City Council Rushes Vote on Highway Garage Location

City Council Rushes Vote on Highway Garage Location

 

Beacon’s city council voted 5-2 in favor of locating the highway garage on six acres of the former women’s prison. The remaining acreage, approximately 39 acres, is awaiting the release of a Request For Proposal from the State.

Several council members appeared to vote yes based on safety concerns for highway department employees. The current highway garage on Creek Drive is deteriorating badly, with pieces of concrete falling from the ceilings. However, a yes vote by no means guarantees that a new garage will be constructed in a shorter timeframe on the Camp Beacon site. In fact,  the original site behind Chemprene, because it has been on the drawing board for 10 years, could very likely have been the quicker route to a completed building.

But the question of worker safety is a canard in this case. As mentioned, it is unclear which site would result in a finished highway facility more quickly. But more importantly, if city workers are at risk today, if the building is in danger of falling on someone’s head, it should be condemned immediately, tomorrow. Space will need to be found elsewhere, or shared with Fishkill temporarily, or whatever it takes, if lives are truly at stake here. Period. Worker safety has nothing to do with where the new garage gets built, or whether to wait 3 more weeks to vote on it after important points were raised. Due mostly to lack of money, this project has been waiting in line for ten years.

The first issue brought to the council’s attention by council member Lee Kyriacou was potential tax revenue loss on the six acres at Camp Beacon. Using rough figures based on large industrial use on Rt. 52, he estimated that over 20 years the City would lose about $1.5 million dollars in revenue by taking that acreage for the garage. This would make it competitive with the Chemprene site, which would cost more than the Camp Beacon site initially, due mainly to lack of nearby sewer and water hookups.

Perhaps more importantly, a large property within the City will now go out for an RFP with a highway garage next to it, potentially limiting the range of responses. Let us recall that the current garage is located right on the Fishkill Creek, something that would not be done today. In fact, the sale of that valuable city property will help pay for the new facilities.

Yes, a new highway garage is urgently needed. But making a decision based on a false premise of worker safety, or dismissing salient points simply because the project is long overdue, is not prudent. We can only wonder how much further along the new garage will be in three weeks’ time.

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7 Responses to City Council Rushes Vote on Highway Garage Location

  1. Lee says:

    Despite the “impending disaster” at the existing highway garage, it was somehow OK to put it on hold for more than a year, and now miraculously not OK to wait one minute longer. It’s disingenuous to say the least to argue that wait-wait and now go-go. If it’s a impending disaster, then we should have moved ahead a year ago, in fact 10 years ago.

    BTW: (1) the easement needed for the original proposed site is from Chemprene, not the State, and all agree it is withing the city’s power to obtain it.

    (2) Regarding getting a community use on the rest of Camp Beacon, do you think the city is more inclined to give up the best tax revenue on 43 acres, now that it has give that tax revenue up on 6 acres? I for one was willing to dedicate the 6 acres to community use, knowing the lost tax revenue as the cost.

  2. Caroline says:

    Mark,

    You’re welcome (for the comments). I noticed that your posts don’t generate much attention or feedback, so I thought I’d help you out.

    You’re correct. The video is there for all to see. So when Mayor Casale and George Mansfield both say that the City has been waiting for a year to see if the Camp Beacon property would become available, are they lying? The Chemprene site has been “put on hold” for the last year because of the possibility of building a garage on the Camp Beacon site.

    The Empire State Development Corporation will be giving a lot of feedback to NYS during the RFP process. It will be an uphill battle for the people who want farming and light industry. Are you familiar with ESD’s project in Wallkill?
    http://esd.ny.gov/NewsRoom/Data/2014/01062014_ESD_prattandwhitneyrelease.pdf

    If local Beaconites want to have a say in the land use at Camp Beacon, they should work with City Council and the Mayor. They should make some compromises (6 acres is a drop in the bucket!). If local residents and the City present a united front, they may have some success. If not, the highest bidder with the deepest pockets will get the land.

    By the way, if you genuinely believe that NYS will just automatically grant an easement now (10 years after title transfer) because it’s in the best interest of the City of Beacon than you are a special kind of naive and a truly gentle soul.

    I love how you write that we’ve “flailed this horse enough”, but you think City Council should put off this vote for more discussion. Perhaps you’re only interested in hearing from people who agree with 100% of what you say.

    Best of luck to you!

    • MR says:

      There is a difference between city council taking the time to examine an important issue from a new point of view and two people on the Internet going back and forth over the same points.

  3. Caroline says:

    I agree with a number of your points; specifically, that there is no way to know which route would actually deliver a highway garage sooner. That is why I commented in the first place. The author wrote that using the property behind Chemprene could, “very likely have been the quicker route to a completed building.” Implying that the site behind Chemprene is better because, “it has been on the drawing board for 10 years,” without mentioning the main issues that are preventing the use of that site is kind of disingenuous. By the way, the site was NOT considered perfectly acceptable for ten years. If you watched the meeting last night, it’s pretty clear that the City was hoping some acreage might become available at the Camp Beacon site, but that the Chemprene site could be used as a last resort with some work.

    Also, the “lack of nearby sewer and water hookups” is actually a huge deal. There would be substantial costs associated IF the City is able to get permission from NYS to build a new system that would run through the state land surrounding the property. This would cost the taxpayers in Beacon quite a bit. If the City has to invest a tremendous amount of money to make the site viable, is it still the “least valuable property possible”?

    Additionally, it’s not “obvious” that NYS gave the City the land knowing an easement would have to be worked out. Do you have a strong background in NYS Property Law? Is that why it’s so obvious to you? Easements (especially “special use” easements) are typically conveyed at the time of sale.

    I don’t see why some people have a huge problem with 6 acres being set aside for a garage. I have no problem with a highway garage being next to a farm because it has to go somewhere. Personally, I wouldn’t want my farm next to a prison… Maybe that’s just me.

    The plan that was suggested at the Beahive meeting sounds great, but I think its supporters will have to make some compromises with the City.

    • MR says:

      I am the author. I really don’t have time to be disingenuous. The video is there for all to see & I mentioned the main issues. I did not watch the video because I was at the meeting. I don’t have a problem with where the garage ultimately ends up. I am discouraged by the pressure applied during this vote. You are misinformed about the City hoping land would become available. That happened by chance when the State closed the prison last year and suggested it. I attended workshops where this was discussed, and the main factor was coming down to cost now that the City had two sites to choose from. Chemprene was never a “last resort.” If two parties agreed to exchange a landlocked parcel, it doesn’t take a strong background in NYS property law to see that both parties know an easement will need to be worked out at some point if not done at the time of sale. Remember this is a State/municipality deal, not a private sale. Thanks for your comments, I think we’ve flailed this horse enough.

  4. Caroline says:

    1) The original site behind Chemprene is landlocked. The City would have to apply for an easement from NYS in order to access that site. They would also need variances from the state to build a driveway on the easement since that type of use is currently prohibited on the NYS land surrounding that property. So… it would not be easier or faster than building on the Camp Beacon land.

    2) The “potential tax revenue” of $1.5 million over 20 years that Lee Kyriacou discussed is misleading. *IF the 6 acres at the Camp Beacon site was re-zoned for INDUSTRIAL USE like the properties Kyriacou cited on Rt. 52, the resulting tax revenue could be as much as $1.5 million. Are you in favor of rezoning Camp Beacon for industrial use? Many Beaconites are in favor of a farm cooperative. Kyriacou said he *might* support some type of “community use”. That said, I think we all know (or at least I hope we do) that the tax revenue from agricultural land is SUBSTANTIALLY less than from industrial use land. So I think Kyriacou was just making excuses to stall the vote.

    • MR says:

      Obviously NYS gave the City the land knowing an easement would have to be worked out. Starting to build on a site that has not even been surveyed will be a long process. There is no way to know which route would actually deliver a highway garage sooner. And if the rush is due to immediate worker safety, that is an unacceptable rationale.

      As for industrial type zoning, the RFP will be considering mainly industrial uses. The only use excluded is R-1 residential. Kyriacou chose industrial as the lowest tax rate to give conservative numbers.

      I am aware that there are citizens who would like to see agricultural use of the land. I am one of them. But that plan also calls for businesses such as a fiber mill, perhaps a saw mill, composting, metal shop, and other light industry. Do you want to see a highway garage next to a farm? It would not be the worst thing, but the 6 acres set aside for the garage appear to be some of the more farmable–a good percentage of the property is wetlands.

      In the end, decisions like this can never be made simply using tax base formulas. And Kyriacou said as much, stating that where the highway garage goes is ultimately not a cost issue, but a site issue. The potential benefits of a farm and other related businesses at a local scale could go way beyond any tax revenue generated.

      I see no reason he would stall the vote, other than to allow time to discuss the issue further. There was no real reason not to examine it for another few weeks. It is always unsettling when a vote like this is taken in haste, especially under false pretenses. If the building presents a danger to city workers, the building inspector should condemn it. Whichever site was chosen, the City can’t simply hold its breath and hope nobody gets conked on the head with a chunk of cement. As far as I know, our legal and engineering advisers are competent individuals.

      In the end, it makes sense to put your highway garage on the least valuable property possible. Since we have no idea what might happen at the former prison in the future, but we know that the Chemprene site will not likely be used for anything else (and was considered perfectly acceptable while it sat on the drawing board for ten years due to lack of funds), it does not seem like a great plan.

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