Friday, February 26, 2016

News from the Legal Committee

There were four items on the agenda 0f the Legal Committee on Wednesday night, two in which merit attention. The first is the lodging tax.

Over the past two years, much time and effort went into the drafting the legislation for a lodging tax--a tax, similar to a sales tax, that would be charged to guests staying in the hotels and B&Bs of Hudson. The Common Council Finance and Legal committees collaborated, reaching out to the proprietors of hotels and B&Bs, as well as people with rooms available through AirBnB, to craft legislation that would benefit both the lodging industry in Hudson and the city as a whole with a new source of revenue. The local law enacting the lodging tax was put on the aldermen's desks, as the expression goes, in August 2015, and it has languished there ever since. 

For the City to impose a new tax requires an act of the state legislature. In September 2015, a resolution "requesting a bill proposal and a formal home rule request for the adoption of a lodging tax" was passed by the Common Council, but apparently that is as far as it went.

The status of the lodging tax has been a topic of discussion at the last two Legal Committee meetings. In order for the enabling legislation to happen, our two representatives in the state legislature--Didi Barrett in the Assembly and Kathy Marchione in the Senate--must introduce bills to be voted on by the two bodies, but in order for them to do that, someone from Hudson government must ask them to do it, but so far, no one has asked. The resolution passed by the Council in September 2015 concludes:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City of Hudson transmit this Resolution to Assembly member, Didi Barrett, and Senator Kathleen A. Marchione, requesting that a Bill be proposed and that a formal Home Rule Request be sought from the City of Hudson under Section 40 of the Municipal Home Rule Law of the State of New York.
Five months have passed, and the resolution has never been transmitted. At Wednesday's meeting, Alderman Michael O'Hara (First Ward), who chairs the Legal Committee, reported that the city clerk had been "advised by counsel" to hold on to it, and she has.

Former Council president Don Moore, who was in the audience for the meeting, explained that the delay was owing to a "policy question of who was going to present this to Barrett and Marchione." He went on to say that a member of Marchione's staff had predicted that the senator would be reluctant to support legislation that levied a new tax; therefore, it would have to be made clear that the tax would not be paid by constituents of her district but by visitors to the district. Months ago, it is also reported that someone in Barrett's office had expressed the same reservations, triggered by the word tax.

Although the discussion at Wednesday's Legal Committee meeting brought some clarity to the situation, the question of who would present the request to Barrett and Marchione went unanswered. O'Hara said he would talk with Council president Claudia DeStefano, suggesting that she may be the one to do it.

The Legal Committee took up another issue related to lodging in Hudson: Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton's request to amend the zoning code to make hotels a conditionally permitted use in areas of the city zoned Residential/Special Commercial (R-S-C). The request was prompted by the proposal by Redburn Development to redevelop 41 Cross Street as a boutique hotel.

City attorney Ken Dow quoted from the city's Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP) to show that allowing the development of hotels in the R-S-C was in keeping with the intent and the spirit of the LWRP. He also told the Legal Committee, "It should not be left to the ZBA to grant use variances," going on to say that a use variance was an "escape valve . . . to save people from having no use of their property." He advised, "If it is the sense of the legislature that [a hotel] is a suitable use, if you think it belongs there, you should put it there [by amending Article 325-13 of the zoning code]."

O'Hara suggested that the committee go ahead with the suggested change, but Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) objected. She wanted to know what parts of the city were zoned Residential/ Special Commercial. A zoning map was produced. When she saw that there were three areas in the city currently designated R-S-C, one of them in the Second Ward, she wanted to prohibit hotels lest hotels be built in preference over affordable housing.

In the end, it was determined that a subset of R-S-C would be created, and a resolution would be proposed to allow hotels in the R-S-C district located in the First Ward (R-S-C 1) but not in the other two (R-S-C 2).

A resolution to amend what is a permitted conditional use in an R-S-C district will come before the Common Council in a special meeting to be held on Monday, March 7, at 6:30 p.m.


  1. Alderman Garriga raises a good question. And I would love to see a broader discussion about "affordable housing," what it is and who pays for it.

  2. There is one big problem with "Affirdable Housing". Housing in today's world is not "affordable" to build. It is least affordable in Husdson, where the land is so expensive assessment wise. It is more affordable in Greenport even

    But affordable housing means subsidized housing that pays no real estate taxes to the City if Hudson. Hudson already has 40 percent of its real estate not on the tax rolls.

    That is why the tax rates in The City of Hudson are higher pro rate than those of Palm Beach.

    Hudson has a huge amount of subsidized housing now.

    It needs more tax payers and more sale taxes to remain healthy. Hotels should be allowed everywhere in Hudson to help the city and the whole area create more jobs for those people who live here.

  3. Why keep the Second Ward out of economic development? Is her goal to keep it a slum?

  4. Well, it is pathetic that the lodging tax matter has been left in irons all these months (I mean how hard is it to explain that local voters will not be paying it?), and as the hotel, that leaves the issue of it having parking that is permanent, as opposed to potentially being ephemeral, and some other issues (like how to protect parking for residents on Cross Street, rather than it being grabbed by hotel guests). As to a hotel in the second ward, I really don't see where that could potentially go, other than where that abandoned brick factory building sits to the north of Hudson Terrace, which would be most problematical. So that issue is as a practical matter, essentially moot in any event. It will never happen.

    1. Last week, the Cross Street developers sponsors hosted a forum at which parking was discussed in great detail.

      Area residents voiced their concerns, in response to which the developers demonstrated they'd put a lot of thought into a variety of potential solutions.

  5. And oh, to characterize the Second Ward as a "slum" is a most unfortunate, and inaccurate, description in my view of the ward in which I feel privileged to live. I know I am prejudiced, but the block on which I live is my favorite in all of Hudson. But I guess old stereotypes hang on, long past when they should. And one other thing: simply by virtue of those with less income living someplace, does not automatically make a place a slum. To conflate the too is also most unfortunate - and wrong. Just my opinion.

    In short, don't mess with the Second Ward! We rock. :)

  6. Does anyone know anything about the "Hudson City Housing Fund"? This is the non-governmental entity which pays taxes on - and presumably manages - the 7.6-acre Crosswinds property.

    The Hudson City Housing Fund's chosen method of stormwater control is a total failure, which may be the reason the Fund appears not to have followed up on its stormwater-related post-construction obligations under NYS Environmental Law.

    In the mere eight years of its existence, the resulting erosion and sedimentation into Underhill Pond is serious by anyone's standards, but who will take notice?

    Let's ask City government to show some concern, so that the Housing Fund's post-construction obligations under State law are met and conducted properly.

    But expect push-back from City government if and when it turns out that the already separated sewers on Harry Howard Avenue contribute to the overwhelming of Crosswinds' small and failed infrastructure.

    Of course we always hope that honesty will prevail in local government, but if residents don't raise these questions, who will?

    1. I don't know anything about the entity that pays the taxes, but Crosswinds is the creation of what's now being called 3D Development Group. Bruce Levine, who was very visible in Hudson when the project was being built, is the president and founder. The storm water management system they proposed was reviewed and approved at the time by the Planning Commission. I'm not sure what recourse the City has if the system the Planning Commission approved is not working, but it would be nice to know if what they proposed is in fact what we got.

    2. Thanks for the additional info, which is all new to me.

      In general, the State's stormwater policy requires a post-construction review to see if what was proposed is in fact what we got, as you put it.

      Behind Crosswinds is an environmental disaster in the making, which cannot be what anyone proposed.

      Anyone wish to place a bet as to whether or not the City's Lead Agency deemed the project exempt from SEQRA?

      The system's only broken when citizens are too self-absorbed to participate, which means that the system is nearly always broken.

  7. Yes Steve, I agree 100%. The problem I believe with neighborhoods where low income people have historically been housed, is the programs to assist the people have been designed to keep them where they are and subservient to landlords. A mortgage on a property may be $600 a month, while that same property might generate $1800 in monthly rents, paid by the State, with all the taxpayer dollars transferred to the accounts of the landlord. This has changed a little, with some programs like habit, but for the most part the poor are seen as deserving and unworthy of the benefits of private property ownership. The concept of a "slum" in itself is one of the things that allows this inequity and cruelty to continue. The word denigrates the poor, yet the conditions were created and maintained by those pointing the finger.

  8. Sometimes a "neighborhood" just wants to be housing.