Thursday, August 15, 2019

Also on the Agenda

In addition to the continuation of the public hearing on Colarusso's application for two conditional use permits, the Planning Board conducted two other public hearings on Tuesday night: on the expansion of the FASNY Museum of Fire Fighting, and on the proposed self-storage facility on Fairview Avenue and Oakwood Boulevard. 

The presentation of the FASNY Museum expansion included a "tour" of the re-imagined site, featuring the Arrival Plaza, the Demonstration Plaza, and the relocated Memorial Plaza, which will "bookend" with the Ceremonial Plaza. The word celebratory was used at least three times in describing the new landscape design, and the visuals included a "mood board," which caught the fancy of Planning Board chair, Walter Chatham.

After a few comments from the public and a review of the completed short SEQR form by city attorney Andy Howard, the Planning Board made a negative declaration and unanimously approved the site plan.

The application for a special use permit to create a self-storage facility on the vacant lot at the corner of Fairview Avenue and Oakwood Boulevard didn't fare as well.

Alderman Eileen Halloran, who represents the Fifth Ward, where the facility would be located, spoke on behalf of her constituents. She expressed concerns about traffic and confusion about where to enter and exit the facility. She stated that self-storage facilities do not exist in Hudson and asked, "If approved once, will this idea be applied elsewhere?" She asserted, "The neighbors do not want it." On that same theme, Brian Nicholson said the proposed facility "does not fit with the aesthetics of the neighborhood." Theresa Nicholson declared, "A lot of residents are very incensed," and made reference to a petition opposing the facility that had been signed by 35 to 40 people. Halloran announced her intention to propose a Council resolution banning such facilities from the City of Hudson.

When the public hearing was over and the Planning Board began its discussion of the project, board member Betsy Gramkow suggested that the public hearing be kept open for ten days to receive written comments. Having made that suggestion, Gramkow noted that warehouse storage was mentioned in the code but nowhere in the code was self storage or mini storage mentioned. City attorney Andy Howard explained how he and code enforcement officer Craig Haigh had arrived at the determination that the proposed facility could be allowed. "If Craig and I had felt there was an ambiguity, we would have sent it to zoning." He went on to say it was significant that "nowhere in the code is storage banned."

Board member Laura Margolis maintained that what was proposed had little similarity to storage units in her experience, calling the proposed facility "twenty shacks on a swath of land." Chatham opined, "We find ourselves with a zoning code that didn't anticipate something," and continued, "Will it impair the quality of the existing neighborhood? That is the essential question." Carmine Pierro, whose proposal it is, protested, "This is a General Commercial zone, and you're telling me it doesn't fit?"

In the end, Gramkow moved that "the Zoning Board of Appeals review and determine if mini storage is an appropriate use in the General Commercial District." The motion passed unanimously.

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