Since then, the Kaz project has stalled, four members of the HDC board resigned, the board was advised not to enter into a contract to buy a parcel of land from CSX--a parcel needed to give the Kaz site access to Front Street--because of contamination, new board members have been interviewed but only one new appointment has been made public, and it was proposed that the management of HDC be handled by CEDC (Columbia Economic Development Corporation) until a replacement for executive director Sheena Salvino is found. (Salvino announced her resignation at the end of March. Her last day is August 3.) In the midst of this all, an HDC board meeting that was supposed to take place this past Tuesday was canceled and no new meeting was scheduled. The next regular meeting of HDC is scheduled for Tuesday, August 28, at noon.
Yesterday, the other alphabet soup agency, HCDPA, held its last meeting before Salvino's departure. Unlike the HDC board which has only two ex officio members (the mayor and the Common Council president), all the members of the HCDPA board serve ex officio. They are the mayor (Rick Rector), Common Council majority leader (Tiffany Garriga) and minority leader (Eileen Halloran), Planning Board chair (Walter Chatham), and Hudson Housing Authority board chair (Alan Weaver).
After some discussion of the agency's financial state, its shared services agreement with HDC, and the recent appraisals done on the land owned by HCDPA, Chatham, who chairs the HCDPA board, declared, "If we're broke, we have this property, we have no means to move forward, why not sell it all?" "This property" consists of vacant lots at 202, 204, and 206 Columbia Street (what remains of the community garden), 238 Columbia Street, 2 through 12 State Street, and 4 Warren Street, half of which was acquired from the City of Hudson earlier this week through a land swap.
|202, 204, and 206 Columbia Street|
|238 Columbia Street|
|2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 State Street|
|4 Warren Street|
After more discussion, during which Rector said he wanted properties back on the tax rolls and Salvino clarified that HDC was about creating jobs and HCDPA was about affordable housing, Chatham made a motion that the board "seriously consider selling off the property and asking the city attorney to investigate the dissolution of HCDPA." Salvino said she had misgivings about dissolving the agency, warning, "If you get rid of the agency altogether, it would take so much to get it going again." She suggested that HCDPA might be "put to sleep" or "mothballed." Chatham hailed the notion of mothballing as "brilliant."
DePietro, who has called for the dissolution of HDC and the strengthening of HCDPA, protested, "No one wanted to shut down HDC." He asked the board, "So you're actually considering shutting down a government agency that is all about low- and moderate-income housing?" Chatham noted that HCDPA "facilitates. It does not create." (In the past quarter century, that facilitation seems to have amounted to selling vacant land at four locations along Columbia Street to Columbia County Habitat for Humanity for the construction of eight single-family houses.) Weaver asked DePietro, "We have low-income housing. Where do you see creating more?" Weaver went on say that Hudson Housing Authority was "on schedule" to create 60 to 80 new units and to rehab the low-rise units that are part of the Bliss Towers complex.
The original motion by Chatham was never seconded. In the end, Rector moved that the board invite the city attorney to the next meeting to discuss HCDPA. That motion was seconded, voted on, and passed. Chatham then reiterated, "The agency is broke, we don't have much of a track record, and the political climate does not favor this type of agency." It was noted that the Strategic Housing Action Plan recommends having a housing commissioner and that office could take over the role of HCDPA.
Ten minutes after the regular meeting of the HCDPA board was adjourned, a special meeting was called to order. The meeting was for the purpose of opening the sealed bids for 213 Columbia Street and 214 Prison Alley. There was only one bid for this narrow strip of land, received from Shanan Magee. The minimum bid set in the invitation to bid was $20,000. Magee's bid was $31,110. Chatham moved to accept the bid; Weaver seconded; it was unanimously approved. According to the city's current zoning, this parcel of land is too small for anything to be built on it. Magee acquired the adjacent property, 209-211 Columbia Street, in December 2016 and has since built a new house there. He intends to establish a community garden on the parcel acquired from HCDPA.
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