One public hearing next week, another postponed

The Beacon Planning Board will continue a public hearing on one development proposal next week, while another has been postponed at the applicant’s request.

The hearing scheduled for the meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 13) is for a proposal to convert the former Reformed Church of Beacon into a hotel and event space with a restaurant and bar.

The project, at 1113 Wolcott Ave., has been downsized several times since an investment group called Prophecy Theater approached the board nearly 18 months ago with a plan to convert the historic former church into an event venue with seating for 500 people.

The group now proposes a 180-person space that would host art exhibits, workshops and other cultural events, rather than concerts, said Gavin Hecker, one of the property owners, at last month’s meeting. The vision has shifted “to provide a multi-purpose room — a blank slate for creative and thought-provoking output,” he said.

If approved, the space would be comparable to the Beacon Elks Lodge or St. Rocco’s Society, an Italian/American social club on South Chestnut Street, Hecker said.

Parking has been an issue since the project was introduced. A provision of the city’s zoning code would allow the facility to rely on a combination of spaces at the nearby Tompkins firehouse and City Hall lots and on-street parking along Beekman Street, behind the venue. The hotel, which would be built as an expansion to the former rectory, will have 31 spaces on-site.

Hecker compared the space to the River Valley Arts Center in Wappingers Falls, which he said relies on off-site parking.

During the hourlong hearing, held Nov. 9, all of the feedback from the public was negative (although some Beacon residents sent written comments favoring the project to the Planning Board). In person, a recurring theme was that the developers are trying to “shoehorn” a project into a space too small to handle it.

Residents also scoffed at a traffic consultant’s prediction that cars traveling to the venue would carry four passengers. “When was the last time you went to an evening event with four people in your car?” one person asked.

Others suggested that events catered to teenagers, for example, would create late-night traffic snarls on Wolcott (Route 9D). When it’s time to pick up their children, parents will be “sitting there blocking the roads — not in parking lots, not waiting for shuttles, not in remote lots,” said Clare Reed, who lives in nearby Hammond Plaza. “They’re going to be on 9D or Beekman, and it’s not going to be pretty.”

Planning Board members questioned the developers’ management plan, which the board said was incomplete, lacking information such as detailed hours of operation. An updated plan has been submitted; it shows that “maximum-capacity” events would be restricted to weekends, holidays and holiday eves. Limited capacity and smaller events would be permitted any day of the week.

The plans “completely ignore the residential community and families who live here,” wrote the board presidents of Hammond Plaza and the adjacent River Ridge Views and The View complexes in a letter to the Planning Board. This section of Beacon is “the opposite of ‘well-suited for commercial development,’ ” they wrote. “It is almost as if we don’t exist.”

Highland Place

The second hearing next week was to be on a proposal at 12 Highland Place, where a developer wants to subdivide a 1-acre lot with an existing home into five lots, with four new homes. The plan has angered neighbors, who say that Highland Place — a narrow residential street with five homes and no sidewalks — would never be the same. The hearing has been postponed with no rescheduled date given.

A developer would like to convert this driveway on Highland Place into a private road leading to five residential lots. Photo by J. Simm
A developer wants to subdivide a 1-acre parcel on Highland Place into five lots.

The lot borders Anderson Street on the west and Grove Street to the south, but steep slopes and a block-long retaining wall on Grove make access impossible anywhere but from Highland Place. Plans call for converting a driveway on Highland into a private road leading to driveways for the new lots.

The lot is within the habitat range of the Indiana bat, a state and federally endangered species.

If the developer is allowed to build a new “mini-community” on Highland, it will “destroy the quality of life” for others on the road, said Jodi McCredo, a neighbor and former City Council member, during the hearing held last month.

A group of neighbors that has collected more than 200 signatures protesting the project has clashed with the board over its review. The neighbors believe the Planning Board should step in before a developer effectively doubles the street’s density, while board members have argued that they cannot overstep their charge.

“There’s a big difference between what individuals think is appropriate, as far as what happens in their environment, and what we as a board can and cannot do as it relates to the specifics and the law around applications,” Chairman John Gunn said during the November meeting.

However, Gunn added that he hoped the developer, who was not in attendance, would pay attention to the neighbors’ comments. Speaking to the project engineer, Gunn said: “I implore you to go back to him and share what you’ve heard tonight.”

Gunn directed project officials to meet with the fire chief to determine if the proposed private road would allow sufficient access for emergency vehicles.

Mirbeau Inn & Spa

The board appears close to completing its review of Mirbeau’s proposal to redevelop the historic Tioronda Estate on Route 9D, which includes the former Craig House psychiatric hospital.

The public hearings for the project have been completed. The developers appeared at the November meeting, noting that the first phase of the project includes the renovation of Craig House and construction of a spa building, 75 guest rooms and five cottages.

The developers said the site will have a walking trail network for guests and, in a reversal, a publicly accessible segment of the Fishkill Creek Greenway and Heritage Trail on the western edge of the property. Route 9D will also be widened, with a turning lane added.

Fishkill Avenue/Conklin Street

The Planning Board will continue its review of a project introduced last month, a lot merger at 393 and 397 Fishkill Ave. and 7 Conklin St. The project proposes a three-story, mixed-use building with 3,500 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and 12 apartments on the second and third floors.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Simms has covered Beacon for The Current since 2015. He studied journalism at Appalachian State University and has reported for newspapers in North Carolina and Maryland. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Beacon politics

5 replies on “Update: Booming Beacon”

  1. As I understand it, the proposal for the former Reformed Church at 1113 Wolcott Ave. is for both a hotel and event space to be squeezed into the middle of a quiet residential area, operate 365 days a year late into the night, with limited on-site parking. We can argue about whether Beacon needs another events space, but there should be no argument that this is the wrong location for it.

  2. Whatever goes into this building should be family- or youth-focused. Beacon has tons of event spaces already and fun places to go. [via Instagram]

  3. The developer proposed the space could be used for art exhibits. There is no money in (most) art, so whenever I see “art” in variances, I am skeptical. [via Instagram]

  4. A small boutique hotel/cafe with an accessory conference space, and reasonable operating hours, sufficient on-site parking and adequate staffing, would be an acceptable use of this beautiful space. An event venue operating 365 days per year from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. with no way of adequately disbursing crowds is not the right fit. [via Instagram]

  5. Why aren’t folks more upset at the developers behind River Ridge, West End Lofts, Highland Place and the projects going up near Fishkill Creek? These developments do little for the community other than provide more overpriced and poorly con-structed housing for people trying to escape the city. Where is the affordable housing?

    A transformed church would not be the next Madison Square Garden. If done right, it could be a great opportunity to bring world-class performers to Beacon. There are few performing arts spaces in Beacon — at least none with a real stage that is suitable for dance or theater.

    Unfortunately, it seems the original plan for a performance venue had to be scaled down. The church and cemetery are in disrepair and the city has no plans to restore them, so why not make use of this historic building? There wouldn’t be shows every night and there is plenty of parking at the train station and across Route 9D, next to the fire station.

    As a performing artist and resident of Beacon, I would welcome the addition. [via Instagram]

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