Warwick --The Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of NY, Inc. could begin building its new world headquarters at the site of the former International Nickel Company in Warwick as soon as spring, Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton said this week.
The Watchtower has an application before the town's planning board for a tax-exempt campus that will serve as the its world headquarters and will include a tourist center, museum, and visitor center complete with four-level parking garage.
"I know they are currently working on detailed site plans to give to the planning board," said Sweeton.
Watchtower's application is for a campus of eight buildings on 45-acres. The site on Long Meadow Road consists currently of approximately 195 acres of forest, 37 acres of wetlands and Blue Lake, and almost 14 acres of roads, buildings and landscaping.
Watchtower representatives estimated the annual financial benefits of the project at approximately $7.5 million or about $100 per tourist.
About 70,000 Jehovah's Witnesses visit the Brooklyn facility from around the world annually to tour, said Watchtower spokesperson Richard Devine in a telephone interview this week.
Perkins Eastman, the award-winning architectural firm, "helped us with the architectural theme of the site and did a beautiful job," Devine added.
Although planning board officials were not shown renderings of the buildings and maintenance facility at the public hearing, records indicate that chairman Benjamin Astorino was impressed.
For example, a number of buildings will have vegetative roofs to absorb light to moderate rainfall and keep buildings cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
Public comment was not received at the public hearing on July 20 nor before the public comment period closed on Aug. 3. At a regular meeting of the Warwick Town Board in November 2009, Sweeton announced the plans to refurbish the property off Long Meadow Road and, at that time, its visual impact was the primary concern residents wanted addressed.
Devine said that engineers are working now on producing a final environmental impact statement for presentation. Representing the society before the planning board were the society's legal counsel Robert E. Krahulik, project manager Bob Pollock and Brooklyn architect Enrique Ford. Devine also was in attendance.
Property nearby in Tuxedo
Watchtower has applied for a demolition permit from the Warwick building department. The organization also has acquired the former International Paper site on Long Meadow Road in Tuxedo to serve as the construction staging location for the new world headquarters. The two sites are about six miles apart.
"We'd like to start (demolition) fairly soon and clear the (Warwick) site of those abandoned and dangerous buildings and wait for future site plan approval," Devine added.
Next steps include preparing the final environmental impact statement, a period of public consideration, preparation and adoption of a findings statement, and planning board review of the site plan. No dates have been set although Devine said the final environmental impact statement should be completed by November.