TOWN OF WALLKILL — The town board will decide as early as this week whether to approve a planned residential development application for a property where apartments are proposed by the Galleria Mall.
On a 4.9-acre lot at the corner of Smith Road and Galleria Drive - about half a mile from the Middletown-Town of Wallkill train station - Pyramid Management Group, owner of the Galleria at Crystal Run, has applied for PRD approval on a town center district-zoned property.
To grant the approval, the Wallkill Town Board would have to amend the overlay district town code to allow PRD approval on a four-acre plot, rather than the now mandated five-acre plot.
A public hearing at the town's January board meeting spilled into the February board meeting. It was closed Thursday after hearing the last bit of public input, and Town Supervisor Frank DenDanto said the board would take some time to let the ideas and feedback from residents marinate with the board before a decision is made, which could be as early as Wednesday's planned work session at 7 p.m., pending the town attorney's approval of the amended town code.
"We put most of the concerns that are legitimate to bed," DenDanto said Sunday afternoon by phone.
Several residents railed against the project, and high density build-outs in general that require amendments to town codes. DenDanto himself ran for the town supervisor seat against what he described as irresponsible high density projects in the town.
But this one is different, he said. It would allow the town to establish a center that would give Wallkill an area that is "more like a downtown," he said.
Pyramid's plan is to build between 100 and 250 one- and two-bedroom apartments aimed at young professionals, possibly New York City commuters because of the proximity to the train, and empty-nesters looking for a low-maintenance, walkable living setting, according to a presentation at Jan. 23's town board public hearing by David Aitken, a spokesman for the mall and 18-year Pyramid employee.
But nothing has been presented to the planning and town boards for official approvals aside from the overlay application, DenDanto said.
Aitken noted during his presentation that the mall used to be known only for shopping, dining and entertainment. The mall is looking to do what it has done with other properties, similar to its Albany project, Crossgates Mall, by adding a hotel and apartment complex into the mix.
"We always refer to it as ensuring the success of the mothership," Aitken said during the meeting.
Frances Meyer, a 30-year third-ward resident, spoke at the Jan. 23 meeting about her dislike for the high density build-outs in the area.
"I'm sick of it," she said.
But town board members noted the project speaks to the viability of the mall in the town, and to that, the town's tax base.
"The Galleria is our largest taxpayer, and that is very important to us sitting up here, because I don't want them to shut their doors then knock on yours," said Mark Coyne, first-ward councilmember.
DenDanto said most of the public feedback has been in support of the project, and he is "encouraged that the PRD will likely occur."