Lawyering Up Over Butterfield

Second opinions fail to settle argument

By Michael Turton

A pair of second legal opinions may actually increase the chance of a courtroom showdown over a change of plans proposed by the developer of the former Butterfield Hospital site in Cold Spring. At the June 7 meeting of the village board, Mayor Dave Merandy announced that based on a second legal opinion received recently, the planning board will continue to process the Butterfield application as a “change of use.” Considering comments made by the developer two weeks ago that decision could ultimately result in a court battle.

In late April, developer Paul Guillaro submitted an application to the Cold Spring Planning Board that included a swap in uses between two buildings as part of the multi-use redevelopment. The revised plan places the senior citizen center and post office in the Lahey Pavilion, a building not included in the site plan approved in November 2015. The new plan will see the medical offices currently located in Lahey move to Building No. 2, now under construction. That building was originally designated to house both the senior citizen center and post office.

At the May 12 meeting of the planning board, Guillaro’s attorney Steven Barshov argued that the change was minor and that the zoning for Butterfield made it clear that the 35 parking spaces identified for Lahey would not have to be altered. “The code is not ambiguous,” he said at the time. “It says no additional parking shall be required.” Guillaro reiterated the same argument at a meeting two weeks later.

John Furst, the village’s attorney, saw the application very differently, arguing that the proposed swap is a change in use that necessitates a revised table that would increase the number of parking spaces at Lahey to 56.

Opinions reinforce positions

Guillaro put his stake in the ground at the May 26 planning board meeting, commenting that he had sought a second legal opinion and believed that if the difference in legal interpretations were to go to court “there is no way” the village could win.

Faced with disparate legal views and possible court action, Merandy sought a second opinion as well from Rodenhausen Chale, a Rhinebeck firm specializing in municipal and land use law.

Construction continues at Butterfield, as does legal wrangling. (Photo by M. Turton)

Construction continues at Butterfield, as does legal wrangling. (Photo by M. Turton)

At Tuesday’s village board meeting Merandy said that he and Planning Board Chair Matt Francisco recently spoke with a lawyer from the firm confirmed Furst’s interpretation of the code as valid. “We are encouraged and feel comfortable in moving ahead in asking for the application,” the mayor said. “Basically we feel comfortable [that] this is a change of use … and we’ll be applying our code to that change.”

The mayor added that Francisco “understands the need to have this done as quickly as possible” and that the planning board will deal with Guillaro’s application at its next meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday, June 10. That meeting had originally been scheduled for the previous evening.

Merandy said the planning board is waiting for information from the Deputy Putnam County Executive Bruce Walker regarding the amount of seating proposed for the senior citizen center, a factor that could affect the parking table.

In other business…

  • New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has pushed back the date for “substantial completion” of the remediation of toxic coal tar at the site of Cold Spring Boat Club from July 1 to July 10. Merandy said a DEC official told him via email that the facility where the contamination is being disposed of has reached its monthly quota and disposal is now being determined on a day-to-day basis. DEC estimates that excavation at the boat club will be complete within a few days.
  • The restrooms located near the pedestrian tunnel have been vandalized again. Trustee Fran Murphy reported that they were “trashed” last weekend. A toilet seat was broken and paper strewn about the restroom. Murphy said there has been no firm policy about locking the restroom doors overnight and that Cold Spring Police Department will now do so. “This is my opinion, not the full board’s opinion,” Murphy said. “But if this continues; if the bathrooms are totally wrecked on a regular basis we should lock them up and say ‘sorry we don’t have public bathrooms,’ which is a shame.” Mayor Merandy said he will speak to CSPD Officer in Charge George Kane about instituting a consistent schedule for locking the restrooms, which have been damaged a number of times in recent years.
  • The Main Street Project remains on schedule. Deputy Mayor Marie Early reported that concrete will be poured from Depot Square to Fair Street by the end of the week. Saw cuts as far east as Garden Street could also be completed by then, she said.
  • Cold Spring has its first parking meter. Early said the pay station in the municipal lot on Fair Street will be activated on Thursday, June 9. Hourly parking fees are $1 per hour, payable by cash or credit card. The meter will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, except from Nov. 15 to April 15 between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m.
  • The village board continues to consider a request from the Cold Spring Fire Company to have a number of parking spaces on Church Street reserved for CSFC use. Trustee Steve Voloto reported that he met with parking committee chair Anthony Phillips who said the committee has no objection to the request. CSFC prefers that the reserved spaces be located on the west side of Church, against the firehouse. The village board has favored locating them on the east side of the street.
  • The board is also considering a request from Nelsonville residents Greg McElhattan and Tania Dirks, owners of Greg’s Good Eats, to provide food and refreshments during the Sunday Sunset Music Series on the Cold Spring riverfront this summer. The series, sponsored by the Cold Spring Area Chamber of Commerce, begins July 10. The request would have the food truck set up on West Street near the bandstand.
  • The Cold Spring Merchants Association will hold a sidewalk sale on the weekend of Oct 22-23. No outside vendors will take part. The Association’s Leonora Burton said that the sale “will be a celebration of the new sidewalks.”

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