Village of Red Hook puts a halt on new site plans

A moratorium on all applications for site plan approval in the Village of Red Hook is now in effect.

Following a public hearing at its Sept. 9 meeting, the village’s board of trustees voted 4-1 to approve the moratorium, which essentially bars any new commercial projects from beginning the planning process for the next six months. The only exceptions are for applications to extend site plan approval of a previously approved project.

Mayor Ed Blundell said the moratorium would give the village time to implement several zoning amendments to the current Comprehensive Plan, which has been in place for over 40 years, including adding the new “Pattern Book and Architectural Guidelines” document that was finalized in May.

Six people attended the public hearing and commented on two popular topics: what should be done with the IGA property, and what kind of balance should the village consider between historical preservation and new development?

Charlie Callejo, owner of Terry’s County Bakeshop on Market St., spoke against the moratorium because of his concern that it would delay the process of selling the IGA property and cause financial harm to the owners, the Tiberio family. He also felt a moratorium would probably stretch on longer than six months and hurt business in the village.

All the speakers focused on the IGA property at the north end of the village, though the mayor and board repeated throughout the meeting that the IGA property is not the focus of the moratorium and is not mentioned in the law itself.

Four speakers opposed the moratorium because they said it would delay any possible sale of the IGA. A key concern appeared to be that the Tiberio family, which ran the former supermarket until it closed in 2011, still has a significant financial burden and is eager to sell. The moratorium would not allow an interested buyer to do preliminary planning before a purchase.

The Tiberio family was represented by Dominick Tiberio’s son-in-law, David Temple, who lives in the town of Red Hook. He said the family is worried that the moratorium will mean more delays as they try to sell the property, which has been vacant since 2011.

“The Tiberios…have had a great deal of cost with maintaining the property and insurance taxes, etc…If this is stretched out a long time, we have a vacant lot, we have a family having to bear costs…CVS is a big company and they have been a constant presence in the village of Red Hook and they will continue their presence in Red Hook in some fashion, but my impression is that they could be responsible for the use of the building, [which] would be the lesser of evils,” Temple told the board.

Philip Seymour, a local builder who is involved in the Red Hook Business Park right next to the IGA property, had a similar concern. “One of the things pending in the village is the selling of the IGA property to CVS. My concern there, without speaking for Mr. Tiberio, is that this moratorium is going to drag out that sale considerably. I’m concerned that there couldn’t be some measure that they could go ahead and meet with the village to conform to what the village wants,” he said.

Speaking for the moratorium were two homeowners who live close to the IGA site. Both felt the village would benefit from the extra time for reviewing the zoning code and incorporating the pattern book into the code and Comprehensive Plan.

Richard Gordon, who owns an historic house on Old Post Road, addressed the IGA specifically in saying, “This is not a small store, this is not a minor property.…This is a major location in the village that will have an impact on the village’s appearance….Therefore, the more time the board has to consider what the general issues are, the better,” he said.

Susan Mora, who also lives on Old Post Road in an historic house, said she intended to open a bed and breakfast, and zoning changes would help. “I would like the surrounding area to be something people want to come and visit and be happy to part of and walk around and enjoy the village. I’ve been behind the [town’s] Centers and Greenspaces [plan] and the walkable village concept, and I think it should be kept in the historic character we’ve enjoyed in Red Hook,” she said.

That historical context is at the heart of the 77-page pattern book, which was begun in 2009 and finalized in May. It features current and historical photographs and written analyses of residential and commercial buildings, landscaping, driveways, paths, and more.

Deputy Mayor Brent Kovalchick, an architect who was a member of the committee that oversaw the book’s creation, said the book was intended to encourage planners to consider village history.

“We’re not saying that we have to make everything historical, but we have to at least complement the historical context that’s here. I would much rather see us have a couple months of inconvenience versus decades of regret,” he said.

Trustee Steve Zacharzuk, the only board member to vote against the moratorium, said that his conversations with Red Hook residents had convinced him that the timing of it was not right. “[I’ve had] a lot of discussion with local people. Most of them …questioned the timing of this local law. A lot of them said it is directly affecting Tiberio/CVS only…Is that the best thing for the village? ” he asked.

George Beekman, chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals, also spoke up about the moratorium. The board, he said, made a presentation, asked for comments, and then passed the resolution. “If anybody had a question, they couldn’t get an answer. My question would be, why do we need it?” he added.

Blundell replied that the board was not obligated to answer questions and that pressure to review the code was coming from many directions.

“The village is really moving forward, and its code, on the comprehensive level, is 40 years old. The town around us passed Centers and Greenspaces, which is redirecting development, focusing it toward the village and doing other things in the town. Not a bad thing, in my opinion,” he said. “So, we’re looking at a code for the municipality surrounding us that’s a year and a half old…we’re trying to co-exist with something that’s 40 years old and we have to get them to match up better.”

Trustee Jay Trapp argued that the timing works well because there are no major applications in front of any village boards at this time. “It’s like getting on a moving bus. You have to stop the bus, start something new, and start the bus again…We’ve been working on this pattern book for a long time,” he said.

After the meeting, Callejo told The Observer he was surprised more village residents and business owners didn’t show up. “I don’t think there was enough notice.…You’re talking about something like a moratorium, the whole resolution should have been either put in the paper or put online where people can access it,” he said.

The proposal for a moratorium was presented to the board at its Aug. 29 workshop, which was not a regularly scheduled meeting. The required legal notice for the public hearing ran in the Aug. 30 edition of the Kingston newspaper.

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