No new construction for six months
By Jeff Simms
After months of discussion, the Beacon City Council on Monday (Sept. 18) adopted a moratorium that halts nearly all residential and commercial construction in the city for six months.
The council voted unanimously to enact the moratorium just after 11 p.m., drawing applause from the handful of spectators who remained at the meeting. The ban will be in place until March.
The cut-off for exemption from the freeze was July 25; any projects in progress or under Planning Board review before that date are not impacted. Applications submitted after July 25 may be heard and reviewed but not approved.
Single-family homes and other low-impact projects are also exempt.
Earlier this year, residents concerned about the pace of growth formed the grassroots Beacon People’s Committee on Development and began petitioning the council and Planning Board to slow construction.
“The moratorium is a step in the right direction but it’s the beginning of a longer process,” said Dan Aymar-Blair, one of the organizers. “Development isn’t just putting buildings up; it can create jobs or attract tourists. It’s part of an ecosystem that we create for ourselves. The moratorium buys us some time to look at these things — but we have to actually look at them.”
In July, Mayor Randy Casale asked the council to consider a moratorium after being told the city could strain its water supply if building continued at its current pace. With more than 1,000 apartments and condominiums either in construction or under review, Beacon was growing much faster than expected, Casale said, and could quickly outpace its existing water supply.
In the weeks following, the discussion expanded beyond water. On Sept. 18, the council adopted the moratorium with two amendments — the first allows the city to review and revise zoning codes along Main Street and the Fishkill Creek corridor while searching for water, and the second removes a clause that would have ended the moratorium automatically if the city finds more water.
“I’m trying to broaden it out a little bit,” said Council Member Lee Kyriacou, who proposed the amendments and has pushed for a zoning review to accompany the moratorium.
The council has already begun to review the zoning codes. John Clarke, a planning consultant hired by the city, on Sept. 11 presented draft revisions for the Main Street and Fishkill Creek districts.
In addition, engineering consultants are drilling for water at several test sites in and near Beacon, and the water department plans to more accurately calculate the capacity of its three reservoirs while also addressing leaks in the system.