Thursday, May 10, 2012

Marathon Meetings

Although it's not entirely clear to many who wants it or who will benefit from it, the proposed senior center cleared its final hurdles on Wednesday night in two hours of consecutive meetings at City Hall. 


The first of the marathon meetings was a Planning Commission meeting, during which Michael Sullivan of Crawford & Associates talked about stormwater drainage and parking, and Carl Whitbeck, counsel to the Planning Commission, expressed the opinion that the guardrail at the back of municipal parking lot between Tom Swope Gallery and Shana Lee should be removed altogether so that cars could enter and exit by way of Cherry Alley. 

Next came the public hearing, called jointly by the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals. The only member of the public present was Karen Smith, whose house on Union Street is directly behind the Youth Center and whose backyard will be overlooked by the proposed addition. Her comments focused on Question 17 of the Long Environmental Assessment Form, the answers to which the Common Council reviewed and accepted in April 17, before making a Negative Declaration. Question 17 asks: "Will there be objectionable odors, noise or vibration as a result of the Proposed Action?" One of the examples provided to help answer the question is: "Will the Proposed Action produce operating noise exceeding the local ambient noise level outside of structures?" The answer given to Question 17 was no. Smith contended the answer should have been yes. 

Smith pointed out that the air conditioning unit, venting, and the mechanicals for the elevator will be situated on the roof of the two-story part of the addition, within thirty feet of her office and bedroom windows. Citing Hudson's own noise ordinance, adopted in 2006, Smith argued that noise from the equipment mounted on the roof would exceed the allowed 65 dB(A) and expressed the opinion that the proposed senior center would introduce "an industrial, noisy blight to the row of residential houses" along the north side of Union Street.

The members of the Planning Commission and the ZBA seemed sympathetic to Smith's concerns, unlike the Common Council, where Smith's comments were interrupted by Alderman Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward), who told Smith that she, Stewart, lived on a truck route and had to endure light pollution from the sea of parking lots surrounding 325 Columbia Street, implying that Smith should stop complaining. Still Cappy Pierro, Planning Commission member and alderman from the Fifth Ward, couldn't resist telling Smith that when the windows of his house are open he can hear the noise from ADM.   

Smith talked about the exhaust fan at the Red Chopstick and identified several sites, some several blocks away, from which the noise from that fan can be heard. Ironically, members of both the Planning Commission and the ZBA were comfortable with the notion that the proposed senior center would meet the requirements of the city code when it came to noise and if it didn't code enforcement would deal with it, but no one on either of those regulatory bodies seemed to wonder why code enforcement hasn't dealt with the problem of the noisy exhaust fan at the Red Chopstick.

When the public hearing was closed, the ZBA meeting was convened. Whitbeck presented the resolution he had prepared in advance, and, after some discussion, the ZBA passed, by unanimous voice vote,  the resolution granting the project the needed variances.

When the ZBA meeting was adjourned, the Planning Commission reconvened its meeting. Whitbeck presented another proposed resolution, and, after asking Whitbeck to write a letter to DPW Superintendent Rob Perry asking him to look into traffic issues on that block of Cherry Alley as they relate to the use of the municipal parking lot, the Planning Commission gave its approval to the project in a unanimous voice vote. 

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