The Planning Board is holding a special "working meeting" today about the Colarusso application for the proposed "haul road," a paved, two-lane road through the wetland that was once South Bay. The image below shows the trestle through South Bay, completed in 1874 for Fred W. Jones's "mountain railroad," going from the quarry to the river. The trestle evolved into the berm that exists today, on which Colarusso is proposing to built a paved, two-lane road for its gravel trucks.
The meeting, which was agreed upon at the Planning Board's November 14 meeting, is now listed on the City of Hudson calendar. It is scheduled to happen at 4:00 p.m. today, November 30. The workshop meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at the Central Fire Station and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.
It's not known what will happen at this working meeting. The discussion that preceded the decision to hold the meeting suggests that the board and Colarusso might use to meeting to work out the conditions agreeable to Colarusso should the Planning Board grant its approval. At the November 14 meeting, much time was spend discussing the situations--flooding and blasting--in which "public safety" would demand that Colarusso trucks travel on city streets. One hopes, however, the Planning Board will begin some serious deliberation about the decision before them rather than allowing John Privatera, Colarusso's attorney, to monopolize the meeting.
At the November 14 meeting, Privatera was invited to present the applicant's response to public comments. The response had been submitted to the Planning Board in a letter dated November 1. Even Privatera seemed to find that strange, commenting, "It's unusual to have a discussion of comments, but I think that's what the board wants." Before summarizing and presenting the applicant's response to public comments, the vast majority of which expressed opposition to the project, Privatera spoke of a letter written by Donna Streitz and David Konigsberg, representing Our Hudson Waterfront, reacting to his response to comments. The text of the letter can be found here. Privatera dismissed the letter as being "hugely mistaken" and declared it was "procedurally inappropriate and unfair to the board to read [the letter] outside of the comment period." The letter had been sent to the Planning Board on November 14; the deadline for submitting written comments was October 10.
Everything Privatera had to say about the letter from Our Hudson Waterfront (OHW) and his response to public comments can be heard here, beginning at 1:34:48. In this post, Gossips will consider some of his more stunning claims.
Speaking of the OHW letter, Privatera said, "It starts with the premise that what we are doing at the dock is illegal," and declared that premise to be false, backing that up by saying they'd been operating at the dock for nine years, and "the city hasn't told us to stop operating." The truth is, since 2018, when unauthorized repairs to the dock ended the grandfathered nonconforming use status of the dock operations, Colarusso has been operating at the dock without the required conditional use permit--in other words, in violation of the city code, or illegally. The fact that city government has been reluctant to shut down Colarusso's operations at the dock does not legitimize them.
In his presentation on November 14, Privatera asserted, "The law was written to accommodate the haul road." By "the law," Privatera presumably meant the zoning code that is part of the city's Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP). He was referring to the fact that the Core Riverfront District (C-R), shown in green on the zoning map, extends the length of the haul road.
He went on to claim, "The code was specifically written to facilitate the development of the haul road." I was on the Waterfront Advisory Steering Committee--the committee that developed the draft LWRP in 2006-2007--and I can attest that was hardly the case. At that time, O&G was moving gravel from the quarry to the dock along what was then known as the "causeway," and the zoning simply acknowledged that. There was no intent or interest in facilitating further development. In fact, the zoning was meant to prohibit development. In 2011, when the Common Council was voting to adopt the LWRP, Cheryl Roberts, who has then the city attorney and the principal author of the LWRP, assured the Council that "the law presumes that eventually nonconforming uses will no longer be in existence"--quite the opposite of facilitating development.
Privatera also claims that the LWRP "contemplated a commercial dock." A commercial dock is not an industrial dock. What the LWRP envisioned was a dock for shipping agricultural products from Columbia County to New York City and beyond, as the Apollonia is doing, and for receiving passenger ships traveling on the Hudson not for loading gravel barges and unloading asphalt.
Privatera made a claim about the OHW letter that works to incite Colarusso supporters: "They're really trying to put us out of business." That's ridiculous. A. Colarusso & Sons has been in existence since 1912, and they have only been shipping gravel from the dock they acquired from Holcim since 2014, an activity that represents less than 5 percent of the company's revenue. The company's success and survival hardly depends on this.
We can only hope that the Planning Board has the courage to support the vision for the waterfront that people have been working toward since 1984, when a citizens' group called SHOW (Save Hudson's Only Waterfront) fought off the siting of an oil refinery on our waterfront, rather than acquiesce to Colarusso's nine-year-old venture.
It should be noted that Colarusso is probably the reason why Hudson does not have a fully approved LWRP. LWRPs require approval of the New York State Department of State, and approval of Hudson's LWRP was contingent on fulfilling some conditions, one of which was the transfer of ten acres of land on the waterfront, south of the dock, from Holcim to the City of Hudson. Cheryl Roberts, then city attorney, was negotiating with Holcim's lawyers to make that happen, but those negotiations broke down sometime in 2014. That was because, as Gossips learned in 2016, Colarruso had begun its negotiations with Holcim to buy Holcim's property in Hudson, and Colarusso wanted those ten acres adjacent to the dock to use as a staging area.
The Planning Board's special meeting takes place today at 4:00 p.m., in person at the Central Fire Station, 77 North Seventh Street, and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely.
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