Boards Weigh in on Butterfield Zoning Change

Importance of village character, fiscal analysis cited

By Michael Turton

The Cold Spring Village Board continued its “all hands on deck” approach to moving the Butterfield project forward at its June 18 meeting. Members of several other boards were on hand to discuss zoning amendments proposed as part of the redevelopment of the former hospital site — changes required before ground can be broken on the project proposed by developer Paul Guillaro.

Discussion centered on changing the site’s zoning from the current B4 (medical and health care facility district) to B4A (medical and health care mixed use district). Participants included members of the Planning Board, Historic District Review Board (HDRB) and Special Board for the Local Waterfront Revitalization (LWRP). The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), whose Chairman Donald MacDonald was unable to attend, submitted comments in writing.

HDRB lays out concerns 

The most critical and extensive comments came from the HDRB. In its concluding remarks, the board stated that “the redesigned site should be worthy of the architecture, public spaces and community it will join. … The HDRB does not feel that the B4A zoning amendment does so.” Among its broad criticisms, the HDRB said the proposed zoning comes “dangerously close” to spot zoning and that legal counsel should be sought in that regard. It also said that the zoning should “encourage … broad and sensible concepts without locking the developer and the village into a specific site plan that is at best a rough idea at this stage.”

Part of the old Butterfield Hospital (Photo by M. Turton)

Part of the old Butterfield Hospital (Photo by M. Turton)

The HDRB went on to make numerous specific recommendations on a range of issues from the size of proposed residential lots on Paulding Avenue and proposed size, scale and density of senior citizen condominiums to the nature of proposed commercial development and parking. The HDRB also concluded: “It is critical that the redevelopment of the Butterfield site look and feel like Cold Spring. It should augment and reinforce the existing character of the village overall.”

The HDRB had at least one very strong supporter. In an email to Village Trustee Stephanie Hawkins printed as part of the meeting package, ZBA Chair Donald Macdonald said, “I’ve read the HDRB analysis of the proposed B4 zoning. … I agree with every word.”

Special Board wants fiscal study

The Special Board also weighed in. It stated that a fiscal analysis of the project should be completed because, as it is currently envisioned, “it is not likely to be tax positive.” It also stated that the project will increase an already disproportionate amount of senior housing in the village — 20 percent in Cold Spring versus 10 percent countywide. “More senior housing … would certainly not provide diversity either of housing or of population,” its written submission stated.

The Special Board also questioned why the specific location of a new post office was not included and also urged the village to insist that a “true 15 percent” of the site be dedicated as open space.

Planning Board still wants lead agency role

The Planning Board continued its assertion that it serve as lead agency in considering Guillaro’s Butterfield application. The Village Board is currently identified as playing that role. Cold Spring Mayor Ralph Falloon told that the issue will be decided within a week or so. He also said that should the Village Board and the Planning Board fail to agree regarding which body will act as lead agency, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will make the decision.

In terms of the new zoning, the Planning Board was generally in agreement with what is proposed in the draft. Its suggestions dealt mainly with clarifying language and definitions. It also suggested that nongovernmental organizations and charitable organizations be added as permitted uses in the proposed development.

Drawing the line between opinion and purview

“My goal is to keep the project moving forward — not push it through but keep every project moving forward,” Falloon said. “Otherwise it frustrates the public and the applicant.” Acknowledging that Guillaro has had more than his share of frustration in bringing his proposals forward, Falloon said that with recent developments he hopes the developer is at least in a state of “optimistic frustration.”

Falloon also commented on the challenge of weighing the numerous comments received from various village boards regarding Butterfield. “It’s a double-edged sword. I’m willing to talk about everyone’s concerns, but where do you draw the line between their (the boards’) opinion and their purview?” He expressed optimism that, with the village about to hire a new attorney and planning firm, decisions regarding the other boards’ comments will be dealt with from a fresh, new legal perspective.

Planning firm offers pro bono work

Representatives of Barton and Loguidice P.C., a planning and engineering firm based in Syracuse with offices throughout the state, attended the meeting and offered a carrot that may be too good for trustees to pass up. Chuck Voss, senior planner with the company, said the firm is willing to work pro bono, guiding the village through the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) review process required as part of the Butterfield project. Asked why they are willing to do the work at no cost, Voss said: “Frankly, we would like to be considered for future projects. We want a long-term relationship — not just one and done.”

The village is currently shopping for a planning firm that, among other duties, will help complete the new Butterfield zoning and oversee project implementation. “Personally I hope they (Barton and Loguidice) are it,” Falloon said. ”They’re willing to work with us.” He agreed that the pro bono work “is the right price.” He said that the hiring of a new village attorney will also be dealt with very soon.

Tim Miller, president of Tim Miller Associates Inc., the planning firm working with Guillaro, responded in writing to regarding comments submitted by Cold Spring’s boards.

“A community works with a post office in its central business district, with municipal offices in its central business district, with retail uses in its central business district and with senior housing proximate to medical facilities, community facilities, a pharmacy, retail shopping and a public park and open space,” Miller wrote. “Community character is not necessarily achieved by imitating what already exists. It can be achieved by expanding upon that. We have an opportunity to expand upon Cold Spring’s community character and achieve multiple goals, all at once, but at some point, there needs to be genuine cooperation amongst the village’s citizens and boards. I am concerned that the HDRB’s recent comments fail to see the larger picture of this land use opportunity. Hammering away at density is an old-fashioned, fear-based approach that often results in nothing happening at all. It is an old story. And so far, that is what has happened.”

Trustees also heard a presentation by Jamie Ethier of the New York Department of State, clarifying requirements for Cold Spring’s LWRP.

2 thoughts on “Boards Weigh in on Butterfield Zoning Change

  1. As I take my daily “constitutional” (3-4 mile walk), usually past the former Butterfield Hospital grounds I get quite ill thinking about what Mr. Guillaro wants to do with the property. I know there are very many people out there — a “silent” collection of local citizens — who like me are vehemently opposed to at least the part of the proposal to include 55 condos.

  2. To my knowledge there are no three-dimensional representations of any of the buildings proposed. In our architectural work we look at what ever we design in 3D on the computer right from the beginning. We learned a long time ago a 2D plan and elevation drawings are useful, but not to understand what a building will really be like…not at all….

    Since the proposed zoning is in essence a detailed spec for this particular project and pretty much freezes it in place the trustees would do well to insist on 3D views generated by a computer using a CADD program – not pretty artistic renderings (which are by their very nature deceiving) but unadorned views of the building massing and topography. This is not that hard to do in today’s world…not at all… My apology if this has already been done.