The proposed senior center was the subject of consideration at two meetings this week. On Tuesday night, the Common Council reviewed the completed LEAF (Long Environmental Assessment Form) for the senior center project--a 21-page document with as many more pages of appendices and attachments--and unanimously made a Negative Declaration: The project would have no significant adverse environmental impacts. Last night, Mike Sullivan of Crawford & Associates presented the project's application for area variances to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Area variances are required because of setbacks and lot coverage.
Surprisingly, at last night's meeting, after so much has been written about the senior center project in the press, the members of the ZBA seemed to have little or no prior knowledge of it. When it became clear that the proposed new building would sit on the site of what is now a parking lot, there was lots of concern about parking. Sullivan explained that there was street parking on Union Street, along the south side of the original historic building, and there was the municipal parking lot on the other side of Cherry Alley, where the plan is to designate two additional parking spaces as handicapped spaces and remove the guardrail to provide access to the parking lot from the alley. Theresa Joyner wanted to know if the historic church building was going to be renovated in this project. Kathy Harter asked why there was going to be an elevator in the building. Someone else wanted to know if seniors or seniors and youth would use the new building.
Toward the end of the meeting, ZBA member Mary Ellen Pierro said of the senior center, "We really need this"--an opinion that most city officials seem to accept as a truism but many taxpayers question. According to reports, about 35 people currently participate in the City's senior program, which offers a total of 9 hours of programming a week. When questions about parking, traffic, fugitive light and noise, and overall impact on the adjoining residential neighborhood arise, current use is cited, with the implication that no one expects that to increase or change significantly when the new building is completed. So it would seem that the City is poised to spend $780,000 to construct a senior center that will benefit 35 people. That's a little more than $22,000 per person--oddly, about the same number you get when you divide the Hudson City School District's annual budget by the number of students it serves.
On April 11, Don Tillson chair of the Planning Commission proposed that the Planning Commission and the ZBA hold a joint public hearing on the senior center on Wednesday, May 9, after which each panel, in succession, would hold a regular meeting to make its decision. It is not clear when the Planning Commission intended the public hearing to begin, but last night, the ZBA set 7:30 on May 9 as the time for its public hearing and subsequent meeting. When there is clarity about the meetings and times, Gossips will report it.