Plan for 'Stew Leonard' property in Orange comes into focus

The 41-acre property at 161 Marsh Hill Road in Orange.

The 41-acre property at 161 Marsh Hill Road in Orange.

The Town Plan and Zoning Commission got a clearer picture Wednesday, Nov. 7, of what type of facility is being proposed for the “Stew Leonard” property at 161 Marsh Hill Road.

Many residents had feared the developer, Scannell Properties LLC, was looking to create a truck stop such as Pilot because of fueling, truck washing and a repair shop in the plan.

But attorney John Knuff, who Wednesday night said he represented the developer and Leonard, and members of his team said the main building would be a distribution facility for products of varying kinds. They had declined to release such details prior to Wednesday night.

The team said the national company that would locate there currently is located nearby, but not in Orange.

Knuff said they have had extensive talks with Orange officials and, among other points, they emphasized the location as a “gateway” to the town and so the developer is respectful of that in its plans by including berms and heavy landscaping that would not make the facility visible from the highway.

Knuff said much of the land will be undeveloped and a conservation easement would be put into place.

He said the facility will be good for the town because it will provide $600,000 to $700,000 in tax revenue at a time when brick and mortar businesses are decreasing.

He also said the business would operate 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and would be closed on weekends.

Traffic would be minimal, an engineer for the developer said.

The public hearing Wednesday before the TPZC was for an application by Stew Leonards Orange LLC for a temporary special use earth materials removal and filling for the proposed construction of a 47,178-square-foot distribution facility and a 9,680-square-foot maintenance building.

They also submitted an application for sediment control measures.

The TPZC was not expected to make a decision Wednesday.

Stew Leonards Orange LLC owns the property on Marsh Hill — following years of failed attempts to build a store there — and is trying to sell it. Scannell Properties LLC holds a contract to buy the parcel.

The property price is not listed for the public to see, but at one point Leonard was seeking $14.5 million. He paid $2.2 million for the land in 1996.

The application before the TPZC states site work is expected to result in approximately 166,300 cubic yards of cut and 103,300 cubic yards of fill.

An application for the distribution center to move forward through the approval process is currently before the Inland Wetlands and Water Courses Commission.

That commission still has not ruled on the developer’s request to build and operate in proximity to wetlands.

The public hearing began Sept. 11 and was continued twice. The hearing was continued until Nov. 13.

Inland Wetlands and Water Courses Commission Chairman Rick Mangione said last month the public hearing on the application had to be kept open until the commission receives various calculations and makes sure other questions by the town engineer have been addressed.