Support for Fjord Trail, doubt about county hotel tax
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
From flows of water to proposed flows of tax money, new approaches to old problems dominated the business end of the Cold Spring Village Board’s formal monthly meeting Tuesday (July 10).
However, the meeting closed in a repeat of last month’s finale, with allegations and refutations of mayoral and board impropriety in such matters as raising the mayoral salary.
The board got progress reports on the Main Street water-pipe relining and other water and sewer work and reacted with no enthusiasm to a Putnam County Legislature request for support for a 4 percent hotel tax that, as proposed, would produce no gain for the village.
Board members likewise received a memo outlining Planning Board views on a proposed revision of the B4 zoning law governing the former Butterfield Hospital property and learned the U.S. Postal Service is scouting potential sites for a relocated village post office.
They also heard that the local component of the NY-Alert notification system is now ready. Trustee J. Ralph Falloon urged local residents to sign up to receive updates from state, county and local governments in emergencies or on important village activities affecting them, such as urgent street repairs.
Water and Wastewater Departments Superintendent Gregory Phillips announced that the contractor’s mobilization of equipment for the Main Street water-pipe relining would begin by July 13. The village expects to conduct a mandatory briefing with New York State Department of Transportation officials the week of July 16, with actual construction likely to start July 23 (about a week later than initially thought), Phillips said.
Phillips also said that hidden leaks in the water system continue to vex the department. “We’re up around 40 percent now,” from about 20 percent leakage, he said. That means that daily 50,000 to 70,000 gallons flowing through the clean-water supply system leaks out somewhere. He said that finding the leaks would cost $3,000 to $4,000 “but given the amount of water we’re losing, it’ll be worth it.”
He and Village Attorney Stephen Gaba discussed nearly finalized arrangements with neighboring institutions to allow upgrading of the village’s Market Street wastewater pump station, long a source of concern. “It’s functioning; it’s just problematic,” Phillips said of the pump station.
Gaba told the board that pump station easement agreements with Scenic Hudson and the Chapel Restoration, which own Foundry Dock Park and the Chapel of Our Lady Restoration, respectively, proceed as desired but that Metro-North Railroad declines to grant easements. Instead, the railroad offers a free license for access, with unlimited yearly renewals; Gaba said he and Metro-North lawyers are drafting appropriate terms.
Trustee Matt Francisco read an outline of the Planning Board’s opinions on revising the B4 zoning at Butterfield. [See: Zoning Code Amendments Draw Caution]. The revision, proposed by the Village Board last month, would make two changes. First, it would allow government offices above village-level to be located at Butterfield; currently the zoning code prohibits town, county, state and federal offices. Second, it would allow “mixed uses, consisting of two or more uses permitted or specially permitted” -– functions legal upon granting of a special-use permit. Under the B4 provisions already on the books, senior-citizen housing can be built if a special-use permit is granted.
Mayor Seth Gallagher said that the Village Board would review the Planning Board report, with input from Gaba as needed.
“I’m told a new schematic” design is being prepared by Butterfield developer Paul Guillaro, and should be available “shortly,” Gaba informed the board. For six months, Guillaro pursued an application for a Planned Unit Development (a more sophisticated zoning concept) featuring two forms of senior housing, a multi-government building, and retail space, with room for a post office. Citing frustrations with the review process, he withdrew the application in May after lengthy Planning Board discussions.
Post office and cats
As part of his monthly report, Building Inspector William Bujarski mentioned that “the postal service has a Realtor contacting my office to determine if what spaces they’re looking at are viable for a postal relocation.”
On Wednesday, responding to a Philipstown.info inquiry, he said he could not elaborate. “The USPS Realtor has not formally presented any sites to me,” Bujarski said. “I believe it is premature to relay any of the informal discussions since they have not settled on any one or more. They are also continuing the search for locations.”
At the meeting, describing the myriad duties that come his way, Bujarski reported that “an excess of 30 cats were removed” from a Springbrook condominium unit and the human occupant instructed “so that not every feral cat in the village goes to Springbrook to eat.”
A letter from the Putnam County Legislature asking the board to support a proposed hotel-motel visitor tax, which requires state backing, drew no favorable reactions. In the letter, Legislature Chairperson Mary F. Conklin acknowledged that County Executive MaryEllen Odell had vetoed the legislature’s resolution on the tax and that the legislators had not overridden the veto. However, she added that “I do not feel this proposal should be disregarded at this time as it could enhance the revenue stream” in the county. Initially the resolution called upon the county to share the tax revenue with the municipality in which the hotel is located.
“This language was removed as it was determined that too much information could bog the process down in Albany,” Conklin wrote. Nonetheless, the legislature intended “to add this sharing factor into the resolution if the ability for the county to collect this ‘user fee’ was approved by Albany,” she said. Moreover, a re-drafted “resolution can be fine-tuned to please all parties involved,” Conklin said.
Gallagher observed that the county already declines to share sales tax revenue collected in the village and thus “I guess I would be opposed to a hotel tax going to the county.”
The village Comprehensive Plan, adopted by the board in January, recommends that the village consider seeking a change in state law to permit a hotel room tax, applicable to local inns and bed-and-breakfasts, to raise money and offset property taxes.
Falloon said that the village is poised to fully implement NY-Alert and is working with the Town of Philipstown and Putnam County to coordinate widespread citizen participation. In addition, “the state has been unusually cooperative,” Falloon said. “Everyone should be signed up for this.” The free system allows residents to receive alerts by telephone, mobile phone, e-mail and such social media as Twitter. Should anyone need assistance in signing up, “contact me directly,” Falloon added. “I’ll be glad to help you.”
Gallagher noted that the recent village government newsletter contained information on NY-Alert and that details also are available at the village hall: 85 Main St., 845-265-3611, coldspringny.gov.
Gallagher thanked those who lent aid for Community Day, the village Fourth of July celebration, which he and other board members described as a big success. Specifically, Gallagher expressed appreciation to Gordon Stewart, publisher of Philipstown.info and The Paper, for underwriting the cost of the fireworks; Andrew Pidala, of Pidala Electric, for donating professional services; Dave Cooke, of Sarabeck Antiques, for coordinating vendor operations, and Cold Spring Fire Company No. 1, for helping to ensure public safety.
Gallagher said the board had anticipated $9,000 in Community Day donations, including the $8,000 needed for the fireworks. The results proved better than expected: Altogether, according to Gallagher, Community Day brought in $12,075, including vendor fees and money from a raffle benefitting the village.
Fjord Trail grant application
The board voted 5-0 to endorse a grant proposal package being compiled by Scenic Hudson for funding for the proposed Hudson River Fjord Trail, allowing hikers to go from Cold Spring to Beacon on a safe path paralleling Route 9D. Under the proposal, the village would supply $19,320 in in-kind contributions, such as Highway Department services, and receive $18,960 in grant money to cover materials for work on the Cold Spring link in the trail.