New Fire Hall Talks Underway – Again

Coal tar cleanup discussion centers on boat club lease

A new Cold Spring fire hall has been talked about for years, however renewed discussions at the Cold Spring Village Board Workshop on Oct. 23 (Tuesday) seemed to not only take on a greater sense of urgency but also a feeling that the project is needed for the good of the entire community.

Rough plans for a new building to be located in McConville Park on Morris Avenue, in front of Tots Park, were presented to the full Village Board and the public for the first time.  “We’ve always looked for an alternative to Main Street,” Mayor Ralph Falloon said. Setting the tone for the meeting he said, “I want no battles tonight. Nothing is going to be decided. This is not a public hearing.”

John Landolfi, vice president of the Cold Spring Fire Company, outlined the proposed plan. He emphasized the reduced cost of building a one-story fire hall at McConville Park, estimated at $1.5 million, versus major renovations and construction of a two-story facility at the existing site, estimated at $3 million. The new scenario includes sale of the current fire hall, with funds going toward the new facility. The current fire hall is assessed at more than $500,000.

Landolfi emphasized that the new facility would not have a negative impact on the children’s play area. “We only want to make Tots better if possible,” he said, adding that a small fire truck could be added for kids to play on and that public restrooms proposed for the back of the new building would be available to park users.

Saving money was the dominant theme. “We want to save money. We all live here and pay taxes,” Landolfi said. “We don’t want to be taxed out of living here.” He also had a challenge for newer residents. “New people are great. Move here all you want,” he said. “But maybe you need to get involved with something like the fire company – it’s dying.”

Dick Weissbrod received no support when he suggested that consolidation of area fire companies could save money. Christopher Daly suggested that Play Haldane, the group that raised funds for Haldane’s new sports field, might be a good model to emulate.

Falloon said that the goal was to build a suitable one-story facility and not a “Taj Mahal.” But Kathleen Foley urged the group to “think big,” suggesting that a better facility that offered multiple community uses would be very beneficial. Anne Impellizzeri, a member of the Cold Spring Planning Board, stressed the importance of keeping Main Street alive. She said a two-story fire hall available for various public uses, would be “a great asset” to Main Street.

Cold Spring’s mayor said he was very impressed with the fact that everyone seemed to embrace the need to move forward. “This will be a community project,” he said.

Coal tar, boat club discussions continue

“If DEC (New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation) is going to clean it up and pay for it, my advice is to clean it up completely,” Village Attorney Mike Liguori said in kicking off the latest discussion regarding removal of coal tar from around the Cold Spring Boat Club.

DEC agreed to a complete cleanup in early October, contingent upon the boat club building being demolished.

The lease between the boat club and Village of Cold Spring seemed to indicate that removing the building would terminate the lease – but that is now in doubt. “It’s not crystal clear that razing the building terminates the lease,” Falloon said. Liguori agreed: “As I read it there’s no reference to the structure,” he said.

The biggest question may be what happens after the cleanup. Falloon has made it clear that he wants the coal tar removed – and the boat club to return. “This is not an excuse to do away with the boat club.”

“If the building comes down, we want (it) back up,” Mark Patinella, vice commodore of the boat club said. “We want to do it our own way, we just want … assurances. We have a lot of money invested in (our) boats.”

Liguori said that an addendum could be added to the lease, indicating it remains in effect if the building is demolished. He also recommended building enough time into the process to allow the village to make informed decisions about the property after the cleanup.

Trustee Stephanie Hawkins questioned why the Hudson House pays rent and taxes on a parking lot behind the boat club building, part of the same property, while the boat club does not. The Hudson House paid $3,909 in 2013-14 property taxes to the village, Town of Philipstown, Putnam County and the Haldane Central School District as well as $4,374 annual rent to the village. The boat club pays no taxes because the property is tax exempt. Patinella said that the club paid rent prior to the lease arrangement.

Falloon called the discussions “a giant first step.” At the end of the meeting, The Paper posed a number of questions. Asked about negotiations with the boat club, the mayor said they would not be held in public, but that final decisions regarding cleanup and the boat club would be subject to a public hearing. Asked if the Comprehensive Plan will be considered in the boat club discussions he replied, “Yes.”

The Paper also asked if there is a conflict of interest since Deputy Mayor Bruce Campbell is a full member of the boat club and Trustee Charles Hustis is an associate member. Liguori said that conflict of interest must involve financial gain, but that the “appearance of impropriety” can also be a factor. He said the basic question is, “Can you be impartial?”

The questions set off another discussion. One issue raised is that no one knows what the property will look like after the cleanup. Trustee Matt Francisco pointed out that the excavation could be as much as 20 feet deep. “That’s a lot of soil,” he said, adding that DEC’s obligations for replacing the excavated material with clean fill are unknown. There was agreement that the current lease is poorly written and serves neither party particularly well. Liguori will make revisions for review by the board.

Opposition to formula business ban

Trustees closed the public hearing on the proposed law banning “formula businesses.” Unlike last week’s meeting where comments were entirely positive, Daly criticized the law, which would prohibit fast food restaurant chains, drive-throughs, and big box stores. “It’s a dramatic solution in search of a problem,” he said. “Cold Spring’s (law) … takes in the entire village.” That, he said, puts the village at greater risk of being challenged in court. He suggested a full ban in some areas and a partial ban in others.

Daly also said the ban on “big box” stores such as The Gap is unnecessary because the floor space required by such businesses can’t be accommodated in the village.

He also supported comments by Barney Molloy, chairman of the Cold Spring Planning Board, calling for specifics regarding “scale” of businesses covered under the law. In his written submission, Daly said that he and his wife had operated two fitness studios in New York City. “Would we (be) barred from opening a third location in Cold Spring?” Daly also addressed the possibility of empty Main Street storefronts. “I’d rather see formula businesses … well integrated into the design of the village, than empty store fronts.”

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