A few interesting issues were discussed at last night's Common Council Legal Committee meeting. The first was the amendment to the new LWRP zoning to allow retail stores in the Core Riverfront District. Committee chair John Friedman (Third Ward) pointed out that they were looking at San Francisco's zoning code as a model for how Hudson might prohibit big box stores and franchises at the waterfront. Council president Don Moore said that for him there were two issues with this amendment. The first was if the Core Riverfront District was really "where we want to do this." The second issue had to do with specifications about square footage of stores, what constituted a buildable lot, and what was permitted lot coverage. Committee member Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward) suggested that the committee consult with Bill Roehr, of TGW Consultants, who "did Troy's waterfront."
The conversation about the Core Riverfront District included mentioned of the Dunn warehouse building and the question of whether or not "there are still conversations going on." The city budget for 2013 included $300,000 in anticipated revenue from the sale of the Dunn warehouse and the vacant lot at State and Fourth streets, and it seems that there is someone interested in buying the Dunn warehouse. Moore said that the interested party wants to make a presentation to the Common Council, but Moore told the committee that he had suggested that the presentation to made to him and the mayor.
As another response on the part of the City to the tragedy that occurred last week in Connecticut, the Legal Committee has begun work on a local law that would prohibit firearms on or in City property and would make it illegal, within the boundaries of the city, to "produce, sponsor, promote, attend or participate in any show or event where firearms may be sold or bought or contracts entered into for the purchase or sale of firearms." This proposed law is still being discussed and drafted, but the committee did agree to exempt guns that are considered "relics and collectibles" in the section of the law that addresses gun shows.
Reapportionment, which is a fairly volatile topic with some members of the Common Council, especially Pierro, was the last issue to be discussed. Moore reported that he is in conversation with Lee Papayanopolous, the Rutgers professor who has been calculating the Council's weighted vote since 1974, and Papayanopolous is expected to submit two or three alternative ways to calculate the weighted vote, along with his recommendation, in time for the informal meeting of the Council in February. This prompted Pierro to comment, querulously, "It's so complicated. I thought he just took the population and did it." Pierro went on to remark, "It's a good thing we're not paying him by the hour."
To further complicate the reapportionment issue, city attorney Cheryl Roberts believes that changing the weighted vote requires a referendum, even though it was not subjected to a referendum the last time, but Roberts does not know if it is a mandatory referendum or a permissive referendum. In either scenario, the process would begin with the Common Council deciding, by a two-thirds vote, what the new weighted vote numbers would be. If a mandatory referendum is required, the question of accepting or rejecting the new numbers would appear on the ballot in November 2013. In the case of a permissive referendum, the public can force a referendum by getting the required number of signatures on a petition requesting that there be a referendum.
When committee member David Marston (First Ward) asked what would happen if the Council could not come to agreement on a scheme or if the public rejected the proposed scheme in a referendum, the answer introduced even more complication. The short answer is that the weighted vote would stay as it is now, but it can't because those numbers are in violation of the state law that requires prisoners to be counted in the communities where they lived before they were incarcerated not in the communities where they are incarcerated.