By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
The Cold Spring Village Board Tuesday night (Jan. 25) completed its first pass through the draft Comprehensive Plan, adding a new provision on protection of the watershed that feeds local taps and eliminating a measure calling for residents of private streets to pay for snow plowing. The board members also scheduled another meeting for tonight (Thursday, Jan. 27) at 7:30 to allow last-minute tweaking of the Comprehensive Plan before a public information forum slated for Feb. 1, next Tuesday.
More than four years in the making, the plan outlines goals, objectives and recommendations to help define the nature of the village and guide policy-making in the next 20 years. Once the plan is formally adopted by the Village Board of Trustees, all land-use regulations must be in accordance with it and all plans for capital projects by other government agencies, including those at state and federal levels, must take the plan into consideration.
In a workshop meeting that lasted nearly four hours, Mayor Seth Gallagher and Trustees Bruce Campbell, Charles Hustis, and Airinhos Serradas augmented a section on community facilities and services to include a new reference to the village water supply. It recommends that the village “enter into an inter-municipal agreement with the Town of Philipstown providing for the town to notify the Village Board and Building Department of any building permits or other proposed construction inside or within one-half mile of the Cold Spring watershed overlay.” The Town of Philipstown’s draft rezoning plan, the subject of a public hearing on Feb. 9, calls for establishment of a Cold Spring Watershed Overlay District “to protect the water supply of the Villages of Cold Spring and Nelsonville, which includes the entire watershed of Foundry Brook.” The village water system serves Cold Spring, Nelsonville, and parts of Philipstown and depends on reservoirs, located in North Highlands, which feed Foundry Brook.
From a draft Comprehensive Plan section dealing with property taxes, the Village Board members deleted a provision urging that they “consider charging residents on private streets for snow removal.” According to the mayor and trustees, of the six private streets or roads in the village, two — Belvedere and Hamilton — get plowed by the village after snow storms. However, the board retained provisions that the village “investigate funding garbage collection though user charges to facilitate incentives to recycle, reducing garbage collection costs; facilitate revenue development through service extensions; [and] reduce reliance on property taxes.” The recommendations were part of a several-point objective stating that the village should “pay for more services with user fees rather than property taxes.”
“I’m opposed to any user fees,” Serradas announced, to little result. The board retained recommendations that Cold Spring consider “charging a utility tax of 1 percent, as allowed under New York law,” and “sharing in mooring fees” at the waterfront, both part of an objective proposing ways to “seek additional sources of revenue for the village to offset property taxes.” A motion by Serradas to remove the utility tax provision failed, 2 to 2. The utility tax would apply to the use of such utilities as electricity, with the charge added to the user’s bill. Hustis and Serradas voted to remove the line, Gallagher and Campbell voted to retain it. “All it is [saying] is ‘consider,'” Gallagher said.
In regard to the mooring measure, Serradas questioned, “where would we obtain the mooring fees from?” Marie Early, a member of the Special Board for a Comprehensive Plan-Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, noted that the Cold Spring Boat Club charges overnight anchoring fees. The village owns the Boat Club parcel. Campbell said that the recommendation reflects goals of better interaction between the village and Boat Club and “that the village try to generate some sort of revenue from the Boat Club operations. This is a way of doing it.” Furthermore, Gallagher added, “we could set up mooring in other places.”
Along with Early, the sparse audience Tuesday night included a few other members of the Special Board, which wrote the draft, as well as residents who served in its topic-related working groups. The mayor and trustees engaged them in dialogue over another key objective that the village “ensure that proposed plans for any property that, because of its size, location, or historic significance, is of special importance to the Village, are in compliance with this Comprehensive Plan and are open to public review.” A related recommendation proposed that in regard to such properties the village “require a special use permit or other procedure that ensures public review.”
“I don’t see any reason to have that in there,” Serradas said.
“What does that mean and whom does it apply to?” Mayor Gallagher asked. “I don’t understand it.”
Joined by Judith Rose, a veteran of Special Board working group activity, Early and Michael Reisman, another Special Board member, explained that the measure would cover historic houses or buildings on larger tracts of land and close loopholes that could allow unsuitable development to proceed unchallenged. Properties that ostensibly could be affected include churches, schools, or institutions with expansive grounds and homes with large lawns, like some on Paulding Avenue. Development of such sites currently might be legal but would go against residents’ preferences, Early said.
“Now you’re over-reaching into people’s property rights,” Serradas objected.
“No, I’m not over-reaching,” but trying to give the public an opportunity for input, Early replied.
Serradas said the village already requires reviews in many situations and that in a small village residents inevitably know about development plans anyway. Ted Fink of Green Plan, the firm assisting the village with the comprehensive planning process, said such a provision can provide standards and a process to assist the Zoning Board of Appeals or Planning Board. “Just having 100 people show up and say they don’t like it is not enough” under law to prevent development of a historic property in ways antithetical to the wishes of the village, he said. With the help of the Special Board members, the Village Board then drafted tentative new language recommending “that the village zoning law provide for a public review of proposed plans for properties of special importance to the village.” The mayor and trustees reserved the right to revisit the provision Thursday night.