Two hearings likely for April 16
By Jeff Simms
The Beacon City Council plans to revise zoning codes throughout much of the city but appears split on whether to take a chunk out of the proposed Edgewater development.
A straw poll at its meeting on Monday (March 12) showed the council leaning 4 to 3 in favor of adopting a zoning proposal to use buildable, rather than gross, acreage to determine the density allowed on parcels of 3 or more acres in residential districts.
The proposal would remove steep slopes, floodways and other environmentally sensitive land from the density equation. Because it does not exclude projects under review, some developments being considered by the city could be sent back to the drawing board.
The council will hold a public hearing on April 16 before voting.
In December, the council adopted similar changes in the Fishkill Creek Development District without grandfathering projects then under Planning Board review. That decision downsized the 248 Tioronda project, which had been approved in 2014 for 100 units on nearly 9 acres but has not yet started construction.
Discussions have continued since then on extending the measure to residential districts. The zoning for single-family homes (R1) is the largest land-use category in Beacon, covering 27 percent of the city.
If the zoning change is adopted, two more projects — the 307-unit Edgewater and a 13-lot development on Townsend Street — also stand to lose density.
However, the most significant change would be for Edgewater, which has been under review by the Planning Board for more than a year. It could lose units, although Taylor Palmer, an attorney for the project, said it is too early to estimate how many.
Among council members, George Mansfield said the change in the zoning law could be seen as a “last-ditch effort” to reduce density on projects like Edgewater, while others argued for consistency.
“It shows favoritism if you grandfather-in one property” but not others, said Jodi McCredo, adding that consistency across zoning districts “is the only way to avoid bias.”
The Edgewater proposal, which would be the largest housing development in Beacon, has been heavily scrutinized. In December, the Planning Board granted environmental approval following a protracted debate with the Beacon City School District over its impact.
A few weeks later, the Zoning Board of Appeals approved three variances, for the number of stories allowed per building, the number of units per building and the space between buildings.
While the council is considering the zoning change, Edgewater is moving along a separate track. It has asked for a special-use permit from the City Council (because the development will include multi-family dwellings), and then would return to the Planning Board for more approvals.
The council is expected to schedule a public hearing on the special-use permit on April 16, the same night as the zoning hearing.