Council Sends Zoning Petition to Planning Board

Beacon neighbors want “linkage” dropped

By Jeff Simms

As expected, the Beacon City Council has referred a petition submitted by a group of residents who would like their neighborhood rezoned to the planning board for review. The council will hold a public hearing sometime before April 16 before ruling on the request.

The parcels named in the petition — two on the west side of South Avenue and five on the west side of Wolcott Avenue (Route 9D) — are all within the “linkage zone” established by the city in 2013 to support businesses on the west end of Main. The seven parcels, however, as well as others directly outside of the linkage zone, also lie within the city’s Historic District and Landmark Overlay, which requires owners to receive approval from the planning board for exterior alterations.

The property owners presented their request to the city council last month, asking that it restore the single-family residential zoning that existed prior to the approval of the linkage rezoning in 2013.

The catalyst for the residents’ request were plans by Unicorn Contracting Corp. to build a 70-unit development on the lots next to the Reformed Church of Beacon on Route 9D, a few hundred yards past City Hall, within the linkage zone. Unicorn’s proposed development, the River Highlands, sits within the historic district as well. If the residents’ petition is honored, any development in the same zone, including Unicorn’s proposal, would have to conform to the new (i.e., old) zoning.

During public comment at the city council’s meeting on March 7, Beacon resident Patrick Riley cautioned the council not to be pressured into approving the property owners’ petition, especially given Beacon’s relative lack of developable land.

“To be mindlessly opposed to responsible development acts against the best interests of the city,” Riley said, adding that other developers could be scared off if the council rezones the parcels named in the petition.

Comprehensive plan review

Mayor Randy Casale also announced Monday night the formation of a committee to review the city’s comprehensive plan, which guides development and land use for an extended period, usually 10 years. The 14-person committee, co-chaired by former Ward 4 representative Sara Pasti and current Ward 1 Councilperson Peggy Ross, includes two members of the planning board and several architects and planners. Pasti also co-chaired the city’s 2007 comprehensive plan committee, while Ross led the linkage and Main Street zoning committee in 2012-13.

The group plans to hire a consultant to help on several fronts: outreach to the public for its participation in visioning workshops, market analysis, review of existing zoning and translation of existing and anticipated city land uses into draft zoning amendments. The committee will then plan public forums to gather input on a plan for the waterfront/Metro-North train station area with linkages to Main Street. Its recommendations will considered for integration into a revised comprehensive plan.

Landfill = energy

Poughkeepsie’s BQ Energy has entered into an agreement with the city to develop solar power at the former Beacon landfill near Dennings Point. BQ Energy will mount solar panels in a concrete foundation on the site, which has been closed for more than 20 years.

Founder and Managing Director Paul Curran said he hopes the site can begin producing electricity within the next 12 months, and estimated it could save the city nearly $3 million in energy costs over the next 25 years. BQ has created several dozen solar facilities throughout the East Coast and as far away as Hawaii. This will be the company’s first project in Dutchess County.