Philipstown Goes Greener

Backs emission reduction, solar energy 

On a mission to “save this planet,” the Philipstown Town Board last week approved measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions, produce solar energy and recommit to a regional program offering energy from non-polluting sources.

The board continued the push this week, scheduling a workshop for Wednesday (April 21) with the Hudson Highlands Land Trust to launch an East Highlands Green Corridors Plan that would use protected parcels to link conservation areas and allow animals — including humans — to “move and thrive across the landscape.”

It’s all of a piece, Supervisor Richard Shea said April 8 at the board’s monthly meeting, held via Zoom. “You look at this agenda: It is heavy on an effort to save this planet,” he said. “Philipstown is leading the way in the Hudson Valley” in pursuing sustainability. 

On April 8, the five-person board unanimously approved three initiatives.

■ Greenhouse-gas reduction: Goals adopted by the board would eliminate emissions from town facilities and the community by 2040, paralleling state plans to, by 2050, stop emissions that, in a hothouse effect, contribute to global warming. As one means to its end, the Town Board advocated making buildings and operations more energy-efficient through innovations that decrease consumption and waste. 

■ Solar power: After several years of work, the board moved forward on harnessing the sun, adopting a proposal from SunPower, a firm based in Modena, to install solar panels atop the Recreation Center in Garrison.

■ Community Choice Aggregation: Philipstown continued its membership in the CCA, which includes Cold Spring and Beacon and other Mid-Hudson municipalities. The CCA allows customers to obtain their electricity from renewable energy sources, in cooperation with Central Hudson. They can decline, but Shea said most Philipstown customers participate.

Although no vote was taken, Shea and Town Board Members Judy Farrell and Mike Leonard reiterated Philipstown’s opposition to the plan to transform the part-time Danskammer power plant on the Hudson north of Beacon into a full-time facility fed by natural gas, a fossil fuel that contributes to global warming. Danskammer has said the plant could later convert to use of a non-polluting fuel. Philipstown, like Cold Spring and Beacon, had previously formally objected to the expansion.

Farrell said April 8 that most participants at an online public hearing she and Leonard attended urged rejection of the company’s plan. “It’s going to have detrimental effects,” she said. “We don’t need to go backward.” 

Leonard said allowing the project to proceed would be “a serious mistake” that would “make it harder to meet our goals” environmentally. 

Garrison post office

Aman Raju, whose family owns the parcel that contains the U.S. Postal Service’s branch in Garrison, told the board that changes there include fewer trucks since Amazon stopped its heavy collaboration with the USPS around Jan. 1. “Operations have been very minimal for several months” and now only one early delivery occurs, between 5 and 6 a.m., he added.

In March, a representative of about 15 nearby households told the board that post office activities disrupted the neighborhood and created traffic hazards. 

Raju, who lives alongside the facility, said he has since visited all the neighbors. A few described persistent noise problems but overall the conversations were quite positive, he said. “There’s a lot more good it brings to the community than harm,” he said of the post office.

Shea said that on his frequent stops there “everything has been spotless. I see a vast improvement” from the way it once looked. He credited the Raju family for an “exemplary” demonstration of “how to be good neighbors.” 

Putnam County

Shea praised Putnam County in general and County Legislator Nancy Montgomery, a Philipstown resident, in particular for bringing COVID-19 vaccination clinics to the Philipstown Recreation Center. “A lot of county resources have gone into this; a lot. We are grateful,” he said. “It’s been a refreshing change to work so closely with the county.” 

Short-term rentals

Shea said he supports allowing residents to use their homes for Airbnb or other short-term rentals because “it’s a good thing for people to be able to make some extra money and conduct a business at home.” Nonetheless, he cautioned homeowners: “Don’t foul it up for the whole town.” He raised the issue after receiving a letter from Manitou residents about a house apparently rented out frequently and “producing quite a lot of disturbance and noise. We’re going to take action,” Shea warned. “We have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to disturbing the peace.” 

Philipstown’s zoning code allows bed-and-breakfasts but requires Planning Board approval. It defines a bed-and-breakfast as “a dwelling in which overnight accommodations not exceeding five bedrooms and breakfast are provided for transient guests for compensation.” The code also covers “lodging facilities,” which include establishments “providing sleeping accommodations for transient guests, with or without a dining room or restaurant, excluding bed-and-breakfast establishments.” It restricts lodging facilities to certain zoning districts and demands that owners obtain special-use permits. 

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