Beacon Residents Voice Opinions About Proposed Building Ban

Council vote expected in September

By Jeff Simms

Public comment dominated the July 17 Beacon City Council meeting, the first since Mayor Randy Casale announced that the city is considering a six-month moratorium on residential building.

The ban is being considered, Casale said, because Beacon’s faster-than-projected growth could bring the city’s population uncomfortably close to the threshold its existing water supplies can sustain.

Beacon’s population is about 14,400, but with almost 1,000 housing units either under construction or review, that number could jump to nearly 17,000 quickly. The city’s water sources can accommodate 17,800, although its comprehensive plan projected Beacon would not grow that large until at least 2050.

The City Council will likely vote in September on the moratorium, which, if adopted, will be backdated to July 3.

At the July 17 meeting, dozens of residents offered their opinions.

Mary Fris, a Main Street business owner, said that she’s heard from numerous shop owners that the city should slow residential growth and concentrate on jobs.

“I get people in my shop every week looking for work, and that’s not just high school kids,” she said in a later interview. “If there were mid-sized companies in Beacon, those people would stay in Beacon and spend money here.”

High-end apartments and condominiums typically appeal to commuters and retirees, she said, not people who spend much money locally.

Others at the meeting, however, argued that a moratorium would stall an economic and cultural revival they see going on in Beacon.

“Beacon has the opportunity to lose the market that has been driving revenue, growth, better schools, a picturesque downtown and tourism,” said Theresa Dryfoos. “We all know the market can cool on a dime, which would give us a whole new set of problems.”

Nearby Moratoriums

Monroe enacted a 90-day moratorium on residential construction in 2016 and extended it four times to give the town time to update its comprehensive plan. Home developers who had already cleared trees from two parcels sued; one issue was whether they would be able to include “accessory apartments.”

Blooming Grove, South Blooming Grove and Washingtonville each adopted six-month residential moratoriums earlier this year to update their comprehensive plans. Two homeowners who had been attempting since 2015 to install a $2 million solar array on their farm pleaded for an exemption.

Officials in Goshen in 2015 declared a six-month moratorium on solar projects to allow village staff to research the technology and how it might affect planning.

Jessica Jelliffe expressed concern that continued residential growth might cause Beacon to lose the small-town character that has brought many residents to the city.

“We love this city,” Jelliffe said. “We came here because we felt something extremely strong and powerful, and we don’t want to lose that. Right now it feels like the development is moving extremely quickly without taking into account the history and the vibrancy of what we do have.”

Frank Fish, a principal at BFJ Planning, which helped a committee of Beacon residents and officials revise the city’s comprehensive plan earlier this year, said in an interview that moratoriums are typically utilized when a municipality identifies an issue — like water — that can be addressed and rectified within a given time frame. Six months is considered a “very reasonable” stoppage, he said.

He said BFJ just completed a project with Rockville Centre, on Long Island, which has a population of 24,500. Village officials instituted a six-month building moratorium because of concerns that growth in one area of the village was out of scale with the surrounding neighborhoods. BFJ helped the village create a new zoning district to address the issue.

“There needs to be a cause for the moratorium, and it has to be calculated to alleviate” whatever condition is identified, Fish said. “I’ve seen them work very successfully, but if you don’t get going on some remedial action during the moratorium, you’ve negated the reason for doing it.”

The Beacon council is scheduled to review a second draft of the proposed moratorium at its July 31 workshop. The council would have to schedule a public hearing and solicit input from the city and county planning boards before a vote could take place.

11 Responses to "Beacon Residents Voice Opinions About Proposed Building Ban"

  1. Tammy Desmarais   July 22, 2017 at 9:38 am

    I’m in favor of the moratorium. Besides water and sewage demands, Beacon already has parking and traffic issues that aren’t being addressed. I live right off Main Street, and every day I watch people drive the wrong way up my street, presumably to bypass more congested traffic areas. This is on weekdays. The tourist traffic on the weekends only adds to the hardship of living so close to Main. Add in soon-to-be-overcrowded schools and accelerated growth would bring more problems than advantages.

  2. Elaine Ciaccio   July 22, 2017 at 10:41 am

    They have been saying Beacon’s population is between 14,000 and 14,400 for at least three or four years now. The most recent figures I have found put us at 15,500. This would put us at or above our safe-water yield. I believe to continue to allow further development without a full examination of this problem would be irresponsible. I therefore fully support the moratorium.

    • mm
      Site Editor   July 22, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Beacon at the time of the 2010 census was 15,541. However, it estimates that on July 1, 2016, the population was 14,271.

  3. Lena Leon Bell
    Lena Leon Bell   July 22, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Too much, too fast. Beacon needs to slow down.

  4. Pratap Edward Geraghty
    Pratap Edward Geraghty   July 22, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Passed the construction in the photo today and there’s an additional cement block structure at the end which is taller than the post office steeple across the street. It’s out of proportion to Beacon’s architecture. How could the Planning Board and City approve this?

    • Mark Giordano
      Mark Giordano   July 22, 2017 at 1:37 pm

      Because they represent the tourists, and not the residents. This will all backfire in a few years, just like Brooklyn is currently seeing. The rents will get too high, and the storefronts will become empty.

    • Mary Laffin
      Mary Laffin   July 23, 2017 at 12:19 am

      Beacon is going to fold. They want too much, too soon!

  5. Chris Ungaro   July 22, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    I think a moratorium is needed to plan Beacon’s growth for the next decade. It’s not just water and sewer but also services and the needs of these need to be extrapolated out along with the costs and requirements.

    We also need to solve the Route 9D traffic issue getting to the bridge. It wasn’t that long ago when it was redone and the nice sidewalks were also put in, but that construction was shortsighted. Even then I knew that it would soon had to be widened. In the not-too-distant future that all will have to come out and a middle turning lane (at the minimum) or a complete third / fourth lane will need to be added.

    Additional housing is the needs of those who want to come but jobs and industry of some sort are more pressing needs of the current community.

  6. Elaine Ciaccio   July 24, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    It seems odd that if Beacon’s population has decreased that our average daily water usage has risen steadily since 2013.

  7. Frank Haggerty   July 28, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    Sounds to me what’s needed is a moratorium on new buildings and on conversions which do not contribute to steady and ongoing local jobs and/or to steady and ongoing local purchasing power. In the residential arena that means units for full-time, local residents.

  8. Mary W. Collyer   July 30, 2017 at 7:07 am

    I don’t think there should be a moratorium only on residential building. There should be no more building at all until the vacant storefronts are full and have a reasonable record of positive cash flow. Beacon doesn’t need more people or more buildings. Beacon needs well-paying local jobs of all kinds. Infrastructure issues need to be addressed and resolved before any more building takes place.

    I urge my fellow Beacon residents to attend the Zoning Board Meetings as well as the City Council meetings. Our voices need to be heard.