Residents opposed to the Woodstock Library’s move to 10 Dixon Avenue have called the Town Board’s proposal to add public libraries to the allowed uses in the light industrial district spot zoning and environmentally irresponsible.
The library has purchased the former Miller/Howard Investments building at 10 Dixon Avenue in Bearsville, and seeks to renovate it and move there. But, as the code stands, Libraries are not permitted in a Light Industrial district, in which the building sits, so the town has proposed adding it to the list of allowed uses.
Michael Mulvey, a 26-year resident of Woodstock, said when his daughter was very young, the library and all of the services it provided in the center of town was “an absolute lifeline for us.” At an August 23 public hearing on the use table change, he urged the protection of access to public spaces. “Whatever is done with that library property, if the library is in fact moved, if we do not protect open public spaces that serve the community, we are flying in the face of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan,” he said. “I just urge each of you even though you may not have been at the bottom of the economic ladder at one point, to consider inclusiveness of having a shrinking public space open during the week when the food pantries and the other shopping areas and places where families must go, are there.”
Some were more forceful in their argument.
“Tonight’s proposed zoning change to add one permitted use in the light industrial district is a ridiculous waste of our time and yours. To separate the word library, public and non-public, is absurd,” Natalie Cyr said. “How many libraries are likely to get into the district, and to have it bastardized further by indicating that public libraries are permitted, and a non-public library is not permitted screams incompetence,” she said. “Nowhere in the town’s 2018 Comprehensive Plan does it show libraries moving into an industrial district as proposed growth for the town…Tonight’s topic is considered spot zoning and is illegal in New York State. Courts have struck down zoning amendments that do not comply with a comprehensive plan.”
More threats of legal action
Hera, who filed a lawsuit to stop the library move, said every Town Board member has an ethical responsibility to the town. “When you consider alternative zoning arbitrarily like this, which is spot zoning, so it’s completely illegal in New York State, you are really becoming criminals,” Hera said. “And you know what? You’re responsible. You’re not covered by some insurance because you’re on the board…We can get you personally in court and I want you to think about it. We don’t want the burden on our shoulders of the remediation of that god-awful place, 10 Dixon Avenue.”
Hera said she is talking to C2G Environmental Consultants about cleanup of contaminants left behind by a former occupant of the building, lens maker Model Optics.
“It’s going to be millions and we don’t want to pay that because of your foolishness. Get ethical and stop making stupid decisions that hurt the citizens! It’s disgusting,” she shouted at the board.
Danny Rubenstein said environmental studies on the property were inadequate. “If someone is concerned about commerce in Ulster County and Woodstock and the restaurants and the water supply, why would anyone take the minimum possible activity to check if there’s an environmental problem that could poison the entire water system for this town for generations,” he asked. “Doesn’t it make sense to slow down, step back and do all the environmental studies? The laws are there for a purpose…”
Contamination reports are ‘untrue,’ says Library advocate
Library board President Jeff Collins thanked the Town Board for considering the use table change. “It clearly reflects the will of the people based on the vote on May 10 of 845 in favor of the library repurposing 10 Dixon Avenue versus 500 against.”
Library Trustee Dorothea Marcus, who lives in the Bearsville Flats, where 10 Dixon Avenue is located, said it is the most affordable neighborhood in which to live in Woodstock. “And there are lots of families with children, and lots of seniors who live here who are going to be very happy to have a library that’s convenient to them, and with lots of safe parking,” she said. “This is a light industrial district, but environmental studies were done, which show that there’s no reason for the library not to be there.”
Addressing Mulvey’s comments about open space she said the library lawn will be protected. “The board of directors of the library has already voted. We’re not selling the lot. The library lawn is a separate lot from the building,” Marcus said. “We are donating it to the town to be forever green. So there will always be that park space, right in the center of town.”
Tim Moore, an advocate for the library, said claims of contamination are untrue. “The company that was there, Model Optics, was there since 1972. If any toxins were going to show up in the water supply, by now they would have shown up,” he said. “I think the threats of being a giant remediation project are overblown, number one, and are costing the library…You’re costing the taxpayers $25,000 in your library taxes right now for the library to defend against a specious claim that has no testing behind it,” he said.
Council member Laura Ricci, who is library liaison, said the use table addition is the right move.
“My position is the library did try over the decades (to figure out) how can we improve the building and have a viable building for the library in the center of town. It was shot down time and time again, the voters did approve this,” she said. “The library is not in the business to maintain an old building. The library’s in business to provide the best library services that they can to the town of Woodstock and I do believe they will be doing that in the new building.”
Library sets 2023 budget for voters
At the August 24 Woodstock Library board meeting, library trustees approved a $689,830.89 budget for 2023 with a 1.98 percent tax increase and 0.73 percent increase in spending.
The budget includes 5 percent pay raises for staff in a continuing effort to bring wages in line with the cost of living.
Voters will decide on the budget and vote for two trustees October 6 from noon to 9 p.m. in the Library, at 5 Library Lane, Woodstock. Barry Miller and Caroline Jerome are running for re-election. Any other candidates who want to get on the ballot must submit petitions to the library with signatures of 25 qualified voters by September 6 at 6 p.m. Absentee ballots will be available at the library.
Trustees also approved payment of $15,517.64 of legal fees to Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna for defense against a lawsuit brought by a group calling themselves Library Lovers to stop the move to Bearsville. Preliminary estimates put the library’s legal expenses at a minimum of $25,000. The costs will come out of this year’s library budget, which is funded primarily by taxpayers.