locate at the train station which do not need a 3 acre footprint.

croton-light-industrial-zones.png
Light Industrial Zone map for Croton-on-Hudson, New York (click to enlarge picture).

Leo Wiegman

Editor’s Note: The author is a former Village of Croton-on-Hudson Trustee who served three terms from 2001 to 2007.



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