Mamakating, NY - Developer Has Big Plans For Wurtsboro Airport
Mamakating, NY - Shalom Lamm plans to save Wurtsboro Airport by surrounding it with more than 1.5 million square feet of warehouse and office space.
The managing director of Black Creek Holdings presented his audacious proposal Tuesday night to the Mamakating Planning Board.
Lamm has already divided the 400-acre airport into two distinct properties. The aviation operation has been reduced to 177 acres and turned over to a nonprofit organization, the Wurtsboro Airport Foundation, with the promise that it will remain an airport forever.
In return for that pledge, Lamm said, the Federal Aviation Administration has given him the green light to develop the remaining acreage.
“We had two central goals,” Lamm said during an interview before the Planning Board meeting. “One is, as a businessman, we have no problem making a profit, taking an asset and trying to improve it. The second “» was to save Wurtsboro Airport.”
Lamm expects the airport to lose about $40,000 a year. Without creating a structure to support its continued operation, it would likely have to be shut down.
His plan includes a 1.2-million-square-foot warehouse and three smaller buildings. The businesses that locate on the property will contribute about $150,000 per year to the foundation that owns the airport. Lamm compared the arrangement to a homeowners association, in which owners pay common charges that cover maintenance of common areas.
“We figured out the better mousetrap, and that’s how to make a small, important, historic general-aviation airport fiscally sound in perpetuity,” he said.
The commercial development would create thousands of jobs and pay millions in property taxes each year. The entire scheme hinges, of course, on attracting users. Lamm is working with Real Estate Solutions, which has extensive experience guiding the development of warehouse sites.
Securing approval for a 1.2-milion-square-foot building would give the site a competitive advantage, since such sites are rare in the Northeast, said John Lavelle, an associate broker with Real Estate Solutions. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has been squatting for years on a nearby site that fits the bill, perhaps because it’s the only such property in the region.
“There’s nothing in Connecticut that can accommodate that. There’s nothing in northern New Jersey that can accommodate that,” Lavelle said.
Lamm hopes to secure generic approval for the project, then complete site work so the property can be marketed as shovel-ready. He has commissioned extensive environmental studies.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, the Planning Board announced its intention to serve as lead agency in the project’s environmental review.
In 2007, Lamm paid about $4.5 million for the airport, then poured more than $1 million into improvements. He withdrew earlier development plans amid fierce local opposition and town discussions about seizing the airport through eminent domain.
This time, Lamm is attempting to pre-empt his critics. His company, Wurtsboro Airport Preservation League, and Web site, www.savewurtsboroairport.com, both sound like they belong to opponents of his plans.
Lamm is involved in a half-dozen projects around Sullivan and northern Orange County. The airport, though, is shaping up as his biggest gamble. He said he’s prepared for what figures to be a lengthy development process, in Mamakating and at his other projects.
“We’re not under any particular pressure to do anything quickly,” Lamm said. “We’re just huge believers in this area.”
Mr. Lamm currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors at Yeshiva College, as President of its affiliated Camp Morasha, and as a member of the Board of Directors of The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA).
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