Trustee Serradas suggests the Village not rush anything
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Cold Spring Trustee Airinhos Serradas has roiled the waters around an old Coast Guard boat whose owner wishes to offer Hudson River tours from the village pier – a proposal that drew informal, favorable reaction from Village Board and audience members at a Dec. 21 meeting. “There is no reason to rush anything through for the sake of doing it,” Serradas said three days after the tour boat concept debuted. “We should not be creating any further animosity in the village by telling people what and how they should think.”
In a Dec. 21 presentation to the Village Board, Capt. Mary Pat Driscoll outlined her plans to moor the former buoy-tender at the village dock at the end of Main Street, paying rent of $1,000 a month and potentially boosting tourism and visitor-related revenue. A veteran tour boat skipper, Driscoll, of Trinity Cruise Co., acquired the unnamed boat this past fall. “I like the idea,” Serradas said on the 21st. At the time, his only concern seemed to be possible damage to the dock. “What I’d like to suggest is that the village and Mary Pat also contact DEC [N.Y. State Department of Environmental Conservation] and the Army Corps of Engineers,” he said. “When they built that pier, I don’t believe they had in mind that we’d attach a boat to it. I’d like to see that it doesn’t get torn away.”
“We’ve checked on all that and our engineers have signed off on it,” Mayor Seth Gallagher replied. “As far as structurally — we’re good. It’s more legally with our code,” that obstacles arise. With the apparent consensus of the board, Gallagher then promised to consult Stephen Gaba, village attorney, for legal assistance regarding the code. The board made no immediate commitment to Captain Driscoll. Two days later, Gallagher advised the board that Gaba planned to finish a draft code revision by Jan. 31. Currently, the Cold Spring Village Code permits docking of vessels in “special circumstances,” such as when the historic fireboat visits on a weekend. Otherwise, the code states that “there shall be no docking of any vessels, including ships, boats, barges, canoes, kayaks, or any other private vessel of any size or type at the waterfront park.”
A day after Gallagher’s update, Serradas wrote his e-mail urging delays, until the village’s standing boards can weigh in – a process that could conceivably take months and thwart Driscoll’s hopes of getting operations underway by June. In addition to prepping the boat and relocating it to Cold Spring, she must address sewage and utility needs, create a ticketing system, plan the routes, work with local businesses, and see to other details.
“Mayor Gallagher, while the presentation that was made the other day by Mary Pat of Trinity was interesting and it did have merit: We are considering changes to the zoning code that will in my opinion have an impact to the village,” Serradas wrote on Dec. 24. “I recommend that we get opinions from our standing boards if this can constitute or be viewed as spot-zoning for starters.” He sent his note to the other trustees as well as the mayor and cautioned that “bypassing these long standing boardsÃ” would create
resentment “in addition to disenfranchising the taxpaying voting residents. This has many implications that we should be sending to the standing boards,” the Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board, Historic District Review Board, and Recreation Commission. He did not propose seeking reaction from the Special Board for a Comprehensive Plan-Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, which also has an interest in what happens at the dock.
By moving forward quickly, Serradas implied, the Village Board might act improperly. “Why not do this correctly and prudently [as] opposed to racing for the finish line?” he asked. “Let’s follow the procedures and set protocols.” He also claimed that “most of the attendees at the last Tuesday’s presentation were not even village residents. They do not represent the village residents nor do they understand what it is to be a Cold Springer. Cold Spring law allows the mayor and trustees to instigate zoning changes: “The Village Board may from time to time on its own motion, or on petition, or on recommendation of the Planning Board, amend, supplement, or repeal the regulations and provisions of this chapter,” the portion of code dealing with zoning. However, the law stipulates that “every such proposed amendment or change, whether initiated by the Village Board or by petition, shall be referred to the Planning Board for report thereon before the public hearing required by law.Ã” A hearing allows residents the opportunity to express their views about proposed changes in the law.
Serradas’ e-mail began circulating among village residents after he sent it; eventually, a copy reached Philipstown.info. As of deadline time on Sunday (Jan. 2), Serradas had not replied to a Dec. 31 Philipstown.info e-mail posing several questions about his rationale. In part, these asked what the “many implications” he foresees might be, how proceeding could constitute telling villagers how to think, why the Village Board’s exercise of its right to initiate a zoning change should create animosity or disenfranchise taxpayers, and what evidence indicated that the majority of attendees at the Dec. 21 meeting were not Cold Spring residents.
After Serradas’ view was disseminated, Gallagher commented further, too. “Steve Gaba can address the issue raised concerning spot zoning,” the mayor told the trustees in an e-mail; last Thursday (Dec. 30). He also said that the village clerk would forward Gaba’s draft code revision to the chairmen of the standing boards, “with a request for any input by Feb. 8,” when the board holds its formal meeting for that month. He referred to Feb. 8 as “the likely date for the public hearing on this draft law.”
The mayor also discounted the notion that the audience on Dec. 21 consisted mostly of non-residents. “A quick review of the attendees at the meeting with Mary Pat Driscoll shows that the vast majority were from the village,” he said. According to his unofficial enumeration, 14 attendees were from Cold Spring. Two more live in Nelsonville or Philipstown, whose residents also use the Cold Spring wharf; while a third lives in Beacon; applicant Driscoll and her family comprised the final three in the mayor’s count. At one point an informal tally from the press table showed 23 to 25 attendees, with some individuals wandering in and out.