Proposed Butterfield Zoning Changes Debated at Meeting

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Fifty people attend the Village of Cold Spring’s public hearing regarding the vacant Butterfield site on Route 9D.
Fifty people attend the Village of Cold Spring’s public hearing regarding the vacant
Butterfield site on Route 9D.

This past Tuesday night, January 29, the Village of Cold Spring held a meeting in which the public could give their comments regarding proposed zoning changes for the decrepit Butterfield Hospital site. These changes would allow a mixed use for the site including municipal, commercial, and residential properties.

Over 50 people attended, including Paul Guillaro, the owner of the site, and Tim

Miller of Tim Miller Associates Inc., the site designer. Before the public comments began, Miller was allowed to address the public, in which he went over the process of review by the village for the plans for the site up to this point.

According to Miller, the original application was for a planned unit development, or PUD, where each use within the property would exist on its own lot, but the planning board “was quite adamant that they were not interested in a PUD” and instead wanted the project to “work largely within the context of the B4 zoning district” which allows primarily medical and residential uses.

This led to a charette, a collaborative session in which a group of designers come up with a design solution, which involved Miller, the public, and the village’s own planner and designer.

“Actually the village’s planner came up with the concept that’s presently connected with this proposal law,” Miller said. “And that happened in April or May. So I know there that flyers have been going around suggesting this project’s being fast tracked, but we’re into this more than a year now and I certainly would not consider it to be a fast track.”

The proposed law introduces the concept of a B4-A district, which continues to allow medical uses, senior citizen housing by special permit, and, according to Miller, would also allow “privately owned facilities leased to a municipal government entity, it allows retail stores, business and professional offices, banks, and any mix of those uses.”

“In the flyer someone suggested that this project would probably make taxes go up,” Miller said. “That is simply not factually accurate. We did a projected assessment of the project, it includes 32,000 square feet of retail, office, commercial, municipal, the existing Lahey Pavilion, and 55 units of market rate senior housing, and based on those projected assessments, the project would generate an excess of about $450,000 a year in taxes to the village, the county, and the school district, above and beyond the cost it would entail.”

In addition to Miller, 22 people spoke at the hearing and an additional three unable to attend sent in their comments to be read into the record by the board. Everyone was allowed up to five minutes to speak, with additional time after everyone else had a chance. Comments were to be directed to the board. Of the people speaking, 14 people were against the zoning change law, and of the eight who were in favor of it there were often qualifications to their support. Cold Spring, located on the Hudson River, has retained a Norman Rockwell quality and its residents are highly protective of its current atmosphere and very much wish to retain it.

Putnam County legislator Barbara J. Scuccimarra started off the public comments.

“I read this over and I think you’ve really hit it on the mark,” she said. “It addresses the concerns of a lot of the citizens. I believe it’s a good document and I believe we should move forward this project.”

Richard Weissbrod, who sits on the planning board, commended the use of geothermal heating and cooling, the concerns of what the project would look like along Paulding Avenue (three residences and open space are now planned for that space), and changes to the “bombastic level” of the originally proposed buildings, which made the original plan a “monstrosity.” According to Weissbrod, that was the reason the original plan was rejected, not because it was a PUD.

“However, the commitments that are whispered from the county, town, and the village simply aren’t there,” Weissbrod said, referring to the proposed municipal uses for the space, which he didn’t feel is the significant issue. “The board has not dealt with the nuances of this property…. This is far in excess of mixed use. You have not dealt with our issues about fast food restaurants in town, and as far as tax issues go, the last time Mr. Guillaro’s team approached us with tax positivity, it wasn’t.”

“When the initial proposal… showed something like 95 units with a lot of density on it, I had real concerns about it,” said Mike Armstrong. “But after it went through a public process… there was a lot of very hard thinking about the project… what we’re contemplating is a very reasonable use of that site…. I do share the concern about the franchise and the formula businesses, but I think that can be dealt with as this project unfolds. Don’t look for too much at this stage of the process. This is what I would call a discussion and negotiation. Don’t demand so much of it. The way the process is designed is to allow site reviews later that deal with the nits.”

For Susan Peehl, the project “sounded like a nightmare,” especially in regards to how it would affect traffic. Peter Henderson felt that “the Devil was in the details” and wanted to know “what’s in it for us?” Joe Immorlica felt the conditional proposal was a “step forward” and that “there’s been enough talking, I want to see action.” John Cronin lives across Paulding Avenue from the site.

“I would like to give a different perspective about this property,” Cronin said. “For ten years I’ve talked to anyone I could about the fact that I live across the street from a junkyard… I’ve heard it said that there might not be anything good for us here…. I look at this site. Most of you do not….. When I bought my home, the biggest gamble I took was buying it across the street from this pile of junk. I bought it anyway because I believed that this was the kind of community that would not allow it to stay that way. How wrong I was. You’ve allowed it to stay that way for the ten years I’ve lived there and for 20 years before that.

“It’s been said about many things, I’ve worked in Washington, I’ve worked in Albany, that you can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. So I encourage you, understanding the reservations… but when I look at this property… and I try to imagine what should be there, as opposed to the rocks we can throw at what’s being planned there, I haven’t come up with any better ideas than what I see on that piece of paper. Build a bunch of very expensive private homes? I don’t think that’s a very good idea. And I haven’t seen anyone else come up with a better plan… “I, and I hope you will all join me if this zoning is approved, will work to the very last minute to make sure it’s built exactly as promised, whatever that method is…. And let’s not forget that the first thing people see when they drive into this community is not an improved piece of property, it’s a dump we’ve all gotten used to look at.”

When asked for comment about the things said over the more than two hour meeting, Mr. Guillaro’s response was one word: “Exhausting.”

By Larry Miles

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