County legislators talk of moving forward – into 6,000 square feet
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
The Cold Spring Planning Board voted on Wednesday (Feb. 18) to hold a public hearing on March 4 on the Butterfield redevelopment project, a decision representing a milestone in more than three years of often intense — and contentious — review of plans (revised over time) by Butterfield Realty LLC to repurpose the old hospital site.
The Planning Board action occurred a day after a Putnam County Legislature committee discussed proposed county occupancy of 5,000 to 6,000 square feet, including a new county-run senior citizen center, in a multi-government facility on a redeveloped Butterfield parcel that totals 5.7 acres.
Led by owner-developer Paul Guillaro, Butterfield LLC intends to retain the existing Lahey Pavilion medical clinic but demolish the abandoned hospital building, and build not only the intergovernmental structure but 55 market-rate condominiums for older residents; a “square” of retail/commercial shops or offices; and three single-family homes on the 5.7-acre property, which anchors the southern entrance to the village of Cold Spring.
Wednesday’s hearing date-setting came on a 4-1 vote, with Planning Board Member Arne Saari the lone “no” after he strenuously objected that the site plan provided insufficient parking, particularly for residents of the two-bedroom condominiums.
The public hearing will focus on the site plan — or layout and other details — and, on a preliminary basis, on the land subdivision integral to the redevelopment. A second hearing on the subdivision would follow at an undetermined date, a pro forma requirement.
If the owners of each condominium bring two cars, “where are these people going to park?” Saari questioned. “I think we’re pushing the envelope on parking.” He argued that “it sounds like we’re pushing the place toward Foodtown — inadequate parking.”
At the Foodtown plaza, home to the village’s grocery store, he often cannot find a parking space and must leave his car on the street behind, he said. He foresees similar problems at Butterfield: “I think we’re going to create a parking nightmare down here.”
Chuck Voss, the board’s planning consultant, and Anna Georgiou, its attorney for the review, answered that the parking spaces will meet both needs and obligations under the Village Code. Voss noted that the code is likely to change anyway, reducing the requirements for providing parking from the “suburban”-style mandate now on the books.
The Butterfield redevelopment “was designed as a shared-parking environment,” a flexible-use site, in which residents could park elsewhere on the property and in which not all residents owning cars or others driving to Butterfield would bring vehicles in at once, Voss said. Thus, as he elaborated, some condominium owners would leave during the day, freeing spaces for cars of those patronizing the government facility or offices and shops, while customers, employees and others using the latter buildings would not need parking overnight, and might not drive to the site in any case.
“I don’t think you guys want to apply a suburban standard” — in essence, the drive-constantly-and-park model — to a new village development, he said.
Barney Molloy, Planning Board chair (and a candidate for Cold Spring mayor) said that at Butterfield the village wants as much unpaved land as possible. “You can make the argument that parking might, at some time in the day, be a little bit difficult,” he told Saari, “but the village has been clear from Day One that the priority is maintenance of green space at the expense of additional parking.”
He also questioned the assumption that Butterfield condominium residents would have two vehicles per apartment, “which is a leap I don’t think we can make.”
The Village Board rezoned the site to accommodate the Butterfield plans, and Steven Barshov, Guillaro’s attorney, suggested that Saari’s complaint is not with the developer’s plans but with the pertinent village laws. The developer, too, may dislike some rules but “everybody has to comply with the code, whether we like its logic or not,” he said.
A county discussion
Participants at the Feb. 17 meeting of the Putnam County Legislature’s Physical Services Committee, which deals with buildings and infrastructure, spoke of efforts to date and acting expeditiously to bring to Butterfield a strong county presence, including a senior center vastly upgraded above the current lunch venue at the American Legion.
Legislator Carl Albano, who chairs both the Physical Services Committee and the full legislature, called on his colleagues to join in finalizing Putnam’s plans. The legislature allocated $64,000 in contingency funds for 2015 for taking space at Butterfield.
“Conceptually, we’re on the same page with this, although we didn’t have a formal vote or anything,” after allocating the $64,000, Albano said. At this juncture, he proposed, “the next thing we have to do is try to put together some agreement with the developer so we know we’re really committed to this and decide which space we want.”
He outlined two spaces at Butterfield as options. One, on a second-floor level allowing someone to walk outdoors, would provide notable light. The other, perhaps more directly accessible, would be on the ground floor of a different building. Putnam County would take between 5,000 and 6,000 square feet overall, he said.
He emphasized the need to finalize details soon, “make some kind of commitment,” and “move forward so we can start solidifying this whole direction we’re moving in.”
Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra, who represents Philipstown, said the office of County Executive MaryEllen Odell is negotiating arrangements, including a possible option-to-buy, with Guillaro. Likewise, she and Fred Pena, commissioner of highways and facilities, have gone over rudimentary designs for county space. Pena similarly has conferred with Pat Sheehy, director of the county Office for Senior Resources on the senior center.
“All of her [Sheehy’s] functions could be properly addressed” at Butterfield, “and significantly improve the conditions for the seniors at this new location,” Pena informed the committee. “It would be a tremendous improvement.” The existing site “really does not provide all the functions” necessary for a proper senior citizen center, he said.
“We’re not even close” to what the county offers elsewhere, Scuccimarra said. “It’s awful.”
Albano observed that “15 to 16 percent of our real estate taxes come from that [western] side of the county. So the general thought is … we should have some presence there.” He mentioned his own idea for Butterfield, that “there will be room that’s able to be shared by probably other people in the county in the future. You’d want some of that space to be where you could go different directions with it — multipurpose.”
Moreover, he continued, “it’s interesting: I think 4 percent of the seniors in that area,” in Philipstown, “utilize the current facility” at the American Legion, “which kind of gives you an indication that it’s way under what most other facilities are utilized at.”
Photos by L.S. Armstrong