Beacon Mayor Proposes New Building Freeze

Two developments going up opposite each other on Main Street in Beacon. (Photo by Robert Maddock)

Could last three months while repairs are made to well

By Jeff Simms

For the second time in two years, the Beacon City Council appears poised to enact a building moratorium while city officials sort out water issues.

Mayor Randy Casale suggested a three-month freeze at the June 10 City Council meeting; the council would have to hold a public hearing and seek input from the city and county planning boards before voting.

Council Member Jodi McCredo asked to add a fourth month to the proposal but no decision was made.

The catalyst this time is the city’s Well No. 2, which can provide up to 1.15-million gallons per day but was taken offline when it began producing “cloudy” water earlier this year following the installation of a new pump.

In addition to two wells, Beacon draws water from three reservoirs that combine to provide up to about 1.5 million gallons per day. Well No. 1 can provide more than half a million gallons per day, and the city also has an agreement to buy up to 1.2 million gallons per day from Fishkill, if needed.

Two developments in January under construction opposite each other on Main Street in Beacon. (File photo by Robert Maddock)

Calling it “unexpected but relatively common,” hydrologist Tom Cusack, who advised the city on water issues last year, said that Beacon still has more than sufficient water to meet its existing and immediate future needs with the well out of service. Cusack said his firm calculated Beacon’s peak water demand, then added estimated peak demands for all development projects being built and under review by the Planning Board.

“At that point you’re just shy of surplus water of about 200,000 gallons a day,” he said.

All three of Beacon’s reservoirs are full after the rainy spring and the city “hasn’t even touched” the water it could draw from Fishkill, added Ed Balicki, the city’s water and wastewater superintendent.

The 35-year-old Well No. 2 could take up to three months to repair but will not affect water quality, Cusack said. The council is expected to vote at its June 17 meeting to spend up to $175,000 for the work.

Casale said last month that he didn’t think Beacon needed another building freeze but switched gears following Cusack’s report. “I’m being reassured that we’re going to have plenty of water,” Casale said, but “there’s no guarantee until we find out what the end result really is.”

The City Council in 2017 approved a six-month moratorium after concerns were raised about Beacon’s long-term water supply. That freeze ended in March 2018 when Cusack’s firm, WSB, issued a report showing adequate water for the city’s projected population through 2035.

McCredo has pushed in recent months for the council to discuss another moratorium, saying that Beacon’s environmental review of development projects doesn’t consider the cumulative effect of the city’s rapid growth on schools, roads and other infrastructure. If development were paused, she said Monday, a comprehensive study could measure those net impacts.

“We haven’t stopped and taken stock of all of these things together,” she argued.

City Attorney Nick Ward-Willis said there must be a specific reason to include a fourth month, given that the repairs are expected to take only three. He said he would draft a proposal for the council to review based on the well repair and the council’s ongoing review of zoning codes.

The council could choose at its meeting on Monday, June 17, to schedule a public hearing or to discuss the idea further. If adopted, the moratorium would likely be retroactive to June 10, when the proposal was made.

If it’s like the last freeze, development projects already approved by the Planning Board would be allowed to proceed but the Building Department would not process new applications until the moratorium was lifted. Building proposals that create jobs while staying under a water-consumption threshold would be exempt from the freeze, Casale said Monday.

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