After closed-door discussion, board sends Butterfield plan to Historic District Review Board
By Kevin E. Foley
The proposed Butterfield commercial and residential development project ran into some surprising upset Wednesday night (Sept. 17) as a majority of the Cold Spring Planning Board raised objections to the board counsel’s interpretation limiting their authority to review the mass and scale of the project.
To varying degrees four of the five members, Anne Impellizzeri, Arne Saari, Karn Dunn and James Pergamo, expressed concern over the size of the buildings and the impact the project would have on the 5.7-acre parcel of land as well as the overall impact on the village. They said they were under the impression that the site plan review process, now underway, afforded them the opportunity to address the broad impact of the development’s plans as well as the many specific details involved in a site plan review.
For approximately 45 minutes the members, led by Saari, sallied with appointed counsel Anna Georgiou, inquiring about and at times insisting that the Board of Trustees did not intend to limit the Planning Board’s role in assessing overall impact from building size and number of residential units and other factors.
“I have been trying to have a conversation about this for six months and every time I was put off,” said Saari, a long-time Planning Board member. “I believe the Village Board listened to the Planning Board and left it to the Planning Board to make appropriate changes.”
Dunn echoed concerns. “There were at least three of us who were concerned about mass and scale during the EAP (environmental assessment) process and we were told that we could address this during site review,” Dunn said.
Strongly disagreeing, although she maintained her opinion was only advisory to the board, Georgiou said that when the Cold Spring Board of Trustees approved new zoning for the old hospital site (known as B4A) they essentially also approved the concept plan developer Paul Guillaro had submitted at that time. She said the trustee’s approval meant that the size of the buildings and the number of residential units were then made “as of right.” She said the size and scope of the project could be reduced only if the developer agreed or proposed it.
Planning Board Chair Barney Molloy reminded the board that there had been multiple discussions regarding the change of zoning and its connection to the developer’s concept plan. He recalled there had been two joint meetings with the Village Board and then the Planning Board wrote a detailed memo expressing its concerns and desire for greater flexibility than the draft B4A zoning proposal suggested. “By and large the Village Board rejected most of what we asked for,” he said.
Impellizzeri, the main author of the board’s letter to the trustees, seemed to accept Molloy’s recollection of events. But she observed ruefully: “I have grave doubts the community understands particularly the mass of this project or even that the Village Board understands what they have led us to.”
When Saari suggested the Planning Board formally ask the Village Board what its intent was when it approved the B4A change, Molloy replied: “The attorney who drafted it (Georgiou also served as counsel to the Village Board for this issue) at the behest of the Village Board is sitting before us. She is telling us this was the board’s intent and legally that is the state of things.”
A visibly disconcerted Guillaro, the developer, rose to remind the board that since the approval of the concept plan he had reduced the size and scope of the buildings and other elements to varying degrees as indicated in the presentation of the site plan. “We have listened to these concerns,” he said. Molloy acknowledged this and reminded the board other accommodations were still possible as the site plan review continued.
Nevertheless, when Molloy attempted to move on with making a formal referral of the site plan to the Historic District Review Board, which must also review the project’s design plans, Saari balked. Pergamo and Dunn agreed with him that the board should move to ask the Village Board about its intent. The discussion then continued with counsel about how best to draft such a letter. After a while Molloy suggested that perhaps the board would go into a private attorney/client discussion.
Board members more or less nodded agreement but without any further discussion of the reasons why they could consult with counsel for over an hour in public session but now needed to be out of ear shot of public and media.
After a 45-minute closed-door meeting the members returned and without further substantive public discussion they voted to accept the site plan application for Butterfield Realty Limited and make a referral to the Historic District Review Board, apparently accepting their chairman and lawyer’s perspective on where things stood legally. Saari voted no.