There are several important items the City Council is considering that the public should be informed about. They have to do with waterfront and Fishkill Creek developments.
On Monday July 27th at a Special City Council Meeting, I anticipate that the Council will set a public hearing date of September 8th for three items: (1) Zoning to accommodate the Transit-Oriented Development at the waterfront. (2) Zoning for property north of the train station known as Edgewater. (3) Beacon’s first Affordable Housing local law.
Also during the workshop section of the July 27th meeting the council will be discussing zoning for residential and commercial development on the Fishkill Creek, and an accompanying greenway trail. (See cityofbeacon.org for the agenda and copies of zoning regulations).
The Council meeting of August 3rd will be limited to a special community information forum. The meeting will be filmed and shown on the city’s website and channel 22. On behalf of Beacon, John Clarke, Senior Planner for the Dutchess County Department of Planning will present a new PowerPoint to the public regarding the proposed Transit-Oriented Development District. It will include information about the land surrounding the Railroad Station, include historic views of the area, describe design principles that have been incorporated into the TOD zone legislation, an illustrative sketch plan as one example of what the transit-oriented development might look like, an analysis of how river views can be protected, and the public benefits of transit-oriented development. The public is invited to join in to ask questions and make statements although the first official public hearing may be September 8th. The council wants to learn your viewpoints before it will make its decisions.
As your Mayor I want to make one observation that relates to these zoning regulations. The city must find a more sustainable method to balance its budget than our current unhealthy dependence on sales tax related revenues. The effects of the economic downturn on sales tax revenue led to financial difficulties for Beacon last year and the 2010 budget is projected to have even more serious consequences. One way to stabilize revenue is to add to our residential housing stock using smart growth principles. The developments that we are considering on the water front and the Fishkill Creek will do that. They represent a low cost for Beacon to provide services (including schools) than single family homes on large lots. That is why these developments are recommended by the city’s new Comprehensive Plan. The density and location of Beacon’s transit-oriented development is environmentally positive and supported by Scenic Hudson Land Trust. It is also why in a July 10th editorial the Poughkeepsie Journal wrote “the blueprints are there (in Beacon) for sound growth”.
We’ve already protected the city from over development by limiting density in our existing residential neighborhoods and by creating new parklands. Now we are focusing on undeveloped areas the areas where residential and commercial units can provide a measure of financial sustainability and add to our Main Street business vitality. Extensive long term professional traffic studies conducted by the city have yielded favorable results. Undoubtedly these developments will change the look of our waterfront and creek. It is for us all to contemplate if that change will be for the better. We should all keep an open mind as these discussions unfold.