Saturday, May 17, 2014

News from the Planning Board Meeting

The first topic of discussion at the Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday night was the Common Council's proposed amendments to the Bulk and Area Regulations. Chief among those amendments is the reduction in what is believed to be the minimum size of an apartment in a multi-family dwelling in the R-4 district from 1,500 square feet to 500 square feet. It will be remembered that the whole 1,500 square feet fiasco started with the Planning Board, then still the Planning Commission, back in August 2013. Now the Planning Board was being called upon to offer an opinion.

Daniel Tucsinski, who is now counsel to the Planning Board, noted that the proposed changes pertain only to R-4 districts and expressed that opinion that the changes should be done globally. He suggested that the Planning Board advise the Common Council that the Zoning Board of Appeals needs to make an interpretation. A couple of projects involving apartments smaller than 1,500 square feet are expected to come before the ZPA on Wednesday, May 21.

The first project to be considered by the Planning Board on Wednesday night was 202-204 Warren Street. Last month, Joe Catalano, attorney for the Galvan Initiatives Foundation, presented a plan that involved dividing the first floor apartments in the two buildings into commercial space in the front and living space in the back. It was determined that the plan would have to go before the ZBA because the proposed apartments would not be 1,500 square feet. (The original full floor apartments in the building aren't 1,500 square feet either, but they can be grandfathered in.)

On Wednesday, Catalano was back with a new plan. Now, "to avoid the apartment size issue," which would send the project to the ZBA for an area variance, the entire first floor in each building is to be retail or gallery space. Catalano explained that there was some urgency is getting the conversion from residential to commercial use approved because "the client [Galvan Initiatives Foundation] has a funding application in the pipeline and needs a zoning judgment" by the end of the month. 

Back in March, Gossips reported the rumor that Galvan was planning to rehab 202-204 Warren Street as some kind of low-income housing. Catalano's mention of a "funding application" gives some credibility to that rumor. 

The plans for the building have yet to come before the Historic Preservation Commission, but they will have to soon. Catalano indicated that the windows are to be changed, and a man introduced as Phil Higby, the architect for the project, spoke of restoring the "covering" over the doorways. The picture below, from Lynn Davis's Warren Street Project, shows the porticoes that were on the building from the time it was built at the turn of the century until Eric Galloway bought it and removed the porticoes about ten years ago.

Copyright 1995 Lynn Davis
Another proposal of interest that came before the Planning Board on Wednesday, presented by local architect Lew Kremer on behalf of the building's owner, was a plan to create what he called "sleeping quarters for migrant workers" in the basement of 21 Fairview Avenue.

The building is currently a two family house, and the plan is to turn the basement into a third dwelling unit for three people who would live there full time. Although he called them "migrant workers," Kremer explained, "These workers get work year round."

Don Tillson, who chairs the Planning Board, puzzled about why Craig Haigh, the code enforcement officer, had referred the project to the Planning Board, because, as he put it, "it's all residential." The house is in the R-2 district, and Chapter 325-8 of the city code may provide the answer. Item B (2) defines what it seems is being proposed--"The renting of more than two but not more than four rooms in a structure containing a one- or two-family dwelling"--as a conditional use, and a conditional use is subject to the review and approval of the Planning Board. No action was taken on the application, and Tucsinski said he would speak with Haigh about the reason the project had been referred to the Planning Board.

A third project of interest involves this house at 46 North Fifth Street.

The house, located in the R-2 district, is currently a two-family house. The applicant, who is in contract to buy the house with the condition that he can get Planning Board approval, wants to turn the ground floor into an art gallery, which is a conditional use in R-1 districts and hence also in R-2. It was determined that a public hearing was required before the Planning Board could act on approving the conditional use. That hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, June 11, at 6:30 p.m.


  1. "The renting of more than two but not more than four rooms in a structure containing a one- or two-family dwelling"--as a conditional use,"

    I interpret that language as involving renting out rooms within one unit, not the adding of more rooms pursuant to adding a unit. I have said it before publically, and I will say it again, the Zoning Code is so Byzantine, and sometimes contradictory, that it is next to impossible for mere mortals to understand, and one of the primary areas of confusion, is where the jurisdiction of the Planning Commission and ZBA starts and stops, or in some cases, overlaps. I have these issues in my own case, and have had discussions about it with the relevant players. With some luck, drive, determination, and a lot of hard work, hopefully Hudson will have a brand new and comprehensible Zoning Code in a few months that makes sense given what is one the ground, and ceases to require that each and every project regarding footprint changes, needs a variance of use permit of some kind, with confusion about just who has jurisdiction, when.

  2. "migrant workers"?.....will the next application be for "slaves quarters"? and those poor folks at galvidge group always having to beg. the VFW was outside my window yesterday doing a "bucket drop" in the street, today it's the Boy Scouts hitting up the motorists, they should get an application for a day on the corner. galvidge can't function without taxpayer money, nor ginsberg, the smaller moms and pops must really be suffering.