Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Subject Was Subdivision

Last night, the Planning Board held a special meeting to consider the subdivision of the 1.196 acres on South Front Street currently owned by CSX. Approval of the subdivision would clear the way for HDC (Hudson Development Corporation) to purchase a .863-acre portion of the parcel to provide access to the Kaz site from Front Street.

Only four members of the Planning Board were present--Walter Chatham, Ginna Moore, Clark Wieman, and John Cody--and all four would have to vote in concert for the subdivision to be approved. 

The meeting began with a public hearing, during which Matt McGhee asked what change was proposed for the parcel, Steve Dunn observed that Montgomery Street is narrow and the acquisition would allow for better circulation, and Gossips noted that $4 million is being invested in the DRI "connectivity project" in this part of the city, so approving a subdivision that how enable the Kaz site to be connected to Front Street should be a no-brainer.

When the public hearing was closed and the Planning Board began its discussion, Wieman took the opportunity to express concern about the mortgage agreement. (Columbia Economic Development Corporation [CEDC] is lending HDC the $200,000 needed for the purchase of the parcel.) He noted that the loan is secured by a lien on the Kaz property and there was a three-year deadline to develop that property. His concern seemed to be that the deadline might pressure HDC into making bad decisions about developing the site. HDC has owned the property since 2010, and so far, there have been two failed attempts to develop it--the first was abandoned in March 2017; the second succumbed to public protest in May 2018. Bob Rasner, who chairs the HDC Board, explained, "The arrangement for financing holds us to a three-year public planning process." He added that the loan is interest free for three years and went on to say, "There is no pressure to do this in three years' time."

When Wieman expressed concern about this area of the city becoming a "suburban sprawl zone," Chatham, who chairs the Planning Board, replied, "Remember, they have to come to us," meaning that any proposed development would require site plan approval from the Planning Board. 

After city attorney Andy Howard walked them through the Part 2 SEQR questions and reminded the board that they were considering the subdivision of land not its use, the board voted unanimously first to make a negative declaration under SEQR and then to approve the subdivision. HDC is expected to close on the property on Wednesday, October 30.

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