Beacon, Church Continue to Spar

City will provide temporary parking for St. Andrew 

A Dutchess County judge on Wednesday (July 12) ordered St. Andrew & St. Luke Episcopal Church to accept Beacon’s offer of temporary parking accommodations while construction is ongoing at the Lewis Tompkins Hose Co. fire station on South Avenue. 

The decision by Judge Thomas Davis came two days after the church had rejected a similar offer. Davis ordered the church to accept the city’s proposal of 22 parking spaces in a lot it will construct at 21 South Ave., combined with 17 dedicated on-street spaces on South Avenue on Sunday mornings. 

Davis also ordered the city to reserve parking at City Hall for the church on “special occasions” and Sunday mornings; make the city’s Recreation Center at 23 West Center St. available for the church’s food pantry; and permit access to the rear of the church so trucks can deliver supplies for the food pantry. 

The city and church have been at odds since last month, when St. Andrew filed a lawsuit against the municipality, Mayor Lee Kyriacou and City Administrator Chris White. In the June 26 suit, St. Andrew attorneys alleged that city officials a week earlier had “unilaterally” fenced off a parking lot behind the church and stored construction equipment and building materials there as demolition began on the Tompkins Hose fire station. 

The church also argued that the city ignored a 1987 agreement establishing the church and the Tompkins Hose fire company’s shared access to the gravel parking lot.  

The city, which purchased the lot from the Tompkins Hose Co. in 2020 and opened it to public parking, is razing the outdated fire station and plans to build a $14.7 million facility that will serve as Beacon’s centralized fire station. Beacon attorneys argue that the 1987 agreement is invalid and that, by filing a lawsuit, the church seeks “a judicial permission slip providing unfettered access to what is otherwise a municipally owned parking lot.”

St. Andrew has asked the court to force the city to remove the fence and restore the lot to its “original and intended condition.” Otherwise, the church and its employees and parishioners will suffer “irreparable damages,” the suit says.

City officials say the lot is a critical component of the fire station project. It will be paved and striped for 52 parking spaces, including ones compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, during construction. Charging stations for electric vehicles will also be installed. 

The city has also hired contractors to drill 16 geothermal wells beneath the lot that will power heat pumps in the all-electric fire station.

On Monday, Beacon Attorney Nick Ward-Willis said in court filings that the city had leased an adjacent parking lot at 21 South Ave. and, within a week, would remove fencing and vegetation and create 22 parking spaces in the lot. The city is willing to dedicate the spaces, which would be accessed via Beacon Street, exclusively to the church, Ward-Willis wrote. 

In addition, he said the city would reserve 17 on-street parking spaces for the church on Sunday mornings for the duration of the firehouse construction. (The Beacon City Council last month agreed to temporarily close the northbound lane of traffic between Beacon and Main streets on South Avenue to create 23 on-street spaces.)

Within hours, church attorneys wrote a letter to Davis saying the city’s proposal would accommodate only half of St. Andrew’s needs. Instead, the church suggested using the 21 South Ave. lot and having 24/7 access to all 23 spots along South Avenue.

“Every additional day without a return to the status quo compounds the church’s irreparable damage,” attorney David Chen wrote. 

The attorneys continued to joust the next day. Ward-Willis argued in a letter that the church “does not face irreparable harm, and its conclusory and self-serving assertions of parking conflicts are unavailing.” 

Chen fired back, lamenting the Beacon attorney’s attempt to “relitigate settled issues such as the balance of equities and irreparable harm.” He also argued that the 1987 agreement is “duly recorded” and on file with the Dutchess County clerk, and that the city was well aware of it “when it proceeded unilaterally.” 

The two sides must submit new filings in support of their arguments by July 28.

One thought on “Beacon, Church Continue to Spar

  1. No surprise. This is another example of the persecution of Christians in the U.S. by liberal politicians. The mayor and City Council members are all Democrats! Shame on them for prioritizing construction over a food pantry. Newcomers to Beacon don’t care about our community. Instead they elect people who waste taxpayer money on “woke” projects like geothermal wells, and hurt the existing community by, for example, hurting the people of St. Andrew Church. Shame on them!

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