Town center zoning proposed for Hyde Park

A new zoning district in Hyde Park, called the “Crossroads Core,” would create a new town center and promote walkability, according to a proposal now under discussion by the town board and planning board.

The plans were presented at a special joint meeting of both boards July 30.

According to Town Supervisor Aileen Rohr, the plan is a product of the 2012 Hyde Park Walks Pedestrian Study. It looks to “revitalize the social hubs and promote walkability” in the Route 9 area between the southern boundary of Harvey Street and the northern boundary of the Vanderbilt Estate.

Rohr told the Observer, “The Town Board retained the services of H2M architecture with monies received through a Greenway Grant to implement the changes recommended in Hyde Park Walks Pedestrian Study done through a grant from the PDCTC [Poughkeepsie-Dutchess County Transportation Council].”

Bonnie Franson of H2M architects + engineers, who presented the plan details, explained why the area was chosen. “That’s …the point where, from our perspective, there seems to be a transition in terms of the size of the buildings, the types of uses that occur there…from the CC District to really when you get to your retail core down by Pinewoods, it seems that it’s more office-oriented, it’s lower intensity, lower density, and at this point we didn’t necessarily want to change the TCHD [Town Center Historic District] as it’s applied today. The frontage intersection of Market Street and Albany Post Road is where we’re thinking of developing this core,” she said.

Franson also explained that they hope to achieve the goals Rohr mentioned by setting certain parameters for new development within the district. These would include allowing the introduction of townhouses, with preference for 2-3 story buildings; prohibiting drive-thrus and storage businesses; and increasing housing density from 8 dwelling units per acre to 10 or even 12.

One of the main areas of interest to both boards was the prohibition of drive-thrus. The majority of board members seemed to approve of such a ban, agreeing with planning board member Christopher Oliver who said, “It would be better for the character of the area to not have drive-thrus.”

However, both Ward 4 Councilman Ken Schneider and planning board member Ed Cigna suggested that such a ban would not appeal to pharmacies and banks.

Both boards were also concerned about the idea of multiple-story buildings. Rohr suggested that the second floor of commercial lots be designated non-use—not for residential or commercial use–since she had heard that apartments above businesses are undesirable.

But planning board chair Michael Dupree seemed to disagree, saying, “In this area where we actually have functioning second floors, I don’t see a reason why not to require it because we’re looking to increase density, particularly in this area. And just anecdotally, all of these places with second floors tend to stay occupied.”

After a further mix of opinions from the rest of the participants on whether the first floors should also be residential or commercial, Rohr suggested that they come up with a hybrid plan for the next draft of the proposal.

Planning board member Robert Groeninger highlighted a major concern of his saying, “Understand that we live in a town that has a lot of rock foundation, we can’t do much more with septic. We’re either going to have to come up with some methodology for sewage disposal or package treatment.”

Rohr replied, “I agree, and we are looking at it, but it poses a lot of difficulties.”

Ward 2 Councilman David Ray suggested that the plan would see a return to a “town center” much like there was in the 1960s before the old town hall burned down: “This is the heart of the town, this is where it started and it spread out, and if you want to go somewhere to have a Halloween parade or whatever, you need the village.”

The July 30 meeting was held for the two boards to give initial comments on various elements of the plan before another draft is edited and presented to the public. Rohr suggested that a public hearing on the plan probably would not occur until one of the town board’s September meetings, either Sept. 8 or 22.

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