By DAN HEATH
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Bombardier Transportation has received City of Plattsburgh Planning Board approval for its $25 million expansion project, with conditions that include an 8-foot-tall fence.
The expansion calls for an 87,600-square-foot expansion on the north and west side of the building at 71 Wall St. The company has already installed a new mezzanine in the plant.
New track at the test facility is designed to reduce the number of times railcars are moved before they can be shipped by truck to the Chicago Transit Authority.
Before Monday evening’s Planning Board vote, some neighbors once again expressed opposition.
Ernie Gillespie, who lives at 89 Main Mill St., said the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Common Council give Bombardier everything it wants. He questioned why the company was allowed to hire the firm that did the traffic study.
“You’re putting the fox in the hen coop here,” Gillespie said.
He asked for a earthen berm with an 8-to-10-foot fence on top of it along the edge of the property as a sign of good faith to the neighbors.
‘HEALTH AT RISK’
Laverne Hicks of 9 Alex Way said that when the property was zoned industrial, it was not done legally. She said there should have been public meetings and public hearings on the issue.
Bombardier has not delivered on a promise, made when the company came to Plattsburgh, to create 700 jobs, Mrs. Hicks said.
There are slightly more than 400 employees at the plant.
“We’re giving them the cream of the crop, and we’re getting crapped on,” she said.
Hicks said the building next to her property blocks the sun until later morning. There is also the noise from forklifts and from tools being dropped, she said.
“My health is at risk. My husband’s health is at risk.”
Her husband, former City Councilor Harold “Rebel” Hicks, said he and his neighbors packed the room when Bombardier first announced it planned to build in the city. Many don’t attend anymore due to advancing age and a feeling they won’t be heard, he said.
“We can’t swamp you with numbers, and we can’t swamp you with facts,” Mr. Hicks said. “You don’t want to hear them.”
He said it’s a joke when Bombardier’s representatives talk about noise-reduction measures. Mr. Hicks said metal deliveries arrive in the middle of the night, and trains blow horns as they approach the property.
“They don’t give a damn,” he said.
Bombardier plans to tear down the outbuilding where wheel assemblies are made, which is right next to its residential neighbors. That work will be performed in the new expansion and eliminate the need for forklifts to move the units from one building to the other, officials said.
Aaron Ovios of engineering firm Robert M. Sutherland said the expansion increases the distance from its neighbors and should improve the existing conditions.
The 8-foot-tall fence included as a condition of Planning Board approval must be made of sound-dampening materials to lessen noise at the surrounding properties. Bombardier also needs to establish a liaison to listen to complaints, the Planning Board decreed.
The project received $2.5 million in funding from Empire State Development as part of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council’s five-year Strategic Plan.
Bombardier had previously obtained variances from the City Zoning Board of Appeals for excess height of the building and fencing. The Common Council granted an easement that will allow Bombardier to build a new access road to the western side of the property from Main Mill Street.
Bombardier Plant Manager Alain Aumiais said last week that the expansion will be done in phases and should be complete by the end of 2013.
Email Dan Heath: firstname.lastname@example.org