Several business owners attended the November 15 Woodstock Town Board meeting, alarmed about a proposed yearly parking maintenance fee. At its last meeting, the board entertained the idea of charging an annual fee of $150 per space to those businesses who cannot supply the required number of off-street parking spaces.
To put a cap on growth and congestion, several years ago the town established a one-time $900 fee per spot for any new businesses that could not meet the zoning requirements for providing off-street parking spaces. The fee is intended to help the town continue to expand municipal parking lots. Included in the fee in-lieu of parking statute was a yearly maintenance fee, but an amount was never set nor enforced.
Now, entrepreneurs are worried a yearly fee would cause a financial strain.
“They’re good, hard-working neighbors and they do their share. What’s alarmed them is the issue of the $150 new charge,” said Woodstock Chamber of Commerce & Arts board member Sam Magarelli. “We certainly would like to have the opportunity to speak about this, to talk about the dynamics of how much and why.”
Added Magarelli, “We hope that you take a deep breath, look at the facts and look at a solution to the situation.”
Board members attempted to put business owners at ease, saying the $150 figure was just a starting point and they are waiting for data to show how many spaces are involved at each establishment. “The $150 that was bandied about is not a firm number. We want to look at the shopkeepers in terms of the in-lieu-of-parking that they would have to pay.” Councilwoman Laura Ricci said. “We might want to make it a lower number at the outset anyway to not shock everybody right away. It could be a phased approach.”
Deputy Supervisor Bill McKenna stressed the yearly fee has always been part of the law. He also said the town always needs to seek new sources of revenue.
“We’re under the gun from the governor with the tax cap. We can only raise the levy so much without having to go through hoops,” McKenna said.
Holiday Haus proprietor Mark Hedrick is sympathetic to that plight, but said the fee could be a big imposition for some business owners.
For example, if a restaurant has 20 seats and needs 20 spaces, “you’re talking $3,000 a year,” Hedrick said.
“And that’s what I don’t want to do,” Councilwoman Cathy Magarelli said. “We want to make sure we’re not hurting the businesses.”
While sympathetic to business owners’ bottom lines, the town still needs to pay for infrastructure that helps keep customers coming in the door. “What they’re not really chipping in on is, if they don’t have parking right on their property, then they’re using the town lot,” Ricci said. “There are expenses that the town has in support of the shopkeeping community because people are coming to town to visit your shops and then the town is maintaining where they’re going to park.”
McKenna ensured those in attendance there will be an ongoing dialogue with the business community before a final decision is made.
Fairness in zoning changes
Proposed changes in the town zoning laws to allow expanded uses in the light-industrial sections has prompted concerns new language will single out one business.
The intent is to allow residents to coexist peacefully with businesses. But a particular prohibition against outside storage has raised the ire of land use attorney Ron Pordy and Innovative Products of America (IPA) co-owner Ian Vinci. “We have large lots. For a growing business with about 50 people, sometimes we need outdoor storage,” Vinci said.
IPA has operated in the former Elna Ferrite building at 234 Tinker Street since 2009 and also acquired the former Simulaids buildings in Bearsville for future expansion.
Vinci said he has always been a good neighbor and makes sure any outside storage is orderly and not unsightly. He resents being regulated into a corner. “All of my neighbors know these were commercial buildings in existence since the 1950s,” Vinci said. “You have to be a reasonable property owner.”
Vinci said business owners have to be courteous and not park trailers in the front of the business and create an eyesore when there is space in the back. He explained many of the buildings are U-shaped and items stored in the center will be out of sight.
“If there’s never been a problem, why are we creating a problem?” asked Vinci, who said such a regulation may constrain expansion or limit his ability to sell the business in the future.
McKenna and Ricci urged Vinci to work with Pordy to suggest new language that strikes a balance between the town’s need to protect other properties and businesses needs to operate. Vinci said he will work with Pordy on the new language.
We stand with Standing Rock
The Town Board unanimously passed a resolution calling for the rescission of all permits for the Dakota Pipeline “until the people of Standing Rock are recognized as the rightful custodian of their lands and the proper authority over their disposition.”
The resolution written by Supervisor Jeremy Wilber notes Native Americans have been “treated with unspeakable cruelty almost from the first day Europeans set foot in the Americas.” The resolution further states “already the level of insensitivity to the concerns of the Standing Rock people, including the bulldozing of burial grounds considered sacred, gives little hope that most if not all the concerns considered vital to the Standing Rock people will be given serious consideration.”
The resolution will be forwarded to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, President Barack Obama, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and EPA Director Gina McCarthy.
Board opposes oil barge parking
The Town Board unanimously passed a resolution joining other communities in opposition to a plan to anchor oil barges along the Hudson River on their way to and from the Port of Albany.
“The ongoing effort to develop anchoring sites along the Hudson River by the U.S. Coast Guard for ships carrying fuel oil to and from Albany and other places is in direct contradiction to making our planet a safer and healthier environment,” states the resolution.
Final budget passes
With little fanfare, the Town Board adopted the 2017 budget at a special meeting held November 10. The only people in the audience were this reporter and Woodstock 104 radio partner Felicia Kacsik.
The budget of $7,803,230 is an increase of 1.921 percent and will result in a tax levy increase of 1.56 percent.
The amount to be raised by taxes for the general fund, highway fund, water, sewer and various lighting districts is $5,829,112, which is $89,877.
Water and sewer rates are unchanged. Not included in budget figures are fire and library disricts, which have their own governing bodies and budgets.
Kacsik asked about room in the budget for a handicap ramp that would provide disabled persons access to the public access TV studio in the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center. Lack of a separate ramp became a bone of contention between public access producer Randi Steele and members of the Town Board. Steele has argued use of the only ramp in the front of the building requires walking through most of the building and interrupting a performance or other event.
McKenna said while it is not slated in the budget, the board may have money in the capital projects fund to construct a ramp that provides access to the rear of the community center, the studio or possibly both.