There were two ad hoc committee meetings on Wednesday: one having to do with selling City-owned buildings; the other concerned with developing a solar farm on City-owned property; both seeking to find new revenue for the City.
Council president Tom DePietro began the meeting about selling buildings by defining his goal for the meeting: "to identify one or two or three buildings that we can move on selling now." He then asked Jeff Baker, counsel to the Council, to review the conditions for selling City-owned property. There must be a three-quarters vote of the Council; properties must be sold at public auction, or they may be sold in a private sale provided that the sale price is fair market value.
Alderman Rebecca Wolff (First Ward) wanted to know which of the eighty-one properties DePietro discovered were owned by the City of Hudson would be suitable for development as housing. DePietro answered, "Very few." Wolff expressed the desire not to sell anything that could be put into a land bank. DePietro responded, "Right now, we're trying to deal with a crisis." He said he wanted to make it a contingency of any sale that the building would not be off the tax rolls.
The two buildings DePietro had in mind as candidates for sale were 1 North Front Street, the former Washington Hose firehouse; and 10-12 Warren Street, the location of the Hudson Daycare Center.
Of 1 North Front Street, DePietro said there were two tenants--the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) and the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce--and neither paid rent. He said the building cost $6,000 a year to maintain, and it represented $21,368 in foregone property taxes each year. Alderman Jane Trombley (First Ward) pointed out that the foregone taxes included those to the county and the school district, and only about a quarter of the amount cited would actually come to the City.
Later in the discussion it was revealed that the Chamber of Commerce pays $850 a month in rent, and there is a lease that runs t0 November 2022 with an option to renew for two additional six-year periods. HDC also has a twelve-year lease which runs to November 2022, with no rent payment, because HDC contributed $150,000 toward the renovation of the building back in 2010. DePietro alleged that "HDC has not lived up to their part of the bargain," but Gossips recently reviewed the lease agreement between HDC and the City, and it's not clear what DePietro meant.
Wolff opined, "It would be very unwise to sell to the highest bidder without being thoughtful about what it means for the city." She mentioned its location, next to the soon to be renovated plaza to Promenade Hill. She also mentioned the vacant lot across the street, which is owned by HCDPA (Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency), and asserted that whatever happened at these two sites would have a significant impact on the city. "It's such an important lot right there. It could be a real disaster." Her arguments were not dissimilar to those put forth by the First and Third Ward aldermen back in 2008 when they succeeded in blocking the sale of the building for development as an ice cream parlor and fast-food restaurant.Regarding 10-12 Warren Street, DePietro said there were two tenants: the Hudson Daycare Center and a private citizen. He reported that maintaining the building cost the City $15,000 a year. He also said that the building was recently inspected, and it needed $250,000 in repairs in order to meet the requirements of the State Department of Education, money that the City would have to invest in the building. He also reported the the daycare center was looking for a new location and suggested the center might lose its certification because it hasn't been open during the pandemic.
The possibility of selling 429 Warren Street was also mentioned.
The problem with this building is that, although it no longer houses the office of the city court clerk, it does house the code enforcement office. A new location for code enforcement would have to be found before the building could be sold. DePietro suggested the committee "look at what code enforcement needs and where we can put them."
Also mentioned in the discussion were "two significant vacant properties": the lot at North Fourth and State streets and the lot at North Seventh and Washington streets, the parcel that the Galvan Foundation is interested in acquiring, presumably to provide parking for its proposed Depot District development. Wolff reiterated that some properties should be allocated for affordable housing and put into a land bank." DePietro responded, "Why would we put revenue that we desperately need . . . why would we put it into some affordable housing plan?" Alderman Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward) opined, "We need to look for properties that will be most profitable for the City."
DePietro concluded, "I guess we'll need another meeting before we can move to next steps."
More progress was made in the ad hoc committee on developing a solar farm. As DePietro explained to the committee, the City owns 62 acres on North Second Street. The portion of the parcel on the west side of the street is unusable; the portion on the east side of the street is what is being considered as the site of a solar array. DePietro explained that the site is not visible from North Second Street. It is visible from Charles Williams Park--up on the bluff north of the park.
The plan is to lease the land to a solar energy company, and the City would benefit from reduced electricity costs, as well as rent for the land paid by the solar energy company. Alderman John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward) declared a solar array "the highest and best use" for the parcel, adding, "I'm not sure what could be developed there. To provide infrastructure would cost way too much money."
It was decided that the companies Rosenthal had spoken with back in September 2019 would be contacted about the proposed project, and that the members of the committee--DePietro, Rosenthal, Dewan Sarowar (Second Ward), and Calvin Lewis (Third Ward)--would walk the site on Sunday.
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