Board Pushback, Small-Cell Wireless and Legal Pinball

Catching up with the Beacon City Council

By Jeff Simms

The Beacon City Council is expected to reappoint three members of the city’s Planning Board and two members of the Zoning Board of Appeals at its Feb. 4 meeting, but the votes aren’t coming without some (sometimes tense) discussion.

The five board members — Gary Barrack, Jill Reynolds and J. Randall Williams from the Planning Board and David Jensen and Robert Lanier from the ZBA — were scheduled to be reappointed, along with other volunteers who serve on various boards and commissions, at the council’s Jan. 22 meeting. But Council Member Jodi McCredo said she was reluctant to approve the reappointments for the Planning Board and ZBA, two of the city’s higher-profile boards, without knowing more about the candidates. The council ultimately asked Mayor Randy Casale to have the five planning and zoning board incumbents attend a workshop first.

Barrack, however, took exception during the Jan. 28 meeting.

“I don’t know why I have to stand here this evening,” said Barrack, who was first appointed in 2013. “The inference was that there was some type of malfeasance on behalf of the members of the Planning Board.”

Beacon City Hall (Illustration by Dana Wigdor)

McCredo countered that some of her constituents had questioned Planning Board decisions on contentious projects such as the Edgewater and 344 Main St. residential developments. “There are people in this community that are very upset about certain [decisions] and I feel it is my duty to help them get answers,” she said.

The council on Jan. 28 also asked for more information from Verizon regarding its applications to place small-cell wireless facilities at 2 Red Flynn Road and 7 Cross St.

The unit at Red Flynn, which would be affixed to an existing utility pole, would improve wireless coverage near the Metro-North station, said Scott Olson, an attorney representing Verizon. The Cross Street proposal would require extending an existing pole.

Council members were critical of both plans, saying Verizon had been lax in finding the best locations for the units.

But Olson argued the company has received undue scrutiny. “It’s a utility pole, folks,” he said. “Really, there are no visual impacts with this pole” on Cross Street.

Both proposals will be referred to the Beacon Planning Board and an independent consultant for review.

In other business …

  • The City Council on Jan. 22 repealed a law allowing “amusement centers” to have only vintage pinball and arcade games. An amusement center on Main Street (with games from any era) will still require a special permit, but locations elsewhere, such as on Fishkill Avenue, where Industrial Brewing Arts has proposed a tasting room with an arcade, will not.
  • The council has held several public hearings but its members have been unable to agree on how to regulate signs in the city after its existing law was determined last year to likely be unconstitutional. Council Member Lee Kyriacou has argued for a “minimalist” approach.
  • Michael Manzi will be confirmed as superintendent of streets on Feb. 4, removing the interim tag he received after being named to the post in August. He must still complete a six-month probationary period.
  • The council plans to reject three bids to make improvements to the Beacon Pool at University Settlement camp. The bids to rebuild restrooms and a storage facility, along with site maintenance, all came in at more than twice the $350,000 budget. The city will rebid the projects, perhaps after the upcoming season, said City Administrator Anthony Ruggiero.
  • The city is also planning to sell a sliver of land used for parking near Bob’s Corner Store at 790 Wolcott Ave. to the property owner, Rafiq Ahmed, for $17,500. The sale will relieve Beacon of potential liability, said City Attorney Nick Ward-Willis.
  • The council will vote on Feb. 4 to transfer $60,000 in state funding from a South Avenue Park project to Green Street Park, which needs rehab. The money will be used to create ADA-compliant parking spaces and for repairs to an entrance to the park. A plan for more upgrades at the park is expected later this year for public review.
  • The council will hold a public hearing during its Feb. 4 meeting on the 2019 capital project plan. The $1.4 million proposal includes several pieces of equipment for the Highway Department, road repairs, a police vehicle, a Building Department vehicle and repairs to the roof of the Memorial Building at 413 Main St.