Compromise Ends Log Jam

Butterfield project parking issue settled

By Michael Turton

An unusual Friday night meeting of the Cold Spring Planning Board on June 10 was a marathon, lasting more than three hours. It was a grueling session, marked by scenes that would have befitted the municipal planning version of Groundhog Day; opposing positions were stated, restated, and then restated again. But when adjournment finally came, everyone who attended the standing-room-only gathering probably agreed it had been worth the time and effort. The debate over the amount of parking required at the multi-use Butterfield development project had been put to rest – and with it the possibility of an expensive court battle.

Going into the meeting, divergent interpretations of the village code by John Furst, attorney for the Village of Cold Spring, and Steven Barshov, developer Paul Guillaro’s lawyer, put the two sides at odds after the developer applied in late April for a change in use between two of the project’s buildings. The dispute became more entrenched when second legal opinions reinforced both sides’ positions.

The new application called for a senior citizen center and post office to be established in the Lahey Pavilion, now occupied by a number of medical offices. As part of the swap those offices would move to Building No. 2, a facility now under construction. In Furst’s view the change called for more than 25 additional parking spaces to be created while Barshov argued vehemently that no new parking was required. The disagreement played out in particular at the planning board’s last two meetings.

Both sides gave a little

In the end both sides gave a little. Guillaro agreed to create four new parking spaces, bringing the total number of conforming parking spots to 211. The planning board agreed to increase the parking waiver from the previously approved 11.2 percent to 20 percent, reducing the amount of parking required by almost eight percent. The number of non-conforming spaces remained unchanged at 21. The new math got both sides to where they needed to be.

In addition, Guillaro agreed to improve signage on site, alerting drivers to a one-way street on the redeveloped site. Signage will also be added in the area of the medical offices restricting parking to patients only while signage for the compact car area will be enhanced. The developer also agreed to provide an updated parking table within a week, to include the location of the four new parking spaces in order that the revised site plan can be reviewed by the planning board prior to its next meeting.

Paul Guillaro and attorney Steven Barshov (Photo by M. Turton)

Paul Guillaro and attorney Steven Barshov (Photo by M. Turton)

As Friday’s meeting wore on after argumentative introductory exchanges between the two sides, the tone of the dialogue changed. Comments about the need to “agree to disagree” and to “get to yes” were uttered more than once, as was the desire to avoid a costly court battle. A major factor in the shift came when Putnam County Deputy Executive Bruce Walker emphasized that all senior citizens would have the option of using county bus service to get to the new center.

It seemed odd that Walker’s point regarding busing surfaced months into what had been such a rancorous discussion, but the information had an impact on the board. Universal bus service would decrease the need for parking at the senior center. Board member Arne Saari, who also served on the previous planning board and cast the only vote against the parking plan approved last year, commented on the bus service saying,  “You can’t beat that.” It was agreed at Friday’s meeting that the long-term lease between the county and Guillaro would include the bus service as a requirement — as a protection against future county legislatures that might consider eliminating the service in order to cut costs.

“Let’s make a deal”

The agreement reached Friday was also likely fueled in part by Guillaro’s insistence that the matter be settled that evening. He hinted that he was willing to compromise while not discounting the possibility of legal action. “I want a decision; I want to work something out tonight,” he said. “This is the last time I’m coming here on this project so tell me what we need to do … otherwise you’ll be dealing with Steve (Barshov) and not me … Let’s make a deal.”

After the tentative verbal agreement had been reached, some two and a half hours into the meeting, the planning board left the room and met with Furst for a final review of the proposed terms. Mayor Dave Merandy was invited to sit in on the closed-door session. The group emerged 22 minutes later.

Planning Board Chair Matt Francisco (far right) (Photo by M. Turton)

Planning Board Chair Matt Francisco (far right) (Photo by M. Turton)

After Furst reviewed the agreement the board waived holding a public hearing on the amended site plan. “The board is committed to approving it … this is where we could have been a while ago,” Planning Board Chair Matt Francisco said. “I get that you wanted to explain to us that we had bad legal counsel – but now we were able to talk, to do the math and that’s where we end up,” to which Furst added, “Because we got the information you (the planning board) requested (of the developer).”

Unless something changes, the board will vote on final approval of the amended site plan for Butterfield at its June 23 meeting.

After Friday’s meeting, when asked how happy he was with the agreement on a scale of one to 10, Paul Guillaro responded, “I’m at about nine and a half.” Earlier during the meeting, he said that as soon as building No. 2 is complete, the medical offices in Lahey Pavilion will move there, which will allow work to begin on the senior citizen center and post office.

The meeting was held on a Friday rather than the normal Thursday time-slot because two members of the board would not have been able to attend had it been held the previous evening.

One thought on “Compromise Ends Log Jam

  1. Mr. Guillaro has been put through far too much and has bent over backward. Good for him to stand his ground. Settle it and move on!