Sweeton envisions new agricultural park at former prison

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:36

    Warwick — Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton has formed an advisory committee to oversee the development of the former Mid-Orange Correctional property. Since August when Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the surprise announcement about the prison closure, Sweeton has worked together with Assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt and state Sen. David Carlucci to make the town an equal partner with the state in determining the property’s future. Now the effort is an official part of his campaign for re-election. Elected in 2001, Sweeton is a Republican and running unopposed. The former medium security prison located at 900 Kings Highway is divided by State School Road and already has distinct areas, one of which Sweeton would like to connect to the town’s agricultural base. “Any kind of agribusiness park on one section could have lots of possibilities,” said Sweeton in a telephone interview. The property has proximity to both the railroad and state Route 17A, which would be advantageous to a regional produce processing facility, small processing firms for local produce, a yogurt maker or meat processing facility. Other ideas include a satellite educational campus and business incubator space. “The property has a beautiful pavilion and nice recreational space that could be for public use,” he said. “Our concern is (the property) is served by a central sewer and fits the model of denser (residential) development which is not what the community wants,” Sweeton added, who is simultaneously trying to reduce the town’s dependence on residential tax revenue especially now that property tax increases are capped at 2-percent. “Currently 88 percent of taxes in Warwick are paid by residential homeowners,” said Sweeton, who wants to boost revenues rather than cut services. In August, the town board voted unanimously to rezone the 772-acre site off Kings Highway from residential to office/ industrial, a move to grow the town’s commercial ratable base given that most of the town’s commercial and industrial space is wetlands or marginal land. Essential information The citizens advisory committee will have between 9 and 15 members and Sweeton hopes both business people and residents from Warwick will get involved. “If a well known economic development expert like Jonathan Drapkin (head of the regional public policy group, Pattern for Progress) the regional wanted to help, I wouldn’t turn him down,” said Sweeton about keeping the advisory committee local. Those interested in serving on the committee should write a letter outlining their qualifications to the attention of Town Supervisor at 132 Kings Highway, Warwick, NY 10990 or e-mailed to supervi@warwick.net