Mayor expresses concern over water supply
By Jeff Simms
The Beacon City Council is considering a six-month moratorium on residential development because of concerns about its long-term water supply.
Beacon Mayor Randy Casale said at the council’s July 10 meeting that the city is drafting the moratorium because Beacon is growing faster than expected but has not added new water sources to its inventory.
Because the council would have to schedule a public hearing and have the city and county planning boards review the proposed legislation, a moratorium would likely not be adopted until at least September.
However, the moratorium would be retroactive to July 3, with construction projects underway or already under review by the Beacon Planning Board exempted. As drafted, it would not apply to commercial building.
Casale’s announcement comes after weeks of pressure from residents to slow the pace of development. At the council’s July 3 meeting, about a month after the formation of the grassroots Beacon People’s Committee on Development, more than a dozen people asked for a one-year moratorium, citing the potential impact of the more than 1,200 housing units that are under construction, being reviewed or in discussion.
On July 5, the Beacon school board adopted a resolution requesting that the school district be designated an “interested agency” in reviewing proposed developments.
But at the July 10 meeting, Casale, who has pushed for “smart growth” in Beacon, said the moratorium comes down to one thing: H2O.
“If somebody makes me satisfied that we have water, I’m willing to move along with development,” he said. “But until then, I’m not willing to be the person who built the city out of water.”
There are 541 housing units under construction in Beacon, Casale said, with 402 more under review by the Planning Board. Together, the development could add as many as 2,360 people to the city’s population, bringing it to 16,735, he said.
The city’s 2007 comprehensive plan indicates that Beacon’s water supplies — which are drawn from the Melzingah, Mount Beacon and Cargill reservoirs and additional storage tanks — can sustain a population of 17,800, which the plan projects would not arrive until the year 2050. But with growth significantly outpacing that projection, and a June 20 report indicating engineers have been unable to find additional water sources, Casale said it’s prudent to pump the brakes.
Right now the city uses about 2.8 million gallons of water per day.
The council will review a second draft of the moratorium on July 31.
Dan Aymar-Blair, an organizer of the People’s Committee on Development, said the group’s members support the move.
“I didn’t know what to expect when the council put a discussion on development on its calendar,” he said, “but a lot of us were relieved that the mayor and council share our concerns that Beacon’s infrastructure has to be able to keep up with development.”
Support for development
On July 11, a number of residents and business owners spoke at a Planning Board hearing in support of the 307-unit Edgewater complex, which is proposed just northeast of the Beacon Metro-North station.
Edgewater would be the city’s largest development to date, but architect Aryeh Siegel said that “more modern environmental planning” will reduce its footprint.
By clustering the apartments — project officials are seeking variances to allow added stories per building with less space between them — as much as 65 percent of the 12-acre site will be landscaped or saved as open space, Siegel said. Additional plans call for collecting rainwater and using energy-efficient construction techniques and materials, he said.
The project, which drew considerable criticism in previous public hearings, would require about 45,000 gallons of water per day, although that figure is accounted for in the numbers Casale cited on July 10.
The complex would have about 558 residents — not all of them new to Beacon or with school-age children — and its estimated impact on the school system would be an additional 47 students, which Edgewater consultants called “negligible.”
The public hearing on the proposal will continue at the Planning Board’s August meeting, but feedback on July 11 was largely positive.
“I would like to see the development of Beacon continue,” said Keith Laug, the owner of Hudson Valley Fitness. “As a small-business owner, I rely on the people who live here. In 2010, we moved to our new spot [on Main Street], and our goal is to grow from there, but in order for me to do that, I need to know that Beacon is going to grow.”