Village Board moving toward ban on formula businesses
By Jeanne Tao
Cold Spring Mayor Seth Gallagher, who leaves office next month, exhorted Village Board trustees to keep the post office in the village and take a proactive stance on a zoning change for the Butterfield Hospital property at their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 12, even though the developer, Paul Guillaro, last week withdrew the zoning change request in light of public opposition to it at the Jan. 29 hearing.
In his report, Gallagher said that without the zoning change for the Butterfield property, “we really don’t have a plan for the post office.” He explained that the post office has asked for the village’s assistance to get an extension on their lease in the Foodtown Plaza and that extensions on that lease have in the past been contingent upon a plan for an alternate site. He therefore asked the board “to get involved and to take a stand and to help communicate with the public on why it’s important,” saying that he cannot be the only person to push for it.
That communication, Gallagher said, includes addressing issues brought up by the public at the hearing, many of which he described as not relating to the project “and often are just stating things that aren’t really the case, so it’s a misinterpreting of events.” They would be talking later in the meeting about chain and formula stores, which he said was a separate issue from the zoning change, and no restaurants would be allowed under the zoning.
On whether the development would be tax-positive or not, he said it would clearly be tax-positive to have only three single-family homes on the property as opposed to being completely taken up by several homes, which would incur more school-related tax costs.
As for the fear of more condominiums being built, he said the village cannot regulate that. “The village doesn’t have the authority to do that, and I think it’s important that we communicate that to the public. If we do want to reduce the chances for condominiums, [we need] to allow commercial use.”
Gallagher said their only option for housing the post office was at Butterfield, describing the alternative as “the almost certainty of the loss of the post office,” and weighing that against, for example, the “remote possibility of a Sleepy’s store.” He said he has tried unsuccessfully to find other property owners to develop space for the post office. “If the board can come up with another plan, that would be fine. But without that other plan, it’s either Butterfield at this point, or it’s no place.”
The mayor closed his report by warning the board that although “there’s some vocal opposition to the plan, if the post office did close, there would be way, way, way more anger and outrage that the Village Board allowed that to happen.”
A formula business ban
Addressing some residents’ concerns expressed at the Butterfield hearing, the Village Board also discussed the Comprehensive Plan Special Board’s report on a ban on formula businesses in the village and made moves toward drafting a local law to prohibit such businesses.
Last September, village attorney Stephen Gaba presented a memo to the board on the village’s power to ban formula businesses, and trustees asked the Special Board to conduct a study on the issue. Drawing from its Comprehensive Plan and Local Waterfront Revitalization Strategy, a subcommittee wrote a report that was approved by the Special Board on Jan. 17 and posted on the village’s website, coldpsringny.gov, on Feb. 6.
Mike Armstrong, chair of the Special Board, read highlights of the report at the meeting on Tuesday, providing grounds for a local law banning formula businesses and drive-thrus in the village. One impact would be to Cold Spring’s small-town character: “The Special Board is especially concerned that formula businesses will detract from Cold Spring’s unique, historic village character, the vitality of existing commercial areas, and the quality of life of Cold Spring residents. Cold Spring is recognized by residents and visitors for its independently owned small businesses. These businesses give Cold Spring its small-town character and contribute to its neighborly quality.”
In addition, the walkability of the village would be reduced by formula businesses and “the attendant heavy vehicular traffic they would generate,” resulting in pollution and decreasing quality of life.
Safety and health issues also led the Special Board to recommend prohibiting drive-thrus: “Wherever cars are encouraged to cross the sidewalk, pedestrian safety is reduced. Drive-thrus generate potentially heavy traffic, pollution via car exhaust fumes (in particular when cars are waiting in line), and garbage via containers and food items dropped from the drive-thru window and vehicles. All of these outcomes would be detrimental to Cold Spring’s community character.”
The Special Board used the examples of Rhinebeck, Victor and Port Jefferson, municipalities in New York that have so far successfully restricted formula businesses in their local law, to argue for similar restrictions in Cold Spring.
The Village Board asked Gaba about next steps for the village to enact zoning regulations restricting formula businesses. Gaba continued to advise the village to proceed carefully, since such a local law might be difficult to defend in certain parts of the village. While the historic character of Cold Spring is easily seen along Main Street, it might be harder to make the same case amongst such businesses as in the Foodtown/Drug World area along Route 9D. The local law may need to rely on an overlay map or description of the boundaries of the ban if it decides not to enact the zoning regulations village-wide.
Armstrong pointed out the Special Board’s argument in its report for applying the law to the entire village: “Since the Route 9D corridor is the gateway to the village, proliferation of formula businesses in that area would be quite destructive to village character, since they would alter residents’ and visitors’ perceptions of Cold Spring immediately upon entering the village, detracting from the 19th-century feel. Moreover, given the village’s very small size (less than 1 square mile) and the close proximity of the Route 9D corridor to Main Street, it would seem impossible to maintain the unique qualities of the village while allowing formula businesses in the former but not the latter.”
The Village Board asked Armstrong to discuss with the Special Board the boundaries of the ban and arguments for implementing it village-wide, while having Gaba draft a local law restricting formula businesses in Cold Spring.
The Special Board would meet Thursday, Feb. 14, to discuss the ban and the areas to which it would apply. Their meetings occur regularly on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at 7:30 p.m. in the Village Hall, and the public is invited to attend.