The T.O.D. is dead as a door knob: neither the city of Beacon nor the M.T.A. see eye-to-eye on the issue:
City officials have proposed temporarily putting on hold the acceptance and review of land-use applications for some properties near the waterfront.
A proposed six-month moratorium would apply primarily to undeveloped properties in a roughly one-eighth-mile area along West Main Street, Beekman Street and Route 9D, Mayor Steve Gold and Councilman at-large George Mansfield said.
It would not apply to projects pending before the city, Mansfield said.
"If someone currently has plans submitted, they would not be subject to the moratorium," he said.
Projects at existing residences would be exempt, too, he said.
A public hearing on the change will be held during the July 19 City Council meeting.
Gold said the moratorium would give the city and its Committee on Transit-Oriented Development time to develop language necessary to create "waterfront linkage zones" between Main Street and the Hudson River in anticipation of future development there.
The zones could be pedestrian-friendly or accommodate alternative transportation, he said.
Mansfield and Margaret Ross, committee chairwoman, said the volunteer advisory panel has been exploring how to link the waterfront with Main Street without hurting Main Street.
"We need to have some control over that area so that we can ensure the kind of waterfront access we want," Ross said.
Last year, City Council declined considering a transit-oriented development plan presented by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The city and the MTA are not currently discussing a plan, according to officials. (Susan Campriello)
The underlying issues aren't changing: Beacon and Southern Dutchess are growing. We need better transportation links to the waterfront. We don't want to choke on scattershot uncoordinated growth without transportation thought out. More lanes and more cars are not an option: we don't want Beacon having a strip mall drawn through it, cutting off and atrophying car unfriendly Main Street from the waterfront. It would be a stab at the heart of Beacon, it would kill our growth. So the moratorium is good: we need a plan, and post-T.O.D., we don't have one. What should our plan be?
We don't want 9D turning into Route 9, but we can't stop the growth of the exurbs outside of Beacon's borders, and they all want to use our train station. The pressure is already on: they tried to open a Walgreens on 9D:
There are other development plans already angling along 9D to the train station. Daily, there are cars in gridlock from the train station to i84. The pressure is on, and growing. We have to get ahead of this pressure, control it, or it will destroy what is good about Beacon's layout. How can Beacon grow intelligently, and resist the pressures that would have the corridor from i84 to the train station becoming 6 lanes and bypass our Main Street? How do we increase transportation intelligently, and link Main Street up to all these tourists and commuters moving on our periphery every day, but not getting to Main Street because it's inconvenient?
It was my hope, when the T.O.D. was still in play, that some sort of concession could be derived from the M.T.A.: you can get your T.O.D., but the Beacon Line should be reopened. Anything. Any pokey little thing you can put on the tracks, please. And no businesses at the T.O.D., just residences, and therefore lots of new residents, a captive audience for Main Street businesses. I started the Beacon Line project in order to stump for some use for the Beacon Line, anything:
It is absurd to have a train line, owned by a transit agency no less, running through our growing city, clamoring for transport and linkage, and it's just lying fallow. It's ridiculous. It should be used for something, anything: dismantle the rails and turn it into a rail trail for hiking and biking? Sure. Rail-with-trail, hiking biking and some sort of light rail? Sure. Anything. Just not unused.
But all of these plans take money, and all of these plans have to convince the M.T.A. to make some movement, which it doesn't seem interested in making. Does anyone have a couple of million to buy out the M.T.A.? No. Thus the T.O.D. as leverage. But, the T.O.D. being dead, that leverage doesn't exist anymore.
In my stumping for the cause of the Beacon Line, I linked up with Kevin Newman, who is passionate about the Beacon Line's future use as a transportation corridor for Southern Dutchess. His research is outstanding:
Anyway, commiserating with Kevin recently about the inability to get movement on the Beacon Line with the T.O.D. dead as January in Siberia, Kevin says: "why not just move the T.O.D. to Matteawan Station?" (that's the old station stop on East Main).
At first, it sounds ludicrous: the T.O.D. plan at Beacon Station was all about the land that the M.T.A. owns there. It just owns the rails at East Main, no land.
But hold on: the city is motivated here, and the city is thinking big about linkages: surely there is something that the city can concede to the M.T.A. in terms of land or ownership at East Main? Have the old buildings bought back to life, with the M.T.A. as a profiting partner in some capacity they would be interested in?
The land around Matteawan Station is a combination of Ehrlich and city ownership. Bring the Ehrlichs into the deal, they want to see their unused land portfolio capitalized on, not lying fallow.
There's some sort of deal here, something where the city benefits with transport to East Main by rail, the M.T.A. benefits (as long as they put their rail to use for us), and the existing landowners profit off of their dormant land portfolio coming back to life, like the wonderful Roundhouse development rapidly coming into play.
Beacon benefits because getting trains to East Main gets tourists from Dia to East Main. We also benefit because getting Matteawan Station opened is just step #1: Fishkill would be next. Rather than clogging our 9D, we take car pressure off 9D by having commuters park on Route 9 at Fishkill instead. Fishkill would love it: tourists and commuters and residents would be going up to Fishkill's downtown by train too. And no, a T.O.D. at East Main would not clog the streets with cars: we're talking about a train station here. That's the whole point: less cars, not more.
Do we want Main St. and side streets choked by cars? 9D turned into Route 9? How do we prevent these things when growth in the city, and outside the city, is inevitable? How do we get intelligent transport? How do we get ahead of these transport problems and turn them into pluses rather than negatives? How do we reduce the number of cars yet still have good transport?
So the Beacon Line is a no-brainer. It's just a matter of HOW. Assembling all the players into a good deal, where everyone benefits, not least of which, Main Street and the city of Beacon: there is a way to do it. Matteawan Station, with some sort of rail transport to Beacon Station, anything, would turn our city into an outstanding exemplary environmentally friendly nirvana of intelligent growth, and free us from choking on cars.
So Kevin Newman, you're a genius: a T.O.D. in Beacon... but at Matteawan Station.
Landowners, M.T.A., business leaders, government of Beacon: let's make it happen.
It will be a big complicated deal, lots of pitfalls and cynicism and resistance out of simple inertia, but it would do wonders for our gem of a little city, and it is possible for all of the stakeholders to profit here, not least of which, the residents and businesses of Beacon, with better transportation.