Board president Bob Rasner opened the meeting by addressing the issues of how the board votes and how HDC deals with the open meetings law. He explained that he and Steve Dunn, HDC board member who is acting as its legal counsel, investigated these issues and confirmed that HDC must have its meetings open to the public, but the board is not obligated to accept public comment. "Public comment," said Rasner, "is a privilege not a right." He went on to say that the board would receive comment from the public at the end of the meeting, but comments must be addressed to the chair. Members of the public should not try to engage members of the board in questions and answers.
Rasner then explained that, to remedy the problem of the anonymous vote for new board members, the ballots from that vote had been returned to the board members who had voted. The board members reclaimed their ballots and added their names and signatures. Those ballots were now on file.
At the end of the meeting, after Phil Forman was elected to the board and officers--Nick Hadded as vice president, Phil Forman as treasurer, and Paul Barrett as secretary--were elected using paper ballots on which board members were asked to print and sign their names, Rasner, after reporting that there had been no negative votes, addressed the issue of the board's meeting time. He reiterated the statement issued last week (and quoted by Gossips yesterday) that, to accommodate requests from the public, HDC had changed its meeting time from 12 noon to 6 p.m., but since few if any members of the public showed up for the 6 p.m. meetings they were going back to the board's traditional meeting time of 12 noon. He also noted that at today's noon meeting the room was full and promised, "We will seek an alternative location if we consistently have too many people."
Rasner then opened the meeting to public comment, setting a three-minute limit on each person's time to speak. The first speaker was Julie Metz, who read a prepared statement that went on for longer than three minutes. When Rasner interrupted her, he asked that she submit the statement to the board. She agreed to do this. The statement, which she subsequently shared with Gossips, follows:
According to their mission statement HDC aims to “create jobs and enhance the quality of life in the City of Hudson.” I have considered this mission statement in my following comments.
After two plus years of a bungled RFP process, HDC was ready to hand over the entire KAZ waterfront property to a developer without community input. Good urban decision-making happens in reverse order: first invite community input, engage professional planners, then send out an RFP. After pushback, and being called out for excessive use of executive sessions, HDC announced that it was prepared to invite “stakeholder buy-in” in Hudson.
And so, recently, a number of qualified people applied, eager to serve. Some have renovated properties in Hudson that are now the sites of thriving hotels, restaurants, and retail. With extensive development experience, they represent Hudson’s future, not its past. One might ask why the two members of HDC who are elected to represent Hudson’s citizens weren’t part of the nominating committee.
A number of highly qualified applicants were rejected. However, according to reports from last month’s HDC meeting, your nominating committee stated that no one had applied and that they had to do outreach in the community to fill spots. This is clearly what we who strive to live in a world of facts call false.
And what is the result of HDC’s latest search for members? You have accepted Paul Colarusso, whose company mine produces excellent gravel. I have a good amount of it in my own back yard. But I do have a problem with this board adding a member whose company blatantly violated Hudson land use laws and then sued the city. In his January 19, 2019 ruling tossing out Colarusso’s suit against Hudson, Judge Melkonian wrote: “the petition is dismissed in its entirety” and “Petitioners are not entitled to any declaratory relief.” The judgment states that “inasmuch as petitioners’ nonconforming use had ceased, they would be required to obtain a conditional use permit for their continued commercial dock operations.” I urge the City to enforce Judge Melkonian’s decision. Colarusso must follow the same laws as the rest of us. . . .
How can the owner of a company that blatantly violated Hudson zoning laws, and then attacked our land use authority, and then lost in court, and cost the city money in legal fees be put in a position of making land use decisions? How can a company that sees an expanded gravel dump on the water as a positive development help determine plans for the nearby KAZ site? HDC evidently thinks this is a good idea, as it previously supported this concept in the false language (since retracted) in the DRI grant written by your former Executive Director. HDC evidently thinks Mr. Colarusso’s presence on this board is a good idea in spite of the appearance and blatant facts of multiple conflicts of interest this presents because:
1) members of the planning board sit on HDC, and
2) Colarusso has an application before the Planning Board regarding the requirement for a conditional use permit.
If KAZ had roads to pave, I’m sure Mr. Colarusso’s company would be an excellent candidate for the job after the review is over. But he should not be representing the citizens of Hudson in development decision-making.
The story continues. After recruiting Mr. Colarusso and several others, HDC leadership conducted an anonymous vote. Ken Dow, city attorney, states that this is a violation of New York State law. Since the ballots were not made public, this vote is cloaked in the kind of secrecy HDC has consistently employed. The public deserves to know how each of you voted.
To the majority of this board who voted for Paul Colarusso: shame on you. His presence on HDC is a blatant conflict of interest in every imaginable way given that the matter of the company’s dock and proposed road has in no way been settled. Yet, when members of the public made note of this conflict of interest at the last HDC meeting, Mr. Rasner shut down all further public comment. So much for “stakeholder buy-in.”
There is no clearer evidence of HDC’s irrelevance, incompetence, and complete inability to represent Hudson than selecting Mr. Colarusso over other applicants, whose businesses have created vastly more jobs in Hudson, and are friends and neighbors with skin in the game. They represent Hudson’s future, not its past. They are the backbone of Hudson’s economic revival, and this board rejected them out of hand.
HDC has shown disdain for transparency, has shown no interest in “stakeholder buy-in,” and has therefore lost the trust of this community. HDC should be shut down and the KAZ project moved to a city entity that represents the interests of Hudson’s citizens. The state of California eliminated “development corporations” like HDC because of similar behavior that has nothing to do with serving communities. HDC has lost sight of its mission and is now like a tiny island principality whose out-of-touch royals refuse to cede a single inch of territory, though the waters are rising fast.Metz made it to the beginning of the sixth paragraph before her three minutes were up. The only other comment from the public was a question asked by Linda Mussmann, who wanted to know who HDC's legal counsel was. She was told that Steve Dunn was acting as counsel. The meeting, which lasted forty-five minutes, was then adjourned.
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