Friday, February 14, 2014

News from the Planning Commission

The Historic Preservation Commission has been short a member since August, when Scott Baldinger resigned, and so far, the mayor has not appointed anyone to replace him. By contrast, the mayor let no grass grow under his feet before appointing a new member to the Planning Commission, to replace Gail Grandinetti, whose term ended in December. The newly appointed member of the Planning Commission, Priscilla Moore, was present at Wednesday night's meeting; Planning Commission chair, Don Tillson, was not. Also absent was Galvan attorney Joe Catalano, who it was thought might return to continue his presentation of the plans for the old orphanage at Sixth and State streets and the former car dealership behind it. Apparently the plans are undergoing some tweaking.

What was presented to the commission was a proposal to turn the first floor of 829 Warren Street and the detached garage next to it into retail space. The garage in question is the one with the artful, intriguing, and oft changing installations. The owners of the house and the garage design furniture, and they want to use the garage as a store for themselves and lease the first floor of the house as retail space.

Planning Commission member Cappy Pierro, as is his wont, fretted about parking. Glenn Martin observed that the truck route, which turns off Worth Avenue onto Warren Street just up from the house, made it "double bad." The house and garage are located in the R-5 Residential Transitional Service Facility District, just a few doors up from the Central Commercial District. A use variance will be required to convert the garage and the first floor of the house into retail space.

The property is also located in the Warren Street Historic District, so a certificate of appropriateness is required for the proposed alterations to the facade of house. It was decided that the applicants should go first to the Zoning Board of Appeals to make their case for a use variance.

During the discussion of parking, one of the applicants said, quite matter-of-factly, that the house across the street was to be torn down, and the property used as a parking lot. She was talking about 834 Warren Street, a house which two years ago was being considered as a possible site for a homeless shelter.

The owner of 834 Warren Street, who took the house off the market before the plan to turn it into a homeless shelter could be realized, subsequently donated it to Columbia Memorial Hospital, which has a long history of demolishing houses to create parking. A decade or so ago, a very old house on Columbia Street, which was believed to be where Martin Van Buren once had his law office, and a Arts and Crafts house, also on Columbia Street, with beautifully intact interior woodwork, were both demolished for the sake of parking. Cavell House escaped the same fate only because New York Oncology and Hematology, looking to locate in Hudson, thought it would be a nice to have a cancer treatment facility in a historic house. An advantage 834 Warren Street has over those ill-fated houses is that it is in a locally designated historic district, and demolishing it will require a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission.
See followup post about 834 Warren Street.

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