No New Building Freeze

Beacon council will stay the course on zoning

By Jeff Simms

The Beacon City Council seems unlikely to begin a second moratorium on residential and commercial building after a six-month freeze expired two weeks ago.

While several council members indicated they’d hoped to institute another moratorium, on Monday (April 9) the council seemed to move on, if reluctantly, to tackle matters already at hand.

“The priorities in front us are Main Street and the historic overlay,” said Council Member Amber Grant. “Is introducing a moratorium going to distract us from completing any of those other things? I know it’s not what people want to hear. I’m sorry.”

The moratorium was adopted in September amid concerns about Beacon’s long-term water supply, but a study released last month projected an ample supply, even with anticipated development. The city would need another reason to extend the freeze.

Time is a factor, as well. It would probably be late May or early June before the council could enact a second moratorium after seeking input from the planning boards of Beacon and Dutchess County and holding a public hearing. At that point, several members reasoned, the council may have already completed the work that needs to be done to address issues that would justify a freeze.

“By the time we go through the public hearings and have the meetings to have a moratorium, we should be done with our zoning, unless we’re dragging our feet,” Mayor Randy Casale said. “I suggest we just work hard to get the zoning right and move it forward.”

The council began work on a project last fall to rezone Main Street and parcels along Fishkill Creek, both areas considered vulnerable to overdevelopment. Zoning changes for the Fishkill Creek district were adopted in December; the council on Monday set a May 31 deadline for finishing Main Street.

After that, members said they hoped by June 30 to identify properties to be added to the city’s historic district, which offers additional protection.

The council will hold a public hearing on the Main Street zoning proposal on April 16. The draft establishes a single Central Main Street zoning district for all of Main and extending east to the Fountain Square area.

It emphasizes the preservation of Main Street character, while still allowing for development, and shifts some of the permitting for major projects from the Planning Board to the City Council. The proposal allows three-story buildings on Main but requires a special-use permit for four stories.

On April 2 the council held a hearing on a proposal that would establish the method and criteria for adding parcels to the historic district. A vote could come by April 16, which would give members more than 10 weeks, if it passes, to determine which buildings should be added.

“We’re on a good pace,” Casale said. “If we continue at it, we can get it done.”

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