Catalano began by explaining that the plan had been "modified" since in the application had been submitted. Instead of 24 studio apartments in both the former orphanage and the former garage building, they were cutting it down to 10 studio apartments in the orphanage. The garage building on Seventh Street, which will have two new stories built on top of the existing structure, will have no apartments but instead will be a "multi-purpose building for educational and community service use."
Apparently, the proposed three-story building on Seventh Street was labeled "Office Space" on the plans submitted to the Planning Commission. When asked about this, Catalano again spoke of "educational and community service" uses but added two more possible uses: retail and service businesses.
What's most puzzling about this project is its purpose. Not only are the uses undefined for the old garage building with its two new stories, but the exact nature of the residential units planned for the old orphanage building is also unclear. With consistency throughout the presentation, Catalano referred to them as "studio apartments," but when describing the interior layout of the building, O'Connell spoke of a "hotel arrangement . . . with business areas and lounges." At one point, toward the end of the presentation, Catalano said that they might "do it as a long-term hotel."
Catalano stressed the fact that two of the ten apartments would be on the ground floor and handicapped accessible, which suggested that the project is seeking some kind of federal funding for which the percentage of handicapped accessible units might be a significant factor. He also pointed out, more than once, that 620 State Street is located in an area zoned General Commercial Transitional (G-C-T), where it seems just about anything goes--except residential transitional service facilities. Those seem to be confined to R-5 districts.
The question of the required size of a dwelling unit arose (the proposed "studio apartments" are only about 350 square feet). Catalano, an attorney, expressed the opinion that the minimum square footage per dwelling unit specified in the Schedule of Bulk and Area Regulations has to do with lot size not apartment size. But, in this case, it doesn't matter anyway. The regulations apparently apply only to residential districts, and the area in question is not a residential district.
Because so many changes had been made to the plan since the application was originally submitted in December, it was decided that Catalano would withdraw the application and submit a revised one. Planning Commission chair, Don Tillson, wanted to schedule a public hearing for February 12, before the commission reviewed the revised application, but commission member Claudia DeStefano objected, saying that the commission needed to "digest" the proposal before receiving public comment. It was decided that Catalano would return "with the updated package" to the Planning Commission's regular monthly meeting on February 12, and a public hearing and a special meeting to vote on approving the site plan would be held "outside the regular schedule" so that Galvan wouldn't have to wait until March for a decision. When asked if the Planning Commission didn't have to know if the proposed building was going to be an apartment building or a hotel in order to review the site plan, Tillson evaded the question by saying that the commission was waiting for the revised application.
Asked to comment about appropriate procedure, Common Council president Don Moore, who was in the audience (as was mayor's aide Gene Shetsky), expressed the opinion that material presented to a board should be made available to the public prior to the meeting. Daniel Tuczinski, who is now legal counsel to the Planning Commission, suggested that it depended on board policy. Some boards, he said, "receive materials right up until the time of the meeting," making it impossible to give the press and the public access to the materials in advance. He pointed out that, once documents and drawings are accepted by a board, they can be FOILed.
Mason's report on the meeting appears today in the Register-Star: "Galvan presents plans for former orphan's asylum." According to Mason, the project will go before the Historic Preservation Commission today, but it is not included on the agenda for the HPC meeting published in the City of Hudson website.
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