By Michael Turton
Will Cold Spring soon be known as “Cold Spring on Hudson?”
That is just one of several controversial issues that the Special Board for the Comprehensive Plan will come to grips with as it heads into the home stretch of what has been a four year planning process. Few decisions were made at the July 22 meeting of the Special Board because several members were away on vacation or other commitments. However, with a quorum of five members present, the stage was set for an interesting final round of public input prior to the new Comprehensive Plan being presented at a formal public hearing at the end of September.
Informal public meetings have been tentatively scheduled for September 16 and September 23. The public will be asked to comment on the draft Comprehensive Plan — especially issues that the Special Board has deemed “controversial.”
The idea of changing the village name surfaced in workshop discussions and Special Board meetings dealing with village character and economic vitality. A view was expressed that such a change could aid in marketing the village as a destination. Proponents also felt it would help end confusion in some travelers’ minds between Cold Spring and Cold Spring Harbor which is located on Long Island. One possibility is that “Cold Spring on Hudson” would be used for marketing purposes only, without officially changing the village name.
Another issue bound to generate considerable interest will be the Special Board’s recommendation for the location of a new Cold Spring fire hall. There are three candidate sites: the former Butterfield Hospital; Cedar Street behind the Philipstown Town Hall; and the existing fire hall site on Main Street. Butterfield Hospital seems to be the front runner but that recommendation hinges in large part on the Putnam County Legislature which is considering acquiring the site. If County ownership becomes a reality, numerous municipal services have been proposed for the former hospital property — including a new fire hall.
Village trustee Chuck Hustis attended last week’s meeting and said that a vote by the County Legislature on the Butterfield purchase is expected in August. That would give the Special Board time to make its recommendation prior to the public meetings in September.
The Cedar Street location has not been dismissed. “It would be a very good site” said Special Board chair Mike Armstrong. “There is enough space there and it is a natural location to consolidate with the Town Hall and Volunteer Ambulance Corps.” Armstrong said that if the County votes in favor of purchasing Butterfield the Special Board would recommend it as the fire hall site but that if County votes “no”, Cedar Street would get the nod.
A number of disadvantages associated with the existing fire hall site were identified by Marie Early who chairs the Community Facilities group. Early said the old fire hall would have to be torn down and that it would be difficult to find a temporary location for the fire company during construction. She said the site also offers little room for expansion. “It (the existing site) just doesn’t seem to be the most practical “¦” Early said.
Because of the low turnout of board members no vote was taken on whether or not metered parking should be adopted for the municipal parking lot on Fair Street.
Technical help needed
Armstrong asked Special Board members to submit any issues requiring technical expertise before the Special Board makes its final recommendation. He cited one example- the possibility of a room tax being added as a new revenues source – stating that legal advice is needed regarding whether or not the village is empowered to levy such a tax. Room taxes are sometimes added to fees charged to overnight guests at hotels, motels and bed and breakfast operations.
Expansion of overnight accommodations is one idea being considered as part of the Comprehensive Plan. Marie Early said that advice may also be sought from Greenplan, the Rhinebeck-based consulting firm that is assisting the Special Board with the final phases of writing the new plan. She said that the firm may be asked to look at other communities’ tax rates to determine whether or not creation of a Fire District would offer more cost effective fire protection for the village.
Who does the Comprehensive Plan serve?
Towards the end of the meeting Early asked what at first seemed to be an odd question given that the Comprehensive Plan is now just weeks away from completion.
“Who is the Comprehensive Plan written for?” she queried.
Early said that the plan places a great deal of emphasis on bringing more visitors to Cold Spring —something that in her view may be of limited value to residents. Chair Mike Armstrong responded that the Comprehensive Plan should be balanced, providing benefits to both residents and visitors, but that in the end it must be approved by village residents through their elected representatives.
Armstrong said that as part of the examination of alternate sources of revenue for the village, the Comprehensive Plan will advocate for revenue sharing by Putnam County. Currently the Village of Cold Spring receives none of the county tax revenue derived from spending at village businesses, including tourist spending. Many counties in New York State share such revenues with their municipalities.
Another interesting decision for the Special Board will be their recommendation on who will fill a vacancy on the board. Cold Spring resident Peter Henderson and former Cold Spring mayor Anthony Philips have both applied for the position.