Zoning Code Amendments Draw Caution

Planning Board believes trustees should consider tax consequences of any Butterfield plan

By Kevin E. Foley

The Cold Spring Village Board of Trustees wants to amend the village zoning code for B4 districts (designated for medical and healthcare facilities) to allow for the location of different levels of government offices and to permit greater mixed-use development as well. The effort is designed to jumpstart a new proposal for the Butterfield property in the aftermath of developer Paul Guillaro’s withdrawing his application in the face of opposition from several quarters, including the Cold Spring Planning Board.

The Planning Board’s objections, especially to the type of senior-citizen housing proposed, were cited by Guillaro as the cause of his withdrawal of the proposal. It is widely believed, however, that a new proposal is forthcoming.

While it has no problem with allowing more types of government offices in a B4 zone, the Cold Spring Planning Board has once again reminded the trustees of issues it believes are critical to an assessment of any plan resubmitted to the village for the development of the Butterfield property. At a meeting Monday, July 9, the Planning Board members approved a trustee-requested response letter to the proposed zoning amendments.

The Planning Board believes amending B4 zoning, to allow “mixed uses, consisting of two or more uses permitted or specifically permitted in the district,” is all right as long as some brakes are applied. Otherwise they see a developer having too much leeway as a matter of right under the amended section.

The Planning Board in particular believes the zoning code should continue to encourage the primary use of B4 to promote the further development of medical facilities on the site in particular for senior citizens. The large building on the site was once a hospital.

Planning Board members chafe at the characterization of them in some quarters as being responsible for unreasonably holding up development of the site, which is likely to include a number of government offices considered desirable by elected officials at the county and town levels as well as at the village level. They also think they have been painted unfairly as opponents of senior housing.

Tax positive

​​In their letter to the trustees they reiterate that they are not opposed to senior-citizen housing. However, they are concerned that the proposed zoning amendment might be “too broad” in providing latitude to develop housing initiatives for the site. They argue that any housing proposal should be closely examined for its impact on the village tax burden from a long-term perspective.

As they did in their longer and more detailed report on Butterfield, the Planning Board asserts that low-income senior housing, which is not subsidized but opens access to financing, may not be viable in the current economic environment. Judith Rose, resident and a professional in the field of low-income housing development, has warned the board that numerous such developments around New York state are experiencing difficulties meeting their local tax obligations after initial viability.

Similarly the Planning Board believes that market rate condominium senior housing also represents a tax subsidy by local homeowners as the property taxes charged are considerably less by state law. The Planning Board recommends fee-simple housing whereby individuals purchase their apartments outright and pay equivalent property taxes. The letter asks for language to reflect these concerns in the amended B4 code.

Comprehensive Plan

The Planning Board’s insistence on tax positivity for Butterfield housing is consistent with the Special Comprehensive Plan Board’s report on Butterfield to the trustees back in the spring. The Planning Board is also concerned that the village government use the already adopted Comprehensive Plan as a guiding document in formulating zoning changes and in evaluating any subsequent Butterfield proposals. The board is requesting that the trustees include language in the zoning amendment or elsewhere that reflects a greater commitment to adhere to the Comprehensive Plan.

The Planning Board also offered to send one or more members to a trustees meeting to further amplify the board’s concerns and perspective.

One thought on “Zoning Code Amendments Draw Caution

  1. Certainly the proposal circulated to zone the Butterfield land abutting Paulding Ave. for single family homes fully addresses the desire for tax positive development. Let’s hope that ends up included in any zoning changes.