Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Colarusso and Hudson

Last night, the Planning Board held a public hearing on Colarusso and its application for a conditional use permit for its operations in Hudson. The hearing was held at the Central Fire Station to accommodate more participants, and code enforcement officer Craig Haigh was there to monitor the situation. At one point, he announced that the room was filled to capacity and the hallway was close to capacity, and he soon would have to start turning people away at the door.

Early on in the public comments, Julie Metz took the Planning Board to task for scheduling a public hearing prematurely, before the public had all the information about the project and could respond. At the end, when the public hearing was recessed but not closed, Planning Board chair Walter Chatham responded to that criticism by explaining that they were having a public hearing now so that the Planning Board could benefit from the information provided by the public--not a bad idea since many of the issues surrounding the operations at the dock and in South Bay go back to 2011 and earlier. A few members of the Planning Board didn't live in Hudson at that time, and several members of the public have long histories of dealing with waterfront issues.

Photo: The Valley Alliance
Among the points driven home in the public hearing, by Sam Pratt and by former city attorney Ken Dow, was that Colarusso lost its grandfathered status when they did work on the dock without a site plan review by the Planning Board. That action triggered the need for a conditional use permit for the entire dock operation. Since no conditional use permit has been issued, Tony Stone pointed out that the Planning Board had the power to shut down all operations at the dock right now. Dow reminded the Planning Board that a title search had confirmed that 4.4 acres of waterfront land that Colarusso purchased from Holcim in 2014 was illegally transferred to St. Lawrence Cement in 1981 and actually still belongs to the City of Hudson.

Image: The Valley Alliance
Jeff Anzevino of Scenic Hudson asked the Planning Board to "bear in mind the LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Program) and its goals--to protect South Bay and the residents of Hudson." He noted that the zoning adopted as part of the LWRP gave the City the ability to control any kind of improvements along the causeway. He also advised that the bounds of the Core Riverfront (C-R) District needed to be determined.

Melissa Auf der Maur urged, "We cannot allow Colarusso to pit our city against each other." Some of that north side/south side tension was evident in the comments. Annette Perry, who lives on lower Columbia Street and makes it her mission to see that children get safely on and off the school bus, talked about the dangers posed by gravel trucks on city streets. "I think Mr. Colarusso has a solution," Perry told the Planning Board, "and his solution will work," adding that her father had worked for Colarusso, so she knows he's a good man. Jennifer Stockmeier, who lives in the 600 block of Columbia Street, maintained that "the level of truck traffic has increased in the last few years" and wanted the Planning Board "to make them stop the trucks now." Linda Mussmann, whose not-for-profit TSL is located in the 400 block of Columbia Street, declared that trucks were a hazard, asserted that she had never endorsed having trucks go to the waterfront, complained that Colarusso has not paid for any of the damage to the City's infrastructure caused by its trucks, and concluded, "Trucks do not belong in our city."

Nicole Vidor and Stone both made the point that the road from the quarry to Route 9G could be used right now, and Colarusso could go both ways on the existing road through South Bay, as O&G had done before, thus eliminating the need for any gravel trucks to travel on city streets. Susan Meyer pointed out that the use of the haul road only eliminated Colarusso trucks from city streets. Peter Jung and Matt Hartzog of Assemblymember Didi Barrett's office both spoke of the $100,000 in the state budget for a study of truck traffic in Hudson, suggesting that it could have better outcomes than the proposed haul road.

In his comments at the beginning of the meeting, Pat Prendergast portrayed Colarusso as a family business that has existed since 1912 and "hires 150 of your neighbors." The family business part was underscored by the presence of two tired and restless preschoolers, wearing red T-shirts with the Colarusso logo and "1912" on the front and "6th Generation" on the back. Still several comments revealed that Hudson residents weren't buying the family business/industrial good neighbor image. Vidor declared, "Hudson is a balanced and thriving city, and Colarusso doesn't give a damn." Chris McManus characterized Colarusso as a company that "sues the City and tries to subvert the process." Larry Bowne spoke of Colarusso's "casual disregard of the ability of government to act in the public good." Barbara Dague asserted that Colarusso had lost its good neighbor status "when they made changes without Planning Board review."

Because there was a three-minute time limit, many of the speakers submitted their full testimony in written form. Chatham announced last night that all the written comments submitted would be made available online at the City of Hudson website. Additional comments can be submitted to the members of the Planning Board. Their email addresses are all available here

Dan Udell's video of last night's Planning Board meeting is now available on YouTube. The Colarusso hearing begins 46 minutes in.



  1. Yes, please let’s make small little digs on preschoolers. Pretty sure their parents know what their limits are, as one left with their child when they had enough. Tired or not, their presence is pretty significant as it shows Colarusso will be sticking around for years to come.

    1. Yes, but maybe not in a neighboring city that has the legal power to control its waterfront.

  2. On procedural grounds, Ms. Metz was correct that the hearing was not properly coordinated with the other requirements of state and local law.

    For instance, it's astounding to learn that SEQRA wasn't a topic of discussion. For site plan review, the City Code directs that "Wherever possible, the procedure and requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act and the site plan review process should be conducted and complied with contemporaneously."

    If this was not possible then the Planning Board owed the public an explanation. As usual, this Board appears to be flummoxed over the actual requirements of SEQRA. The idea they've already floated of using the Short Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) ignores both the magnitude of the proposal and the directions left by the Common Council from the previous SEQR review on the same subject. So far, that previous review is being treated as a separate subject, which means they completely misunderstand the meaning and intent of SEQRA (and not for the first time).

    SEQRA further explains that a ZBA has first dibs on Lead Agency when a variance is required. Is the Planning Board aware of the necessity of a variance?

    Whoever conducts the environmental review, there should be a Full EAF and a "Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement," as repeatedly recommended in the Common Council's 2011 Findings Statement.

  3. In my opinion, the more pressing implication of the City's ownership of the 4.4-acre riverside parcel is Amtrak's threat to fence off the access road and bar terrestrial access to the former dock property.

    But how can the railroad do that when the 1969 Lone Star Cement deed for the 4.4 acres establishes a "right of access to the said Dock Property from the public way" (Liber 453, p. 16).

    Moreover, the railroad's own 1995 deed for the access road's Easement and Right of Way appears to confirm the existence of the public way "for … pedestrian ingress, egress and regress on, over, across and through all that certain strip, piece or parcel of land" (Liber 787, p. 228).

    The City would be wise to monitor this situation if only for the edification of the HPD.

    Earlier this year, Amtrak already placed a No Trespassing sign on the access road next to the Colarusso gate. The threatened fencing is bound to follow.

  4. The need for a review under SEQRA was raised by multiple commenters.

    1. Not what I was told, but okay then, corrected.

      What I really want to know is whether anyone was clever enough to discuss 1) a use variance, for which the ZBA must conduct a SEQR review, and 2) the City's previous recommendation to conduct a *Supplemental* Environmental Impact Statement in such circumstances.

      As it is, the Planning Board's consultant has announced that the Short Environmental Assessment Form will be sufficient, and that's very worrying.