Butterfield Developer and Trustee Meet Privately

Perhaps an opening toward a resolution or maybe just two guys talking

By Kevin E. Foley

The prospect of moving toward more fruitful discussion over the fate of the development on the Butterfield property brightened just a little this past week despite continuing tensions among public officials, the developer and the many citizens who are watching events closely. In interviews with both Cold Spring Village Trustee Matt Francisco and developer Paul Guillaro, there was evidence that it might be possible to find a way to move ahead although such thinking is fragile at best.

This coming Tuesday, Feb. 26, Guillaro is expected to come to the Village Board to discuss the possibilities for discussion and next steps. He is looking for a clear sign that the board is willing to move forward in a positive way. He said he needed not only a willingness to adopt the zoning change he requested but also a clear embrace of the project’s concept and a willingness by the Village Board to shepherd the project through the various other boards under some kind of timetable.

“After one and a half years I cannot continue to spend money and not see results. I have spent over $250,000 and have nothing to show for it,” said Guillaro.

Matt Francisco

Matt Francisco

Francisco said he met with Guillaro last weekend to try and reopen lines of communication in the aftermath of the developer’s withdrawal of his zoning change request and apparent abandonment of a mixed-use plan in favor of residential development, which he considers an as-of-right zoning situation. “I hope to pull it [the mixed-use plan] back onto the rails,” he said. Whether a private conversation between the pair can be taken as a sign of diplomatic progress or just grasping at straws remains to be seen.

Francisco’s principal concerns are assessing the will of the majority of village residents after a clear, open assessment of the risks needed to be taken to move the project forward. He is particularly critical of the way Mayor Seth Gallagher has led the discourse to date.

“The mayor has consistently asked the residents to focus on the fear of what they won’t get or what they will lose (post office, senior center) if they don’t proceed with this zoning change. The residents that both came out and wrote in testimony for the B4A public hearing (Jan. 29) resoundingly rejected that advice when they clearly, passionately and articulately said that they were more fearful of getting an abundance of what they don’t want (retail, commercial, formula businesses, traffic) than the possibility of losing what is being promised or hoped for,” said Francisco.

The trustee said he believed discussion around what might or might not go into the two buildings labeled “commercial” on plans referred to at the public hearing would be helpful, especially if the oft-discussed but never detailed municipal services do not appear.

Francisco is only one of five Village Board trustees, but Guillaro has singled him out as the main source of opposition to the project on the board. He offered a more nuanced perspective than the one attributed to him in the PCNR this week, which portrayed Francisco as “a key organizer of the opposition.” Guillaro said he didn’t think Francisco was leading the opposition but that he was a member, and he said further he does believe there is an organized effort to stop him from developing his property.

Guillaro

Paul Guillaro

Guillaro said he was serious about moving ahead with a residential home project if things didn’t change soon at the Village Board. Such a project comes with possible negative consequences to the Haldane School District tax burden given the likelihood of additional children moving into the district. With an election pending March 19, that could change two seats on the board; however, hopes for a significant new signal from the trustees might at best be a little premature.

Francisco took umbrage at any characterization that suggests he is doing anything more than the job people elected him to do. “My job is to try to understand what the majority of residents want for our village and represent those interests. In addition to that, I feel it is my job to apprise them of associated risks to help them decide what is an acceptable level of risk for the decision(s) before us,” he said. “A guaranteed post office for decades and a senior center would, in my mind, be worth taking more risk. But regardless of my feelings on the matter, the residents clearly felt that this zoning change created a greater risk of getting an abundance of what they don’t want that far outweighed the benefit of a promise for a few things they do,” he continued.

Zoning code may object

The idea of a residential development of multiple single-family homes (18 is a number mentioned frequently) might also find an obstacle in its path. Although most locals familiar with the code affirmed that Guillaro could build homes as of right under an R1 designation, which is a permitted use in a B4 district, Francisco pointed out that section 134-18-H states, “Unless otherwise expressly stated in this Ordinance, the dimensional requirements and limitations made applicable to a Zoning District shall apply to all uses within such district, whether or not such use is permitted in another district or districts having other or different dimensional requirements or limitations.” Francisco suggested that this law, enacted in 2005, might require any residential building at Butterfield be held to the larger B4 lot size, thus allowing only a few homes to be built.

For his part, Guillaro did not wish to argue over the language of the current zoning code. He said based on emails and phone calls he has received, he believes the majority of village residents support his mixed-use development of Butterfield. He acknowledged that he wished those people had come out for the public hearing. He also argued that he had made numerous changes to his plan after review by the Planning Board and other forums and that he was not disposed to making more. “I am trying to do something positive. The question is, do you want it or don’t you want it?” He further suggested that he might even revert back to a medical development if that’s what it would take to move ahead.


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13 thoughts on “Butterfield Developer and Trustee Meet Privately

  1. I question the use of the terminology “the majority” of the residents. I would like to see the statistics used to determine exactly what the majority is. In the news release to the Putnam County News and Recorder the statement was that Matt is doing what the “majority” of the residents want, well, show me the numbers please, Matt.

  2. I would like to clear the air with this whole Butterfield mess.

    After the second public hearing on the B-4A zoning change, a letter was received by the Village Board from Paul Guillero requesting a suspension of all review on the proposed zoning change in order to consider a residential development, which would be an “as of right” development. Along with Trustee Francisco, I also met with Paul Guillero and discussed the situation and he agreeded to come back to meet with the Village Board on Feb. 26th to discuss the project.

    Further, I gathered information on what Paul needs to do in order for a clear path towards the end goal of a healthy development, with no question marks attached to it. We had a round table discussion after the first public hearing on the zoning change and we as the Village Board made changes and came up with a second version of a zoning change for the Butterfield Property (i.e. the B-4A zoning creation.)

    We need something for the benefit of the community at Butterfield. I believe that calmer heads will prevail on this issue.

  3. One last thing, the path discussed in my previous response is the following:

    1. The applicant needs to apply to the Building Inspector after a zoning change.
    2. The Building Inspector denies the application and refers the applicant to the Planning Board for:
    a. site plan approval
    b. subdivision of land
    3. In conjunction with the Planning Board, the applicant has to go before the Historic Review Board for design, since the property is located entirely within the Local Historic District.

    For this application to be complete, the process must be allowed to work. We may end up needing to clean up the language in the proposed law, which is what we did after the first public hearing. I have faith in the process and I believe that something good will come out of this whole situation.

  4. Public officials are elected to lead and while their actions should reflect the will of “the People” it seems that except for Mr. Hustis, there is no one else out there willing to assume the leadership role. Mr. Guillaro has more than demonstrated his good will towards this community; unlike some, he’s put his money where his mouth is. Meanwhile, amidst all this supposed concern about the “character” of the Village, nothing is being done to improve said character which in many areas needs a good polishing, and not just at Butterfield.

    I wonder how often Mr. Francisco walks up and down Main Street and checks in with the business owners to see what their concerns are. I wonder if he’s noticed that certain buildings, driveways and sidewalks have been allowed to deteriorate to such a degree that they might be in violation of the sacred Code. The overhead wires and aged street lights look more like Bangladesh than a suburb of one of the greatest cities in the world. By the way, I have heard that there is a lot of Federal grant money that was made available to spruce up the downtown. If that’s the case, why isn’t that money be used?

    I find it incredible that Mr. Guillaro is being tortured in this fashion by the very people who stand to benefit the most from his largesse and good works. I just wish there was some way we could lure him to Putnam Valley.

  5. I agree, I would love to see the numbers pertaining to “for or against” the Guillaro project. There are many people who do not come out at night for meetings so I recommend a meeting on a Saturday afternoon so you can see the REAL numbers. I know for a fact many seniors either can’t drive at night or don’t come out at night because of the lateness of the meetings. You will see them in droves voicing their dismay about the cancellation of Paul’s project for the seniors, nutrition, senior housing, post office etc. The open field for the kids, our lovely tree up on the hill will be gone.

    Haldane will feel the impact on the single family housing as will Garrison..No room at the Inn deal for our high school kids. My family history is back four generations in Cold Spring and I love the place where my Mom and her family came from….I want it to be quaint and charming without the chain store thing too! Mr. Guillaro’s project would have bettered the community for ALL. Change the code and let him come back to us and let him do his magic.

  6. Was Mr. Francisco talking about the majority of those in attendance at the meeting being against Mr. Guillaro because if he truly checked he would find that most people in Cold Spring are for this project. I wish he would provide the names of those he has spoken to who would be agreeable to losing our Post Office and also the senior center and the development of the rundown Butterfield, as his majority would become a quick minority. The seniors (yes, I am one of them) I know and see everyday are in favor of this project and Mr. Francisco does not speak for us. He should be looking at ways to mend fences and get this project going.

  7. Yes and no, Mrs. Bowman. Yes, I was speaking only about the majority of comment at the 1/29 public hearing on the B4A zoning amendment. But, no as that comment was not against Mr. Guillaro or his project in most cases. The majority of comment was almost exclusively against only the B4A zoning change approach to allow for the uses on the property included in the project. The method of allowing those uses and support for a mixed-use development at Butterfield are separate issues. To combine or equate them only leads to more confusion and misunderstanding.

    The proposed B4A zoning change is only one possible way to allow for the uses on the property. The residents speaking at the hearing were, in all but a few cases, speaking against only that zoning change petition method not the mixed-use project itself. I heard no comment that evening against creating a senior center or home for the Post Office. The Village residents residents have consistently supported those services in a mixed use development at Butterfield for as long as I can remember, myself included.

    I will be submitting a letter to the editor to more fully explain my thoughts on the situation. However, I will not continue to comment to this article in this way as I feel it is not an effective way to talk about complex issues. In the meantime please feel free to email me comments or questions at [email protected].

  8. Clearly Mr. Francisco is out of touch with his constituents. “…Residents clearly felt that this zoning change created a greater risk of getting an abundance of what they don’t want that far outweighed the benefit of a promise for a few things they do.” Who is Mr. Francisco speaking about? Everyone that I speak in the village is in favor of that eyesore of a building coming down. We welcome the Butterfield development. I truly believe it is a vocal minority and not the majority that are getting the attention of our local media. Paul Guillaro believes Francisco is a part of blocking the development, I say we pay close attention to the rest of the Trustees to find out what their opinions are.

    Hustis made it clear he is in favor of the project. Bruce Campbell and J. Ralph Falloon, what is you opinion on losing our Post Office and possible senior center?

    To Michael Bowman and Stephanie Hawkins, I think the people of our community need a clear answer from you on where you stand before on the Butterfield development before we cast our vote. I believe on election day, we the people will have our say. I am weary of watching the board making Guillaro jump through hoops to make something work for the entire village.

    • Mr. Fink, to answer your question, I look forward to working with my fellow Trustees and the Mayor in order to move this project in a positive direction. I believe that Mr. Guillaro has negotiated in good faith with the Village, and we are approaching project approval.

      I unequivocally support the mixed-use development, joint municipal services, a post office, preserved open space and most importantly a senior nutrition center. The latter can possibly serve as a VFW and even a shelter in emergencies.

      I think we’ve become lost in semantics and zoning jargon. People had misgivings at the public hearing mainly because the word “municipal” had been removed from the site plan. I believe when that commitment is reaffirmed by Mr. Guillaro and perhaps the County, that the final hurdle will be cleared.

      If you have any further questions please feel free to reach out to me via my web page.

  9. Dear Mr. Francisco, the village is beginning to see what you are about. Do you want Guillaro to go back to a PUD, which the board denied him in the first place,or is it re-zoning which you are against, so what now, back to the PUD? This is a vicious circle. Stop the nonsense and start working for the true majority of the village and not just your friends, We the people are tired of the shameless way the Village Boards are trying to kill any development. Its death by delay and we the citizens this Village are held hostage. And after reading the what the media is reporting on the tactics you are using, I for one am now now fully enlightened and engaged! I will be attending the meeting on the 26th and hopefully other residents who support Butterfield will be too!

  10. I will be there again at the village hall meeting on Tuesday evening with some seniors in tow to voice their concerns about the Butterfield development or the lack of. Paul Guillaro has our support. We need this multifaceted development. He wants retail to be professional people like lawyers, doctors etc. Let him make his magic!

  11. Went to meeting at Cold Spring Village Hall last night and meeting with Paul Guillaro was very positive. Just a few tweaks of the code to make sure no fast-food chains etc. can come village-wide was talked about and will be put in place. And that is a good thing. The Post Office wanted to know if the board was going ahead with Guillaro project so they can plan to stay and that was a firm yes from all board members. I feel if all the boards connected to this project can move forward we can see this project starting within a 4-to-6 month time frame hopefully. A group of 25 seniors had Paul Guillaro present their letters to board about the Nutrition center needing to be part of that project. I am hopefull again!

    • Glad to hear such positive news, I had almost given up after all the goings on in the last few weeks. I live in Put Valley and the Senior Center here is like a country club in the middle of our Town Park. It is a beautiful building with every amenity and many, many activities.

      Why shouldn’t the seniors of Cold Spring have their own center, similar to ours? They paid taxes all their lives and contributed to their community? Especially when Mr. Guillaro is willing to build one at Butterfield that I’m sure will be state of the art.
      There are so many pluses with this project, that I can’t believe there are still those who don’t want it. Good luck, don’t give up.