Parking in Beacon: Stop and Go

Drawing the lines in battle over space

By Jeff Simms

Scenic Hudson is hoping to nearly double the parking at the base of Mount Beacon to ease congestion at one of the Highlands’ most popular hiking spots. Meanwhile, the Beacon City Council and a developer clashed over who should provide spaces for a new 24-unit apartment building on Main Street.

Mount Beacon

Representatives from Scenic Hudson appeared before the Planning Board earlier this month to discuss plans to expand the lot at the park from 40 spaces to 77.

The project, if approved, would be completed this winter, said Meg Rasmussen, a park planner for the nonprofit conservation group. It would involve moving the Howland Avenue lot entrance farther away from Route 9D and turning it into an exit. Cars routinely line Howland on holidays and weekends when the park’s lot is full.

An overflow area north of the lot will be off-limits (it was recently determined to be wetlands), while the existing lot will be widened and oriented for one-way traffic. Individual parking spaces will be marked in the lot, increasing its overall capacity by 37 cars, Rasmussen said.

In 2015, Scenic Hudson transferred more than 2,100 acres on Mount Beacon and along the Fishkill Ridge to the state parks department as an addition to Hudson Highlands State Park. It retained the 15-acre trailhead parcel.

A rendering of the Mount Beacon parking lot proposal (Scenic Hudson)

“It’s connected to 6,000 acres [of open space] and 50 miles of trails and is expanding in popularity all the time,” Rasmussen said.

The Route 9D entrance to the park would remain unchanged, as would the informational kiosks in the lot. It would remain gravel, except for ADA-accessible spaces, which will be paved. Bike racks are also likely to be added.

The project will require the lot to be closed during construction, Rasmussen said, with plantings and other finishing touches scheduled for the spring.

Planning Board members liked the idea, which will now go to the Zoning Board of Appeals, from which Scenic Hudson must request a variance on setback regulations for the residential-zoned neighborhood.

344 Main St.

The atmosphere was more tense at the Aug. 21 meeting of the City Council, which terminated its agreement to lease parking to a developer for 24 apartments under construction at 344 Main St.

City officials signed an agreement a year ago to lease developer Sean O’Donnell the spaces at $40 each per month in the city-owned Eliza Street lot. But Beacon Mayor Randy Casale noted that O’Donnell later purchased the Citizens Bank parcel at 364 Main, which the mayor argued was “specifically to provide permanent parking” for the neighboring 344 Main project, and allowed the city to nullify the agreement and reclaim its spots.

(In 2008 Beacon repealed a zoning provision that allowed retailers and developers to pay a one-time fee for each off-street spot it could not provide. Instead, the code requires developers to give the city “appropriately located and developed land for commercial parking” elsewhere. Without a special permit, the code generally requires one space for each apartment, plus a quarter-space for each bedroom; two spaces for homes; one for every 500 square feet of retail space; and one for every three restaurant seats.)

344 Main St. (File photo by J. Simms)

Patrick Moore, O’Donnell’s attorney, said at the council’s Aug. 14 workshop that O’Donnell can’t turn the 364 Main St. property — purchased in March — into a parking lot because he needs to develop it to pay the $1 million mortgage he holds on the parcel. (Moore did not respond to phone calls or emails seeking further comment.)

Adding to the confusion is that 344 Main and 364 Main are owned by separate entities. O’Donnell Construction Corp. purchased 344 Main Street in 2013 after the city foreclosed on the parcel. The company received Planning Board approval last year to construct a four-story building with retail space and 24 apartments.

In January, O’Donnell conveyed 344 Main St. to O’Donnell Construction NY, which had been created a month earlier. Both companies have the same Fishkill address. However, O’Donnell did not ask that the parking agreement with the city be amended.

Cold Spring’s Virtual Parking
Law allows businesses to pay instead of provide

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Taking a different approach from Beacon, in 2010 Cold Spring launched a waiver program that allows businesses to buy permanent exemptions from a village law demanding they provide off-street customer parking.

The program was established in stages. In July 2010, after several months of discussion, the Cold Spring Village Board enacted a law to permit businesses on Main Street and Chestnut Street to pay to avoid compliance with the parking-space requirement, which is part of the zoning code. Two months later, the board set the waiver fee at $250 for every customer parking space not provided.

Without the waiver, retail shops and offices are required to provide one parking space for each 150 square feet of their building’s ground-floor area and each 300 square feet of upper-floor area; restaurants, cafes, and taverns must supply one parking space for every three seats. For example, a restaurant containing six tables, each with two chairs (or 12 seats total), would pay $1,000 for a waiver (or $250 for every three chairs).

Old Main Street buildings often lack parking lots and before the law passed, many businesses had to rent parking, often at a monthly cost of $60 to $100 per space, from owners of buildings with extra.

According to the village clerk, the village government has no consolidated list of parking waivers granted since the program began.

The ownership change prompted Nick Ward-Willis, the city’s attorney, to argue that the agreement was null and void because it states it cannot be transferred without the city’s permission. Another clause allows the agreement to be canceled if O’Donnell is able to secure the 24 spaces elsewhere.

Additionally, the council said this week that it cannot legally issue certificates of occupancy for 344 Main if O’Donnell doesn’t provide parking for the project.

Speaking for O’Donnell, Moore argued on Aug. 14 that his client and the city must be in agreement before the “alternate location” clause kicks in. Since they can’t agree, he said, “I’m ready for a judge.”

“I know you are, and I’m not scared of lawyers,” Casale shot back. “This needs to go to the courts. I’m done being lied to by developers.”