Rhinebeck mental health center faces zoning review

The mental health counseling center in the heart of Rhinebeck may now come under official village zoning review if its owner appeals a “cease-and-desist” order at a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting scheduled for Nov. 7 at 7pm in Town Hall.

According to Michael Ghee, a village homeowner and member of the village planning board, Daniel Colnaghi, the owner of 47 West Market St., is expected at the meeting to answer the order, which was issued Aug. 15 following an outcry by residents over the new tenants at the site.

The order followed an investigation by the village board and the zoning enforcement officer that showed a new site plan had not been filed, as required by village law, after three nonprofit organizations took over the lease from the Dutchess County Department of Mental Health last year. The facility now offers mental health and substance abuse programs, and residents from nearby streets expressed alarm at earlier board meetings about the facility’s client supervision, the loitering, and an increase in taxi traffic in the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, a group of Rhinebeck residents and businesspeople, led by Ghee, have announced plans for a campaign to uphold the “cease and desist order” and a discussion about noncompliance issues at the ZBA meeting.

In a news release, the group said, “According to interpretation of Article IX of the Village of Rhinebeck Zoning Law, Chapter 120, adopted in 2001 as village local law #2-2001, which addresses “Nonconforming Uses, Buildings and Structures”, the property is in violation based upon its expansion and intensification (growing census) and its modification (change of use) without prior approval.”

Ghee added, “For 29 of the last 30 years, I have lived adjacent to this property and it was never a problem because it was operated and regulated by Dutchess County. However, when it was quietly privatized, which was done without any request for approvals, we saw drastic changes to the population they were serving, and ultimately, to our neighborhood. The law is in place to protect and preserve our community. All we are asking is that our zoning board…uphold the laws set in our zoning code to protect the character of our village.”

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