Almost all of the 80 Rotterdam residents who crowded into the town hall meeting room during a public hearing before the planning commission last week protested a salt company's request to relocate to their neighborhood.
Speaker after speaker told commissioners they opposed granting a special-use permit to let Ricelli Enterprises move and expand its bulk salt operation to an area of the Rotterdam Industrial Park that is near a residential area and Pop Warner football field.
Ricelli has operated in the park for years without incident, but its salt pile currently sits near the tracks, where construction is slated for the Railex project, an $18 million business in the works that will facilitate the delivery of fresh produce from Washington state to Rotterdam, in refrigerated rail cars. The mile-long trains will un-load their cargo at the industrial park, and it will be stored in a new distribution center being built near the Golub Corp.'s facility. The operation is expected to employ up to 300 people.
Steve Porter, an attorney for Galesi Group, which owns the industrial park, said Railex needs the salt pile to move now.
After looking at several alternative sites, (Ricelli Enterprises) indicated they really couldn't find any acceptable sites, so they asked us to find a site, Porter said, explaining Galesi Group's interest in supporting Ricelli's permit application. "It's the only site in the park that will work for them. There was no intent to mislead."
Ricelli's lawyer, Frederick Micale, stunned residents when he announced that the chairman of the Pop Warner league had submitted a letter supporting Ricelli's requested move.
At an earlier meeting, a Pop Warner representative had ex-pressed concerns about locating the salt pile so close to the field. Pop Warner leases the playing field from Galesi for $1 per year.
"We're here this evening not to further argue our case but to hear the public," Micale said, noting the testimony provided on behalf of the salt company at the earlier meeting.