Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Highlights from Last Night's Council Meeting

Eight resolutions were introduced at last night's informal Common Council meeting, and Gossips will review the most interesting of them.

Although at the Police Committee meeting on February 28 there was no formal vote to move it forward, the resolution to extend the intermunicipal agreement for the Shared Services Response Team was introduced at last night's informal meeting. Council president Tom DePietro noted that the resolution had been discussed in committee, and there was no further discussion last night.

There was also a resolution introduced to approve having city attorney Cheryl Roberts provide a 90-minute training session as part of the four hours of training required for the members of the Planning Board. The resolution outlines five of the topics Roberts will cover, the first three being: (1) Core River Front zoning in the City of Hudson; (2) the regulation of conditional uses; (3) non-conforming uses. It's hard not to see this training as being very Colarusso specific.

A resolution was also introduced to hire a new dog control officer. The resolution reports that two letters of interest were received. Responding to a question from Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), DePietro indicated that James Delaney, Jr., had been chosen because he lives nearby in Stockport, whereas the other person who submitted a letter lived farther away. One of the specified duties of the dog control officer is that he will "at least twice a week make random visits to the Hudson Dog Park to confirm any dogs present have current valid licenses."

There was also a resolution introduced to create an emergency access road from Cemetery Road in the Hudson City Cemetery to Van Winkle Road Extension in Mount Ray Estates. Exactly where that road will be located and how it will impact the historic cemetery is not known. The resolution directs the Commissioner of Public Works "to prepare the plans for such work." The costs of design and construction of the road will be paid for by the Mount Ray Estates Homeowners Association.

The final resolution, of interest to anyone who has had the experience of sitting through interminable meetings at City Hall, authorizes the transfer of $3,500 from the fund balance to reupholster the benches in the Council Chamber. Alderman Rebecca Wolff (First Ward) wanted to know where the resolution had come from. DePietro assured her that it would go to the Finance Committee before the Council votes on it next Tuesday.

The mayor's veto of the resolution authorizing a vacancy study was the topic of greatest discussion. That will be the subject of another post.


  1. Regarding the Roberts resolution:

    1) Who, if anyone, on the Council, proposed this? Word is that this did not come from any Alderman. (Is the City Attorney independently proposing Council Resolutions herself?)

    2) Why did it not go to the Legal Committee first?

    3) The Council has no authority to dictate operations and management to the Planning Board by resolution. The PB is a coequal and independent agency which serves in a quasi-judicial capacity that is not to be interfered with via politics.

    4) Why is the City Attorney so keen to give the Board marching orders? Is this related in some way to the private meeting she reportedly had with Colarusso?

    5) The State has provided, and still provides, free annual training to the Board. No City Attorney has (to my knowledge) ever tried to perform this task in Hudson before. How many billable hours would Roberts charge?

    6) As I understand it, Roberts already made this proposal directly to the Board. Why does her suggestion need to be backed by political pressure as well?

  2. In my experience, the state training is de minimus and essentially of little value in terms of training lay people on the tasks at hand and how they are properly analyzed and concluded. Witness the silly questions at the last PB meeting from the members of the PB -- clearly they are untrained and unskilled at determining even the scope of their statutory powers. No amount of additional training is wasted in my view. Whether this comes from Cheryl or another person, the law is the law and all she'd be doing is explaining to them how they are to do their job (and, frankly, someone should tell them: witness the total fiasco surrounding Cappy Pierro's stick-in-your-eye attempt to site storage facilities in the 5th ward -- what a cluster fuck: the PB has the power to shut it down but punts to the ZBA which comes back with a not entirely well supported decision that the PB then fumbles badly -- and never documents its decisions or serves them on the parties). I hope that going forward, under a new chair and with new counsel, the PB may actually do its job properly.

    As for the PB being quasi-judicial. It is not. The ZBA is, but the PB is ministerial, not judicial. Nor is it a coequal part of government; it is clearly part of the executive branch as it applies the law (i.e. enforces it), but doesn't write it. The Council's role is limited to essentially funding it (though it has no meaningful budget at this time) and passing the laws the PB enforces (and the ZBA interprets -- thus the latter's quasi-judicial nature).

    I get that many people don't trust Cheryl as City Attorney (or possible in any role, I don't know). I've worked with her over the years many times. And, in a quarter-century of practicing law myself, I've met many worse lawyers and not too many better. She's a fine, if highly conservative in my view, attorney. The PB will be well-served, in my estimation, if she takes their education in hand.

  3. Does the dog license have to be obtained to use the dog park if you don't live in Hudson? I work in town and occasionally take my dog to the park during lunch.

    1. New York State requires that all dogs over four months of age be licensed. https://www.raphaelsonlaw.com/legal-insights/new-york-state-dog-laws-every-dog-owner-know/ Even if you don't live in Hudson, your dog should be licensed in the town where you live.

  4. Roberts Rules of Order. Given her past dealings with the waterfront she cant be trusted. A 4 hr lecturer is going to slant the board in her leaning and we know that direction. Her M.O has never included other opinions. A vote on the waterfront question will be seen as tainted. There is a difference influence between an opinion and a vote.

  5. I am about half way through reading Strong Towns, a book the leader of the HDC recommended that all its Board members read, and one of the object lessons is that even if a developer pays for infrastructure, e.g. roads, if there is no sinking fund provided for the maintenance costs of the road, that will be a bad deal for the municipality's fiscal health overall. Granted in this case it might be argued that it is a public safety issue (maybe yes, maybe no, that is outside my comfort zone of expertise), but this is an object lesson that when there is a new development, it needs to be carefully penciled out, and that means reducing to present value not only whatever property tax or other revenue might be expected to be generated, but also present valuing all of the future liabilities associated with the development that will be the responsibility of the municipality, not only infrastructure maintenance, but police and fire protection, etc, etc. In the case of vinyl village, if this road was really needed, its maintenance costs down the road should have been penciled in. I suspect none of the infrastructure maintenance costs for vinyl village over the ensuing decades were
    taken into account. If so, the city (i.e. its tax payers) will be effectively subsidizing the vinyl village developer, and perhaps its residents, or at least initial residents, depending on whether or not the pricing of the residential units when initially sold accurately took into account the present value of the ensuing expected municipal subsidies. Ah economics, at once a harsh and complicated mistress that does not have a nurturing bone in its unforgiving body.

    Hudson is fortunate that it is largely built out when it comes to infrastructure, and has in place infrastructure that was designed to service a substantially larger population than Hudson now has, and a relatively high population density which affords some efficiencies (although nothing like Hoboken's which is about half the area of Hudson with close to 10 times the population). If however the half of Hudson's real estate that is effectively "empty," (i.e., the surplus real estate owned by the Firemen's Home and the Hudson School district and around Railroad Avenue and yes the prison area), ever comes on line for development, assuming that I am no longer on this mortal coil, I hope someone who reads this comment will recall it, and sound the alarm, and start chanting we have to present value and take into account the future liabilities to the city. Screwing future taxpayers to secure some immediate short term benefit to buy votes or mask fiscal stresses and strains may be an all too common occurrence, but it does not make any less immoral or short sighted.