Residents Speak in Favor of ‘Formula Business’ Ban

No opposition expressed

By Michael Turton

Opposition to a proposed Cold Spring law banning “formula businesses” such as fast food restaurant chains within the village was nowhere to be heard at a public hearing on Oct. 14 (Monday) at the Village Hall. Council chambers were almost full, and while no one spoke against the proposed law, several residents offered enthusiastic support in favor.

The only reservation came from Barney Molloy, chairman of the Cold Spring Planning Board, who pointed out on behalf of that board that, as written, the law lacks a clear definition of what constitutes a “chain” and he called for a tightening of language to close that gap.

A near-capacity crowd turned out for the public hearing on a law to ban "formula businesses" in Cold Spring. (Photo by M. Turton)

A near-capacity crowd turned out for the public hearing on a law to ban ”formula businesses” in Cold Spring. (Photo by M. Turton)

He also said the law does not clearly define the lower limit of the number of stores required to be considered a chain or formula business – citing Frozenberry and Indigo Chic as examples of existing businesses that raise that question. Frozenberry has two stores, one in Cold Spring and one in Fishkill. Indigo Chic has stores in New City and Rye Brook in addition to Cold Spring.

Molloy suggested that the Village Board choose a lower limit such as three or four stores. In other words, if a “chain” consists of only three or four stores, it could be permitted. One other speaker supported the need to define some of the proposed law’s terminology more clearly.

Residents who spoke in support of the law found various ways to express the view that in essence, formula businesses would be harmful to the historic character of the village and detrimental to tourism. Gretchen Dykstra asked the Village Board to “limit visual pollution” by adopting the new law.

Richard Franco said that allowing formula businesses could turn Cold Spring into “just another little cookie-cutter municipality” based in “mediocrity.” Mike Armstrong, who spoke as a resident but who also chairs the Special Board for the Comprehensive Plan and Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, cautioned that events such as fires, and the vacant lots they create, can lead to unintended consequences. “The way you see the community today can suddenly change,” he said.

He also commented that in the past, Cold Spring’s small size has protected it, but that the business model used by franchise businesses is changing and now finds success in smaller communities. Without “vigilance” he said that micro franchises can begin to pop up. Steve Laifer said that the absence of chain stores in the village supports the notion that “sometimes less is more.”

Aaron Freimark remarked that “formula businesses are a problem because we don’t want to live in a formula village.” He said that the character of the town where he grew up in Ohio was damaged by the proliferation of formula businesses – but that such an outcome “is not inevitable.”

When comments concluded, Mayor Ralph Falloon said that the public hearing will remain open until Oct. 22 (Tuesday), so that any residents who missed the meeting because of the Columbus Day holiday will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed law. He said that the village has had three experienced attorneys work on the law, which is based on similar legislation adopted in communities such as Rhinebeck.

“We really tried to cover all the bases. The attorneys believe it (the law) will stand,” he said. Falloon concluded by saying that the board will consider all comments it receives and “will absolutely make changes if needed.”

Handling dock access requests

Other business included discussion of issues involving the Cold Spring dock. The Recreation Commission may be asked to deal with routine docking applications in the future with the Village Board considering only applications that present special circumstances. Falloon supported the idea saying, “It would be good to get some of that off our plate.”

The issue arose when the Putnam County Economic Development Corporation requested that the docking fee be waived for its recent cruise originating at the village dock. The need for improved signage and a consistent docking plan for boats coming to Cold Spring was also discussed.


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