Lowville Planning Board approves expanded Kraft Heinz plan

The Kraft Heinz expansion project has been officially expanded.

The village Planning Board on Monday gave final approval to an amended site plan that now includes 103,353 square feet of additions to the Utica Boulevard cream cheese manufacturing plant; that’s up from 75,848 square feet in the plan previously approved in March.

“It’s been a long process,” board Vice Chairman Gerald “Joe” Boshart said after the vote, congratulating company representatives on its completion.

A second phase of the ongoing expansion project is to include a 24,433-square-foot cooler addition off the southern front corner of the plant and smaller additions in the back for boilers and ammonia and mixing tanks.

That work is to be added to the original plans, which included a 67,756-square-foot string cheese addition in the rear of the plant, a 5,923-square-foot receiving bay addition on the north side and a 2,169-square-foot two-pack addition on the front; however, 21,400 square feet of the current plant is being demolished first.

The project is being designed by Excel Engineering Inc., Fond du Lac, Wis.

Kraft Heinz has decided to use a decorative metal fence to screen the property along Utica Boulevard, said Eric Drazkowski from Excel.

“This is a nice looking fence,” Mr. Boshart said. “This is going to aesthetically enhance the area.”

Mr. Drazkowski said other issues raised during prior work sessions with the Planning Board, including installation of an appropriate water meter, had been addressed.

Along with the additional construction, the amended plans would extend the front parking area closer to the street and create a new entrance for milk trucks at the neighboring Lowville Producers Dairy Cooperative property, allowing for milk testing before trucks continue on to the plant.

The Planning Board also reviewed plans for renovation of a building at 5501 Trinity Ave. by Barkeater Craft Brewing for a five-barrel brewing system. The business would keep its retail operation at its Shady Avenue location.

The application was deemed complete, and a public hearing was set for June 27.

McDonald’s USA also submitted plans for addition of a second drive-through lane and menu board, as well as several other improvements intended to make the restaurant more accessible.

Chris Boyea from Bohler Engineering, Albany, said the proposed change stems from a shift toward more drive-through business at the Utica Boulevard location, with more than 50 percent of sales now coming from drive-through orders.

“We need to reset that to stay current,” he said.

Planning Board members expressed concern that the move would reduce the number of parking spots by around 10 when the business already has too few spots under village code. They determined that the parking issue should first be addressed by the village Zoning Board of Appeals through a variance before deeming the application complete and setting a public hearing.

A state Department of Transportation permit should also be sought for a proposed walkway connecting the sidewalk with the store, as it would be within the DOT right-of-way, board members said.

By Steve Virkler, Watertown Daily Times