Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Wisdom of HCDPA

Sheena Salvino and the HCDPA board thought they were exercising the wisdom of Solomon when they decided the split the lot at Columbia and Second streets between HUG and Habitat for Humanity, but, apparently forgetting that Solomon didn't cut the baby in two, they made a decision that serves no one very well--least of all the cause of affordable housing in Hudson.

At Monday night's informal Common Council meeting, Alderman David Marston (First Ward) initiated a conversation to get on the record the comments of elected officials about, as he put it, "something as delicate as bulldozing a community garden for the sake of affordable housing." John Mason reports on that conversation in today's Register-Star: "Council, residents critique Habitat deal."

Mason does a competent job of recounting all the comments made by elected officials and city residents, but the message to be taken from the discussion seems to be that the Habitat for Humanity model of building single-family houses is inadequate to address the housing needs in Hudson and is a very uneconomical use of the limited land available.

Back in 2008, the PARC Foundation proposed an extensive redevelopment plan for the Second and Fourth wards. The plan, designed by California architect Teddy Cruz, was inspired by the shantytowns of Tijuana. It gave nightmares to many Hudsonians who hold the city's historic architecture in high regard, but it made extremely economical use of the city's limited open space, proposing a mix of affordable and market rate housing which included some units designed specifically for students and others for senior citizens. The plan involved constructing a multi-unit dwelling on the site of the community garden, but plots dedicated to urban agriculture were incorporated into the design in several locations.

A recurring theme in the conversation on Monday night was the need to take a holistic approach to addressing the issue of affordable housing and to revisit both the 1985 Urban Development Plan and the 2003 Comprehensive Plan. Something else that needs to be revisited, if it is at all possible to do it at this point, is the PARC Foundation plan, a small portion of which is now being carried out in the city. 


  1. Even before the HCDPA topic, there was the public hearing on amending the city charter to create a Planning Board.

    Just about the entire discussion focused on a residency requirement for the new Planning Board, and what it means to actually live somewhere.

    The city attorney was satisfied that a residency requirement is implicit in the draft law. For this non-resident attorney, it is sufficient that "residency" is determined by where you vote. But that means that if you live in France for 335 days of the year and you vote in Hudson by absentee ballot, then legally you're a Hudson "resident."

    This is precisely why mere "residency" status is not good enough for our Planning Board membership.

    There's a more sensible way to approach this which our non-resident attorney did not offer. The city already has a department for which the place someone actually lives is a qualifying condition for membership: under "Qualifications for Holding Office," the city code for the HPD refers to employee's "domiciles."

    The same city attorney explained to all present that officers are required to live near enough to be able to respond to emergencies, which is why the word "domicile" was required instead of "residence."

    But if this tells us that mere "residency" status is insufficient for real-world application, why is it okay for members of a Planning Board to live outside the state, or even the country?

    In what amounted to her own public comment at the hearing, the attorney's implication was that a Planning Board's decisions are not real enough to warrant its members actually living here.

    So if you live in Hudson and you think you might be effected by the real-world decisions of a "Planning Board," you might consider whether members of this board should be "domiciled" in Hudson or merely "resident."

  2. I didn't live in Hudson in 2008, and it seems neither did the members of the HCDPA. What else can explain their amnesia with regards to the PARC plan. The more I learn about these lots, the more inexplicable the HCDPA's decision becomes.