Tuesday, September 5, 2017

An Interesting Development

Ask anyone what the most pressing issues before the City are at the moment, and chances are that one of the things mentioned will be the proposed Colarusso haul road and truck traffic to and from the dock on the waterfront.

The repairs to the dock, undertaken without a required site plan review, and the proposed alterations to the haul road through South Bay are still before the Planning Board. On August 25, the City filed an Article 78 "to annul, vacate, and set aside the July 25, 2017, approval by respondent Town of Greenport Planning Board of a 'Negative Declaration' under the State Environmental Quality Review Act" on the Colarusso haul road proposal. There is a lot happening with regard to the Colarusso proposal, and at the center of much of it, by virtue of being the chair of the Planning Board, is Tom DePietro, one of the two candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for Common Council president in next week's primary. Today, the other candidate seeking to be the Democrats' choice for Common Council president, Steve Dunn interjected himself into the situation by sending a letter to Paul Colarusso, president of A. Colarusso & Sons.

During the candidates' debate last week, Dunn posited, "Half of life in just showing up," and went on to say, "Everyone should do what they can without regard for role or title." That's exactly what Dunn seems to have done. In a four-page letter, which he copied to the mayor, the city attorney, the executive editor and a reporter at the Register-Star, and Gossips, Dunn urges Colarusso (the company) to "change its tactics and reach out to the City of Hudson and negotiate with it in good faith to find a mutually acceptable resolution to its haul road proposal and avoid forcing Hudson to take action to permanently shut down over time the industrial activity at its port facility." The letter begins:
Your present course of action with respect to your company's pursuit of its haul road proposal is unwise, and ultimately self-defeating. I am writing this letter to try to persuade you to change course, and negotiate with Hudson in a cooperative manner to work towards a solution that both sides would find acceptable.
Your present tactics make no sense to me. If your goal . . . is solely to enhance the safety of Hudson's residents by reducing the use of Colarusso's haul trucks on Hudson's streets, and has no pecuniary motive, either to reduce Colarusso's operating costs, expand the volume of its operations or otherwise, then Colarusso's actions to date are inexplicable.
If, in fact, Colarusso's objective is to reduce its operating costs and enhance volume, with a view to selling out to a third party at a handsome profit, or otherwise, then in the end Colarusso's realization of such and objective is doomed to failure, and will ultimately result in the termination of all industrial activity on its dock parcel, for the reasons stated below. Thus, whatever Colarusso's real goals, they cannot be realized using Colarusso's present tactics.
The reasons Dunn references take the form of "three obstacles" to ongoing dock operation, which are explained later in the letter. Again quoting from the letter:
  • The haul road on Colarusso's property as it approaches Front Street crosses in the C-R zoning district, and cannot be widened absent a change of zoning, which will not happen. . . .
  • The 4.38 acre legal parcel south of the dock legal parcel is likely still owned by the City of Hudson. . . . As a consequence, the City of Hudson and its licensees and invitees would have ingress and egress easement rights to the 4.38 acre parcel on a road that crosses through the dock parcel, interfering with the industrial operations on the dock facility. . . .
  • Finally, the City of Hudson has the right at any time to adopt an amendment to its zoning code, "amortizing" out of existence the industrial use of the dock facility, the length of which amortization period is based on a formula involving the dock facility land owner recovering its investment cost for the acquisition of such facility, less its value when used for non industrial purposes, and no more. . . .
Dunn goes on to suggest that, "rather than expend its funds on a host of lawyers and consultants," Colarusso should "redirect them to a solution that does not involve its trucks traversing through the Hudson waterfront front." The two possibilities he suggests are a conveyor over the railroad tracks and reviving the idea of hauling gravel through Hudson on rail cars.

During the debate last week, when asked how he would approach the job of Council president, Dunn spoke of using "the skills I've developed as an attorney to help fashion compromise that works for both sides," adding, "That's what attorneys do." Dunn, whose only official role in city government now is as a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, seems to be using those skills on behalf of the City even before he is officially a candidate for Council president, but he did say he thought "everyone should do what they can without regard for role or title."


  1. A 4 PAGE WANKOLOGY PLEA. NO COMPREMISE . NO ROAD.. NO, is a full sentence.

  2. Stinky, smelly leadership. This is reckless freelance policy making and not a good look for a member of the ZBA, let alone a candidate for Common Council President.

    Steve made some useful points in his letter, and is mostly correct on the zoning, but that is unfortunate given he is so deeply wrong on the issue of amortization. He flushed all of his good work down the toilet with that. It is erroneous and reckless to suggest that the City can punish Colarusso through amortization. This is beyond asinine. Pursuing targeted zoning changes (amortization) is tantamount to spot zoning in this case. It is ridiculous to say that in the midst of review, we should propose to amend local law to punish the applicant. It will most certainly invite a lawsuit in which we would lose. This is not sound policy. We have to accept the fact that Colarusso has a limited non conforming right of use at the dock and over the causeway/road. Those uses can't physically expand in size, move -read: be rebuilt in a new location- or drastically change. We must uphold local law, not cast about for losing ideas. The rational and strong hand for the City is to hold the line on a single lane road, with use in two directions. That is fully supported by the 2011 zoning. The physical size of the single lane acts as the control, it caps expansion of volume. Colarusso clearly knows this, hence their multiple ploys to get us to change our laws. Steve makes this all so needlessly complicated and inserts solutions that are dead ends. Attorneys often make things needless complicated.

    I'm afraid this letter is essentially a disqualifying mark on Steve's candidacy.

    1. I find the rebelliousness against the drone of the status quo refreshing "Crito" ... whomever you are.

    2. It's not so much rebelliousness as it is improper injection of oneself into a process by a member of a City panel with potential jurisdiction over the issue. And it is, as reported, in the nature of a carrot or stick approach. While this is generally ok, in the context it reads as a threat -- and that's both counterproductive and possibly hollow as Mr. Dunn is only one of a number of votes on the ZBA. It also displays a certain disrespect for the process (which isn't the worst thing in the world) and of the ZBA Chair. Not to mention the Chair of the Planning Board (none other than Mr. Dunn's opponent in next week's primary which makes this entire letter seem a political ploy). That said, the conveyor belt idea has been kicked around for many years and, with newer technology to dampen both noise and dust, may be a good compromise.

    3. Agreed (amazing!), although I believe Vincent was complimenting the "rebelliousness" of Crito rather than Mr. Dunn.

  3. Below is a link to Suffolk Asphalt Supply, Inc. v. Board of Trustees of the Village of Westhampton Beach, the case that I cited in the letter regarding a municipality’s right to amortize out a non-conforming use. Putting aside the legalities of the matter, as I stated in the letter, what I hope happens, is that the parties come together to try to work up a mutually agreement resolution. In the end however, I don’t see how Hudson can tolerate Colarusso’s trucks driving through the waterfront zone to get to its dock. That is an incompatible use, particularly as the waterfront area is redeveloped.


  4. While I agree that sometimes the best thing is to reach out regardless of title, you showed your cards in this hand and I disagree. Your true intentions were shown and it's exactly what i thought. The bottom line is you want Colarusso's completely out of the Waterfront. It will never happen btw. I hope Colarusso fights back and he will win in the end.

  5. The purpose of the letter, at least as I read it, is to bring Colarusso to the table to work out an agreement. To that end, it seems to make sense to lay out what the worst consequences could be if the city is ignored. Otherwise, what's to stop C. from saying "i'm not negotiating, what's the worst the city can do?"

  6. Steve, you've risked a lot here, maybe everything.

    On a first impression, you've advanced this letter in order to display your negotiating style at the expense of a political opponent whom you know cannot respond. The motivation to do so, particularly at this delicate time, is obviously about your own career.

    As for your ideas, I don't appreciate someone who was not present during the 2011 zoning amendments mucking up the scene with hints of compromise.

    See Crito, above, on the alternative worked out by the City and the former landowner in 2011, which was know to all as The Compromise. Who are you to show up in 2017 bearing flimsy ultimatums (see Herb above) in order to extend unilateral compromises (see Man Bites Dog, above).

    This looks like badly-timed "leadership" driven by ambition (see Vincent, above), and announced at the expense of people working on a different compromise years before you arrived in town. Who are you to redefine the terms of the compromise which preceded you?

    Because of your letter, I have a renewed appreciation for what your political opponent, Tom DePietro, said about the Common Council President weighing in on every vote. In contrast to your approach, Mr. DePietro doesn't suppose that voting by the Council President is always, necessarily, recommended. In the example you set out, we have a good lesson why caution is sometimes best.

    By contrast, your opponent looks to approach the task of public service in the traditional American spirit of a team-working amateur (which we like); while you have presented yourself as the self-appointed technician, knowledgeable unto himself, and willing to practice this self-alleged expertise unilaterally (which we do not like!).

    If this is how you do it, then your opponent has the right approach. I don't want our Common Council President weighing in, expert-like, on every issue. Why would we want to risk the style of past City officials, whose blundering autocracy is still so painful in our collective memory?

    I hope you'll forgive me on a personal level, but your own blundering gesture gets you a thumbs-down. I can't imagine anyone who'd invite it other than the landowner.

    Message to all politicos: ACHIEVE THE COMPROMISE OF 2011 (see Crito, above).

    It's so near at hand, only a fool could mess it up.

  7. I would have written this letter, irrespective of whether or not I were a candidate, given that large sums of money are about to be expended on both sides litigating this matter.

    Regarding the matter of my membership on the ZBA, the ZBA has no role with respect to amending the Zoning Code, be it to provide for amortization or otherwise. That would be the responsibility of the Common Council (with the advice of the Planning Board). Nor do I envision the ZBA having a role in the Colarusso matter going forward. Its only potential role would be to consider a use variance, but it would have no power to grant a use variance even if it wanted to in Colarusso’s case, because it would be self created (Colarusso bought the property subject to its current zoning, and use variances are only available if a zoning change occurs after an owner bought a property, or the applicant is under contract to buy a property, but has not yet obtained title).

    The 2011 zoning code amendment characterized the industrial use of the dock as a non-conforming use, which means that Hudson looked forward to the termination of such use over time. Such a termination can be given an end date with amortization, if the alternative is to endure trucks driving through the waterfront to and from the dock indefinitely. In the spirit of transparency, I think it is appropriate to disclose this information to the residents of Hudson, and to suggest that the parties get together and negotiate in an attempt to see what can be accomplished if money were expended on something other than adversarial proceedings. In any such negotiation, I trust Hudson’s officials to do the right thing here, and protect Hudson’s interests.

    1. No one disputes the history of the 2011 zoning changes embodied in the LWRP, nor the existence of amortization (though I think it as likely to lead to litigation as any taking). I believe your would-be constituents' issue is with your continued telegraphing of your personal observations and determinations on the balance of both the ZBA and the PB particularly as you are a member of the former, and it has a chair (and you are not that person). The eventuality should it arise may indeed prove you correct. But in the meantime, as has been noted, it reads very much like a technocrat's directive. And the timing is, well, timely as to next week's primary.

    2. If Hudson's officials had done the right thing six years ago, the City’s interests would not be as vulnerable as they are today. For example, the City has yet to determine its 2011 amended zoning boundaries, never mind the unresolved common boundary with the Town of Greenport in South Bay.

      Really, we shouldn't even be having this conversation if City officials at the time had been a little less autocratic. How quickly we forget the hazards of the technocratic approach that got us here.

  8. The point is not so much that no one disputes amortization, but rather that probably few know about amortization, including quite possibly Colarusso, in addition to perhaps it being unaware of the other two potential impediments to the dock operations mentioned in the letter. Thus perhaps Colarusso with this knowledge might become more flexible, and reach out to Hudson before we continue down the litigation road. That is why the letter was written – to get all the facts on the table now rather than later, and I accept the consequences, whatever they may be.

    1. Amortization was discussed and rejected by the City in 2010 and 2011. It's likely the former landowner had instructed the City's hired planners that amortization was a no-go; and so it was.

      (Recall that last year the Colarusso engineer, who was the former landowner's engineer, easily obtained an opinion from these same planners regarding the dimensions of "the causeway." I'm sure they were pleased to oblige their old friend, especially as everyone knows, even now, that the City is incapable of locating its zoning boundaries.)

      I continued to argue for amortization on my own, right up to when the zoning was amended. I argued that it could be achieved on a generous 30-, 40- or 50-year basis, though litigation probably could not be avoided.

      But I'd inserted myself, and not anachronistically, into the rarified realm of the hired and appointed technocrats. I didn't merit a reply, and so never got one. At a time when the public was meant to function as window dressing only, inquiring into the details was a transgression.

      This is what people are rejecting today as being too "technocratic," not that six, seven, and eight years ago the experience was any less anathema. Far from it!

      Today, after not too many years, the litigation train has finally left the station, just as we predicted. It was foreseen as an inevitability as early as 2011, and by residents who had no special training.

      Within this history you seem to be coming out of nowhere, out of left field. The unilateral manner and timing in which you've presented your select and eccentric "facts" towards some unknown compromise would be just as offensive if you were not running for office. For one thing, you left so much out!, and without asking the people who preceded you. You just did your own thing, as if everyone else was too stupid or ill-trained to understand.

      I had a fairly open mind about you as a candidate until now (though I get disgusted hearing you and others dodge intelligent questions by saying the situation is "complicated," or that common people lack the special training needed to understand; bosh!!).

      To be frank, I think your candidacy is finished with this stunt. You've given your neighbors too much to resent.

  9. I have a very clear recollection of the moment in 2011 when the Common Council passed the LWRP with the enclosed waterfront zoning. 300 people were in attendance, every one of them opposed to the continued presence of the cement / gravel industry on our waterfront. We were absolutely certain that if the door remained open, we would be facing another lengthy, expensive, miserable review process at some point in the future. It has come to pass...

    1. The greatest "open door" was the nonexistent Zoning Map, which the Council approved 16 months before it was created!

      When the Zoning Map was finally issued in 2013, there was no way to discern the width of the C-R District in South Bay, even though we were told in 2011 that the map would explain all.

      Going forward, what we need now is a zoning determination by the City's Zoning Enforcement Officer, certainly before anyone supposes they can offer an intelligent comment on the proposal.

      A zoning determination will finally close the great barn door deliberately left open in 2011.

  10. At least on the sunny side of Warren, the city asks for citizen input befor ignoring it completely.