Public hearing pushed back a week
By Michael Turton
The Village of Cold Spring Board of Trustees began its review of a Planning Board memo outlining recommendations regarding the long-awaited B4A zoning amendment at its Tuesday (March 25) meeting although little was accomplished as a result of the nearly 90-minute detailed discussion. Zoning changes addressed in the memo, submitted to trustees two weeks ago, must be finalized before the mixed-use development proposed by developer Paul Guillaro for the 5.6-acre Butterfield Hospital site can proceed.
Toward the end of the meeting, Mayor Ralph Falloon announced that the public hearing on the soon-to-be-amended zoning originally scheduled for April 15 has been pushed back to April 22 as several key players will be out of town. Even without the scheduling conflict trustees would have been hard pressed to approve new zoning in time for the original hearing date since only two more board meetings were planned before then.
On the heels of the March 18 election, the old board — including defeated incumbent Matt Francisco and outgoing trustee Charles Hustis — will meet just once more, on April 1. The new board, including just-elected trustees Michael Bowman and Cathryn Fadde, won’t meet for the first time until April 8, leaving just one additional meeting prior to the original public hearing date. Both new trustees were in the audience on Tuesday.
Planning Board seeks direction, flexibility
The Planning Board is clearly looking to the Village Board for input and direction regarding what trustees want in the revised zoning – as well as a desire for greater flexibility in dealing with myriad details to be considered as part of the site plan review process.
“The current B4A zoning is very strict … allowing (the Planning Board) zero discretion and interpretation and that is not consistent with …our code vis-a-vis what the Planning Board’s authority is,” said Planning Board chairman Barney Molloy. “What we’re … requesting is that when we move into the site planning review process that we … have what is traditionally viewed as discretion of the Planning Board … as issues come up.”
Molloy listed a number of issues where he thinks such discretion would be appropriate. “Right now the ordinance requires a zero lot-line setback along Route 9D,” he said. “We’d like the opportunity to maybe move a building back to have some additional green space or to decrease the footprint of a building by increasing building height. None of those things are allowed under the proposed ordinance.”
The Route 9D issue was one area where there was accord. Those in attendance agreed that the amended zoning should require a setback of “more than zero.” Paul Guillaro pointed out that the New York State Department of Transport right-of-way is 27 feet from the curb to the property line. While that provides a buffer, Planning Board member Anne Impellizzeri said that the long-term concern is that the DOT may want to develop the right-of-way in the future. That, combined with a zero setback requirement, could result in buildings being located close to the road’s edge. There was general agreement that a 10- to 15-foot setback is probably desirable.
Other issues discussed included the scale or “bulk” of buildings on site, flexibility regarding the amount of commercial and retail space allowed to ensure the development is tax positive, preference for “green technologies” in building design and compatibility with the Comprehensive Plan.
The freewheeling meeting format did little to advance the discussion. Village trustees and members of the Planning Board along with their respective attorneys Mike Liguori and Anna Georgiou, Guillaro and his lawyer Steven Barshov and planner Ann Cutignola chimed in at various times, jumping from topic to topic, seldom in the order in which they appear in the memo.
In the end, Falloon said that he and one other trustee will meet with village planners and lawyers prior to next week’s meeting to seek input and guidance regarding how the board can respond more specifically to the issues raised in the memo.
The Grove proposal
A number of issues must be resolved if local resident Steve Marino’s plan to renovate The Grove as his family home is to become a reality. His was the only proposal received after the village issued an RFP seeking parties interested in restoring the historic building located atop the embankment behind The Nest child care center.
Marino has suggested a tax abatement scenario that would see him pay village taxes only on the assessed value of the property in its current rundown state — but not on the value of the extensive renovations that would be required — at least not for the first five years. Subsequent to that, his village taxes would increase by 20 percent every five years until reflective of the full value of the improved building. In order for that to happen the village would have to pass a local law either for The Grove only, or more likely for the entire historic district.
Kathleen Foley, a member of the Historic District Review Board, spoke in favor of such a law, stating that it encourages owners to maintain historically significant buildings. The tax deferral would only relate to improvements associated with historic preservation. In passing such a law the village cannot obligate the Haldane Central School District to defer its tax assessment. The district would have to agree to that on its own. Marino will discuss assessment on The Grove property with the village assessor.
Other issues include the status of an easement that runs from M&T Bank to The Grove and the possible removal of an old heating oil tank from the site. Even if the tank was removed years ago, a significant environmental cleanup could be required depending on the condition of soil.
Doug Cunningham, editor-in-chief and associate publisher of the PCNR, read a prepared statement at the end of the meeting, claiming that Trustees Matt Francisco and Stephanie Hawkins had recently used social media to make “accusations about the conduct of the PCNR, its owner and its staff.” He went on to say that the allegations were “false, malicious and intended to injure the PCNR and the reputations of those who work there.”
He ended his statement saying, “We are blessed with the right of free speech. But there are legal consequences for the fabrication and publication of lies.” Cunningham did not respond to a March 26 email from The Paper asking for details regarding Francisco’s and Hawkins’ alleged comments and whether or not legal action against them is being pursued.