Rezoning tweak would accommodate more levels of government
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
As the proposed redevelopment of the Butterfield property continues to unfold, the idea of putting the post office there moved from possibility to probability – at least as things stood by late Monday night (April 2). During a long special meeting, the Cold Spring Village Board considered a new twist in the answer to the old question of where to put the post office, scheduled to lose its lease Aug. 31 in an expansion of the adjacent Foodtown grocery. Under the scenario outlined Monday, the post office would go to the old Butterfield Hospital property but be housed initially in temporary trailers and then in a permanent home, through an anticipated agreement between the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and Butterfield Realty LLC, the property owner. And to facilitate the move, the Village Board would revise the tract’s existing B-4 zoning to allow not only a village government presence, which the zoning code currently permits, but a facility for any level of government –- town, county, state or federal, including the USPS.
All along, plans by Butterfield Realty’s Paul Guillaro have involved a zoning change for the hospital parcel, but previously attention focused on a more sweeping code revision to permit a “Planned Unit Development” (PUD) that would contain not only housing for modest-income senior citizens but more upscale condos for wealthier retirement-aged buyers, plus an inter-governmental “municipal” building and retail space. The less comprehensive code change immediately envisioned would permit the post office and inter-governmental components of the plan to get underway even if details of the rest of the complex remain unsettled. Guillaro has drawn questions about the size, design, and need for the housing elements he intended to construct. B-4 zoning allows establishment of senior-citizen housing, if the developer obtains a special permit.
In section 134-18, the village’s zoning code ensures that “all municipal and governmental uses by the Village of Cold Spring of land and/or buildings are hereby permitted in each and every district,” including B-4. The language “is pretty specific” in stipulating that a government facility must be solely a village government entity, Mayor Seth Gallagher told his board colleagues. Revising the code to permit the presence of other, non-village governments means that the post office, a quasi-federal entity, could have quarters in the B-4 Butterfield district, the mayor explained.
Before the meeting, Gallagher met with Guillaro, and Joseph Barbaro, chairman of the village Planning Board, to discuss the project. USPS “is ready to sign a contract for a temporary location of the post office on the Butterfield site,” the mayor informed the trustees. Expanding the permitted uses “would allow them to sign. And it would allow the municipal building to happen.” Moreover, putting the post office at Butterfield “should be non-controversial,” he added, compared to the another, hotly debated idea: placing the post office on a sliver of the Foodtown Plaza, near its current space, or using the residentially zoned Lot B, at the at the corner of Marion Avenue and Benedict Road, for post office purposes.
Because the village code now permits village-government buildings in any zoning district, the board first talked of changing that wording to accommodate town-through- federal levels of government as well, subject to village government approval. Then Trustee J. Ralph Falloon realized that allowing any government entity in any zoning district could permit the post office to use Lot B. “It’d be giving a loophole that says it can go there. This could look like bad timing” and give the appearance the board wants to quietly provide for the USPS on Lot B, he said. His colleagues agreed. A few minutes later, they voted 4-0 to ask the village attorney to draft a zoning change to allow non-village, government entities only in the B-4 zoning district. Trustees Matt Francisco and Chuck Hustis joined Gallagher and Falloon in the approval; Trustee Bruce Campbell was absent.
Photo by M.Mell
This sounds like a great outcome for the community. The Mayor and the Village Trustees deserve our thanks for their leadership in taking control of this situation and addressing the serious concerns that were raised to other boards about about the previous Post Office proposals.
Special thanks to Trustee Falloon for spotting and closing an unintentional loophole in the proposed change.
Thanks also to Mr. Guillaro, a commercial developer that has shown a willingness to engage with our village government and with the community in an open and collaborative manner.
Was the Village Board elected to serve the interests of all of Cold Spring citizens or those of builders and business owners, many of whom don’t live here?
Having paid close attention to the proposed Butterfield project for the past several months, I am forced to conclude the latter to be the case, anodyne pieties about open government, consultation with all concerned parties, respect for the Master Plan, etc. to the contrary notwithstanding.
From the beginning, when it declared itself lead agency re the Butterfield project proposal, something which as far has I know has not been the case on previous project proposals, the Mayor and many Village Board members have been turning somersaults to push this project through with a minimum of citizen input and a maximum of solicitude for Butterfield, LLC.
Example: We MUST consolidate government services, so we MUST combine ALL village, town, and county offices in a building on the Butterfield site. I say, prove it, in detail, don’t simply assume this to be the case. Otherwise, all I see is a nice income stream and project cornerstone for Butterfield, LLC, not necessarily something that we the citizens really need.
Example: We MUST have more senior citizen housing. I say, prove it. The need has not been clearly established. And if there is a need the type and amount are not clear. The fact that state and/or federal funding is available may be nice for Butterfield LLC, but that doesn’t prove that we the citizens really need it.
And now comes this latest move, to amend the zoning law so as to create a fait accompli designed to serve the interests of the Butterfield site owner, the owner of Foodtown Plaza and the United States Postal Service.
The problem is, the need for a Post Office in Cold Spring has been stated and restated. It has not been proven. And if we do need one, it is not clear to me that alternatives do not exist, like the Elemesco site or the Grove?
To ram through a zoning change on one week and then to hold a ‘community charrette’ on the following week just don’t cut it. A charrette is supposed to be a way for all interested parties — not least of which is us citizens — to slowly, carefully, judiciously hash out all of the issues. For the Village Board to push through this zoning change invalidates the charrette process from the git-go. Therefore, either the the Village Board and the Planning Board have not done their homework and do not knowwhat a charrette is supposed to be they don’t really care and have decided to turn it into a charade.
This village is at a turning point. Either it retains a semblance of being a resident-friendly place where people can walk and jog safely and kids can play in the street and on abundant, easily accessible public spaces without constant adult supervision, or it becomes a slightly chic, automobile-driven and -dependent suburb.
Turn Butterfield into an extension of the business district that’s sprouted along 9-D and turn the Marathon site into another dense project and you’ve got suburbia-on-Hudson. Not the Cold Spring we have known.
We can’t have it both ways. All of those affected, particularly the citizens and taxpayers who live here, ought to be making this decision. Empty words about ‘community involvement,’ ‘green spaces, ‘walkability,’ etc don’t mean anything if they don’t really guide the decisions being made.
The post office is shutting down post offices and cutting services, they don’t have the money to expand. Isn’t the whole issue here, Foodtown want to get bigger?
Even the USPS doesn’t want us to go to the post office. We’ve received ads like this one in the mail:
Stamps.com is an approved USPS vendor. The village probably shouldn’t count of the post office sticking around long term.
Thanks for your very wise comments, Art Lopatin! I don’t think I’ve heard a better analysis of what’s going on with the current situation in Cold Spring (Butterfield site, Foodtown’s push to expand, the Post Office, the Dunkin Donuts scheme, senior housing). It sounds to me like a lot of hysteria and hype are obscuring the real issues of what we actually need, which is not at all what business, and other interests, want, or indeed, care anything about!