By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
After months of deliberations, the Cold Spring Village Board last Wednesday (Aug. 25) enacted a law allowing use of composting toilets in parks. The 3-2 vote clears the way for the environmental and historical conservation group Scenic Hudson to move forward on plans to build a composting toilet station at the West Point Foundry Preserve.
Trustees Bruce Campbell and J. Ralph Falloon joined Mayor Seth Gallagher in approving the measure, which amends a section of village code that makes owners connect buildings or outdoor recreational facilities to the public sewer system. Trustee Airinhos Serradas and Charles Hustis voted against it. “This is lost revenue,” Serradas said. “I’m not overly concerned about Scenic Hudson’s assets. It’s still costing us” if the sewer department or building inspector checks the composting toilets regularly. He wanted Planning Board proposals for the inspection fees before adoption of the new law.
“I would say that’s just going to delay that further,” Gallagher replied. “I would recommend that we pass this, we send it over [to the Planning Board], we get the fee, we move on.”
“It’s really not something we’re going to get a lot of revenue from,” Campbell said. “I really don’t see any reason to delay it.”
The board had discussed the composting toilets issue in February and in May and July, when it held public hearing sessions. Unlike regular toilets hooked up to sewer lines, composting toilets use little or no water and rely on an aerobic decomposition of waste materials.
Turning to another recurring and oft-debated question, the board began considering the level of fees to charge businesses for waivers in lieu of providing parking spaces. At its regular monthly meeting in July, the board approved a fee-in-lieu-of-parking law, under review since last autumn. In essence, the law allows businesses in the B-1 and B-2 zoning districts, which cover the historic Main Street area and Chestnut Street shopping sector, to buy their way out of compliance with requirements that they supply a certain number of off-street parking places — for example, restaurants must offer one space for every three seats while offices must supply one parking slot for each 150 square feet of ground-floor space. To fulfill the obligation, establishments often have rented parking places from other businesses at rates of $60 to $100 per space monthly. The new law will allow them to instead pay the village a presumably smaller fee.
As outlined by Gallagher, both taxpayers and businesses would benefit. “This would be a one-time fee. It is a way for the village to offset the expense” of parking enforcement or maintenance of a public parking lot, “which is paid by the taxpayer generally, the property owners,” he said. At the same time “it would be less than they [businesses] pay now if they have to purchase parking on their own.”
“So,” Serradas said, “if we do this we’re not going to be issuing tickets anymore, parking tickets.”
“Yes we are,” Gallagher responded, describing the waiver fees as an additional source of revenue.
As in the case of the composting toilets, Serradas wanted to get recommendations on fees from the Planning Board, with input as well from the Zoning Board of Appeals. But Gallagher thought that “we should be able to come up with some fee at least initially on our own,” suggesting a charge of $250 to $500. He promised to put the issue on the agenda for the board’s next workshop session.
“I was in favor of the parking waiver. I’m personally not in favor of the fee,” Serradas said, describing it as “a disincentive,” especially in a tough economy. “To me this is another tax.” He suggested that the board consider parking meters. That “is not going to hit our residents,” he said. “It’s not going to hit the business owners. I think that will generate a tremendous amount of money.”
In other business, the board voted 4-1 to appoint former Mayor Anthony Phillips to the Special Board for a Comprehensive Plan Plan. Gallagher, who defeated Phillips in a bitter race in March 2009, voiced the lone “nay.”
Before the meeting adjourned, Gallagher announced that the village wants bids from contractors for sidewalk repairs on sections of four streets: Fair, Orchard, Mountain Avenue and Locust Ridge. According to the “request for price quotes” available at the Village Clerk’s office, contractors seeking to enter bids must tour the work areas with the highway foreman, beginning at 9 a.m. Monday (Aug. 30) at the highway garage, 49 Fair St. Proposals are due by 3 p.m. on Friday (Sept. 3) at the village office, 85 Main St. The work will involve 168 feet of sidewalk on the east side of Orchard Street, 66 feet on the south side of Mountain Avenue, 165 feet on the east side of Locust Ridge, and the south side of Fair street from “just after the former auto dealership” to Riverview restaurant.