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2012-03-07 / Front Page

Planning Board Calls Halt to Butterfield Project

Community ‘charrette’ planned to solicit Cold Spring input
by TIM GRECO

 

Tuesday night at the Village Planning Board meeting, the Planning Board voted to temporarily put the Butterfield project on pause until they could organize a public charrette.
 
A charrette is a meeting of experts and others, such as Cold Spring residents, to gather input, outline scenarios and – ideally – bring about joint ownership of possible solutions. The concept is often brought to bear to resolve thorny land use matters.
 
Sitting in on the Planning Board meeting was Planning Board adviser Ted Fink, from GreenPlan. The decision follows a walkthrough of the Butterfield site by various Cold Spring boards and officials on Saturday.
 
In his opening statement, Chairman Joe Barbaro said: “Saturday, when we had a site visit to Butterfield, I thought it was enlightening; members of  all the Boards and members of the public were represented as we walked the site. I think it gave us a chance to really see what it is, we have in front of us, at least from the applicant’s perspective what he is proposing to do with the land.”
 
Barbaro went on to say, “As far as the Butterfield application goes,
I would like the Planning Board to take a pause.” 
 
Barbaro hoped by the end of the meeting the Planning Board could come up with its own new report, using the Comprehensive Plan and the Butterfield report from the Special Board as guidelines. The Planning could then send its new report to the Mayor and the Village Board.
 
The report would drafted by Barbaro himself and Ted Fink.
 
Barbaro said, “The result of the report ultimately will be the foundation for a community charrette, which is a nice French fancy term that means an organized community meeting, not a free-for-all. 
 
“Where the community gets to voice their input on something that’s being proposed, that meeting will be facilitated by a professional not by me, unless the Mayor would like the job, and that way we could gather community input on what the Planning Board thinks would be a very good idea for the Butterfield site.
 
“It doesn’t mean what the Planning Board proposes is the end game it’s the beginning game, so what happens after that? We will see what the community wants and we will see if the applicants’ willing to go along with the community wants.”
 
The Board then discussed their opinions over the current plans.  
 
Barbaro began the discussion and said, “The Lahey Pavilion is wonderful; it’s been there and we need it, we know that. The proposed Municipal building, I think that is a great idea. I’m not sure of the location of it but I certainly think having one will allow presence of the county, Town and Village, courts, offices etc. 
 
“What I understand at the town level, they would like to have a Municipal building on their site and a room that will serve as a conference room for them, as well as a senior center, and that is a big positive and the Town Board is in favor of that.
 
“After that I’m not entirely sure I’m in favor of anything after the proposals, after those two things.”
 
Barbaro explained, “The idea of having housing for the elderly I think is a wonderful idea, but I think it might be a wasted opportunity for this site. This site should be tax-positive in my opinion; it should generate tax dollars for the community and the way to do that is to have office- retail space.
 
“I think office-retail would be a better use for that site than what the applicant proposes right now.”
 
Barbaro expressed his concerns over the proposed HUD senior housing and the possible loopholes that it poses and with the possibility of having young people moving in and attending Haldane that could cause stress on the school, resulting in higher taxes in the community.
 
Barbaro reiterated the point that “the site be tax-positive, not tax-negative.”
 
The discussion went around the table, and each member was given the opportunity to express thoughts over the proposed site.
 
Parge Sgro voiced his concern over the change in zoning and said,
“It was my original concern and it still is.” He also felt the open space and streetscape could be better planned.
 
Sgro also cautioned the Board “not to discourage the developer from building on the site …. I’m not personally against the developer’s plan; what I’m against is the re-zoning and doing it under a different ordinance.”
 
Dick Weissbrod, was concerned about the look and feel of the project,
calling the Proposed Municipal building, in front of the Lahey Pavilion “a monstrosity.”
 
Arne Saari had concerns over the traffic impact at the site, and suggested further traffic studies. 
 
Saari also broached the idea of relocating the stores currently located at Foodtown Plaza to the Butterfield site, thus allowing the Foodtown expansion to move forward. Sarari also voiced his concern over the large open field, “I don’t like the idea that the green is going to be shrunk and the beautiful tree will be enclosed on two sides by housing. The huge building would dominate that site.” 
 
Saari also felt that the existing Hospital should be saved without demolishing it. “I just can’t believe that it’s cheaper to build a big monstrosity – maybe that’s not a right term – that big building, cheaper than it would be to restructure the hospital.” He called the hospital, “A historical building and a gift to the community by Mrs. Butterfield.”
 
Many people in the community are under the assumption that this project is shovel-ready but Planning Board member Joe Immorlica, who is known not to be rushed into anything, shed some light into the planning  process.
 
Immorlica said, “What I want to say is, something good is worth waiting for, and I always figured we the Planning Board always took our time to do things best as possible for all involved.
 
“This is one of the last large projects that could happen in our community, so I’m pushing to do it right and I’m not in any hurry to get it done as quickly as people would like to get it done.”
 
After an exhaustive discussion over the various aspects of the site, Barbaro went over the big bullet points to get a consensus from the board for the report that he and Fink will draft.
 
1.    The Municipal building is a good idea but the location on the site may not be.  
All agreed the building should be relocated.
 
2.    Butterfield site would be better suited for office-retail that generates tax dollars then some of the specified uses (senior housing) that are tax neural or worse if there are unintended consequences.
 
(After much discussion on the needs and welfare of seniors in the community, the majority of the Board agreed that Butterfield should remain mixed-use. Senior market-rate condo type housing would be preferable as opposed to HUD-type housing.)
 
3.    The colossal size of one of the proposed buildings is just too overwhelming for our community.
 
4.    The concept of housing the elderly is a noble one but not entirely desirable in all of its aspects                                                              
 
    (On the subject of HUD housing some Board members feel that there is adequate housing for seniors at the Chestnut Ridge senior housing and that it is currently being underutilized by lifelong Philipstown residents.)
 
5.    If the developer would like to use a portion of the grove property for parking for the Buttterfield site, he should purchase the entire property, and be responsible for the building’s renovation.
 
The majority of members agreed to Chairman Barbaro’s five bullet points.  
       
Other subjects were fully reviewed including a not having a cul-de-sac on the site and the need to preserve the open field in its entirety.
 
Wednesday, Mayor Seth Gallagher was asked about the Planning Board temporarily pausing the Butterfield project. He said, “It’s not really a pause but a part of the process.” Heretofore, Gallagher has been enthusiastic about keeping the project moving.
 
The Board also asked Fink for an artist’s rendering of the Butterfield site under the current proposed plans and Fink agreed to have one done. Barbaro and Fink will now work on the Planning Board’s report and will next go onto the Village Board for their review on March 20th
 
On Thursday morning, the Village disseminated the following press release, attributed to Ted Fink of GreenPlan:
 

 

Cold Spring — At the Cold Spring Planning Board meeting on March 6th, Board members were united in their thoughts about how the Butterfield Hospital site development process should proceed.   A local developer, Paul Guillaro, submitted plans to the Village in December of 2011 that would require a rezoning of the site to accommodate his proposed development of senior housing, offices and retail. 

 

The Planning Board will advise the Village Board of Trustees that the approach first needs to identify what the Village wants to see on the site and then determine what level of development is acceptable to residents.  This is because the project involves a rezoning and the recently adopted Comprehensive Plan makes specific recommendations for how it should be developed.  Joseph Barbaro, Chairman of the Village Planning Board stated, “ The Planning Board has added two steps to its consideration of the Butterfield site's proposed development: 1) a meeting where members considered what is best for the site in the context of the Comprehensive Plan, resulting in a report to the Village Board, and 2) a community charrette meeting so the public can comment on the Planning Board’s report to either agree or disagree. Although this has been characterized as putting the project “on hold” and a “full stop”, neither phrase is accurate. Both the Planning Board and Village Board want to see the Butterfield site developed in a way that is thoughtfully considered and with public participation in the process.”

 

The developer’s plans call for an entirely new Planned Unit Development (PUD) Zoning District that, if approved by the Village Board and then the Planning Board, would involve construction of 87 housing units, 6,000 square feet of retail space, 15,000 square feet of municipal offices and about 250 parking spaces.  The developer wants to demolish the old Hospital building to accommodate the development.  None of the Planning Board members expressed opposition to development of the site but the size of the project and its location at a critical gateway into the Village was cause for some of the concerns expressed.

 

The Town of Philipstown, Putnam County, the Post Office and the Village government itself have all expressed an interest in moving some of their operations into the new offices.  This presents the opportunity to have a vibrant civic and community oriented development there.  But, following a site visit this past Saturday by the Planning Board, attended by some of the Cold Spring Special Board members and Village Trustees, reservations to the current development plans were expressed.  These included the size of the proposed buildings and the amount of parking that would be required. 

 

To some Board members, the parking requirements seemed to be driving the design of the development and the overall layout emphasizes cars over pedestrians.  According to Cold Spring’s Special Board, this is contrary to what is called for in the Village’s new Comprehensive Plan and Local Waterfront Revitalization Strategy. 

 

Some of the Planning Board members were concerned about losing an historic structure if the old Hospital building were to be demolished and thought that adaptive reuse should be looked at more closely.  The Board consensus was also that any development that takes place there should be tax positive and that it should fit into the character of the community.

 

The Planning Board directed its consultant, Ted Fink of GREENPLAN, to draft a report to the Village Trustees summarizing the Board’s concerns.  It also asked that conceptual alternatives be sketched out based upon the recommendations made in the Comprehensive Plan.  Fink said that he would get Ray Curran involved so that he could take a look at the site and make suggestions for its overall design.  Mr. Curran prepared concept plans for the Marathon site, the Village Garage site and Dockside Park that were used during preparation of the Comprehensive Plan.   The Planning Board meets on March 20, 2012 when the next steps will be discussed.

 

                                 
 
 
 

 

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