Discussion focuses on accessory housing, transit, clean energy
The three residents who commented last week on Philipstown’s latest revised comprehensive plan draft urged more focus on clean energy and public transportation and less attention to housing, lest it invite developers.
They spoke on Aug. 5 at a public hearing at Town Hall before the Town Board, which kept the hearing open until September.
In May, a committee of volunteers completed the draft, intended to replace the current comprehensive plan adopted in 2006.
The proposed plan’s goals include preserving Philipstown’s rural and historic character, open space and natural features; providing a wide range of housing; and implementing Complete Streets policies designed to serve pedestrians, mass-transit users and bicyclists.
Betsy Calhoun of Garrison, who served on the committee. said more discussion of solar panels and similar forms of energy “would be a welcome addition” to the draft, which proposes that the town require building construction or renovations to use renewable energy for heating; electric car charging stations in new developments and around town; a town-wide solar energy policy; and regulations to reduce reliance on fuels linked to climate change and pollution.
Joyce Blum, another member of the committee, recommended more emphasis on public transportation. Blum lives on High Ridge Road, a rustic mountain lane in Garrison. She does not drive but has been able to get by without a car “for many, many years,” although “it hasn’t been easy.” As the population ages, mass transit options will be increasingly crucial, she said.
At present, the draft proposes bicycling and walking paths or sidewalks throughout town to link schools, libraries, the Recreation Center, the villages, Garrison’s Landing, parking lots and other public sites and facilities.
It also advocates projects with other municipalities to expand public transit on land and water, ferrying passengers between Cold Spring, Garrison and West Point.
A third speaker, who did not give her name, expressed fears of suburban sprawl because the plan refers to promoting a wider range of housing, which, she said, could invite developers. “That’s not the goal of Philipstown,” she said. “I don’t think we should be encouraging development, because it’s going to find us,” even without encouragement.
After Town Board Member Jason Angell described affordable housing as “an important goal,” the woman pointed out that it’s a concern nationwide. “Is our little town supposed to solve that problem?”
Board Member John Van Tassel, who is a builder, presided over the hearing in the absence of Supervisor Richard Shea. “I don’t think you’re going to see any large-scale development,” he said. “A developer would have a hard time in Philipstown” because of its zoning.