MALTA — Plans for a national real estate developer to build up to 3.5 million square feet of warehouse or manufacturing space at the Luther Forest Technology Campus — potentially creating 2,500 permanent jobs — have begun moving through the town zoning review process.
Following up on conceptual plans presented last year, Scannell Properties of Indianapolis has agreed to conduct an environmental impact study on its plans for up to five massive warehouse or manufacturing buildings, and is looking to move quickly, perhaps breaking ground on the first building this summer.
“We’ve got a long list of prospects and I think we will be moving very quickly,” Scannell development manager Zachary Zweifler told the Malta Town Board during a workshop meeting on the plans on Monday.
Scannell has an option to buy 245 acres to the south of the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant, on land now containing scrub pine forest and industrial relics of post-World War II defense research and development use, including rocket engine testing gantries.
But before ground can be broken, the Town Board would need to amend the zoning law for the technology campus, which currently is focused on attracting semi-conductor manufacturers and similar high-tech uses. A zoning amendment application submitted by Scannell in December would broaden the definition of manufacturing uses allowed, and add warehouse and distribution centers to the allowed uses.
The application is being referred this week to the town and Saratoga County planning boards for advisory recommendations — a mandated early step in the review process.
Scannell has acknowledged a supplemental environmental impact statement will be needed. Town Supervisor Darren O’Connor said the Town Board will take the next step in the environmental review process at its March 29 meeting, though what that step will be will depend on advice from the town’s lawyers and consulting engineers.
“It would be nice to see this happen if we can iron out these things, and I think we can make it happen,” said O’Connor, who supports the project.
If Scannell’s plans do move forward, they would be the first significant development at the tech campus since GlobalFoundries broke ground in 2009. Town officials and regional economic development officials have become increasingly concerned as the once-envisioned computer chip manufacturing and support system complex has failed to materialize, and there were already discussions underway about broadening the allowed uses before Scannell submitted its application.
Scannell Properties has done large developments for major companies across the United States and in Europe. It is best-known in the Capital Region for building the 1-million-square-foot Amazon regional distribution center in Schodack. The company made a PowerPoint presentation to the Town Board last November, and formally filed a zoning application in December — but the review process hasn’t gotten underway until now.
The land Scannell is considering includes a former General Electric rocket fuel and Wright-Malta weapons testing site, which was active from just after World War II until the 1990s. That work polluted groundwater, but the site has been through a federally supervised environmental cleanup, and a local attorney for Scannell said no issues are anticipated. Any new buildings would be on public water and sewer.
Scannell has projected that one building a year would be built, with the smallest being in the 400,000-square-foot range — the equivalent of more than eight football fields.
The 1,414-acre technology campus, which sits on the Malta-Stillwater town line, was created as a custom-zoned planned development district in 2004, with the goal of attracting computer chip makers. Officials scored an early victory in 2006, with the announcement that the chip plant that would become GlobalFoundries would locate there, in return for nearly $1.4 billion in state incentives.
Ground was broken on what the company calls Fab 8 in 2009, and the plant went into full production in 2012. Today about $13 billion has been invested by GlobalFoundries, which has about 3,000 employees there.
Whether the Luther Forest road system can handle the additional traffic any Scannell buildings would generate is one of the issues the environmental impact study will consider. O’Connor said it is too soon to know whether such a study would recommend additional road infrastructure improvements.
At the workshop, Town Board member John Hartzell said the possible impact on the town of more traffic is his biggest concern. “You will have more large trucks coming in than GlobalFoundries does,” he told Scannell representatives.
Though conducting a full environmental study would take several months and require at least one public hearing, O’Connor said he’s hopeful ground on a first building could be broken this year.