Discussion to Rezone the Fishkill Creek Development Zone
Beacon's City Planner, John Clarke, has submitted the first round of proposed changes to the zoning laws for the Fishkill Creek Development (FCD) Zone. Tonight, this draft will be discussed by Mayor Casale and the Beacon City Council at their regularly scheduled 9/25/17 workshop meeting (City Hall, 7pm).
Amongst other suggested changes, Clarke proposes the City of Beacon:
"Streamline process by combining Special Permit and Site Plan review with Planning
In effect, this would make the Planning Board the lead agency in charge of reviewing site plans and granting special permits for developments in this zone. Should the City Council approve this proposal, all decisions relating to the FCD Zone would be made by the Planning Board, an all- volunteer board whose members are appointed by Mayor Casale and not directly answerable to the voting public.
The FCD is one of the few remaining zones that contain large undeveloped parcels. As this is a workshop meeting, the general public is invited to attend, but public comments are not allowed.
Notes from Workshop:
-First agenda item (playground expansion at Memorial Park) being discussed.
-Item 2: Fishkill Creek Development District
-City Planner, John Clarke, explaining history of area
-Lee Kyriacou: Asks for clarification on area discussed.
-RC: Quonset hut, silos and green house on Tioronda south of Main Street?
-JC: Yes, also the Creekside Drive property.
-LK: Asks for JC to provide reasons why the Heavy Industrial zone should be split to combine with the General Business District.
-JC: Because of landlocked Light Industrial parcel (former highway garage).
-Tim Dexter: Fishkill Creek District currently allows residential and light industrial, but not general business.
-RC: Thinks it makes sense to extend FCD to Main Street.
-George Mansfield: Asks for clarification on how greenway trail got permission to go through Creekside Drive if it's currently FCD.
-JC: House right behind Howland Center is General Business District.
-Some confusion about exact lines of current zones.
-LK: House next to silos and the church adjacent are currently in the historic overlay.
-RC: Is it worth turning that area into the GB zone?
-JC: Only if you think it's worthwhile.
-PW: House would be only building in GB section.
-JC: 248 Tioronda and Sisters Property to South and Metro North tracks. The Comp plan was to eliminate Heavy Industrial in this area and turn it into FCDZ.
-JC: The Comp Plan did not analyze each parcel and made only three recommendations in this area. Focus was on waterfront and Main Street.
-GM: Seems like we should rezone it all to FCD.
-LK: Having walked that area, it seemed we need that LI parcel was necessary for access to parcels along the Creek.
-JC: We'll all take a second look at the LI...
-LK: Is that lot even developable? The flipside of zoning it FCD is someone may turn around and say, "let's develop it."
-JC: Looking at Grovehill Mills. New plans currently being presented to PB on one area and the other is a big parking lot.
-TD: Developer is currently reworking landbank parking plans.
-JC: Area is in a 100-year floodplain as is area that is currently being developed. Having it zoned LI makes it harder to justify residential use--which is already happening on the northern segment.
-GM: Should we first define what the district is before we go into the rezoning? I would like to see mandatory commercial development.
-LK: Agree with commercial development and would like to set design standards, looking at how effective design standards have been.
-JC: Per Tim Dexter and Anthony Ruggierio, I took a first shot at this rezoning.
-JC: Three issues at play. 1) First hand to go to City Council to get a concept plan and a special permit and then onto PB. This forces developers to go back and forth between two bodies.
-JC: This version proposes eliminating concept plan step.
-JC: The language pertaining to height/story limit was imprecise, so this tightens it up.
-JC: When we initially did this, we were unsure of how this area could be developed. We have a better sense now.
-GM: Yes, we learned a lot from 248, for better or worse.
-PR: Is there an argument for keeping that other step? We've been going toward less oversight and should we?
-GM: Yes, and oversight is going away from Council and toward the PB.
-PR: Can Sisters be subdivided?
-TD: The biggest obstacle to that would be access.
-JC: In general, I'm in favor of taking politics out of planning decisions. Based on my (extensive) experience, this removes electioneering and public pressure on specific projects. Council sets the principals allows the PB to interpret the zoning.
-LK: In theory, I agree. In practice, the first developments are coming online just now and the public is letting us know that something is amiss.
-LK: I don't mean to be critical, but a PB and ZBA there are too many yeses and not enough nos. Have we gotten the laws written wrong?
-PR: Planning Board members have said the same. They don't have enough "teeth."
-RC: What do they mean by that?
-RC: I've seen it both ways over the years in the city. I've seen some mayors say when something didn't happen, throw the chair off the board. We have professionals leading the meeting and political powers shouldn't dictate what they're saying.
-RC: I don't always agree with the ZBA, but it's one of the toughest boards to be on.
-GM: We do need to give tighter design standards give both boards teeth. I consider 248 a subpar design and I asked PB how we go there? In this document, we need to be as tight as possible to give the PB a clear idea of what we want.
-RC: You can give them whatever laws you want, but the developer goes to the ZBA and they can get a variance.
-LK: Okay. We have conceptual design and a special permit. We can keep that at a council level rather than a pb level. We should hold that here--at least until we feel we wrote the right language.
-JC: PB is subject to public hearings, too. They have two-step process and are getting used to it. Not sure why the Council is not comfortable with it now after it's been that way for three other areas.
-LK: Public interest in development is at an all-time high and the public wants to know their input is being heard. We can be more attuned to that than PB.
-TD: I agree with John's recommendations.
-JC: You've got a lot to deal with. Planning Board is set up to deal with planning. If you're not satisfied with the boards results, you can convey your thoughts to the board, but they can give planning their full attention.
-LK: If we felt comfortable that our statutes are tight and the boards' training is solid and the results are good, we can consider that, but we're not there yet.
-GM: We're planning to spend the next six months tightening up the zoning.
-LK: My understanding is that if you get conceptual approval, the site plan follows automatically, so why are there these two steps?
-JC: Applicants would prefer a two-step rather than three-step process, but you can solicit comments from developers who've been through the process. Applicants who bring things to City Council have already but a lot into their plan (e.g. financials). If a developer looks at the process and sees 18 months to get through, that's just too much time to be worth it, so they'll just go work somewhere else--and none these properties are easy to develop.
-LK: I've seen a lot of special permits, but only one conceptual plan. Would it be possible to combine them so it culminates in a special permit?
-LK: We should say, here are the type of things that require special permits and here are things that aren't.
-JC: For example, the waterfront. The Council retained special permit power over any restaurant that wants to come in. The PB examines architectural review.
-LK: We could say, over a certain number of units, it should come to Council.
-JC: The idea is you put good people on the PB and you trust them.
-Nick Ward-Willis: There are some municipalities that retain this level of control. A couple of communities in Westchester...
-Anthony Ruggiero: But most have give it up.
-GM: Let's get back to the discussion of your proposal. 2-1/2 stories versus 3. What was the incentive rewarding?
-JC: To provide extra extra space along the Creek since they're all narrow parcels.
-Council joking about 248 which JC says he didn't follow.
-LK: Old law said you only got additional height if you left space between the creek. Now, we're giving away an extra 5' of height for nothing and developer can still build right up to the creek.
-RC: Up to the Greenway Trail.
-GM: We're not trying to agree on everything tonight--just throwing out all the things we want to talk about. I would like to throw out having mandatory commercial in at least the ground floors of the buildings on the rest of these parcels.
-JC: Look at Sisters. It's hard to imagine having commercial there because of limited access.
-GM: Back when we talked about this, there wasn't a need to commercial office space in Beacon. Now there is. That wouldn't be affected by access.
-RC: I got people coming in every day asking for commercial office space for 2 or 3,000 feet. If we have people working in the community, it enhances our Main Street. During the week now, Main Street is not busy. As people know we're a vibrant community, they want to have their offices here and we need to make sure we create them.
-GM: Developers would prefer to take the safer route with residential and regular and regular commercial. We want developers who will actively court businesses to come here. We're in a position to do that.
-JC: You should leave yourself an out for properties that aren't in the best location.
-RC: You think they're not in the best location now, but those properties are changing. We're getting there.
-JC: expresses hesitation.
-LK: Well, if it doesn't work, they can come to Council for a special use permit.
-RC: We can change the zoning in few years if it doesn't work, but--right now--we don't have the space for people who want to have offices here.
-JC: Before we get off the height... if you stick to 2-1/2 stories, it's hard to do without a sloping roof, but light industrial has a flat roof look.
-RC: I'm okay with 3 as long as we get what we want.
-TD: We could let a developer have mixed commercial and residential.
-GM: What about parking?
-TD: Right now, commercial use would be very heavy on parking.
-RC: Can we make impervious parking--not regular blacktop--part of the requirement? Like at Dia.
-JC: Can be done, but it's hard to maintain with salt, etc...
-LK: The statute currently has language on rows and paths about minimizing impervious surfaces...
-JC: Any other high points?
-GM: Design standards...
-GM: We've wound up with examples of inadequate design standards, so who's supposed to apply them?
-JC: The Planning Board.
-LK: Can we just look at what we've got (problem buildings) and the design standards and see where the mistakes were made?
-RC: There was no architectural review board?
-TD: There was no subcommittee on those particular areas.
-TD: 248 is coming back to ARB with the same footprint, but a completely different design style.
-JC: showing slides of Inn at Beacon, 249 Main, and the proposed 226 plan as examples of "good architecture" and the successful application of design standards.
-PR: Aren't there negative examples as well?
-JC: Yes. [showing "inconsistent examples" of design standards, including Rite Aid]
-GM: The written language is just not that good.
-PR: We did a look book...
-JC: Will do a look book for that area.
-RC: Whatever you ay, a building might look nice to one person, but not another.
-LK: Looking at 226 Main Street, it might look fine on Main Street, but how does it look within the context of the building/neighborhood behind it?
-MR: What's your solution...?
-LK: Let's have that discussion when we get back to Main Street.
-GM: If you have a 3-story building but there's a single-story residential lot behind it...
-JC: To get some guidance on design standard sheets, what should I use?
-GM: The new buildings with an industrial style are, to my mind, successful.
-JC: Showing slide of Tuck Tape building.
-GM: Is it possible--in any zone--to have developers chip in to do post-impact studies? To see how accurate their preliminary studies were down the line? They wouldn't be penalized, but we would learn a lot.
-JC: In general, developers of new projects look at studies done by previous developers.
-NWW: George wants to know if they could fund a post-development study.
-JC: For specific items....
-JC: Well, Edgewater is proposing monitoring certain intersections to see if they were right or not in terms of traffic impacts.
-LK: Can we ask Edgewater for impact in Beacon specifically?
-JC: That's what they've done looking at the other properties they've already developed here, but there's no other 300-unit development around here to judge.
-GM: It's something to think about.
-LK: We may just have to do our own studies.
-GM: Yes, that's what we need to do even if we have to pay ourselves.
-LK: Looking at this, using a gross acre to measure (11 units per acre) and then if I've got a 10-acre site, but 7 acres is unbuildable, I can still build 110 units on the remaining 3 acres? That's worrying.
-JC: You can deduct wetlands and steep slopes from the overall picture.
-LK: Not sure how we reached the number 11, but that's basically RD-4. It's tight, but I wonder if using a gross number is a good idea.
-JC: Well, you've got to offer incentives...
-LK: Not sure what the answer is and it's harder on the creek than on Main Street, but do we need to use incentives? We may not need them on Main Street anymore.
-JC: Well, if you're making mandatory commercial.
-RC: I think incentives are okay in that case.
-JC:It's hard to mix residential, commercial, and office in a 3 or 4 story building.
-JC: I will come back with changes per this conversation.
-LK: Instead of line edits, maybe you can come back with thoughts on different topics.
-RC: We only got 6 months, so don't wait 'til it comes back to the meeting again. If you have any thoughts, email them to JC and TD.
-JC: By the 23rd of October, I will have the FCDZ back for you to comment upon.
-Item 3: Rosenethe extension
-TD: They're on their way. Slab has been poured and they're just waiting for the walls to go up.
-RC: This is a two-lot subdivision, does the 2nd lot have a deadline?
-NWW: Do we want to give them to what they're asking for which is April 12, 2018.
-PR: Can't see why we wouldn't grant it.
-TD: Barring anything we don't have control over, this house should be done by the end of January.
-NWW: So we can give them til January 31st.
-Onto Brush Removal discussion and the end of this session. Watch the video, folks! Very tricky esp in the beginning!
By Jeff Simms for The Highlands Current
The historic Tioronda Estate on the outskirts of Beacon, which includes the former Craig House psychiatric center, was sold on Sept. 18, just hours before the City Council enacted a six-month building moratorium.
Daniel Aubry, the Beacon real estate agent who brokered the deal, said on Sept. 20 that he could not reveal the name of the buyer or the purchase price without the permission of the buyer, who he said is traveling outside the country. Aubry confirmed that the buyer is the same “investment group” that he referred to in an interview with The Current in July. read more...
No new construction for six months
By Jeff Simms for The Highlands Current
After months of discussion, the Beacon City Council on Monday (Sept. 18) adopted a moratorium that halts nearly all residential and commercial construction in the city for six months.
The council voted unanimously to enact the moratorium just after 11 p.m., drawing applause from the handful of spectators who remained at the meeting. The ban will be in place until March.
The cut-off for exemption from the freeze was July 25; any projects in progress or under Planning Board review before that date are not impacted. Applications submitted after July 25 may be heard and reviewed but not approved. read more...
Nina Schutzman, Poughkeepsie Journal
The City of Beacon is taking steps to slow its growth while it searches for a new water source.
The City Council unanimously passed a six-month moratorium on residential and commercial development, a decision prompted by concern over the strain an recent influx of residential development could take on the city's water supply.
"I think we listened to the people," said City of Beacon Mayor Randy Casale, of the local law to enact a moratorium, which the council passed on Monday. "We are slowing it down a little to make sure we have enough water." read more...
Council will hold public hearing on Sept. 18
By Jeff Simms
The Beacon City Council will hold a public hearing on Monday, Sept. 18, to discuss the city’s proposed building moratorium. The soonest it could vote on the proposal is at its meeting scheduled for Oct. 2.
If adopted, the six-month moratorium would be effective immediately, so if passed in October it would run into April. Projects involving single-family homes would be exempted, while commercial building is expected to be part of the freeze. read more...