The project was presented by DeWayne Powell, who has replaced Kevin Walker as the public face of Eric Galloway and his several LLCs. In his opening comments, Powell described this part of the First Ward as an "increasingly nice neighborhood" but characterized the corner in question, which has been maintained for the past year or so by local stealth gardeners, as "vacant, forbidding, unsightly, and probably filled with vermin."
Although the Historic Preservation Commission was only hearing public comment last night and will not be making a decision about a certificate of appropriateness for the project until its next regular meeting, Mark Greenberg, counsel for the Galvan Partners, lectured the HPC about its appropriate purview, reading relevant excerpts from the preservation law and reminding the Commission that the project "in substantially the same configuration" had been granted a certificate of appropriateness in 2007.
The first audience member to comment was First Ward Alderman Geeta Cheddie, who talked about complaints she had received about the corner from people who wanted the surviving house torn down. She expressed the opinion that the four houses that the Galvan Partners, operating under various names, have completed in the First Ward--presumably referring to 111 Union Street, 130 Union Street, 136 Union Street, and 34-36 South Second Street--are "fine examples of restoration" and seemed to imply that it was the HPC's fault that the houses now being proposed had not been built back in 2007.
Phil Forman, who lives at Warren and First, said that First Street between Warren and Union was "frightening at night" and complained that there were skunks and rats living in the abandoned house. He called the proposed project a "totally appropriate use" and dismissed concerns of density, obviously thinking those concerns had to do with too many people rather than too many houses crowded onto the lot.
Three other topics were the subject of public comments: materials, the design of the carriage house, and Galloway's many vacant properties.
The topic of materials was introduced by HPC member David Voorhees. The plan is to side the buildings with Hardiplank, which Powell said had a "longer lifespan" than wood. Christabel Gough, whose wood-sided house on Union Street is more than two hundred years old, spoke in praise of "beautiful materials and craftsmanship" and suggested that "Hardiplank next to genuine wood is inappropriate." When Powell pointed out that the sale of Kevin Walker's seven-year-old house on Willard Place almost fell through because of cracks in the cedar siding, Gough countered, "I suggest that any board that cracks that quickly . . . somebody made a purchasing mistake."
The design of the carriage house, with the garage door accessing First Street rather than the alley, was a topic addressed by several people. Powell had come prepared with an alternative design that had the garage door at the back of the building, but he stressed this was only a possible alternative and one that sacrificed green space behind the house. He also had a display board with photographs of the following six buildings, which he offered as evidence that there was precedent in Hudson for garage doors in the street-facing facades of residential buildings.
Two of the buildings were houses whose facades had been inappropriately altered long before Hudson adopted a preservation ordinance; two were commercial buildings, one of which is currently being converted into a residence and the garage door eliminated; and two were garages--one inappropriately sited decades ago on Allen Street and the other located directly across First Street from the proposed carriage house. None of the six examples, Gabriele Gulielmetti and Gossips argued, provided adequate evidence that the design for the new house, with a garage door in the street-facing facade and the entrance along the side, was an appropriate configuration for a historic district.
Victor Mendolia brought up the issue of the large number of buildings in Hudson owned by Galloway that were being warehoused--in particular three buildings that had been multiple dwelling apartment buildings. Mendolia was told by Greenberg that his comment was inappropriate to the public hearing, and he should write a letter, although it wasn't specified to whom the letter should be addressed. Later in the hearing, Rachel Sanzone asked what the appropriate forum to bring up the issue of Galloway's abandoned and warehoused buildings would be, but no definitive answer was forthcoming.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will hold its public hearing on this project on April 20 at 6 p.m. in City Hall.