Philipstown Asks State to Assist With Housing, Not Impose Rules

Nelsonville mayor also expresses misgivings

The Town of Philipstown on Wednesday (March 22) officially lent its voice to the outcry against a proposal by Gov. Kathy Hochul to force municipalities to increase housing stocks, an idea that critics regard as an attack on local autonomy. 

At a workshop session, Board Members Robert Flaherty, Judy Farrell and Jason Angell voted unanimously for a resolution that urges the state to preserve local authority while pursuing solutions to housing shortages. Supervisor John Van Tassel and Councilor Megan Cotter missed the meeting. 

Hochul wants to increase housing across the state by 800,000 units in 10 years and to require communities served by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, including the Metro-North train system, to increase housing by 3 percent in the first three years of the program, which has multiple 3-year cycles. 

Her proposal also would allow affordable-housing developers to bypass local zoning laws if the community fails to meet quotas and ease environmental reviews for developments around transit stations. Communities beyond the MTA’s reach would be required to increase housing stocks by 1 percent every three years.

The initiative has drawn bipartisan criticism. 

The Philipstown resolution acknowledges the need for housing but says the state should cooperate with municipalities and help them address the costs of the increased water and sewer infrastructure, schools and services that additional housing and larger populations would require. It also declares that many communities, including Philipstown, have policies that promote affordable housing. 

As examples, it cites a 2006 Philipstown law encouraging the creation of accessory units — apartments or cottages on lots occupied by a main house — that can supply housing while avoiding the environmental impact of new developments. The town’s 2021 comprehensive plan also refers to a “chronic need” for a wide range of housing so that people who work in Philipstown can also live there. That helps enhance Philipstown’s “small-town character,” according to the plan.

“Regulating residential housing falls squarely under the purview of municipal home rule,” the resolution asserts, asking the state to “uphold local authority” in any housing programs it creates.

Philipstown officials aren’t the only ones in the Highlands skeptical of the governor’s proposal. Mayor Lee Kyriacou of Beacon recently said Albany should “leave enough local control for the local governments,” while Mayor Kathleen Foley of Cold Spring, calling the idea “overreach,” urged Albany to “give us parameters and goals” and, above all, resources, but to not completely override local review.

Nelsonville Mayor Chris Winward joined the chorus on Monday (March 20). At a Village Board meeting, she said that it’s “not that affordable housing, or any kind of additional housing, is not extremely important. Lord knows there are people who live in our community, grew up here, who want to be able to stay. And we don’t have enough housing” for that. 

But the state plan, as drafted, could undermine local zoning and planning laws, she said, and “I don’t think losing our independence to developers, etc., is worth it.”

One thought on “Philipstown Asks State to Assist With Housing, Not Impose Rules

  1. This article was woefully lacking in context. It is not surprising that local politicians don’t want the state to interfere in land-use decisions, but your article doesn’t speak to why this state “overreach” (as Cold Spring Mayor Kathleen Foley characterized it) was proposed. There is a serious housing affordability crisis in our region and country: Economic and racial segregation persist and severely hinder economic opportunities for many. Land-use decisions in communities such as ours are a major contributing factor to these problems.

    The suggestion that voluntary local efforts can address these concerns is to disregard all evidence of history. People can disagree as to whether the state should be setting targets, but we should be honest about the consequences of not doing so.

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