Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Highlights of Today's HDC Meetings

The Hudson Development Corporation Board met today in back-to-back meetings beginning at noon and ending two hours and forty stultifying minutes later. The first meeting was the group's annual meeting, at which they received the auditor's report, voted on new board candidates, and elected a new president.

Four candidates for membership on the board were put forward by a nominating committee made up of board members Chris Jones, Nick Haddad, Gregg Carey, and Carolyn Lawrence. Two of the candidates were not unusual selections: Martha Lane, who works as the business development specialist for CEDC (Columbia Economic Development Corporation), and Paul Barrett, a former B&B owner now working in real estate. The choice of one of the candidates showed some creativity in defining economic development: Seth Rogovoy, writer, music critic, radio commentator, and author of The Rogovoy Report. The fourth candidate was a surprise, at least to this observer, for an agency trying to regain the trust of the community: Paul Colarusso, president of A. Colarusso & Son.

When the four candidates had been introduced, board member Steve Dunn asked Colarusso about conflicts of interest, noting that Colarusso was "a controversial figure in Hudson, with projects before the Planning Board and potential legal issues." Colarusso assured him he would "certainly recuse himself" if there were conflicts of interest. 

Audience member John Kane noted that a lot of HDC holdings are on the waterfront and adjacent to Colarusso property. He then asked Colarusso: "If you are recusing yourself from adjacent development, why do you want to be on this board? What are your specific goals?"

Before Colarusso could respond, Bob Rasner, who was chairing the meeting, said he didn't think it was appropriate for members of the public to question the candidates. Audience member Nicole Vidor said there was reasonable concern from the public about the candidate.

Jones, who chaired the nominating committee, explained: "It seemed to us that bringing him on the board we could tap an important resource"--that being his expertise with infrastructure, principally roads and sidewalks. In introducing Colarusso as a candidate, Jones had said that "his expertise in developing infrastructure will be useful in the Kaz site and the waterfront." She went on to say, "What his expertise is far outweighs the problems of conflict of interest."

Haddad, also a member of the nominating committee, added, "We see ourselves as not being able to achieve our goals without a broad range of expertise."

Members of the HDC Board were asked to vote anonymously yes to no to approve the candidates on paper ballots. When the ballots had been counted, Rasner announced that each of the four candidates had sufficient votes for approval, although specific numbers of votes were not revealed.

The next order of business was to elect a new president. (Electing the other officers--secretary and treasurer--was postponed until the April meeting.) Rasner, who has been acting president since John Gilstrap resigned from the office in November, was nominated and elected by a voice vote.

During the board's regular monthly meeting, it was announced that an agreement had been reached to purchase a portion of the CSX property needed for access to the Kaz site from Front Street. Dunn, who is an attorney and who reportedly spent a hundred hours negotiating the deal with CSX, reported that "the issues of concern have been resolved as best they could be." Dunn's summary of the purchase sale agreement included this paragraph about a deed restriction:
As anticipated, the Seller requires a restrictive covenant that prohibits the HDC and any future owner from using the parcel for any residential, school, recreational, agricultural, or establishment of a mitigation bank. Ground water must never be used for human consumption nor irrigation purposes.    
The board voted to authorize Rasner to sign the contract of sale before two witnesses. The board also voted to authorize Rasner or his designee to obtain bids from a surveyor and from environmental consultants, for doing Phase 1 and Phase 2 environmental studies on the parcel, to be presented to the board at its April meeting. Regarding the environmental studies, Rasner opined, "The deed restriction almost assumes there is a problem." 

At the end of the meeting, when public comment was permitted, Matthew Frederick expressed puzzlement over the prioritization of the CSX site, maintaining that parcel was not needed for access to the Kaz site. He also recommended there should be a map of the site on the wall of the meeting room, intimating perhaps that board members were not sufficiently familiar with the site and its environs. 

1 comment:

  1. It's a good thing that Mr. Colarusso has joined the HDC board. Anything that brings the interests of the city's population closer to its other stakeholders is likely to lead to more equitable outcomes for everyone involved. It took some guts for the HDC board to welcome him, and certainly some for Mr. Colarusso to step in to the thankless scrum.