Beacon Building Freeze Vote Expected Soon

Council will hold public hearing on Sept. 18

By Jeff Simms

The Beacon City Council will hold a public hearing on Monday, Sept. 18, to discuss the city’s proposed building moratorium. The soonest it could vote on the proposal is at its meeting scheduled for Oct. 2.

If adopted, the six-month moratorium would be effective immediately, so if passed in October it would run into April. Projects involving single-family homes would be exempted, while commercial building is expected to be part of the freeze.

On Labor Day, the Beacon Fire Department tested Ladder Truck 45 at a number of locations, including the development at 344 Main St. (lower left). “We can reach [the top of] all our buildings,” it reported. (Beacon FD photos)

New projects that have moved forward (there are three) while the council considers the moratorium have done so at their own risk, City Administrator Anthony Ruggiero said.

The moratorium will be tied to the city’s water supply. Beacon’s 2007 comprehensive plan suggested that existing sources could sustain a population of 17,800, which was not projected to arrive until 2050. But with hundreds of housing units under construction or in development, the city’s population — estimated at just over 14,000 — may approach that ceiling much sooner.

Because moratoriums are typically tied to a specific issue, such as water, the city must make demonstrable efforts to address the shortage during the six-month building break. The first step is to locate new water sources, and the city has hired an engineering firm to test several sand and gravel aquifers at a site outside city limits.

Development and Schools

Beacon residents may see a modest decrease in their school taxes this fall due to the increased number of households in the district, but the long-term effect of increased growth on the schools is tougher to pin down.

District finance chief Ann Marie Quartironi said during the school board’s Aug. 28 meeting that the tax levy — the total amount the district collects from taxpayers in Beacon, Fishkill and Wappinger — will be spread across more homes. That’s a short-term positive for taxpayers. But in the long run development could boost property values, and if the district becomes “wealthier” by that measure, state aid is likely to decrease — which could bring school taxes back up or lead to programming cuts.

The district’s 2017-18 levy will be just over $37 million, a 1.54 percent increase. For the median Beacon home assessed at $290,500, this year’s bill should drop by about $75, Quartironi said.

In July, the board adopted a resolution asking that it be given time to review building plans presented to the city Planning Board.

Since then, board members have suggested an influx of students from developments could crowd schools and increase transportation and other costs. Asked to elaborate, school board President Anthony White said on Aug. 30 that “sudden increases or decreases in student population make it difficult to plan” in allocating resources and hiring staff.

“The board has made it a priority to keep class sizes low, especially at the primary level,” White said.

A second line of water-related measures includes more precisely calculating the capacity of the city’s three reservoirs, correcting leaks in the system and working with Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress to create a comprehensive Community Development Plan.

While the proposed moratorium is principally about water, the City Council has also committed to tackling a number of corollary issues. The council reviewed a series of detailed proposals made by Councilperson Lee Kyriacou at its Aug. 28 workshop and assigned consultant John Clarke to draft revisions to the Central Main Street and Fishkill Creek Development Corridor zoning districts.

Kyriacou has championed zoning as the primary means of managing development and attracting jobs. He also suggested the council study other longer-term initiatives related to growth, such as expanding the city’s greenway trail and restoring the Tioronda bridge, strengthening protection of Beacon’s historic properties, and providing more support for the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals.

4 Responses to "Beacon Building Freeze Vote Expected Soon"

  1. Roxanne Meyer   September 12, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    I am in favor of the moratorium due to all the reasons stated above. I’ve lived through the rough times here and then with Dia and the new improvements we began to come back and be a desirable city where people wanted to live and visit. Now we are going overboard and to the extreme. The parking on Main Street is a huge issue. We do not have spaces for all these high-density buildings.

    Everything about all this high-density building is wrong. It will have a negative impact on the infrastructures and the schools cannot handle the increase in students. The fact that we may have our taxes raised due to a possible decrease in school aid is a major concern of mine. My husband and I are retired and we would like to remain in Beacon but I’m afraid we may not be able to afford to stay in our home. I beg for the residents of Beacon to get involved and voice your opinion before it’s to late.

  2. Charles Symon   September 12, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    “Beacon’s 2007 comprehensive plan suggested that existing sources could sustain a population of 17,800.” So why were we asked to curtail water use a few years ago? Granted, there was a lack of rain, but if the capacity was sufficient for the population there would not have been a mandatory reduction in usage. Obviously the water capacity is not sufficient for the current residents, so any additional residents will only be an additional burden.

    There needs to be a substantial contribution required of the developer and future residents in a two-tier tax rate and fee rate. Current residents should not be required to pay for additional water resources, school classrooms (I actually don’t see a issue with schools, since in 2002 the Beacon City School District had 3,500 students and now has about 2,700) and fire, police, etc.

  3. Stephanie Fogarty   September 13, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    In addition to the above considerations, aesthetics should be considered, especially on Main Street. A huge, five-story building looming over the horizon is just unacceptable. We should be aiming to maintain the historic character of our city if we expect tourism to thrive as well as for those of us who live here.

    Beacon was just starting to look good until this building went up. It blocks the mountains, obscuring the view that makes Main Street charming. And why do we need more storefronts when we still have a few boarded up? The parking issue is certainly a problem. If I want to shop in one of the small shops (that I would like to support), but I can’t find a parking space, well, I just don’t go there. That certainly is not good for the small businesses.

  4. Frank Haggerty   September 14, 2017 at 10:25 am

    The approval and construction of so many very tall and very large buildings so quickly, without a credible plan to handle the effects on traffic congestion, parking, property values, appearance and character, increased transience, city services and infrastructure, etc., will result in terrible consequences for most of the current (or should I say full-time?) residents of, and for many visitors to, the city of Beacon.

    Undoubtedly, a few will significantly benefit (why else would this possibly be happening?), though for some of them I suspect only temporarily or seemingly.