Thursday, February 21, 2019

An Epiphany at the ZBA

Although he himself sought multiple area variances for an extension and new construction at a house he owns on Union Street, ZBA member Steve Dunn can be a real stickler about variances when it comes to offstreet parking. Last night, two requests for offstreet parking variances were the subject of public hearings and consideration before the Zoning Board of Appeals: 260 Warren Street and 8-10 Park Place. According to the code, the proposed uses for both spaces have offstreet parking requirements: 30 spaces for 260 Warren Street; 25 spaces for 8-10 Park Place.

During the public hearing on 260 Warren Street, where the plan is to establish a wine bar, no one from the public made any comments. Dunn, however, asked the applicant, "Is there any way to request a smaller variance?" He was suggesting that the number of seats in the wine bar might be reduced hence reducing the number of offstreet parking spaces required by the code. The applicant responded that the number of seats had already been reduced to comply with occupancy restrictions, and it would be difficult to make the business feasible if the capacity were to be reduced further.

Similarly, during public hearing on 8-10 Park Place, there were no comments from the audience. Although the exact nature of the commercial enterprise that will occupy the building now seems still to be uncertain, Dunn asked, during the discussion that followed the public hearing, if the variance might be granted "with the condition that the business model not change." Dunn's concern was that a restaurant, requiring patron parking for an extended period of time, might be established in the building. Marshall Trachtenberg, the owner of the building, assured him that he had no desire to operate a restaurant or to rent to someone who wanted to operate a restaurant.

ZBA member Myron Polenberg commented, "If we applied the parking requirement, there would be no restaurants in Hudson," and noted that several onstreet parking spaces along Park Place could be restored now that the building will no longer be a firehouse. Dunn speculated that the restaurants now on Warren Street existed before the zoning code was adopted and went on to say that if there are problems with parking requirements, "What's appropriate is for the Common Council to amend the zoning code. I like to apply the law with good conscience." Other members of the ZBA disabused Dunn of the notion that the existing restaurants on Warren Street predated the adoption of the zoning code (which happened in 1969) and explained that, recognizing the impossibility of the offstreet parking requirements for restaurants, which require one offstreet parking space for every three seats, the board had frequently granted variances.

When it came time to vote on the variance for 8-10 Park Place, Dunn said that he had intended to vote no, "knowing I would be outvoted," but he had changed his mind. He and the other ZBA members present--Lisa Kenneally, Theresa Joyner, Myron Polenberg, and Mary Ellen Pierro--voted unanimously to approve the parking variance and a minor height variance for the elevator tower.

In a prelude to making a motion to approve the variance for 260 Warren Street, Dunn said, "I've already said my thing. I've completely reversed course on this issue . . . but just for Warren Street." He described his change of heart as "an epiphany." The variance for 260 Warren Street was also approved unanimously.


  1. In relation to 260 Warren, I get the sense that you are implying, in light of the fact that "no one from the public made any comments," that Steve was being peevish to ask if the applicant could "request a smaller variance." Steve was actually doing his job, as mandated by New York State statute, General City Law section 81-b(4)(c): "The board of appeals, in the granting of area variances, shall grant the minimum variance that it shall deem necessary and adequate and at the same time preserve and protect the character of the neighborhood and the health, safety and welfare of the community." It is a statutory mandate to grant the smallest feasible area variance, and that obligation exists whether or not any member of the public comments on it.

  2. There are more than a few buildings in town besides the former firehouse on Park Placewhich continue to have No Parking signs and/or yellow curbs indicating as such, but where the use which once required or inspired the prohibition has long since gone.

    That includes other former firehouses like the Spotty Dog location, and the stretch of fourth street alongside the warehouse behind the former Register-Star building.

    In some cases, there are also no parking zones across from such buildings (reflecting the prior need to be able to back long fire trucks into the buildings).

    On top of that, you have the curious practice of various administrations to grant exclusive parking or restricted parking to businesses on Warren Street, which have always struck me as being of dubious legality.

    This includes the two almost-never-used loading spots in front of the Barlow Hotel, and the motorcycle-only spot in front of Moto. (I had heard that a dispute with a neighbor had convinced the HPD not to enforce the parking limitations in front of the Barlow, but this still is marked as such and no one ever seems to park there.)

    Given the various heated discussions about parking in town in recent years, you’d think the City would be trying to squeeze in as many as possible, and make spots like the ones mentioned above fully accessible to the public again.

  3. The only way to get the City Admin is to park in these yellow spots and bring your ticket to the Mayor, this will get his attention. I do it all the time . No personal or designated parking spaces on Warren st. Added to the above list is the spots outside the old police station, olde Hudson , back bar, and all the old fire houses.