Talk about a potential deal breaker. In April, Kohl’s, a Wisconsin-based discount retailer announced plans to build a 500,000 sf distribution facility here. Now comes word that the deal, and the 900 jobs that would have come with it, are in danger, due to environmental problems at the site.

On July 19, an administrative law judge recommended to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner John Cahill that Chester Industrial Park Associates, the owner of Chester Industrial Park, and V. Paulius and Associates of Allendale, NJ, the general contractor at the property, each pay $500,000 for violating state environmental law in 1966. They are charged with depositing a minimum of 50,000 cubic yards of fill within a 10-acre portion of state-designated, freshwater wetlands at the property. It is not known at press time if Kohl’s project abuts or is located within the wetlands area. Officials with V. Paulius could not be reached for comment, but according to the ruling, both parties have denied the accusations.

Ellen Stoutenburgh, a spokesperson for the DEC Region 3 office in New Paltz, tells that the commissioner will most likely render a final decision within the next 30 to 60 days. She adds, “The proposed construction could be impacted by the commissioner’s decision.” No construction will be allowed until then. The company had hoped to break ground later this year.

When asked whether the environmental issues might cause the retailer to look elsewhere Gary Vasques, the company’s executive vice president, says only, “we are trying to work out all of the problems with the developer and the state.” He refused comment on whether the search for a new location was underway.

Ann Barber, Orange County Partnership president and chief executive officer, says that the wetlands issue has caused some concern. “Kohl’s, as far as I understand it, feels it has to look at other alternatives. If it can’t find an alternative here in Orange County, we certainly want to see this project here in the Hudson Valley region. We are working very hard on the Chester Industrial Park site and other sites in Orange County,” she says.

If allowed to move forward, Kohl’s is eligible for state incentive financing. Orange County Partnership officials estimated that Kohl’s would be spend approximately $20 million to build the complex and $18 million for equipment to be housed at the site. The project was to be built in two phases the first totaling approximately 350,000 sf, the second another 150,000. Kohl’s has a contract for sale on the parcel, which totals almost 60 acres.

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