Encourages letters to county legislators on desire for services here
By Jeanne Tao
Just two weeks into her term as District 1’s new county legislator, Barbara Scuccimarra (R) visited a meeting of the Cold Spring Village Board of Trustees on Tuesday night (Jan. 15), vowing to speak to her fellow legislators about establishing county services, including a senior center, at the proposed Butterfield development.
Asked by Trustee Ralph Falloon about the Putnam County Legislature’s thinking on housing county services in Cold Spring, the newly elected Scuccimarra said: “It hasn’t been brought up as of yet, but what I’ve been doing is working the room.”
She said that on the next day, Jan. 16, she was bringing County Legislators Roger Gross and Dini LoBue, “just to let them see what we’re doing. They haven’t seen the project. They weren’t sure of what everything entailed and what we’re dealing with. I said the best way to do it is to come up.” Developer Paul Guillaro would be there to speak with them. “They want to look at the plans,” she said.
Guillaro of Butterfield Realty LLC, the property’s owner, has presented plans to create a complex with three single-family homes, multi-government municipal building and senior/community center, post office, condominiums for retirement-age buyers, and a commercial “square” along Route 9D. The current B4 zoning must be changed for the project to proceed, because the current law does not permit a post office or any governmental offices above the village level.
Scuccimarra also said that in a recent meeting, newly elected state Sen. Terry Gipson (D) mentioned that he was looking for a place to establish a satellite office. Scuccimarra said she told him, “Well I have the place for you,” meaning the proposed Butterfield development. “We can bring him into the fold.”
Trustee Matt Francisco asked what they could do to help the process, explaining that the project approvals hinge somewhat upon a commitment or expression of interest in providing county services in Cold Spring. Scuccimarra replied, “With Seth meeting with them, that’s a plus.” She did stress, however, “They’re not going to do it unless they know that there’s a place to do it, so once the approvals start coming through, we’re on the right road, I think. The county’s not going to say, ‘OK, let’s put it in this year’s budget,’ if there’s not even a building yet.”
Mayor Seth Gallagher emphasized that the Village Board could help the project along by showing support of and a desire for the project and by allowing the proposed zoning change. “They [the county] are not going to do it unless people say they want it,” he said. “Our role is just allowing it to happen, rezoning it,” Gallagher added later.
Gallagher’s and Scuccimarra’s insistence on overall project approval as the key to eventually obtaining county services underscored a fault line between their and Francisco and Falloon’s thinking that more certainty on the municipal services is key to approving the zoning change and ultimately the project.
Francisco pointed out that the developer, Guillaro, has used the prospect of municipal services as a lynchpin of the project from the outset. Francisco expressed concern that the zoning approval without commitments on municipal services could result in additional commercial and retail operations if the services don’t come through after the buildings are built.
But Gallagher insisted that “the most effective thing is to show a unified community wanting it, not presenting problems and reasons it won’t or cannot happen.”
Francisco countered that raising issues shouldn’t be seen as wrong. He said further that residents have the expectation that some version of a municipal building with municipal services will be part of the project.
“Everyone knows the municipal is not a given,” said Gallagher.
Falloon argued that the public does have great interest in having county services at Butterfield. “You can rest assured, we want this,” he said. “They [the village] would rather see that than, I assume, commercial or retail.”
“For over 10 years, we’ve said the need and the want is here,” he continued. “For them [the county] to ask, ‘Oh, well, do they want us there?’ — that’s crazy.”
The Butterfield discussion over, Gallagher quipped, “When do we get the sales tax?” He was referring to the question of sharing the county’s sales-tax revenue, which many counties in New York do, but which Putnam does not.
Gallagher proposed starting a revenue-sharing program at a very low rate, and that it would not even have to start now but perhaps in a few years. If it were “started at half a percent, or something that was almost zero, then the sales tax revenue is going to grow as the economy grows, as will the mortgage tax.”
“Sounds good, Seth. I don’t know,” Scuccimarra laughed. “What’s killing the county right now is the mandates — 75 percent of their budget. If we get some mandate relief, which they are rallying for in Albany, maybe down the road it’s a possibility. I would love to see it.”
She ended by saying that she would try to attend as many Village Board meetings as possible.