Zoning Changes Being Considered in Beacon

City Council looking at two busy districts

By Jeff Simms

The Beacon City Council is expected to hold a public hearing before the end of the year on proposed changes to the Main Street and Fishkill Creek zoning districts.

Pushed by council member Lee Kyriacou as a vehicle for reining in incompatible development, the council pledged in September to complete a nearly parcel-by-parcel review of the zoning laws for the city’s busiest development corridors while a building moratorium, set to run until March, is in effect.

Click to view the zoning map of Beacon.

A three-hour planning session on Oct. 23 provided some details on the changes likely to be proposed. Draft revised codes would establish a single zoning district for all of Main Street while addressing building-height restrictions, design standards and better ensuring that development projects don’t adversely affect historical assets and protected viewsheds.

Along Fishkill Creek, proposed changes would give the City Council authority to review conceptual plans for developments while lowering density allowances on some parcels and heightening consistency requirements with the city’s greenway trail master plan. The council also discussed a requirement for residential projects to include commercial uses as part of their plans.

At the board’s request, planning consultant John Clarke is re-drafting zoning language for Main Street and the creekside district for its review while a date is set for the public hearing.

In other business, the City Council approved a minor revision on Oct. 16 to its six-month building moratorium, adding an exemption for existing industrial and manufacturing buildings.

Detail from the Beacon zoning map.

The amendment gives Tim Dexter, the city’s building inspector, the discretion to allow the reuse of non-residential buildings for industrial or manufacturing uses — where such use does not increase the building’s footprint or square footage — to proceed while the moratorium is in effect.

The council also approved amendments to the city charter to give elected officials the option of receiving individual or family health insurance benefits through the city’s employee plan. Earlier this year, a charter review committee recommended that council members and the mayor receive a stipend instead of being offered health coverage.

As of Jan. 1, the city will pay 80 percent of individual health insurance costs — the same rate that Beacon governmental department heads receive — with the council member or mayor paying the remainder. Council members and the mayor may secure family coverage through the city’s plan but will be responsible for any cost above individual coverage.

Elected officials who don’t opt for health insurance will receive a payment of $2,500. The six council members each earn $9,000 annually, while the mayor’s salary is $25,000.

2 thoughts on “Zoning Changes Being Considered in Beacon

  1. As a resident who faithfully attends the City of Beacon meetings, I feel the Oct. 23 meeting was productive and believe it’s going in the right direction. I for one was glad to hear Lee Kyriacou once again push to save our historic assets, to hem in development, and to again bring up the fact that the city needs to keep residential homes close to Main Street with historical importance protected from encroachment. We also need to protect our historic storefront buildings from being allowed to increase the overall structure height under the guise of a “by-right” law or allowed to be turned into a WeWork-type environments with mass monthly rentals that will not benefit the residential and business communities at large. They are self-contained entities that will only further drain the city’s resources.

    It also is perplexing to continually hear the city planner John Clark and Mayor Randy Casale pound the “what-if scenarios” or the “woulda-coulda-shoulda” facts that urban renewal plans and goals, if followed through, would have made it much worse through the demolition of a large portion of Main Street and the rebuilding with skyscrapers. They present that as a plea for us, its city residents, to accept higher-density development because it was meant to be. I believe that thought process is shortsighted.

    The mere fact that urban renewal did not raze the entire cityscape was a miracle. We should count our blessings that we did not end up like Poughkeepsie or any other razed cities across the U.S. The drastic shift in the urban-renewal plans for this Hudson River city is still allowing us the opportunity to embrace the second chance we were given to protect what we have left, even if that means not developing on new green space generated by the scars of the urban renewal path.

    As a city and a community we were given that second chance to regain and protect our historic heritage, our scenic vistas and our open spaces. Through learning that, we now know the benefits of protecting our flora, fauna and the face of this city with its good fortune.

    • Important. As a frequent visitor to Beacon, I believe you are on the right track, and I applaud your comment. What went for design, planning, approvals and legislation (or lack thereof) in Beacon over the past year or two is to me beyond belief. Presumably it was the product of good intentions in some quarters but not well thought out as to the ramifications and secondary effects, and not nearly enough opportunity for public information, education, and discussion as far as I can tell.

      One point: I am not (and I suspect others will not be as well) up to speed on the meaning and the significance of the term “WeWork-type environments.” Perhaps this could be elaborated upon.