New Paltz Village trustees heard testimony overwhelmingly in favor of imposing a six-month moratorium on projects in the neighborhood-business-residential (NBR) zone during a public hearing on January 25. Neighbors of the NBR, which includes the stretch of North Chestnut Street from Broadhead to BOCES, were taken aback when they realized that its tenets include allowing buildings up to 50 feet in height, prompting the requested review. While a decision on the moratorium won’t be made without feedback from county planning board members, the committee tasked with reviewing the code also isn’t fully populated.
A number of people spoke in favor of the development freeze, including Tom Nyquist, Ruth Molloy and Cara Lee, each of whom provided technical details as to why it would serve the community better. Anne Quinn, a longtime resident of Huguenot Street who is “hopeless in love with New Paltz,” said that she feared the Historic Huguenot Street would eventually be surrounded by such tall buildings. “Unique doesn’t even describe it,” she said. “It’s like one of a kind.”
Helen James, another neighbor, said she was in favor of reviewing the zoning, but didn’t think the height ultimately should be curtailed. She likened it to the feel of Portmouth, New Hampshire, where a four-story main street is adjacent to a district of landmark historic buildings.
To make a review committee that is both representative and small enough that scheduling meetings is not impractical, Mayor Tim Rogers recommended appointing only one member each of the village and planning boards, likewise the historic preservation commission. Jo Mano is the chair pro tem, and other possible members include Brad Barclay (like Mano, a member of Friends of New Paltz, the group pushing for the review and moratorium), former mayor Jason West, developer Floyd Kniffen and town supervisor Neil Bettez. Neither Don Kerr and Dennis Young, the trustees tapped to take part, were enthused to step down from being a voting member of that group into an alternate position.
When conversation turned to exactly who among those individuals should be appointed, Kerr was reluctant to support Kniffen, who owns a large undeveloped parcel in the village (although not in this district) or West, who advocated for rezoning the North Chestnut corridor with such a tall building height. He did not indicate that he felt Mano or Barclay were similarly too biased to participate. The topic was cut short because it’s traditional in the village to interview and discuss appointments behind closed doors, although that’s by no means required. In the Town of Rochester, for example, interviewees are given the choice of speaking in executive session, but few are unwilling to discuss their views publicly.
The moratorium will be discussed on February 8, when the makeup of the committee will again be addressed.