Wednesday, January 13, 2016

News from the Planning Board

The Planning Board now has a full complement of seven members. There had been four anticipated vacancies: two members--Claudia DeStefano and Priscilla Moore--had to resign because they were taking other city offices; the terms of two other members--Carmine Pierro and Laura Margolis--expired on December 31, 2015. Former mayor William Hallenbeck, before his own term expired on the same day, reappointed Pierro and appointed his aide, Gene Shetsky, to the board. Current mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton reappointed Margolis and appointed one of her campaign managers, Rob Bujan, to the board. The Planning Board is now chaired by Tom DePietro, appointed to the position by Hamilton.

At the beginning of the meeting, DePietro introduced Jonathan Lerner, chair of the Conservation Advisory Council, explaining that the CAC was embarking on a project "relevant to what the Planning Board does." Lerner then spoke briefly about the open space inventory the CAC is undertaking, which will "document and analyze all unbuilt spaces in Hudson" and will culminate in a Conservation Plan for the city. He told the Planning Board that, when new construction is proposed for vacant spaces, the CAC can now advise them about storm water issues and issues related to the flood zone and endangered species for they will soon have "a lot of data in separate pieces."

The first of three projects to come before the Planning Board last night was Academy Hill, a.k.a. Mt. Ray Estates. For those who rue the encroachment of the condominium development on our historic cemetery, the encroachment may become a tad worse.

The developer is seeking an area variance and an amendment to the original site plan to make one unit in a three-unit cluster a little bigger than originally planned, increasing lot coverage from 30 percent (the maximum allowed by the code) to 35 percent and decreasing the setback from the edge of the cemetery from 19.5 feet to 9.24 feet.

Mitch Khosrova, counsel to the Planning Board, reminded the members that the Planning Board does not have the authority to grant variances. The request was referred to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The next project to be considered by the Planning Board was the proposal to locate a wholesale bakery in the little building at 78 Green Street--once a house and most recently the location of Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

Craig Haigh, code enforcement officer, informed the board that a wholesale bakery was a conditional use in the zone, requiring only the approval of the Planning Board. After reviewing the applicant's responses on the State Environmental Quality Review form and responding to the items in Part 2 of the form, the Planning Board made a negative declaration and, without bothering with a public hearing, approved the project.

Finally, Kristal Heinz, the attorney representing Redburn Development, and John Blackburn, one of the principals, appeared before the Planning Board seeking a referral to the ZBA for a use variance. Redburn Development wants to convert 41 Cross Street into a hotel. Although "boarding or rooming house" is a conditional use in that part of the city, it was determined that a hotel and a boarding house are not the same, and a variance was needed.

The final minutes of the meeting were devoted to deciding on a regular meeting time for the Planning Board. In the past, its usual meeting time has been the second Wednesday of the month, preceding by one week the regular meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals, but Khosrova, counsel to the Planning Board, must be in court on the second Wednesday of the month. Other meetings regularly scheduled to take place at City Hall and the desire to have the Planning Board meet before the ZBA left only one possibility: the second Tuesday of the month. DePietro was trying to avoid that day, because it is when the Hudson City Democratic Committee, of which Bujan is a member, meets. Planning Board member Glenn Martin questioned if a Democratic committee meeting was a "legitimate reason" for the Planning Board to adjust its plans and suggested that Bujan should ask the HCDC to change its meeting time. Bujan agreed to ask, and the second Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. was declared the regular meeting time of the Planning Board going forward.

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