Edgewater, 226 Main on Planning Board docket
By Jeff Simms
The Beacon Planning Board is expected to decide on Dec. 12 whether a proposal for a housing development near the Hudson River should be delayed because of its impact on the city’s school system, or if the board should proceed in its review.
If the Edgewater project, which will include seven buildings and 307 apartments, is found to have an adverse impact on the schools, the builder, Scenic Beacon Developments, will have to show it can mitigate the effects. If the project passes environmental review, the Zoning Board of Appeals must rule on three requested variances for the number of stories allowed in each building, units per building and the distance between buildings.
The environmental review of the project, which began in May, has been at a standstill as consultants for the development and Beacon City School District officials have clashed over the students Edgewater would add, and the cost of educating them. Both sides rely on their own metrics in what City Attorney Jennifer Gray admitted during last month’s meeting will come down to a judgment call.
Edgewater’s consultant, Patrick Cleary, says that the Rutgers University Demographic Multiplier is the most accepted, and conservative, model for projecting student population growth. Based on the higher rents anticipated for most of the Edgewater units, Cleary suggested the development will add fewer than 50 children to the district.
Factoring in per-student cost data from the instructional portion of the school system’s budget and the assessed value of the Edgewater property — which is used to project tax revenue — he said the district would realize a modest benefit.
The school district argues there is more to the cost of education than just the instructional portion of its budget. Additional costs, such as staff for special education students, BOCES services and publication of educational materials, can be found throughout the budget, said Judith Mayle, an attorney who represents the district.
“What’s being proposed now to calculate the cost to educate a student isn’t recognized by the State of New York and is not used by anyone to calculate the cost of municipal services, whether it’s fire, police or education,” Mayle said last month.
The grassroots Beacon People’s Committee on Development this week launched a petition at Change.org urging the Planning Board to vote down the project. By Dec. 8, 580 people had signed.
The Planning Board will also continue a public hearing for the project at 226 Main St. The Zoning Board of Appeals last month granted variances allowing the developer to have a 10-foot (rather than 25) rear-yard setback and waiving its on-street parking requirement.
Parking for the four-story retail/residential building will be located at the rear of a county-owned lot across the street, which is being widened to create 18 additional spaces, and in a nearby municipal lot, which is being re-striped as well.
Following another lengthy public hearing before the City Council on Dec. 4 over proposed changes for the Main Street and Fishkill Creek development zones, Councilperson Ali Muhammad conceded that the issue is unlikely to be resolved soon.
“This same conversation has been spoken about since the campaign and before the campaign,” said Muhammad, who lost in the primary and will not return to the council. “As much as I’d like to go for it on fourth down I think we might need to punt this one to the next council.”
The rest of the council (although two of its six members were out sick) seemed to agree.
“This council has worked very hard and has been digging into this for quite a long time,” said George Mansfield, but “we need to give it as much time as is necessary and make sure we get it finally right.”
The next City Council will be seated in January, when newcomers Amber Grant, Jodi McCredo, Terry Nelson and John Rembert will join incumbents Mansfield and Lee Kyriacou.
The Dec. 4 hearing featured mostly negative feedback, either from residents who weren’t seeing the changes they wanted or appeared fed up with the ongoing discussion.
Kyriacou said after the meeting that the proposals have veered away from what the public wants. Extending the Central Main Street zone to cover all of Main, for instance, would hurt the historic districts that have thrived on the east and west ends of the street, he said. As drafted, the proposals are “encouraging more development than many people want on either end of Main Street,” he said.
During the public hearing, several speakers said the city appears to be haphazardly approving projects. Others suggested that Beacon is falling prey to developers only interested in maximizing profits.
“It’s very clear that everyone in here loves Beacon,” one of the final speakers, Christine Seymour, said to the council. “I just hope that you all really consider what we’re all saying. I don’t want to move, I want to live here and raise my son here, safely.”
The hearing will continue on Dec. 18, although the council could address the zoning proposals at a workshop before then.