Predictably, parking was a big issue. Crawford & Associates had provided a parking study which concluded that "the on street parking far exceeds the needs of the project and should be considered adequate to waive any onsite parking requirements." The Planning Commission was satisfied with the findings of the study and willing to accept its recommendation. Members of the public, however, were not.
Linda Mussmann recalled that when she and Claudia Bruce located Time & Space Limited in Hudson, back in 1991, they were required to provide their own offstreet parking for the performance space. She complained that the parking requirements specified in the city code are now being relaxed for others. She characterized the future parking situation around the former Armory as "dumping a lot of new cars in a neighborhood that already has a lot of cars and traffic."
Selha Graham-Cora, who runs the Sip 'n' Sudz laundromat at 453 State Street, also had concerns about parking. She intimated that her experience of parking in the area was different from what was reported in the traffic study. She also questioned the basis of the information about the number of patrons who walk and drive provided in the parking study by the Hudson Area Library. "I go to the library all the time," said Graham-Cora, "sometimes on foot, sometimes on a bicycle, sometimes by car. I've never been asked how I got there."
Another issue of great concern was what Galvan attorney Joe Catalano called the "medical wing." Exactly what this is intended to be had never previously been revealed to the public. At the hearing, Mussmann was the first to mention it, saying that she had served for two years on a health committee that looked at ways to provide primary and preventive care for people not adequately served by Columbia Memorial Hospital. Mussmann spoke of the proposed facility as a "walk-in clinic that should work not only in the daytime but at night."
Claire Parde, executive director of the Healthcare Consortium, took up the task of describing what was planned. She spoke of a feasibility study to address "unmet community health needs," which looked at public use data and surveyed a thousand people. What was proposed, she said, was a federally qualified health center. Although she indicated that the feasibility study had identified its ideal location as "below Seventh Street, to serve the concentration of under-served," she said the health center would serve not only Hudson but all of Columbia County and parts of Greene County.
Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) objected to the location, saying it was less than a mile from the hospital, and expressed the opinion that locating a clinic in this neighborhood was bad public policy. He suggested that Galvan's motive for leasing to a healthcare provider was to get tax credits. "Where is your lawyer?" Friedman asked the commission, referring to city attorney Cheryl Roberts. "This is not a proper use for this part of the city. You are not qualified to decide this. This man [Catalano] is lobbying you. The city does not need it. You [gesturing toward Catalano] need it."
When Friedman alleged that a medical facility was not a permitted use in this part of the city, which is zoned R2H, Tillson asserted that what was proposed in the application were simply "professional offices"--a permitted conditional use. This prompted Mussmann to insist that the facility would be a place where health services will be delivered, not just an office. "Something is wrong with the application," she declared. "You are not being told the truth about what is going to happen in that space."
The whole contentious conversation might have been avoided if someone in the room had been familiar enough with the zoning regulations to be able to clarify that a walk-in clinic is a permitted conditional use in an R1 zone and hence in any residential district in Hudson. Paragraph 325-7 B of the city code states the following:
The following conditional uses are permitted, subject to the approval of the Planning Commission in accordance with Article VIII hereof. These uses are subject to the regulations specified below and elsewhere in this chapter:
(1) Hospitals, sanitariums, philanthropic or eleemosynary institutions and convalescent or nursing homes or homes for the aged, provided that with respect to such uses:
(a) Such hospital, institution or home does not primarily care for patients suffering from alcoholism and is not a transitional service facility.
(b) No building intended for such use shall be erected nearer than 50 feet to any street or property line, nor shall any lot on which such building is erected have an area of less than five acres.
(c) No building shall exceed a height of 45 feet.Based on this, it seems the proposed medical wing should have gone to the Zoning Board of Appeals for an area variance, but I can't recall that it did. Perhaps it was exempted because the new wing is being built on the footprint of the old garage that's being demolished to make way for it. Still, that would only have relevance for the setback requirement not the lot size requirement.
Tillson more than once identified the proposed lessee for the medical wing named in the application as "River Health Care Incorporated." Padre mentioned Hudson River Health Care and made reference to a "robust provider network." Hudson River Health Care, or HRHCare, is a not-for-profit healthcare provider, founded in 1975 in Peekskill. It started with an ambulatory clinic in an abandoned department store on the main street of Peekskill that provided services to a community whose only other option was a county hospital 19 miles away in Valhalla. It now has nineteen clinics in the Hudson Valley--primarily in Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties--and on Long Island, the closest one being in Pine Plains.
After the public hearing, which went on for more than an hour, the Planning Commission convened its regular meeting. After some discussion about requiring the project to return to the Planning Commission every two years to reassess parking (it was decided it was meaningless to impose such a condition if there was no intention to rescind site plan approval), Claudia DeStefano, Gail Grandinetti, Glenn Martin, Cappy Pierro, and Tillson voted unanimously to grant site plan approval. Cleveland Samuels and Laura Margolis recused themselves--Samuels because he works for Galvan; Margolis presumably because her theater company, StageWorks, received a $5,000 grant from the Galvan Foundation in 2012.
COPYRIGHT 2013 CAROLE OSTERINK
Photos of parking around the Armory were taken shortly after 9 a.m. on Thursday, October 10