Putnam County Legislature OKs rental of space for senior center
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
At literally the 11th hour, the Cold Spring Historic District Review Board last Thursday (May 14) voted 3-2 to approve the design of the proposed Butterfield redevelopment, clearing another hurdle on the oft-contested project’s path to realization.
The action in Cold Spring followed by nine days the decision by the Putnam County Legislature to endorse a letter of intent from the county executive branch to take space at Butterfield for a senior citizens center.
Another event, a public hearing by the Cold Spring Planning Board on subdividing the Butterfield tract, drew no attendees Wednesday night (May 20). The redevelopment plan calls for a mixed-use complex of condominiums for retiree-age residents, two retail-office buildings (including one suitable for a governmental presence, such as the senior center) and three single-family homes on individual parcels, Lots 1-3.
In voting against issuing a certificate of appropriateness for Butterfield, the two HDRB dissenters, members Kathleen Foley and Carolyn Bachan, objected to the size of some elements. The majority, HDRB Chairman Al Zgolinski and members Peter Downey and Michael Junjulas, found no fault with building dimensions, and Zgolinski and Junjulas praised aspects of the development.
Already scheduled at a later hour (8 p.m.) than most civic committees convene, on the last possible day the HDRB could act, given the legal timeframe for declaring the design appropriate (or not), the meeting drew a near-capacity crowd to the Village Hall, including Paul Guillaro of Butterfield Realty LLC, the property owner, and his associates.
Ray Sullivan, project architect, launched the proceedings by explaining that in response to concerns about the height and roof of the condominium bloc “we took about two feet out of the roof line and dropped it down.”
But the meeting stalled and recessed when Bill Florence, village attorney, hit a deer while driving to the meeting to confer privately with the HDRB prior to its decision. Florence eventually turned up, and after subsequently reconvening in public session the board fine-tuned its resolution on granting a decision of appropriateness, using a laptop passed from one member to another, before an audience scarcely diminished by the late hour. The board finally voted around 11 p.m.
In voting, Foley and Bachan sought to explain their opposition. In the months they worked with Guillaro’s team on the architecture, Foley said, “I think we made great strides” in making the various buildings comport with their Cold Spring surroundings. But she questioned the “quite small lots” for the single-family homes and remained troubled by “the mass and scale of the multifamily [condominium] homes. They’re orders of magnitude larger than anything else in the village,” except, perhaps, for the Haldane school buildings, she said.
Interconnected, with a car garage below, Buildings 4-5-6 appear as one large structure in the plans.
“They are a very internal and urban design that, I feel, is not compatible with the village. Because the mass and scale of that building outweighs the positive aspects, I vote ‘no,’” Foley announced, later adding: “I think there is a very dangerous precedent set in this approval in regard to mass and scale.”
Bachan spoke in similar terms. “I think the change in character this will bring to the village is just so contrary to what the village has stood for, for so long,” she said. “In this case, I think it’s gone way, way, too far.” She said the Butterfield project calls to mind construction in once-charming Hudson Valley towns downriver and warned of “Westchesterization.”
“Putting behemoth buildings … of the scale of Buildings 4-5-6,” she said, “is not compatible with the scale and character of the village. I vote ‘no.”
Zgolinski noted that the long building they dislike contains parking and that if it were designed differently the parking lot would go outside and consume green space. “You’re going to have more asphalt” that way, he said. “I don’t agree with the comment that this building is too massive for the village.”
Junjulas concurred. Guillaro’s team listened to the HDRB over the preceding months and “did a great job of tying everything together — everything we asked for,” he said.
When the meeting ended, Guillaro told Philipstown.info that “I’m happy; exhausted. I’m glad it’s over and moving forward.”
“I’m thrilled,” said Donna Anderson, a senior citizen and ardent advocate of the project. “It’s been a long road.”
During its formal monthly meeting May 5, the county legislature passed a resolution approving rental of space at Butterfield for a county senior citizen center. The resolution did not call for placing other county facilities at Butterfield, despite comments by County Executive MaryEllen Odell and others in recent years about bringing auxiliary offices of several county agencies and departments to the site. For example, in her March 2014 State of the County Address, Odell mentioned plans to open offices of the personnel, sheriff’s, clerk’s and tourism departments at Butterfield. Odell and other county officials have not explained why their thinking changed.
The county legislature’s May 5 resolution directed the county administration to continue negotiating a lease with Guillaro for the senior center. The resolution, which mistakenly referred to the Town of Philipstown, not the Village of Cold Spring, as the local government with jurisdiction over Butterfield, also cited an “attached” letter of intent outlining details of the county’s intentions. However, the letter was not provided to the press and public with other background materials from the meeting.
Emails sent to Odell and Deputy County Bruce Walker by Philipstown.info requesting a copy of the letter produced neither an answer nor the letter of intent.