Calls for park zoning along waterfront, less development
By Jeff Simms
The Beacon City Council is expected to schedule a public hearing for Feb. 6 on proposed updates to the city’s comprehensive plan and could vote to adopt it by March.
The most radical aspect of the plan — which is an update, rather than a full rewrite, of the comprehensive plan adopted in 2007 — is its recommendation that the city rezone all of the land west of the Metro-North station as a waterfront park. The move would apply to approximately 30 acres and signals a significant turnaround from a decade ago, when a hotel and residential building were recommended for the area.
The proposed update, which has been prepared over the last six to eight months by the BFJ Planning firm, would allow for a small restaurant or waterfront-themed bed and breakfast, according to Frank Fish of BFJ, who spoke to the City Council at its Jan. 3 meeting. Any other changes at the waterfront would be related to parks and recreational uses, he said.
The move away from riverside development is consistent with Beacon’s decades-long effort to revitalize its waterfront, Fish said, and is more appropriate for the flood-prone zone. The plan is also congruent with Scenic Hudson’s concept for expanding the 15-acre Long Dock Park that was approved by the Planning Board in December.
The BFJ proposal does call for rezoning land to the north and directly adjacent to the train station (all on the east side of the tracks) for waterfront development, possibly residential, but in both areas building heights would be restricted to preserve views of the Hudson River.
Referring to the parkland zoning and scaled-back development, Fish said: “We think those two changes really reduce development and would still present you an opportunity for a beautiful park area. It would still present you the opportunity to reconnect Beekman Street and the train but it would also have the effect of reducing the potential density. If you compare it to the 2007 plan that was a major development scenario. This would reduce the density slightly and it would reduce the height. By doing it this way, we think it will reduce traffic compared to the last plan. I think this plan will have better environmental impacts … while at the same time connecting you to the waterfront a little bit better.”
The new comprehensive plan would also allow the city to consider retail by special permit along the north side of West Main Street as a means of improving the connection between the waterfront and Main Street. Along Main, a rubber-wheeled trolley has been proposed to make Beacon’s business district more pedestrian-friendly.
Extended pedestrian paths on the waterfront and leading up to Main Street would enhance walkability as well.
Once the plan is adopted, it will serve as the city’s blueprint for growth over the next decade.
“What Beacon looks like today, from the Roundhouse development and the Fishkill Creek corridor, to the buildings being renovated and built on Main Street, was shaped by the 2007 comprehensive plan,” said Councilperson Peggy Ross, one of the co-chairs of the update committee. “What Beacon will look like in 10 years will be shaped by the plan that the City Council will hopefully approve” in March.