Thursday, October 19, 2017

More Attention to Accessory Buildings

At the last Common Council meeting, Council president Claudia DeStefano announced that the Columbia County Planning Board had determined that proposed Local Law No. 4 "has no significant county-wide or intercommunity impacts associated with it." This proposed law would, among other things, eliminate the requirement for offstreet parking for "dwelling units that are located in a cellar, basement, or a building that is in the rear yard behind another separate building on the parcel containing one or more dwelling units," provided that such dwelling units are not used as short-term rentals. The purpose of the proposed legislation is to encourage the development of affordable rental apartments, on the assumption that an apartment in a cellar, basement, or accessory building would not command a high rent. A possible unintended consequence of the legislation is the loss of the historic accessory buildings that line the alleys of Hudson and Partition Street. A public hearing on the proposed law will take place on Monday, November 13, at 6:30, at City Hall--just prior to the informal Common Council meeting.

Even without this new law in place, Hudson is experiencing an increase in the number of proposals to repurpose accessory buildings--buildings that were built to be carriage houses or garages--into spaces for human use. Repurpose is not really the appropriate term, since these projects, because of code requirements, invariably involve demolishing an existing structure and building something new in its place. In the past year, this has happened in the 300 block of Partition Street, behind 317 Union Street, and is soon to happen in the 400 block of Partition Street, behind 439 Union Street. To be fair, the proposed law would have had no effect on either of these projects, since the plans for both new structures include a one-car garage.

There are now two new proposals before the regulatory boards to demolish existing accessory buildings and replace them with new structures to be used for human habitation. The first involves an accessory building on Cherry Alley behind 405 Warren Street.

The proposal is to demolish the existing building, described as a two-car garage, with a new building that would be a two-car garage with an office above it. The project came before the Historic Preservation Commission last Friday. Kate Johns, architect member of the HPC, acknowledged that the design for the new building had "the character of a carriage house" but expressed concern that the new building would be taller than the existing structure. After some discussion, during which the application for the project was deemed complete, it was decided that, before rendering a decision, the HPC would hold a public hearing. That hearing will take place on Friday, October 27, at 10 a.m., at City Hall.

The second project requiring the demolition of a historic accessory building involves this building on South First Street, on Cherry Alley and behind 30 Union Street.

The proposal is to demolish the existing building and replace it with a new structure, built on the same footprint, which will be a residence. The new building is meant to replicate the existing structure.

The proposal came before the Historic Preservation Commission last Friday, and the HPC deemed the application incomplete for a number of reasons. Because building a new structure on the footprint of the existing structure requires all manner of area variances, the proposal came before the Zoning Board of Appeals last night--Wednesday, October 18. It was at that meeting Gossips managed to snap a (bad) picture of the elevation drawings for the proposed new structure.

The members of the ZBA deemed the application before them complete and scheduled a public hearing on the project for Wednesday, November 15, at 6 p.m.


  1. Hudson is losing her personality that attracted us here in the first place.

  2. Can I demolish my building to replace it with something more up to date as long as it looks something like what it once was ?

  3. The alleys are my favorite part of Hudson--quirky, messy, peaceful, full of "character and unconventional beauty" (to quote from a previous Gossips post). The alley's accessory buildings are as much a part of Hudson's historic identity as the "face" that Hudson shows, its street-side facades. By sanitizing the alleys, we are losing an irreplaceable part of Hudson's identity.

    1. That should read, "The alleys' accessory buildings." Chalk it up to lack of caffeine.

  4. 405 Cherry Alley was the single alley building in the January Alley exhibit at the Opera House that all three photographers were particularly enchanted with. I will be very sad to see it go. ....