Finally: New Code for Cold Spring

Vote concludes a nine-year, 32-person effort 

At a special afternoon meeting on Monday (June 26), the Cold Spring Village Board unanimously adopted updates to the village code that regulate noise, signs and placards, and zoning. 

The updated laws, which take effect immediately upon receipt by New York State, were sent overnight to Albany on Wednesday (June 28). The board faced a June 30 deadline to receive state funding for the update.

The final step in the process — a sometimes-contentious public hearing on the revisions — opened on April 26 and closed at the board’s June 21 meeting. 

Mayor Kathleen Foley issued a “well done all of you” in thanking the 32 people who worked on the code update process, which began in 2014. 

Looking Back in Cold Spring

Village Code Update Gets Underway

By Michael Turton (Nov. 7, 2014)

The newly established committee charged with bringing Cold Spring’s outdated Village Code up to speed met for the first time on Oct. 30. 

The update, which the committee hopes to complete in 18 months, will align the code with the 2012 Comprehensive Plan and enable the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP) to be completed. In essence, the two planning documents, which have been touted as vital in securing state and federal funding for future village projects, outline what residents have said they want Cold Spring to be as a community.

Members of the Code Update Committee unanimously elected Jack Goldstein as chair. Marie Early, chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals, will serve as vice chair, and Mike Armstrong, former chair of the Special Board for the Comprehensive Plan and LWRP, will act as treasurer. Rounding out the committee are Carolyn Bachan, Barney Molloy, Donald MacDonald and Francis (Terry) Lahey.

The mayor and trustees conducted a comma-by-comma, line-by-line, paragraph-by-paragraph, page-by-page review and update of more than 500 pages and 46 chapters of the code, which determines much of what constitutes life in the village, outlining standards for everything from parking to signage and outdoor lighting to home-based businesses.

The board review, which began in January 2020, came after a five-year effort by a volunteer committee to complete a similar line-by-line review and make recommendations. Twenty of the 46 chapters required only changes in punctuation and grammar.

The revised code will make it possible for the village to complete its Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, which would qualify Cold Spring to receive state and federal funding for village projects. The plan was put on hold in 2013, pending completion of the code update. (While termed a waterfront plan, it would encompass nearly the entire village, including all land west of Route 9D and the Hudson River to its midpoint.)

Major changes to Chapter 134 (Zoning) include:

  • The zoning of the former Marathon Battery site on Kemble Avenue was changed from industrial to mixed use, which can include housing, retail and office space.
  • The one-family residential district was replaced by a residential district divided into R-O for older neighborhoods, R-L for large “estate” lots and R-N for newer neighborhoods, and will allow more flexibility for accessory buildings and home businesses.
  • A new parks and recreation district encompasses all parks, preserves and recreation areas. Uses such as visitor centers, concessions and museums are permissible subject to Planning Board approval.
  • A scenic viewshed overlay district was created to regulate development that might impair the scenic beauty of the village and its vistas. 
  • The office-light industry and heavy industry districts were eliminated.

Changes to the noise and sign chapters were mostly to update definitions, language and terminology. The requirements for placing temporary signs on public property were expanded, references to “noise” were changed to “unreasonable noise” and jail time was eliminated from the possible penalties for violations. 

The discussion about updates to Chapter 100, which regulates short-term rentals, is a separate process that continues. The zoning chapter had to be updated before changes could be made to the STR law.

Foley commented that the village was not legally required to respond to questions and comments raised at the public hearing but did so at as a part of a “powerfully strong public record, demonstrating that this process has been anything but arbitrary or capricious.”

But she alleged that some queries were “weaponized” and used to question her integrity and that of others who worked on the update.

“The people who made the accusations didn’t simply libel and slander elected officials, they libeled and slandered their neighbors,” Foley said. “It’s not right and it’s not acceptable.”

During the public hearing, resident Michael Reisman had questioned the mayor’s relationship with Sean Kearney of the Kearney Realty and Development Group, which owns the former Marathon Battery site, as well as a $250 donation made to her 2021 campaign. He called for her to recuse herself from the process. 

On its website, the village states that Foley has “a casual, friendly relationship with the owner of the Marathon site,” and notes that such relationships are common in a small village. It also states that in 2018, before being elected to the Village Board, Foley collaborated with the Kearney Group in an unsuccessful response to a request for proposals by the City of Hudson.

Foley said the donation was from Adriana Kearney, Sean Kearney’s wife, but had been recorded incorrectly and was corrected with the state Board of Elections.

“Ms. Kearney makes her own financial choices,” Foley said on Monday. “She is her own person; she signed her own personal check.”

Foley also defended the new zoning for Marathon, saying redevelopment will require a three-stage approval process as part of a “rigorous” public review.

“There are no favors being given to the developer in this rezoning,” she said.

One thought on “Finally: New Code for Cold Spring

  1. I write in my personal capacity as a 17-year resident of Cold Spring, with five years on the Comprehensive Plan Special Board (CPSB) and two years on the Code Update Committee (CUC), comprising hundreds of hours of volunteer work serving this community.

    It is troubling that Mayor Kathleen Foley has chosen to disparage residents’ exercise of their First Amendment rights with frivolous and baseless allegations that their comments are “weaponized” and “libel and slander.” In fact, despite hostility from the mayor and certain Village Board members, robust and constructive public comments by myself and others directly resulted in considerable improvements in the zoning law, including elimination of confusing and redundant “form-based zoning” requirements, and additional requirements for environmental review, the hiring of an independent traffic engineer and community outreach regarding any proposal for construction at the Marathon site. It is unfortunate, however, that the new zoning could potentially allow a massive residential development at Marathon of at least 63 units, with negative consequences for neighboring streets in terms of traffic and congestion. Although the Village Board argued that the new zoning would not cause traffic problems due to limitations on the number cars on the site, a last-minute change could allow more parking.

    Additionally, it is flatly incorrect to suggest that the Village has not amended its zoning law during the past two decades. On the contrary, the dedicated, transparent work of the CPSB and CUC resulted in numerous changes that addressed serious issues facing the village, including:

    • Payments in lieu of meeting off-street parking requirements (2010), which enabled the revitalization of numerous businesses.
    • Prohibition of formula retail businesses and formula restaurants (2014), which prevented the village’s business corridors from turning into generic strip malls.
    • Steep Slope Protection (2021), which regulates the disturbance of environmentally sensitive steep slopes. (Disclosure: I wrote this law as a member of the CUC.)
    • Short-Term Rental Law (2021), which limits how much housing can be converted into tourist accommodations.

    Also, as a member of the CUC, I wrote the Scenic Viewshed Overlay District provision that is included in the new zoning law.

    Finally, transparency in government and respect for First Amendment free speech rights are vital to our local community and our democracy. In 1964, in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court recognized “a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.” I will not be intimidated or silenced by local politicians.

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