The Butterfield Shuffle
Cold Spring Planners held Tuesday and Thursday meetings last week as they addressed their two biggest projects of the season—developer Paul Guillaro’s proposed Butterfield development and the Elmesco / Dunkin’ Donuts proposal.
Thursday, August 16, it was Butterfield on the agenda—more specifically, a report from board chair Joe Barbaro and Planner Arne Saari, who represent the Planners on the newly-formed ad hoc Butterfield committee.
While the Planners—Barbaro, Saari, Parge Sgro, Dick Weissbrod, and Jimmy Zuehl—had some noteworthy opinions of their own, some of the biggest news of the evening was Weissbrod’s description of a recent walk-through with the Village’s Historic District Review Board.
“It’s hard for me to get excited about the building, but they were,” Weissbrod opened, tantalizingly.
He added that no one on the Historic panel was in favor of the newest 1960s-era hospital addition, which faces Paulding Avenue, being retained, but that the older segments of the hospital, particularly the original structure, seemed especially dear to Review Board members—not so much for their innate architectural significance as for the history and village tradition that they embody.
Regarding this fondness for the structure, Weissbrod noted, “I can appreciate it, but it’s not my experience… Many people seem to have a real attachment to it.”
He added, “My opinion is that they’re going to put up such a struggle with this.”
Arne Saari concurred, and then offered as an example his own experience. Saari said that years ago his wife got a job at Butterfield working as a Registered Nurse, and “that’s how we were introduced to the community.”
“There’s a lot of feeling about that building,” Saari said.
Parge Sgro, the senior member of the group, wondered aloud if the Planners should even proceed until the issue of retaining any of the older buildings was resolved. “We don’t know what’s going to happen there,” he said.
But proceed they did, running through a number of personal observations, concerns, and preferences for well over two hours.
Among the most notable issues were:
- Continued concern with the height—and in Zuehl’s case, the “massing”—of the buildings on the Concept Plan;
- Parking for the large condo building, and why the number of underground spaces (26) is fewer than the number of apartments (34), as well as parking in general along Route 9D;
- Keeping residential units to a minimum;
- The number of proposed single-family homes proposed for Paulding Avenue. Several Planners thought the proposed lots were too small for the character of the neighborhood;
- The setback of the proposed retail building, and whether it is currently too close to Route 9D;
- Access of the campus to snow removal, firefighting apparatus, and postal trucks (if the Cold Spring Post Office were relocated there);
- The walkability and “bike-ability” of the property;
- Taxing concerns having to do with the proposed condominiums, and whether it is equitable to tax one group of seniors differently from another group of seniors; and
- A consideration of geothermal heating and cooling as a way of making the project (and the Village) more “green,” less dependent on fossil fuels, and more affordable for residents.
From time to time the Planners looked to Guillaro’s project supervisor, Matt Moran, for a response. Based on Internet and street-level “chatter,” it might have been a well-attended gathering, but aside from the PCN&R there were only two citizens in the audience—Special Board Vice Chair Anne Impellizzeri and her husband—to keep Moran company.
Weissbrod recalled that on the recent interior walkthrough, Kathleen Foley, of the Historic District Review Board, “was saying, ‘Oh, people do things now with lofts.’” But, Weissbrod continued, “These are hospital rooms, with tiny little bathrooms.”
Moran implied that for Paul Guillaro, the retention of any of the hospital buildings other than the Lahey Pavilion is a non-starter: “It totally doesn’t work for him [Guillaro.] It’s just so contaminated.”
Moran explained that the interior walls of the hospital are coated with asbestos-laden material, which is always dangerous. To demolish and remove parts of the building in a contained way is much safer and cost-effective, he said, than to go in “with a scalpel” and attempt to remove every ounce of contamination before proceeding with a restoration of any kind.
For his part, Parge Sgro, a military veteran as well as a veteran planner, seemed most concerned about the zoning aspects of the proposal. He returned repeatedly to the B-4 (medical facility) zoning that is currently in place, asserting that he did not want to see that designation disappear.
Several colleagues agreed, even suggesting that perhaps the Lahey Pavilion could be expanded in some fashion to offer more room for medical services. Moran reminded the group that Hudson Valley Hospital has a 49-year lease on the Pavilion, and it’s not going anywhere.
Barbaro opened with a brief description of the ad hoc group’s focus, and explained that at its next meeting— August 27 was the last date mentioned—the Town Board, Planning Board, and Historic District Review Board participants will present their findings.
Assembled by Mayor Seth Gallagher, the ad hoc group is a means of coordinating—and perhaps hastening—the process of moving developer Guillaro’s latest “concept plan” through the Village’s multi-layered review process.
Who Takes the Lead Now?
A key question that arose at last week’s Thursday Planning Board meeting in Cold Spring is: Who has Lead Agency status for State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) now that Paul Guillaro has withdrawn his Planned Unit Development (PUD) application?
Planner Dick Weissbrod asked his fellow planners if the Village Board was still Lead Agency, given that the initial plan was withdrawn.
All of his colleagues agreed that it was a good question that needed answering.
Village Clerk Mary Saari also told the PCN&R on Monday, “That’s a good question,” and agreed in theory that it was possible that with a new application, a new Lead Agency might need to be established.