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Waterfront Linkage Committee Public Meeting

So I thought the meeting tonight was good. At least a hundred people were there. Lots of participation, some divergent views. The biggest points of contention seemed to be:

1. increasing the height of buildings. 4 stories, maybe even 5. lots of people for it and against it, mainly concerned about viewsheds of the mountain. The current mayor and the former mayor both weighed in on this issue, and a bunch of other people.

2. parking. The idea that there is too much parking. The idea that there is not enough parking. The idea there should be more walking.

3. infilling buildings towards the street, widening the street, or narrowing it, and middle of Main Street being much denser in general.

Just to recap, this is the area between Teller Avenue and Digger Phelps.

Then there is the linkage zone down to the train station, talk about development there, reducing the complex zoning regs currently in place, and talk about making it pedestrian friendly.

I spoke up about the need for people to get off the train, look up, and see the foot of Main Street, or at least be compelled to walk in that direction with some sort of pedestrian focused staircase or somesuch. A line of sight staircase is actually not possible: I was talking to Tom Church, there is an old Revolutionary War era graveyard behind the Dutch Reformed Church, oh well. But we need SOMETHING to compel pedestrians to walk up to Main Street, and this should be the backbone, the main focus, of whatever linkage plan is put through. Currently, you get off the train, you don't even know Main Street exists.

Another interesting part of the meeting was the historical component, the way Beacon used to be, pictures and reminisces from the audience and the presenters. And comparisons to other communities, from both the audience and the presenters, such as Saratoga Springs and Telluride.

Finally, June 14,Oliver and Lily of School of Jellyfish will be at the Beacon Institute on Dennings Point to present "Parametric City: Beacon The City as a Living Organism" which will deal with Beacon as a test case in the city as a self-sustaining entity. Sounds very cool. Be there:

http://schoolofjellyfish.com/blog/?p=563

Thank you presenters and thank you Beacon Main Street Linkage Committee for the excellent meeting!

Views: 1271

Tags: development, linkage, main street

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Comment by Anna West on May 25, 2012 at 12:00am

Look at the photos heading this conversation. "Allow taller buildings in certain circumstances". Since you weren't there, let me fill you in on what was discussed.   After 3 stories they could be set back, smaller.  That you have to keep in mind how the sun sits so that one side isn't in shadow. They even discussed hours of the day.  Main Street is not going to suddenly be 5 story buildings.

Personally, if the library offered a couple apartments above it-they would have a much easier time getting a new building. Less a burden on us.

It would never be the whole Main Street, or even a part of it. Because no buildings are going to be torn down. This is just being presented so that the Zoning Board might offer more leeway in certain circumstances.

Anna

Comment by Abu KG on May 24, 2012 at 11:41pm

my objection to the taller buildings has nothing to do with mountain views, i don't think the mountain views from main are particularly compelling anyway.

david, i have no idea what you mean about rhinebeck, boulder, etc. boulder is a major metropolitan area (100k people in the city limits and at least that many again in the nearby suburbs). what has it got to do with beacon?

virtually all of downtown rhinebeck is 3 stories or less and its draw is the HISTORIC buildings. fine dining in an old gothic church. gilded age mansions. antiques. etc.  the maximum building height allowed under their current zoning is 35 feet:

http://ecode360.com/documents/RH0960/RH0960-125c%20Dist%20Sch%20Are...

there is no need to build five story buildings to encourage mixed use development. 1) it will not cause currently profitable but ugly buildings like key food to be replaced, which seems to be one of the chief complaints in this thread. 2) there is a limit to the "more people on main = better" argument. don't forget that main street residents on this site routinely complain about having nowhere to park. personally i don't think parking is a big problem but if it is hard to park anywhere on main it's certainly on the ends, which are more densely populated.

and lastly, if people are saying that you can't make money building three story buildings so we need to build five, i say HOGWASH. what a developer means when he says he can't make money off "x" density is that he can make MORE money if he doubles the density, and he hopes you will oblige. we saw the same thing with the TOD. take whatever density a developer is demanding, divide it in half and you will probably end up at a fair estimate.

i'm all for mixed use development on main. i'm also all for maintaining the small town feel represented in the current zoning and i think we should be redeveloping existing, vacant spaces, both on main street and in the surrounding area. there are thousands of sq feet of commercial space under renovation now in central main, a historic theater being brought back to life, the round house being renovated with plans for a large, dense residential redevelopment of another east main structure in front of the town. please explain to me why we are in such a rush to bend over backwards to have taller buildings on main street? we are headed in the right direction. towns like rhinebeck, great barrington, hudson, and many others in the hudson valley are examples of places that thrive while maintaining their character and scale. i ask you again - where are the examples of places in our region, of our size and circumstances, that have benefited by having developers come in and rewrite the zoning?

Comment by Ben Royce on May 24, 2012 at 6:46pm
I'm typing this on my phone, in front of Greg's place on Main:

Viewshed

Or trees

That's your choice Beacon. The buildings really don't matter.
Comment by Gregory Richards on May 24, 2012 at 4:08pm

I agree. Why not taller buildings closer to 9D were they will not be able to see the mountain anyway? Then from the point where it is visable, lower buildings. If the railway ever gets up and running, that would be a great site to see (the train going up and down), but, from my location you cannot see it at all looking down Main Street.

 

Comprimise, something they need to learn in Washington.

Comment by Ben Royce on May 24, 2012 at 1:43pm

Greg: I'm talking to Jim Hayes now offline. He is making the case that the view of the incline railway is more important, and I think what you are seeing is in agreement. Maybe we can get tall buildings on only the North Side of Main.

Comment by Gregory Richards on May 24, 2012 at 1:30pm

After reading the replies, I walked out the door of my business and looked down Main Street, couldn't see the mountain due to the trees. I did see a section of it by looking over a building.

 

I get the point of the view and it would look nice. Too bad there wasn't something up there to look at besides the radio towers (if the railway was there that would be cool). I think they could have the 5 story buildings in a certain section of Main Street and work on another section for the view of the mountain.

As for the bikes, I'm on the bikers side. The people who passed the law and those who argued for it don't even ride a bike and only see this from "their point of view". BTW, the Beacon Police has no record of a Bicyclist hitting a pedestrian in the past few years. They do have several examples of cars hitting bicyclist!

Comment by Anna West on May 23, 2012 at 5:58pm

Abu, it has been studied and proved that apartments, or rather people living on main streets works. Not true about adding high rise, silly reference. Just look at both ends, now look at the middle.

I know several cities where they did that, and ruin the thriving cities. Very stupid to limit cars on the main street, the people will just drive to 9. That is what they did in Akron Oh and Reading PA, of course, Malls were just coming into being and were a novelity.

The council worked on that bike law for months, if you had a problem you had plenty of opportunities to address the issue.  It is terrible that no one stops the bikes on riding on the sidewalk on Main Street.  Children should walk their bikes on Main, and ride on the side streets.  Children are just as dangerous or even more so than adults when riding their bikes. They notice no one but themselves and can easily injure someone.  A simple fall for someone over 65 mean a death sentence within a year for 60%.  Teaching your children to think about others is more important than riding on Main Street.

Comment by Ben Royce on May 23, 2012 at 3:13pm

Thanks David.

"The fact that Beacon goes west to east is quite odd..."

I think they laid Main Street out so that you get a straight view notch of the mountain... twice. Because there was Matteawan, and Fishkill landing, and the two towns merged, and yet it is no accident that you can stand at Hudson Beach Glass at the West end of Main and get a straightshot view of the mountain.

There is nothing new about the idea of a viewshed, people always appreciate a view. I'm sure there are neanderthals that chose one cave over another because the view was nicer.

And so there is nothing to worry about in regard to viewshed: the notch is established. If you are on a side street, the view is blocked by trees or a one story building already. And if you are on Main, you get a notch view of the mountain, again, whether Main Street has one story buildings or one hundred story buildings.

"Regardless whether or not you drive a lot, it's getting less affordable to go to Route 9 for whatever you need."

I agree, and I once argued they should shut down Main to traffic except bikes and pedestrians. But that part of the meeting where they talked about the history of Poughkeepsie trying out that idea in the 1960s to utter failure was eye-opening for me, I had no idea. So so much for that idea.

But obviously we should be making Main as bike friendly and pedestrian friendly as possible. Which makes that recent law the city council passed about bikes having to ride on the sidewalk so absurd and ridiculous.

I was talking to Greg about that law, and we watched what... Greg, like ten different bikers go by us on the sidewalk in the span of fifteen minutes?

Ridiculous law!

I'm telling my kids to ride on the sidewalk when they get to that age, and not to zoom past open doorways and defer to pedestrians. Just be nice!

City council: you really have to reverse that silly law, it is completely ignored, and goes against making Beacon bike friendly, and you want Beacon to be bike friendly.

Comment by David Balogh on May 23, 2012 at 2:08pm

Thanks for making that point about the trees, Ben. I don't think I fully processed that statement. My take is this: Main Street is just that... a Main Street. We all know what an iconic Main St. looks like in the US, and often go to great pains to replicate it in art, life, even Lego or model train layouts.

The idea of that is what makes towns like Saratoga, Rhinebeck, Burlington, Boulder (hearsay, my wife lived there), Northhampton, and even our big cities so exciting and attractive to tourists and potential new residents. Attracting more residents is in fact the bigger goal here, as they bring more permanent money and potential for some bigger businesses to invest here, which is the real 'trickle down' affect we all are looking for.

To be clear, just about all those places I mentioned are in beautiful areas, and I don't think any of them suffer from a tall Main St. You get people to move down the street past the no-man's land and all of a sudden the big payoff is a more beautiful view.

The fact that Beacon goes west to east is quite odd, especially growing up by Glens Falls where all towns' Main St. is Route 9 north and south. We have beautiful vistas up there too, but to really take advantage of them, you have to explore beyond there anyway.

You can be careful with the planning, and you can even take advantage of taller buildings by allowing rooftop restaurants/bars that have an even better view. We can also benefit in general from filling in those voids with small parks.

One other point I don't know if I mentioned: Gas prices are $4/gal. Regardless whether or not you drive a lot, it's getting less affordable to go to Route 9 for whatever you need. Any businesses we can get close to us by easing zoning would make a world of difference in terms of convenience. It would also bring more employment and closer, which makes commuting cheaper. Every penny counts, right?

Comment by Ben Royce on May 23, 2012 at 1:41pm

Greg: I get it. The viewshed makes sense to me. The view of the mountain is quite stunning from Main Street, it feels like you are in the Rockies or something. I like it. I want to keep it.

But at the meeting, the mayor spoke up at one point and reminded everyone when so many people were angry about the tall trees cut down on the West end of Main. Why did he do that? Because with those tall trees, you couldn't even see the mountain! I think he was implying that some of the same people who got angry about the trees cut down were the same ones arguing about preserving the viewshed: a little self-contradictory.

So, yeah, I agree with the mayor, the resistance to taller buildings and arguments appealing to the viewshed can be a little irrational. People just resist change, it's psychological. But nostalgia is a little too precious and twee, overemphasizing what might be lost and de-emphasizing what can be gained.

I am for denser development in Beacon, it will be good for the tax base, and the viewshed of the mountain from Main Street will be the same if you had 1 story buildings or 100 story buildings: it's a notch. The height of the notch doesn't matter, the view is the same. Look at historical pictures of Beacon, when it was dense and urban from Bank Square down to the waterfront and dense in the middle of Main: there's still views of the mountain. I mean if you want to talk about nostalgia, there's your nostalgia: dense high buildings everywhere around Main and down to the waterfront in Beacon a century ago.

I mean if you really want to talk about viewsheds, here's one: when tourists get off the train in Beacon, they should be able to glance, and see the foot of Main. Then they will come. Currently, you don't even know Main Street exists when you get off the train.

This is the most important viewshed argument, in my opinion.

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