Edgewater Debate Chugs Along in Beacon

More public hearings, but no votes

By Jeff Simms

More than a year after the proposal first appeared on a Beacon Planning Board agenda, the debate over the 307-unit Edgewater development on the waterfront shows no sign of slowing down.

The City Council on Monday (April 16) held two public hearings, one focused on Edgewater and the other indirectly related. Both will be critical in determining how the project proceeds.

Gross versus buildable

As part of its nearly citywide zoning review, the council in December adopted changes to the Fishkill Creek development zone, including a provision to use “buildable,” rather than gross, acreage to calculate the density allowed on parcels for development. The clause removed steep slopes, floodways and other environmentally sensitive land from the equation.

In the creekside zone, the council did not exclude (or grandfather in) projects presently under Planning Board review. The same provision is on the table for most of the city’s residential districts and, if passed, Edgewater attorneys have estimated it would force them to remove 71 units from their plan.

Peg O’Leary, the director of the nonprofit Hudson Valley Housing, told the council on Monday that changing gross to buildable in the code would have a “direct and crippling” impact on affordable housing in the region. The city requires 10 percent of developments of 10 units or more to be set aside for affordable housing, so Edgewater, if built as planned, would add about 31 apartments to Beacon’s below-market-rate stock.

A rendering of the 22 Edgewater Place project presented to the Beacon Planning Board

O’Leary called the zoning proposal “arbitrary and capricious,” and argued that the Planning Board’s environmental review process already protects sensitive landscapes. Edgewater received environmental approval from the Planning Board in December after a protracted debate over its potential impact on the Beacon City School District.

A Beacon resident, Arthur Camins, countered that raising the affordable requirements by 10 to 20 percent would be a more effective plan to diversify housing. “However, I don’t think the intent of the zoning law is that if half of your property is unbuildable that you get to build twice the density on the remaining portion,” he said.

Special-use permit

The second, and longer, hearing was to discuss a request from the Edgewater developers for a special-use permit, which is required by the code because the development would include multi-family housing.

Among other criteria, the council must decide whether Edgewater would be “more objectionable” than another use for the site that would not require the special-use permit, such as townhouses.

Melissa Buerkett, a resident, argued that the City Council members should deny the permit and fulfill their campaign promises of controlling development.

“Edgewater is the epitome of too much at a crucial time in Beacon’s history where we have the opportunity to shape it into a truly livable community for everybody,” she said. “How on earth is this keeping with a healthy vision for Beacon?”

But Rodney Weber, the project’s developer, asserted that Edgewater is “what is right for Beacon economically and for the people.” Weber said that because many young people are unable to afford rent in the city, Edgewater’s studio and one-bedroom apartments would give them “that edge to get forward, to start something new.”

Christian Campbell agreed, saying that people are “falling in love” with Beacon “but right now they don’t have an entryway,” while Dan Aymar-Blair cautioned that “in a couple of years, when you’re on the other side of the river, you’re going to look at Beacon and say, ‘What did Beacon do to itself? It used to be so beautiful there.’ ”

A vote had been scheduled on the density calculation for that night, but City Attorney Nick Ward-Willis recommended that the council discuss the proposal further. If the council grants the special-use permit, the developer would return to the Planning Board for site plan approval.

4 thoughts on “Edgewater Debate Chugs Along in Beacon

  1. The proposed Edgewater Development in Beacon is a Trojan Horse. I have seen this type of scam proposed so many times in Philipstown that I have lost count; each time, we sent the profiteers packing. The fabric of the Beacon community is well-established and needs to be preserved. There are too many examples of developments like Edgewater making promises that don’t materialize and that includes “affordable housing.” The facts are that 330+ homes will require more than Beacon can sustain. All the qualities that have drawn so many families to Beacon will be lost if this abomination is allowed to go forward. If the prospect of fouled water, sewage running into the Hudson and higher taxes don’t bring the community out to oppose this ill-conceived project, I don’t know what will. I knew Pete and Toshi Seeger my entire life and I can say without reservation that they would not stand for this.

    Shea is the Philipstown supervisor.

  2. I get the opposition to this building project. On the surface it seems the abomination that Shea is talking about. For me, even if they did make him reduce it to 200 or so or even as few 150 town homes (the property is already zoned for 300+ townhomes), I’m not a fan of that sort of run-of-the-mill construction.

    Edgewater will likely attract creative and active people, many who will work at home and support Main Street. The developer’s target is the 25-to-35 age group (a small demographic in Beacon). The building has a 5,000-square-foot communal open office-type lounge to encourage getting out of the apartment while you work.

    I think Rodney has a healthy vision. The boring status quo is what freaks me out. If Rodney had to bail on Beacon, this town will be more basic and plain. Rodney is the builder we want, I’m pretty sure of that. People have really targeted him. But based on some of the other off-the-radar and boring and massive buildings that are being built by other developers in this town, wow. That alternative is horrifying. Beacon will definitely develop in the coming years, it’s too valuable not to.

    My take, I’d rather have Edgewater than a bunch of vinyl clad “colonials” or soul-less townhomes.

    It also will be the same dialogue across the creek from me at Beacon Terminals. Rodney wants to use most of the buildings that already exist. Creativity and character. The other option: vinyl-siding townhomes.

  3. With a plethora of luxury development in Beacon, there is a sense of displacement. Want to assign blame? Blame the idea that unregulated markets will solve all problems. Blame the idea that being out for yourself is a better bet than ensuring the prosperity of all of us.

    The market will not make the U.S. more equitable. It never has. By itself, it will not create housing that we can all afford. Unregulated, it will not create well-paying jobs. It will not ensure well-funded schools.

    Demanding greater equity and shared prosperity is the job of people who organize across the lines that typically divide us. Responding to demands for fairness and equity is the job of the people we elect.

    Programs exist in Beacon to provide housing for low- and middle-income people. Whether we do more or less than other communities is beside the point. So is the extent to which Beacon is better or worse off than it was five, 15 or 50 years ago. The questions now are: “What kind of city do we want to become?” and “What are we going to do to get there?”

    All of the media hype about divisiveness notwithstanding, these are things almost all of us want. We can only have all of these things if we struggle for them together.