Sunday, July 22, 2018

This Week at the ZBA

Often the first information about new projects in Hudson, especially those not located in a historic district, comes at the Zoning Board of Appeals, and this past week's ZBA meeting provided news of a few interesting projects. The first is 514 State Street.

This building is one of the many buildings in Hudson that were part of Phil Gellert's vast "Northern Empire." In recent years, Gellert has been selling his property in Hudson, and this building now has a new owner. Kristal Heinz, who is representing the new owner, was at the ZBA meeting on Wednesday seeking an area variance for parking. The rehabbed building will have seven units--two on each of the three floors and one in the basement. The plans include creating three offstreet parking spaces behind the building. (Currently there are none.) Hudson's zoning requires one offstreet parking space for every dwelling unit, so the building is four short, and an area variance is required.

Heinz was also representing the owner of 248 and 250 Columbia Street at the meeting. 

What's being sought for this project is a lot line adjustment to make the two lots, which are now of different sizes, of equal size. Unfortunately, once the two lots are of equal size, the two houses now there, two among the very few on that block of Columbia Street that survived urban renewal, will be demolished.  

Two new structures will be built on the lots, both to contain rental apartments.

The third proposal of interest involves constructing a new building with a residential unit over a two-car garage in the first block of Partition Street, behind 17-19 Union Street. Variances are needed from the ZBA for setbacks and for lot coverage.

The project, which is also before the Historic Preservation Commission, once again puts the desire to build secondary dwellings in alleys and backyards to create affordable new housing in conflict with the desire to preserve the character of Hudson's alleys. (Although Partition Street is a street, it has the character of an alley.) The project as proposed also involves the elimination of an old stone retaining wall to create offstreet parking spaces and replacing it with a "veneered stone" retaining wall.

The ZBA will hold public hearings on these three projects, as well as a proposal to build an 8-foot fence at 939 Columbia Street and a proposal to construct a solar carport at 65-67 North Third Street, on Wednesday, August 15, at 6 p.m.


  1. The careless approval of veneered stone walls can have hideously ugly results.

    In Ireland where stone is the all-but universally required building material, short-sighted County planning boards with sensibilities worthy of The Flintstones have marred the Irish countryside everywhere you look. Many of the blights involve stone veneers, where the approving boards took no notice of the kind of stone used. If stone of any kind or any design is proposed in Ireland, then permission is granted.

    In Hudson, the Promenade cliff which is now slathered with shaped concrete is a good example of lithic vulgarity writ large. When Amtrak's contractor employed a contractor's artistry to approximate the look of Ordovician shale, Hudson got a permanent poke in the eye.

    Perhaps Hudson's Historic Preservation Commission is already knowledgable and concerned about such things. Either way, I hope that the applicant in this case picks an appropriate veneer to match our local, country rock.

  2. My architect referred me to the site below for stone veneers.

    The one I liked best for purposes of matching the existing stone wall (and the one that I submitted to the HPC) is linked below, but I am certainly open to other suggestions. I may, and probably do, have many character flaws, but I do care passionately about aesthetics.

    1. Your passion care for aesthetics has a strange way of expressing itself. First, with your suburban curbcut driveway on one of Hudsons oldest blocks. And now a garish faux stone wall with a vaguely SoCal midcentury modern atop it? Perhaps your passions are better suited to Greenport?

    2. What do you suggest? Perhaps it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

  3. Thanks S.D., the site has some good choices, but it also has some hideous ones.

    The one you prefer, "Chalet," is not like the rock we have around here, nor does it match your existing dry stone wall. The mortar in the Chalet accentuates a rounded look at the corners, and that will contrast conspicuously with your mortarless wall.

    Compared to your existing wall, the Chalet has almost no textual variation, and looks more like compressed stone dust (except for the darker, peppered stone at the top center of the photo, which looks more like granite). The Chalet will also look bluish compared to the warm retaining wall which now stretches across two properties.

    For texture, notice that your own wall - and also the adjoining wall (both built by Mr. W.G.) - are drystack limestone filled with fossils, mostly Brachiopods. Very old stone, and native to right here.

    By the way the house design looks fine to me, and I particularly welcome the south-facing deck. I just care about the aesthetics of the wall.

  4. Which one do you like best? The Chilton?

  5. More like the existing wall:

  6. the most important subject here is that people are actually investing real money and effort, and confidence, in a renewed Hudson with buildings that actually pay taxes.
    wow -- amazing, a positive move that is healthy for the city.

  7. I am curious, Steve, about the characterization of your new proposed building as "affordable new housing." Can you describe the standards of affordability you are going to be applying to the rent of this new space? Rebecca Wolff (110 Union Street)