Between the introduction of the resolution and the vote, a lot of things happened, but I won't keep you in suspense. When the resolution came to a vote, those voting aye were Common Council President Don Moore, Geeta Cheddie (First Ward), "Doc" Donahue (Fifth Ward), Dick Goetz (Fifth Ward), Abdus Miah (Second Ward), Wanda Pertilla (Second Ward), Sheila Ramsey (Fourth Ward), Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward), and Sarah Sterling (First Ward), who mitigated her yes vote by explaining, "I want to get this new zoning in place." The dissenting opinion was voiced by Ellen Thurston (Third Ward), who abstained, and Chris Wagoner (Third Ward), who, after protesting that, as with all other resolutions, this one should be introduced and the Council should vote on it in the week's time, voted no.
Before all this, however, Moore presented an opening statement. After the meeting, I asked him for a copy of statement. At first, he refused, but when I said "No?" incredulously, he tore a paragraph off the bottom of the printed presentation and handed the rest to me. Here's the statement, without its final paragraph:
The LWRP and its accompanying GEIS are complex documents. They are also human documents, the product of many people, involved from many points of view and responsibilities, each working to piece the pie together. Citizens, government officials, proofessionals--all have made their marks here.
I have spent two years with the LWRP, studying it, its background, and its foreground. Can it be called perfect? Of course not. Can it be described as a commendable accommodation of Hudson's aspirations for its waterfront, its communities and its economic development, with the realities of law and land, of doing as much as we can, while knowing what we want will take time, organization and money? Yes, it can.
As a City, certainly as your Common Council exercising our responsibility to you, we have taken this process as far, and as fairly, as we can. We have met and exceeded what the law asks of us, listened, and the document is much better for it.
We have balanced the interests of our most vulnerable neighborhoods by providing a plan to get the trucks off the streets of the west end of the City. We have taken legal steps to regulate the port--hours of operation, light, noise, dust, defining processing out of the port--and the causeway for a long as it is used. We have declined to designate a preferred route and instead provided alternative routes that can allow greater public access to the waterfront.
Is everyone happy? I think a more useful question is, can everyone be happy? LWRP's and SEQRA provide frameworks for doing as much as we can granting the potential inherent conflicts. It provides a check on imagining that somehow, just around the corner, one more piece will fall into place that will change the game, and everyone will be fully satisfied with the LWRP.
We want an LWRP that can draw the enthusiasm and support and recognition for what needs to be done to balance, to integrate to the greatest extent possible, the best uses of our mix of social, economic, and enviromental needs and opportunities. I personally believe that all the work that has been done over many years has brought us to a place where we can say, this is a valuable program that we should approve.
One comment: A key consideration in developing the waterfront is the current ownership of the Port and the South Bay by Holcim. I would like to make it as clear as I am able that I completely support the goal of the city obtaining ownership of both. But I have seen no evidence that this document, the LWRP and the GEIS, can accomplish that end through the tools available to a municipality. We have considered different strategies to obtain the port and the one that will work is a sale between a willing seller and a willing buyer. I want to see that happen and will work for it. I also want to hear from Holcim that they will move forward quickly on the easement and the land transfer.*
In the paragraph that Moore removed from his statement, he had referred to the meeting as a Common Council "work session," which calls into question the legitimacy of taking a vote, and also stated that "the floor is for the Council alone." He held to the latter, inviting questions and comments from the public only after the council had voted and he had announced that Roberts and Bill Sharp, the attorney from the Department of State, had to leave.
Roberts began her presentation of the most recent changes in the GEIS by reviewing the progress of the LWRP and GEIS since 2006, when she became involved in a process that had already been going on for nearly two decades. She explained that the last four months of revision had been necessitated by three developments:
- the discovery by the South Bay Task Force of "new and significant information";
- the Department of State's decision to designate major portions of South Bay as a Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat;
- the paving of the "causeway" and its use by Holcim/O&G as a gravel haul road.
When Roberts' presentation was complete, Wagoner asked, "Are we voting on this tonight?" His question was answered by Goetz, who said, "We're here to vote. Let's do it. Let's get on with it." When Thurston protested that she had a lot of questions and would have a hard time voting on the resolution at that time, Goetz chided, "If you didn't want to vote, you should have stayed away." The standing room only crowd disagreed with Goetz and applauded when Wagoner suggested that the aldermen should "take this, go to our constituents, and vote next week," Goetz's impatient attitude carried the day, and the Council voted. Once that happened, and Moore explained that the lawyers had to leave but he would say to hear comments from the audience, the aldermen started to disperse, without a motion to adjourn, and the meeting was over.
* The easements and land transfer Moore mentions involve an easement on South Bay, which would give the City the right to control South Bay in terms of conservation and development without taking title or assuming the responsibility of ownership. A second easement involves the roadway along the western edge of the railroad track which is the route to the "southern extension of the park"--Sandy Beach and East Jesus, south of the port--which is the property involved in the land transfer. The City of Hudson would take possession of this land.
Sam Pratt comments about last night's meeting on his blog: "Moore-onic."
Tom Casey reports on the meeting in the Register-Star: "Council OKs waterfront plan GEIS."