Palatine Dairy representative a no-show at Johnstown Planning Board meeting

The Johnstown City Planning Board discusses a proposed Palatine Dairy project Tuesday afternoon at City Hall. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — No one representing Palatine Dairy, LLC attended Tuesday’s city Planning Board meeting to discuss the company’s planned expansion into a vacant major city building, so the board took no action.

The project was on the board’s agenda for a site review at City Hall. Normally, the board schedules a public hearing and declares itself lead environmental agency for similar projects. But the absence of anyone to speak on the project drew criticism from the board.

“We’re in the dark here,” said board Chairman Peter K. Smith.

Palatine Dairy, LLC is considering a project to move into the 80,000-square-foot, former Spray Nine building located at 251 N. Comrie Ave. The project may involve manufacturing, a retail storefront, and a restaurant. Palatine Valley Dairy in Nelliston already operates a cheese facility, but desires a larger building to accommodate increased production.

Palatine Valley Dairy is a manufacturer of fine cheddar cheeses and cheese curd with a retail store that carries other cheeses, cheese items, gift boxes, jarred goods, bulk foods, Croghan bologna, Amish butter and gift items.

According to a project narrative provided to the city by Palatine Dairy, LLC, “Our intended use of the building will be for manufacturing, a retail storefront where our products can be sold and a restaurant that will serve fresh food with clean eating in mind.”

“We are very excited to join the city of Johnstown and to become a part of this community,” the narrative states.

Some of the products to be manufactured at the old Spray Nine building would be: Palatine cheddar cheese, flavored cheddars, fresh cheese curd made weekly, Artisanal cheese, hard ice cream, butter, Artisanal butter, yogurt, and drinkable yogurt.

“The owner of the company was supposed to drive out from Connecticut,” said planning board member Christopher Vose.

But no one representing the company attended the session, with Smith speculating publicly about a project involving a building once occupied by a former chemical manufacturer.

“We know there’s going to have to be some remediation of the property,” Smith said.

He said the state Department of Environmental Conservation may be called in, and speculation centered on cleanup of the building as a possible Brownfield site.

A man who attended but didn’t identify himself, stated he represented Kaldar Inc. — current owner of the former Spray Nine building. He told the board that legally Palatine Dairy, LLC is moving ahead.

“There is a contract in place for the property,” he said.

The Kaldar representative added that a DEC Brownfield application was denied, and it may not be necessary.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any remediation required,” the man said.

City Attorney Michael Poulin told the board it might want to hold off “before you go that far” on a hearing or the SEQR process until it hears from someone from Palatine Dairy, LLC. The board decided to wait until its Jan. 8 meeting to see if Palatine Dairy, LLC sends a representative.

“We’re going to have to at some point start the SEQR process,” Smith said.

He said the planning board needs to know the status of the interior of the former Spray Nine building, closed for about a decade.

“It was a chemical facility so we can’t ignore it,” Smith said.

The board chairman said some area residents and businesses are already concerned about odors emanating from a cheese-making operation.

Vose, a member of the Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Sewer Board, noted that Palatine Dairy Plant Manager Justin Battisti attended that board’s recent meeting. He said that as outlined by Battisti, the production area will be outputting “a relatively low” 1,500 gallons of washwater daily for treatment at the sewage treatment plant.

“As a [planning] board, we need to know what is involved, what volume they anticipate,” Smith said.

He said his board needs to know mainly about odors, hours of operation and signage for the project.

“It would be really nice to see that building come to life again,” Smith said. “But we have to do our due diligence.”

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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