Fishkill Pushes Ahead on Moratorium

Possible impacts on Continental Commons, Rolling Hills

The Fishkill Town Board on Wednesday (Feb. 5) took tentative steps toward a building moratorium to review the town’s 10-year-old comprehensive plan and zoning laws.

Ozzy Albra

Ozzy Albra

Supervisor Ozzy Albra, who took office last month, proposed the creation of a citizens’ committee to assist in the reviews and — as his fellow board members concurred — invited audience members and those  later watching the meeting on TV or video to volunteer for it.

“I want a diverse group [politically], the left to the right and everybody in between,” he said.

A moratorium could feasibly affect Continental Commons, a themed hotel-shopping complex planned for Route 9 on land that was part of the Fishkill Supply Depot during the Revolutionary War, and the Rolling Hills development on Route 9D, just north of Beacon.

The board plans to continue the discussion on Feb. 19. Along with Albra, it has two other newly seated members, Louise Daniele and Kenya Gadsden.

Albra suggested that the board might explore the use of special overlay districts to safeguard water resources, including the Fishkill aquifer, and historical preservation. He also recommended a closer look at Route 9, the state highway lined by commercial strips, and expressed concerns about the former Texaco Research Center on 153 acres bisected by Fishkill Creek in Glenham, near the Beacon city limit.

A rendering shows the north end of the proposed Continental Commons development on Route 9 in Fishkill, with the hotel at left, a visitors’ center at center and the existing gas station at right.

Once the citizen committee and funding for comprehensive plan and zoning reviews are in place, a moratorium might only last four to six months, he said. “It’s not going to be two years. I want to do it pretty quickly.

“If you have the right to build something, we’re not going to stop that” if it doesn’t raise questions, he said. “We encourage development, as long as it’s smart and doesn’t harm the environment.”

Ori Brachfeld, the sole Republican on the board, cautioned that “we have to be careful about taking citizens’ rights away.” Brachfeld also said a moratorium “can’t be a town-wide blanket,” but must be for something specific.

But Brian Nugent, the town’s new attorney, observed that many municipalities enact moratoriums while evaluating comprehensive plan and zoning code changes.

Rolling Hills at Fishkill would be built on this parcel along Route 9D. (Photo by J. Simms)

According to Nugent, in a moratorium projects that have received only conditional approvals could probably be held up but a moratorium “can’t just be a delaying tactic to stop development.” Rather, he said, “the town needs to be doing something,” such as evaluating code revisions. “There needs to be action.”

On a related topic, Albra pointed to the “extraordinary opportunity” presented by such sites as the Texaco (now Chevron) property, which, he said, a company property manager has expressed interest in selling.

However, Albra cautioned, given its history as a textile and chemical factory dating to before the Civil War, “there’s a lot of things being hidden underground.” He said the town must ensure it does not end up being held liable if the property is sold and the new owners “hit something really bad” and can’t deal with it.

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