What’s Next For Marathon Site?

Cold Spring considers mixed-use zoning

The April 26 and Wednesday (May 3) meetings of the Cold Spring Village Board weren’t just marathon sessions, they produced a Marathon discussion.

The two-and-a-half-hour sessions focused on zoning, especially on a proposed change for the former Marathon Battery Co. site on Kemble Avenue from Industrial to Planned Mixed-Use. That would allow redevelopment of the 12-acre parcel to include housing, small retail and offices.

At both meetings, residents raised concerns about the change, including over traffic, the number and type of housing units, the impact on the Haldane school district and the capacity of village water and sewer systems.

“The last thing we want to do is add 200 more residents,” said Dan Valentine, a lifelong resident, on April 26, noting that vehicle access is difficult: The site can only be reached via Wall Street and Rock Street, both one-way, with egress limited to Kemble Avenue, also one-way.

“Is there another option besides more residential?” he asked.

EPA: Marathon Site Ready for Development

On April 25, the federal Environmental Protection Agency issued its latest five-year review of the former Marathon Battery Co. site on Kemble Avenue in Cold Spring. The agency completed remediation of the highly polluted site in 1996.

“We continue to believe that this property is ready for residential and/or mixed-use redevelopment,” the EPA told Cold Spring Mayor Kathleen Foley in an April 24 letter.

Any development would require some EPA approvals, such as for drilling wells, although any project on the site would likely tie into the village water system.

The review — the sixth the agency has conducted — also notes that before any construction, a developer must have an agreement with the EPA detailing plans for mitigation of vapor intrusion from volatile organic compounds that remain in the groundwater.

Pamela Tames, the project manager for the EPA, told The Current that such mitigation has been successful at many locations, including by using systems commonly used to mitigate radon, a naturally occurring gas.

The EPA will continue to test groundwater to determine if contaminant levels are declining as expected over the next 10 to 20 years. The agency’s next review will be in 2028.

A history of the Marathon site, from when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the 46,000-square-foot battery factory in 1952 through the EPA cleanup, is online here.

Ted Fink, the village planning consultant for the zoning update, said the Cold Spring comprehensive plan recommended Marathon as a potential mixed-use development, instead of industrial, because it would better reflect the character of the village. He noted the plan was drafted over a five-year period with considerable public input.

Fink explained that, under Planned Mixed-Use, the Planning Board would use a three-step process to review any proposal. The process would include public engagement, studies and plan approvals, he said, and ensure any development “bears a very strong resemblance to the rest of the village.”

Later in the meeting, addressing questions about the impact on infrastructure, Mayor Kathleen Foley said the most recent major development, the Butterfield project, included “a bruising public process” in which many things did not go the village’s way. “We learned lessons from that and have tried very hard to build a process to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” she said.

Sean Kearney, a Cold Spring resident who is vice president of Kearney Group, which owns the Marathon site, said he found himself in “a weird position; as a developer, light-industrial probably works better for us. Why would I go through this very cumbersome process?”

But as a resident, he said he can see that the result of the new zoning makes sense, “a village within the village. … We’re viewing this the same as you; it’s new to us.” He said the company has not yet developed a concept for the property.

One resident questioned whether “granny cottage” accessory buildings permitted under the parkway mixed-use zoning would be used as short-term rentals. But Jennifer Zwarich, who chairs a committee updating the code that regulates STRs, said such use at Marathon is prohibited in the update of that chapter.

Michael Reisman, a village resident, said in his interpretation of the proposed zoning, up to 77 residential units could be allowed at Marathon. In outlining the build-out analysis contained in an environmental assessment form for the new zoning, Fink put the number at 63.

The Planning Board requested that the public hearing remain open until June 1.

Foley said the hearing could remain open while recognizing a deadline for a $20,000 grant for the completion of the overall code update.

During public comment on Wednesday, a Stone Street resident encouraged the board to be “more creative” and to consider such uses as a community or teen center or new firehouse.

Aaron Freimark suggested all new construction should be required to be electric-vehicle ready. He also asked if the proposed 30 percent open space requirement could be increased to as much as 50 percent to reduce the scope of development.

Bill Pugh commented: “We’re pushing zoning on 98 percent of the village to address 2 percent of the village; it seems wrong.” He suggested Marathon be used for parking, which he said could generate $3 million in annual revenue.

Documentation related to the code update for zoning, noise and signs is available at coldspringny.gov under the Board of Trustees tab.

In other business …

■ The board approved a request on April 26 by the Cold Spring Police Department to hire Maddox Buel as a parking enforcement agent for 28 weeks at a rate of $20 per hour.

■ The board on April 26 approved the Philipstown Trail Committee’s request to conduct an audit of Cold Spring sidewalks in partnership with the village.

■ The U.S. Military Academy will offer ferry service to Cold Spring during the week before West Point graduation on May 27. The 125-passenger ferry will drop off and pick up passengers at the dock three times a day.

■ The Cold Spring Boat Club submitted plans for installing a new bulkhead. The club, which leases the riverfront property from the village, is responsible for the cost; the village must co-sign permit applications. The village engineering firm will review construction details, and work could begin as early as October.

■ The board approved a resolution to file a request with the state Legislature to significantly expand the number of streets where residential parking permits will be issued as part of the village parking plan. Currently, residential permit areas include streets west of the Metro-North tracks and 11 streets to the east.

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