Would tap into city water and schools
By Jeff Simms
The Fishkill Planning Board has begun studying potential environmental impacts of a proposal to build 463 apartments and 24,000 square feet of retail space along Route 9D that would draw its water from Beacon and send students to the city’s schools.
If approved, the 57-acre project, called the Rolling Hills at Fishkill, would be more than four times the size, with nearly twice as many apartments, as Edgewater, the largest residential development ever approved in Beacon.
The project has been in the works for years, with officials submitting plans for the 30-building proposal last fall.
The development would be built on two parcels (one with frontage on 9D) that lie just north of Hudson View Park, an apartment complex, and the Mount Gulian Historic Site. The larger of the two parcels is zoned for residential building while the 9D land is in the town’s Planned Business zoning district.
Project officials have asked the Fishkill Town Board to rezone the second parcel for multi-family construction so they can build “a walkable community with open space and neighborhood-scale retail/commercial space,” Matt Acocella, an attorney for the development, said at the Sept. 12 Fishkill Planning Board meeting.
The project would include 68 affordable-housing units and the developer would likely be required by the state to install a traffic-calming device — possibly a traffic circle — on Route 9D. Fifty-five percent of the land would remain open space.
“The Town Board thought [the proposal] was innovative,” and passed it to the Planning Board for a recommendation on the rezoning request, Town Supervisor Bob LaColla said this week.
In August, the Planning Board issued a positive “determination of significance,” which indicated that the project could have an adverse impact on the surrounding environment. As a result, additional studies on water, wildlife, transportation and other elements are required and, depending on their outcome, project officials could scale the proposal back or, if the rezoning is approved, continue through the Planning Board’s review process.
All that could take a year or longer, but if the project is eventually approved its impacts would reverberate into Beacon.
The Rolling Hills parcels are in the Rombout Water District, which buys up to 500,000 gallons of water per day from Beacon. (Beacon has a separate agreement to buy up to 1.2 million gallons of water per day from the Village of Fishkill.) The district, which serves about 2,000 residents, uses only about half that amount, Beacon City Administrator Anthony Ruggiero said.
But with the Beacon City Council adopting a six-month building moratorium three weeks ago — its second in two years — because of water issues, the proposal can’t be taken lightly, he said. More than any other impacts, “our main focus is going to be the water,” Ruggiero said.
Elementary school children from the development would be zoned for South Avenue school, said Beacon Superintendent Matt Landahl.
Enrollment in the district fell between 50 and 125 students in each of the last four years before increasing by 30 students for 2018-2019. But if the Rolling Hills project comes to fruition, Landahl said the district might have to re-draw its school boundaries.
The Fishkill Planning Board held a public hearing on the project on Sept. 12. Beacon resident Theresa Kraft, one of dozens of speakers, argued that school enrollment figures may be misleading. “Every new development in Beacon is quoting the same 66 empty seats” that enrollment decreased by in 2014, she said, “but the actual tally [of new students] could be tenfold.”
The Beacon district submitted a letter to the Fishkill Planning Board as well, asking it to include students placed out of district, private school and home-schooled students in its calculations because of the effect each of those groups has on costs such as transportation, tuition and educational materials.
The letter also asked the board, when conducting its studies, to account for students expected to come from more than a half-dozen recently approved developments in Beacon and Fishkill.