Continues Upland ban; talks birds, bees and dogs
With the Town Hall renovation behind it (and, literally, around it), the Philipstown Town Board last week turned its attention to replacing the Highway Department garage, a project slated to receive $2 million in federal money if local hopes and congressional aspirations become reality.
Meeting in person for the first time since 2019 at the newly renovated Town Hall, the board at its May 6 meeting also considered birds and bees, dogs, and roads deemed unfit for development.
The town had moved its offices to other locations during the renovations to the 1867 building on Main Street near the Cold Spring-Nelsonville border, and met by Zoom during the pandemic. Now, the renovations are complete and all five board members have been inoculated against COVID-19.
Applause from socially distanced and masked members of the audience greeted the board’s return to Town Hall, where “everything old is new again,” as Supervisor Richard Shea put it. “A lot of people said we should abandon it, should have torn it down,” but the board disagreed and many residents were “very attached to it,” he added. “We’re hoping it’s good for another 100 years.”
In what he described as “a big deal,” he reported that a town application for a $2 million grant to replace its highway garage on Fishkill Road “is in the queue” to obtain federal aid in fiscal 2022 if all goes well. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Philipstown resident and Democrat whose congressional district includes the Highlands, proposed it, along with 19 other projects in his district. Maloney’s backing notwithstanding, the garage upgrade faces House Appropriations Committee review before it can be included in the spending legislation brought to the House and Senate for votes.
“I’m hopeful they’ll be able to come to some accommodation down in Washington,” Shea said. He said the country desperately needs support for bridges, road surfaces and buildings like the deteriorating 1957 highway garage, which the board wants to demolish so it can construct an energy-efficient facility that includes solar panels.
“Since we do have a shovel-ready project, it puts us in a good place” for funding, Shea said.
In other business …
- Citing its ongoing review of land-use laws, the board extended its 1-year-old moratorium on development along three private roads — Upland Drive, Cliffside Court and Ridge Road — because of their poor condition. “These roads cannot handle the addition of another single-family home,” Shea said. “There will be changes in zoning coming, wholesale changes. If you’re considering a property” that “looks like a bargain on those roads, it may not be. ‘Let the buyer beware.’ ”
- The board approved the installation of a pollinator garden at Town Hall, although birds and bees must wait to enjoy it. “It’s a great idea, but we simply don’t have the money right now,” Shea said, given the estimated $15,000 cost.
- Shea proposed fencing a section of the dog run in the town park on Route 9 in North Highlands so that smaller pooches aren’t “bowled over” by larger counterparts. His wife, Karen Shea, had written the board suggesting changes after the couple adopted Linus, a 35-pound rescue dog. Dogs can play off-leash in the run and Richard Shea said Linus “has taken some serious licks out there.” Councilors Robert Flaherty and Judy Farrell, who also own smaller dogs, echoed his concerns. Shea agreed to research dog run fencing while Flaherty looks into similar park enhancements.
- Flaherty urged the public to get COVID-19 vaccinations to enable a return to normal activities. He observed that vaccination rates have fallen across the U.S. “That’s not what we want to see.”