Elected officials express regret, hope about project
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
In the wake of developer Paul Guillaro’s withdrawal of his request for rezoning of the Butterfield tract and apparent retreat on redevelopment plans, local elected officials expressed both disappointment and hope that project can be revived. Traveling for a family graduation, Guillaro, of Butterfield Realty LLC, said in a terse statement released by his office on May 17 that “there are no plans at all for Butterfield as of right now.”
He commented a week after a tumultuous events less than 24 hours apart: The night of May 8, at a tense session with the Cold Spring Planning Board, Guillaro agreed that he and a two-member Planning Board delegation could confer privately to thrash out a handful of differences over what to include on the several-acre site. The following day, citing an approval process that had “become too consuming, costly, and frustrating from our perspective,” he informed the Cold Spring Village Board that he was withdrawing his request for a zoning change, needed to accommodate a Planned Unit Development, or PUD. His PUD plans featured apartments for modest-income senior citizens alongside market-rate condominiums for more affluent retiree-aged residents as well as an intergovernmental municipal office building and retail-commercial quarters, with room for the post office. The Village of Cold Spring, Town of Philipstown, and Putnam County all proposed to relocate some offices to the planned municipal building, also envisioned as the home for a public senior citizen facility.
Abandonment of project means “county services, a senior center, combined courts and ADA-compliant [handicapped accessible] meeting space for the town are things I will regret not seeing become a reality,” Supervisor Richard Shea, a Democrat, told Philipstown.info on Tuesday (May 15). He noted that on many facets of the plan, the public and local governments appeared to be in sync with Guillaro. “There certainly did seem to be a lot that everyone agreed could be done at the site. With all the smart people in the community, it does seem that a plan that would work for everyone and meet the needs of all involved is feasible.”
In dropping his zoning petition and plans, Guillaro wrote to the Village Board that “the project was an effort to meet what we believed to be the needs of the village and surrounding county for municipal government, health care, and senior housing.” Nonetheless, he added, “our willingness to incorporate almost all of the recommendations and wishes of various boards and committees has been unsuccessful in moving this project forward.” He requested the zoning change last December and had presented his plans to the village at a meeting in October 2011. Although the Village Board was the lead agency for governmental review of the redevelopment, the Planning Board – following normal procedures — got involved too, considering architectural and engineering schemes in minute detail. Then, on April 24, by a 3 to 2 vote, Planning Board members rejected Guillaro’s inclusion of the condominiums, although Guillaro termed them crucial to the viability of his redevelopment.
Given what happened, “I’ve gotten comments saying we should remove all five members of the Planning Board,” Cold Spring Trustee Charles Hustis said May 15, at a brief Village Board bill-paying session. He and the other two trustees present that morning otherwise said they had heard nothing new on the project.
However, Mayor Seth Gallagher said on Tuesday that he had been in touch with Butterfield Realty. “I’ve talked to Guillaro. We’re planning a meeting,” he said as he continued his recovery from a May 7 bicycling accident. “We’d like to figure out how to move ahead.” Guillaro and Butterfield Realty “don’t want the Planning Board to say, ‘you can’t have market-rate housing’” and foreclose on such options, the mayor explained. Meanwhile, the Village Board wants input from the Planning Board on its thinking, he said. Asked whether the redevelopment is irretrievably lost, he emphatically answered “No!”
That could reassure District 1 Legislator Vincent Tamagna, a keen booster of the project. “I’m very disgusted with the whole process and very disappointed,” Tamagna, a Republican, said Wednesday (May 16). He said that Guillaro gets better treatment in other municipalities and “I think it’s just terrible” he encountered such difficulties in Cold Spring. Tamagna said the redevelopment would benefit not only the village but the whole wider community. He described the deteriorating hospital structure as a “derelict blight” on the village landscape and said that he, too, wants to discuss a resurrection of the project with Guillaro. “I’m very disappointed and disgusted” with the outcome so far, he repeated.
County Executive MaryEllen Odell also expressed regrets. “It’s disappointing. It’s a shame. It was really, really going to benefit the residents,” she said Thursday afternoon. Odell mentioned her long-standing conviction that “the residents of the western side of the county have been underserved.” According to Odell, the project would’ve “answered the call unanswered for decades” by allowing the county to bring such services as the Department of Motor Vehicles, personnel staff, sheriff’s office, and other departments to Philipstown. That in turn would have provided revenue, such as DMV fees now paid to Dutchess County by western Putnam residents who find it easier to go north than east, she added. “There’s also the lost opportunity for collaboration,” on such needs as a senior citizen-cum-community center, Odell continued. A Republican, she mentioned her close interaction with the Democratic Shea and Gallagher, who ran for mayor on a non-partisan basis. “We had a great plan in place. We were all excited about the opportunity to work together” on the senior facility and other components, she said. “We were looking out for constituents first” and trying to heed “the ever-resonating call for collaboration. It’s just a shame the Planning Board chose to go in another direction.”