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In January 2018, with a new year and an almost entirely new Council, Marshall was back, this time with a request that the City create a Green Street Overlay District. The proposed overlay district would allow commercial development, as a conditional use, on the left side of Green Street from the Rosery to the current Stewart's and on the left side of Fairview Avenue from the Stewart's location to the former car dealership where ProPrinters is now located, and, of course, it would include the Stewart's site.
When the application was received, Council president Tom DePietro handed it off to the Economic Development Committee. At its meeting in January, the committee decided to give itself a month to study the proposal. At the February Economic Development Committee meeting, Marshall was there to pitch his plan and answer questions, and so were members of the public, who had nothing to say in support of the proposal. At the end of the discussion, a comment by Halloran--in July, the only member of public who spoke in favor of the project and now an alderman and a member of the Economic Development Committee--about needing to understand the "new law" presaged that the Stewart's request for a zoning change and proposed Local Law No. 9 of 2017 were about to be conflated. In fact, they are quite different, but the distinctions between them are getting obliterated.
In February, in response to comments from the Columbia County Planning Board, DePietro sent Local Law No. 9 back to the Legal Committee. At the next meeting of the Legal Committee, which took place on February 28, it was revealed that the Legal Committee had referred Local Law No. 9 to the Hudson Planning Board for a recommendation. At the Planning Board meeting, which took place on March 8, there was no discussion of Local Law No. 9. Instead they discussed the Stewart's proposal to create a Green Street Overlay District. Speaking of the proposal, Planning Board member Clark Wieman asked, "How is this not spot zoning?" Planning Board chair, Walter Chatham responded, "I think they are trying to grab a bunch of other buildings to make it not spot zoning." Chatham read an email from Halloran which, in its reference to Third Street, seemed to conflate totally the zoning overlay requested by Stewart's and proposed Local Law No. 9. Chatham told the board that the code enforcement officer Craig Haigh was suggesting that "if two items in the code were rejiggered, the Planning Board could review this without amendments."
After some discussion, during which Planning Board member Ginna Moore said she thought the proposed overlay district was a "horrible idea," and Wieman said, "Expanding in an area that is mostly residential is a bad idea," Chatham concluded: "In principle, we support that an existing building should expand, but we don't support rezoning an entire neighborhood." He then suggested that the Planning Board "do Craig a solid and support what he suggested."
But what had Haigh suggested? No one on the Planning Board seemed to know exactly, so Gossips called Haigh to find out. He explained his idea that eating and drinking establishments, and presumably gas stations and convenience stores and a host of other commercial enterprises, should become conditional permitted uses in the R-2 district, which would make them conditional permitted uses in the R-3, R-4, and R-5 districts as well. In effect, any and all commercial uses would be permitted in residential districts anywhere in Hudson--with the notable exception of the R-1 district--so long as they were approved by the Planning Board. To follow that suggestion might simplify things, but it would make Hudson more like Greenport, where there is no zoning, and where the Planning Board, one project at a time, makes the decisions that shape the character of the town without any overarching, publicly agreed-upon vision for the community to guide them.
To return to the Economic Development Committee, at its meeting on March 15, the members--Halloran, Rich Volo, John Rosenthal, and Calvin Lewis--pondered why the issue had been assigned to the Economic Development Committee, not seeming to appreciate that community character is an economic development issue and allowing a giant new Stewart's to be developed at one of the gateways to the city--a city that, ironically, has just passed a law banning formula businesses--would have a huge impact on community character. Alluding to the information from Stewart's that they didn't expect to do significantly more business in a new and expanded facility, Halloran declared the project would have "little impact economically." DePietro, who had handed the Stewart's proposal over to the Economic Development Committee in January, suggested from the audience, "If you kick it over to Legal, they'll have a public hearing." Two of the members of the Economic Development Committee--Volo and Rosenthal--are also on the Legal Committee.
So it seems the Stewart's proposal is going back to the Legal Committee, where it started a year ago, and where Local Law No. 9 is awaiting a recommendation from the Planning Board. The next meeting of the Legal Committee is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, March 28, at 6:15 p.m., in City Hall.
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