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.
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.