Historic Board Digs In
It could be called a stroke of genius or a descent into madness: bringing representatives of three of Cold Spring’s boards together to try to come to a meeting of the minds on the Butterfield project.
There was little genius and much madness at Monday night’s ad hoc Butterfield Committee meeting, as the two-steps-forward/one-stepback Butterfield shuffle appeared to be headed to a permanent stalemate. The event lasted about 1 hour 45 minutes, punctuated by sharp exchanges over the preservation versus the demolition of the existing hospital buildings as well as over individual aspects of developer Paul Guillaro’s most recent concept plan.
The meeting was attended by Guillaro and his project manager Matt Moran, alongside representatives from the Village Board—Mayor Seth Gallagher and Trustee Matt Francisco; from the Planning Board—Joseph Barbaro and Arne Saari; and from the Historic District Review Board—Al Zgolinski and Carolyn Bachan.
First on the agenda were the Planning Board’s comments. Chair Barbaro read an opening statement: “The Butterfield conceptual plan is a large improvement over the previous plan; the board applauds Mr. Guillaro for his willingness to make adjustments to his revision to the site.”
The Board requested that three proposed single-family lots on Paulding Avenue be made larger to match the “grandeur of the other homes on that street” and that “there should be more houses built,” in part, to block the view of the proposed condos.
Guillaro seemed open, but to others the idea was bewildering. Adding more homes and setting them further back would dramatically cut into the “Great Lawn” and come much closer to a revered copper beech tree, as well as shrink the overall amount of open space, which had been a bone of contention.
“The motivation is to put more houses up and have less housing units and to protect Paulding Avenue,” said Barbaro. Francisco—concerned about cutting into the longused sledding hill and regarding the Great Lawn—remarked, “There is obviously going to be a response to that.”
Bachan asked about the average frontage of each house on Paulding Avenue, which initiated a tiff with the Mayor over whether smaller lots would be inconsistent with the existing lots on Paulding Avenue—a street that most definitely has a variety of house sizes at both ends, as well as several stately homes toward the middle. The refrain—Gallagher, “No,” Bachan, “Yes,” Gallagher, “No,” Bachan, “Yes”—grew tiresome.
There was much talk over getting an analysis of setbacks, with Gallagher noting: “We don’t need analysis to put a house on a piece of property in a concept drawing like this.” When Bachan responded, “Oh, but yes we do,” Gallagher replied, “Well, then you should have done an analysis; the last meeting was a month ago.”
Bachan, “I offered to do the analysis…We had a discussion last time when we met that the lots on Paulding were ‘dinky’... I believe that comment was dismissed.” Gallagher allowed that it would have been dismissed if she put it in those terms and said, “They are not ‘dinky,’ they are 100 feet.” Bachan wanted to see larger frontage and deeper lots. Gallagher reiterated that the committee was trying to get “a rough idea,” of what would be on the property.
It was agreed that Bachan would work on a rough outline and a layout. It was also agreed that a walking path would be established to connect Paulding Avenue to Route 9D and it would not accommodate bikes, which should be ridden on roads.
Parking on site was also a point of discussion. The question is to get Department of Transportation approval for offsite parking along the north side of Route 9D. Gallagher noted that it could take as long as five years for them to approve it. It was also noted that at times there would be a sharing of parking spaces between residential and commercial users. The concept plan is currently technically short 17 parking spaces
During another heated discussion over building height and land grading, Bachan and Gallagher went at it again. Gallagher asked, “Are you here to help or are you here to hinder?’ Bachan replied, “Are you just here to say no to any opinion other than your own?” Francisco and Gallagher tangled, too, when Francisco came to the defense of Bachan and Zgolinski.
When conversation turned the heart of the matter for Bachan and Zgolinski, saving the existing Butterfield building, Gallagher tried to stress that the project was not going to happen without the building coming down. He said that balking on that point is endangering the relocation of the Post Office and Senior Center, but Bachan wants to see the old hospital repurposed. Gallagher said at one point that she sounded “like a broken record.”
Guillaro said, “It sounds like what we’re doing is going back to Planned Unit Development (PUD), where you look at everything on this site and you consider everything and I’m asking for things. I don’t have to ask for anything if I go B-4 [zoning]. If I want to put up a building that is 190 feet and 180 feet wide ... And I want to do three of these buildings…I have a legal right to do it…” He later reiterated that he will not build the project without the hospital building coming down.
Guillaro showed the Board an image of the former building in its heyday and then transposed what it would look like without the newer additions. It no longer has a third floor with the ornate moldings, and most of the facade is gone.
Zgolinski even said he would like to keep the 1963 building, in every way the least “historic” piece of the campus. Guillaro said he could not afford to surgically dissect the building and then restore it to where it was originally. He added that he will submit an economic hardship relief form to the Historic Review board so they can review it on September 5.
At one point Paulding Avenue resident Art Lopatin asked a question about saving the old building. Since this was not a public hearing, Lopatin should probably not have spoken, but the Mayor referred the question to Guillaro and said after that he would not take any more questions, with Lopatin charging, “What are you a Stalinist?” The Mayor then asked him if he would like to leave. Lopatin told him to “call a cop and make me.”
Gallagher then said the meeting was not open to public comment, to which Lopatin said “I stand corrected.” He later left the meeting, using an expletive as he departed.
The other big question of the night was who would be lead agency on the Butterfield Project going forward, as far as environmental review?
The Planning Board would like to take over the project but Gallagher feels it should remain with the Village Board. Gallagher read a part of Barbaro’s past report which said in part, “… not fulfilling Mr. Guillaro’s expectation of lightning-fast approval caused him upset [that] frankly he deserved.”
“I was a bit put off by it,” Gallagher noted. “It seemed very personal…and emotional and we are trying to get away from [that].”
Barbaro replied, “I think that is a well crafted sentence.”
Gallagher responded that it did not help things move forward, to which Barbaro replied that it was thoroughly professional.
Meanwhile, Guillaro exited the building.