Sunday, October 23, 2016

Cuomo, Airbnbs, and Our Lodging Tax

On Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill authorizing fines of up to $7,500 for advertising rentals for fewer than 30 days on Airbnb. It's never clear from the reports about this legislation if it pertains to the entire state or only to New York City (that's the downside of the major city in a state having the same name as the state itself), but since the kinds of buildings to which the legislation applies very likely exist only in New York City, it's reasonable to assume that it pertains only to New York City and not to Hudson. 

The fact that Governor Cuomo is signing legislation, however, reminds us that he has not yet signed the legislation to allow the City of Hudson to levy a tax on rooms in hotels, inns, B&Bs, and accommodations advertised on Airbnb. The current status of the bill appears to be the same as it was back in June, when it was passed by the Assembly and the Senate.


The Larger Vision for Hudson Avenue

The proposed amendment to the zoning law, which would change the zoning on three parcels on the west side of Hudson Avenue from I-1 (Industrial) to R-S-C (Residential Special Commercial), is meeting with unanticipated opposition. 

The Planning Board is expected to recommend against the amendment. Although the specific reason for making this recommendation will not be known until the Common Council receives a letter from the Planning Board, it is believed that the letter will urge to Council to undertake comprehensive zoning revisions rather than making specific zoning changes. 

The parcels in question are located in the Waterfront Revitalization Area--the portion of the city that was comprehensively rezoned in 2011 when the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program was adopted by the Common Council. Although, in the LWRP, this particular area of the city, surrounding what was originally the Gifford-Wood Company, retained its I-1 zoning, the LWRP is clear in its support of the very change now being proposed. On pages 74 and 75, the LWRP speaks specifically about this site: "The City proposes to maintain the industrial zoning but acknowledges that this site has great potential for residential, commercial, and recreational uses. A zoning change in the future to accommodate nonindustrial development would be consistent with the LWRP."

The zoning amendment now proposed is also getting flak from a neighbor on East Allen Street whose backyard abuts the western tip of the largest of the three parcels. Although she opposes the amendment, she does not have a problem with the plan to construct four row houses on the west side of Hudson Avenue. What she finds unacceptable is the larger vision for the area, which Walter Chatham, the architect who owns and wants to develop the parcels, described in a letter to property owners in the immediate vicinity. Last week, Chatham shared the letter with Gossips. The following is quoted from that letter:
RSC Zoning is the equivalent of R-4; permitting 3-story multiple dwellings and general commercial uses. We are requesting this zoning because we believe that it is the highest and best use for the site, which is on a one-block-long public street across from the Hudson Little League Field. We believe that this proposed zoning is consistent with the Hudson Comprehensive Plan and Draft Apprendices; which encourage the conversion of under-utilized industrial land for commercial and residential use.
Allowing commercial uses would permit "Live/Work Units"--owner or tenant-occupied buildings that provide both shelter and the means to make a living. These are increasingly popular and provide much needed start-up spaces for all types of businesses. Specific types of businesses imagined would be a mix of small specialty shops with neighborhood features such as a deli/newsstand, small restaurants, etc.
In order to accommodate this idea, we are hoping to provide an old/new building type on Hudson Avenue: two and three story buildings with retail/commercial and office on the ground floors and residences above. These buildings were the backbone of small-scale property ownership in cities like Hudson in the 19th century, and they allow many different types of occupancy to occur, so the use of the property can change over time to remain "useful." It makes sense to try to emulate the most desirable parts of "old" Hudson in a new "addition" to the City Father's Plan. 
The ironic thing about the opposition to the zoning amendment based on the larger vision for the area is that the elements considered worrisome and objectionable in the plan--delis, restaurants, specialty shops--are permitted by the current I-1 (Industrial) zoning. The only thing that is not permitted in an industrial zone is housing, and it is for the construction of houses that the zoning amendment is being sought.


Friday, October 21, 2016

Open House at The Falls

It's been three years since JMS Collective announced its plans to create a luxury apartment complex on the site of the old Greenport School on Union Turnpike, also known as Route 66.

The plan demolished the 1950s addition, retained the original 1930 school, and built an enormous complex of new multistory buildings, containing 116 apartments. Next month, the first tenants will be moving into twenty-one "inaugural apartments," but before that, The Falls is having an Open House tomorrow, Saturday, October 22, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The advertising copy for The Falls stresses its proximity to "historic Hudson" and Hudson's "renowned Warren Street shops and restaurants," but the "resort-like lifestyle" it promises seems the antithesis of a college campus for grownups or "Upstate's Downtown," which is how many Hudsonians view their city. Historic architecture and the commitment to authenticity in its preservation are what most people find attractive about Hudson. With The Falls, the one historic element--the original 1930 Greenport School--is hard to pick out from all the new construction that surrounds it, and the restoration of "the school's architecturally significant auditorium" seems far more splendid than one imagines it was originally meant to be.


The amenities at The Falls make it sound as if it should be located in Boca Raton instead of Greenport: fully equipped gym, yoga/spin room, children's playroom, adult game room, two swimming pools, tennis court, basketball court, walking trails through more than twenty wooded acres, space for gardening, playground for children, movie theater, and spa with heated pool, salt room, and sauna. And then there are the features of each apartment: nine-foot ceilings, crown molding, hardwood floors, a gas fireplace, and a balcony, which for some but not all means a view of the Catskills. What may be most appealing to some is that pets--dogs and cats--are allowed, and there is even a plan for a dog park somewhere on the complex's twenty-two wooded acres.

It will be interesting to see who ends up residing in the 116 apartments at The Falls. The first wave of Hudson newcomers now septuagenarians and octogenarians weary of maintaining their historic houses? Weekenders seeking a low maintenance pied-à-terre in the Hudson Valley? Or the people The Falls seems to want to attract: the "explosion of newcomers to the region" brought here by the "attraction of outdoor living."

Just Say Yes . . . Twice!

The Fair & Equal Campaign, which of course is encouraging everyone to vote yes on Proposition 1, which would establish wards of equal population in Hudson and do away with the weighted vote system in the Common Council, released a statement yesterday wholeheartedly endorsing Proposition 2 as well. Proposition 2 would establish a Service Award Program for active members of the Hudson Fire Department.
A Service Award is a benefit guaranteed to any active firefighter who meets the program requirements by accumulating 50 credits of service per year. Hudson's firefighters are diligent volunteers we all depend on, at all times of the day and night, on every single day of the year. They fight fires everywhere in Hudson, investigate fuel spills, send firefighters and equipment for mutual aid to other jurisdictions, and provide emergency dive teams for boating accidents. By law our firefighters must undergo one hundred hours of training a year, keeping up the same skills that are required of paid firefighters. When the Prop 2 referendum is approved, up to $700 a year will be set aside for active firefighters who accumulate the required annual points.
The Fair & Equal Campaign believes there are no more deserving recipients of this benefit than the men and women of our Fire Department. We urge every voter to turn your ballot over and vote yes for Prop 2, the Service Award Program referendum!

Presentation Is All

If you watched Part 2 of Dan Udell's videotape of Tuesday's Common Council meeting to the bitter end, you saw city treasurer Heather Campbell expressing her great disappointment that the resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into a contract with OpenGov had been defeated. She told the aldermen, "I'm willing to bet that, as the elected officials who are actually voting on the budget, the majority of you probably could not say how much our tax levy was in 2016, how much we pay for the police department, how much our debt service is, what our tax increase was. If you, our elected officials don't know that information and can't communicate it to your constituents, how do you think the average taxpayer is supposed to understand how their tax dollars are being spent?"

Campbell's indignation was justified, but perhaps if she and her colleagues on the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton and Council president Claudia DeStefano, who were advocating for adopting OpenGov, "the world's first purpose-built cloud solution for budgeting, reporting, and open data," had presented a better case for the technology, the outcome might have been different. The members of the BEA seemed to rely solely on a PowerPoint, projected onto the closed doors of the Council Chamber, narrated by someone patched in by cell phone, and presented in the middle of a very contentious meeting on October 11, which focused on another issue altogether, to convince the aldermen that this was something the City needed. 

Even though the case for OpenGov was not effectively made, the idea that OpenGov would allow the City to track expenses more effectively and taxpayers to access information, in a clear and readily understood format, about the City budget and how their tax dollars are being spent is very appealing. So it was a surprise when the resolution came up on Tuesday, in the middle of another contentious meeting, that only three members of the Council--DeStefano, Bob Donahue (Fifth Ward), and Michael O'Hara (First Ward)--voted in favor of it. Perhaps the BEA could give the effort a second try.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fact Checking: Leases on City-Owned Property

There was much discussion at Tuesday night's Common Council meeting about the leases on City-owned property--in particular, 20 Columbia Turnpike, 27 Rossman Avenue, and 80 Reservoir Road. The tenants refused to sign the leases they were offered more than a year ago because they contained unacceptable terms. As a consequence, the tenants have continued living in the buildings, paying rent but without lease agreements. Among the terms that the tenants found unacceptable were paragraphs that prohibited smoking on the premises and keeping pets.

On Tuesday night, various members of the Common Council denied ever having seen or approved leases with such restrictions, but the Council records show otherwise. The lease agreements for 27 Rossman Avenue, the upstairs apartment at 20 Columbia Turnpike, and 80 Reservoir Road were presented to the Council at the informal meeting on August 10, 2015, and the resolution approving the leases--Resolution 7--was passed unanimously on August 18, 2015. The leases all contained the following paragraphs:
13. SMOKING: Smoking within the residence without the written permission of the Landlord is strictly prohibited.
16. PETS: Tenant shall not be entitled to have any pets at the rental premises without the prior written approval of Landlord.
At the informal meeting on September 8, 2015, the lease for the downstairs apartment at 20 Columbia Turnpike came before the Common Council. It contained the same two paragraphs, and the resolution approving it--Resolution 5--was unanimously passed on September 15, 2015.

The question of why the tenants did not seek written approval from the City to smoke in their homes and keep pets instead of simply refusing to sign their leases has never been addressed.

Watch the Council Meeting for Yourself: Part 2

Now that you have had a chance to digest the first hour of Tuesday's Common Council meeting, here is the next hour, in which city attorney Ken Dow leaves the building. Click here to view Part 2 of Dan Udell's video.


Watch the Council Meeting for Yourself: Part 1

Tuesday night's Common Council meeting was so long--longer even than the third presidential debate--that Dan Udell had to put his videotape of the meeting on YouTube in two parts. Part 1, which is mostly about Alderman Tiffany Garriga's removal from the Police Committee, is now available and can be viewed here.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Night of the Attorneys

Last night's Common Council meeting went on for two full hours, and the first forty minutes of it were taken up discussing Council president Claudia DeStefano's action, at a Police Committee meeting on September 26, to remove Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) from the Police Committee. One of the early items on the agenda was, as always, accepting the communications. Garriga noted that a letter from her attorney, Mark S. Mishler, which had been emailed to DeStefano and the rest of the Common Council the previous day, had not been included in the communications. The explanation was that the city clerk, Tracy Delaney, who prepares the packets for the aldermen and the press, had not received the letter. Garriga then requested and was granted permission to read the entire three-page letter aloud.

In the letter, Mishler maintained that DeStefano's actions in removing Garriga from the Police Committee "were unwarranted, improper, invalid, and a violation of Ms. Garriga's constitutionally protected rights to due process; freedom of speech, assembly and association; and equal protection." The letter concluded: "Ms. Garriga remains a member of the Police Committee of the Common Council and fully intends to continue to participate as a member of the Committee."

When Garriga had finished her reading of the lawyer's letter, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who is himself a lawyer, demanded to know DeStefano's response. DeStefano replied, "I received the letter yesterday, and I am digesting it." Friedman then directed his question to city attorney Ken Dow, demanding to know his response, as lawyer for the City, to the letter. Dow began by saying, "It is not for an outside law office to declare if someone is on or off a committee."

Throughout the extended exchange that followed, Dow maintained that the makeup of committees was at the discretion of the Common Council president, likening it to congressional committee appointments made by the Speaker of the House, all of which change when a different party comes into power. Friedman did not question DeStefano's right to alter committee assignments but argued that her reason for removing Garriga was invalid because it was a constitutional infringement. "[Garriga] has the right to say what she wants to say," Friedman told DeStefano, "and you do not have the right to make her pay for that," adding, "And I don't even agree with what she said!" 

On the issue of constitutional infringement, Dow argued that "in a political context, it is not the same situation." To this, Friedman responded, "None of us thought we were waving our constitutional rights [when we joined this body]. When does local law trump the Constitution?" He then told Dow, "I am shocked to find you arguing this."

After Friedman warned DeStefano, "A lawyer wrote you a letter. Ignore it at your own peril," it was agreed the Dow would draft "what he thinks is correct and give it to the Council."

The meeting moved on, with the aldermen voting on various resolutions before them. Interestingly, when they got to the resolution, which had been proposed by Garriga, that would amend the Rules of Order to prohibit "midterm removal of committee members and chairs," the resolution failed. Only Garriga, Abdus Miah (Second Ward), and Bob Donahue (Fifth Ward) voted for the amendment; the remainder of the aldermen present--Friedman, Henry Haddad (Third Ward), Priscilla Moore (Fifth Ward), Michael O'Hara (First Ward), Rick Rector (First Ward), and Lauren Scalera (Fourth Ward)--voted against it.

City attorneys past and present came under fire again over the question of leases on City-owned properties: 20 Columbia Turnpike, 27 Rossman Avenue, and 80 Reservoir Road--all rented to employees (and relatives) of the Department of Public Works. The leases were allegedly approved by the Common Council more than a year ago and presented to the tenants, but the tenants refused to sign them because they specified that pets and smoking were prohibited. Now, a year later, with all the tenants still in place, the City is trying once again to get the leases approved and signed. Joe Finn, who told the Council he had lived at 20 Columbia Turnpike for the past fourteen years, called the new lease, which was written in 2015, during Mayor William Hallenbeck's administration, "a bully tactic to get us to leave." Friedman claimed the Council had never seen the lease in question because he would never have approved a lease that prohibited pets. The Council voted unanimously to ask the mayor to amend the leases, leaving out the prohibitions on pets and smoking, so that the tenants would sign them.

The lease issue sent back to the mayor's office, the Council voted on two more resolutions before getting to the resolution to approve the contract between the City and Randall + West, the consultants chosen to work with the Conservation Advisory Council to create a Natural Resources Inventory. In September, the Council had passed a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into this contract, which was now before the Council for approval. Friedman was critical of the contract, pointing out a number of instances where he felt the document needed revision. When Friedman asserted his expertise in writing contracts, saying "This is what I do for a living," Dow snapped, "Then why don't you f**king do it?" With that, Dow gathered his belongings and left the Chamber and the building. The resolution to approve the contract was then tabled.

At this point, there was only one item left on the agenda: issuing a Negative Declaration on the proposed zoning amendment that would affect three parcels on Hudson Avenue. Unfortunately, the city attorney had left, taking with him the Environmental Assessment Form that had to be completed before making the determination. Friedman, who had authored the amendment, in whose ward the subject property is located, and who supports the amendment, expressed frustration that 120 days had already passed since the resolution was presented to the Legal Committee. He noted that the Planning Board was calling the proposed amendment "spot zoning" and declared, "The city attorney's office is getting in the way of business being conducted in the City of Hudson."

It was then that The Gossips of Rivertown was elevated to a new status in City Hall. Friedman made reference the post "Nothing Is Ever Easy," which analyzed the question of whether or not the zoning change proposed constituted spot zoning. He then distributed to the Council and the press copies of a letter from Virginia Benedict, attorney with the law firm Rapport Meyers. The letter was addressed to Walter Chatham, the architect who owns the three parcels on Hudson Avenue and seeks to have their I-1 (Industrial) zoning changed. Chatham had asked Benedict for a legal review of the request and referred her to the Gossips post on the subject. Benedict's letter reads in part:
Ms. Osterink provides a thorough and highly accurate analysis of the issues involved. Her review of the City of Hudson's Comprehensive Plan and Local Waterfront Revitalization Program and arguments made to support the conclusion that the requested zoning amendment is consistent therewith are particularly valid.
Furthermore, the definition she provides of "spot zoning"--the process of singling out a small parcel of land for a use classification totally different from that of the surrounding area for the benefit of the owner of such property and to the detriment of other owners--is the same definition applied by New York courts. To determine whether a zoning proposal falls within this definition, courts consider several factors, including whether the rezoning is consistent with a comprehensive land use plan, whether it is compatible with surrounding uses, the likelihood of harm to surrounding properties, the availability and suitability of other parcels, and the recommendations of professional planning staff. The ultimate test is whether the change is other than part of a well-considered and comprehensive plan calculated to serve the general welfare of the community. The fact that rezoning affects a small area of land or benefits a specific person is not determinative.
Based on our analysis of your plan, this should be exactly what the City of Hudson is looking for, and the Common Council should have a clear path to approving the rezoning as consistent with the comprehensive plan.
When Planning Board chair, Tom DePietro, who was present at the Council meeting, was asked to comment, he chided Friedman for not coming to the Planning Board meeting but instead relying on "something online." He then told Friedman that the Planning Board's decision not to recommend the zoning amendment "did not hinge on spot zoning" but on their opinion that "the change should be part of a more comprehensive plan." He told Friedman that the Council would get the Planning Board's letter "as soon as our attorney drafts it," but added that if the Council did not get the letter in thirty days, "you can make the decision to rezone it," without a recommendation from the Planning Board.

It was decided that the Council would hold a special meeting to continue its consideration of the zoning amendment, but when that meeting will be held is not yet known.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Get Ready for November 8

Election Day is still three weeks away, but it seems some people are already marking their absentee ballots, so it's time to talk about the flip side of the ballot.

There are two proposals (or propositions) on the ballot in Hudson this November. The language for both is long and complicated and hardly the sort of thing voters should be reading for the first time at the polls and deciding on the spot to vote yes or no. So, Gossips will attempt to prepare readers by providing a little proposition primer.

Proposal One (or Prop 1) is the Fair & Equal proposition, which would eliminate the system of weighted voting in the Common Council by redrawing the ward boundaries to create five voting districts of equal population.

Gossips has written often about the inequity of the weighted vote and about the Fair & Equal initiative. If you are still not decided, click here to learn more about the problem of the weighted vote and the proposal--Proposal One--that offers a solution to the problem.  

Proposal Two would establish a Service Award Program for our volunteer firefighters. The program works like a defined contribution pension plan. Every year, the City would contribute $700 into a Service Award Program account for each active and qualifying member of the Hudson Fire Department.

The Hudson Fire Department has been an all volunteer department since its beginning in 1794. The Service Award Program would be a reward for dedicated service as well as an incentive to help retain volunteers who are already trained as firefighters and recruit new volunteers to the department.

To learn more about the program, click here to read the resolution passed by the Common Council to bring the proposal to referendum.

The Story of a House in the 21st Century

An exchange among friends on Facebook in the past few days revealed that 126 Warren Street, the little house nestled beside the majestic house with the rare cast-iron facade, is the object of some curiosity and most people don't know its story. It's a story that deserves to be told and one that Gossips knows quite well. 

At  the end of the last century, the house belonged to John Flynn, who in the 1960s, before Charlie Butterworth took on the role, was the city engineer for Hudson. Flynn had used the little house as his office, but by the end of the 1990s, it was clear that the little house hadn't been used for anything for a while. The house had fallen into disrepair. There was a tree growing through the roof. There was talk of condemning it. There was fear it might be demolished.

In April 2000, before there was a preservation ordinance in Hudson, before there was a Historic Preservation Commission, Historic Hudson, then in existence for only four years, stepped in to save the house and keep the streetscape intact. Historic Hudson purchased the house from Flynn for $10,000 and also assumed some unpaid back taxes. With a mortgage from Housing Resources of Columbia County, Historic Hudson stabilized the house. The picture below, taken by Byrne Fone in 2001, shows the house sporting a green sign announcing that the ongoing stabilization was a project of Historic Hudson.

Once the stabilization was complete, Historic Hudson sold the house in November 2002 for $55,000--just enough for the organization to pay off the mortgage and recoup its investment--to someone who agreed to continue the restoration.

The current owner completed the exterior restoration but so far not the interior restoration, and the house, which today is assessed at $131,000, remains unoccupied.

Monday, October 17, 2016

We're Looking for a Few Good Men and Women

Everyone loves the Dr. Oliver Bronson House, Hudson's own National Historic Landmark. Because of its location, though, on the grounds of the Hudson Correctional Facility, opportunities to visit the house are few. But next Saturday, you have the chance to make the house feel as if it's your own.

Historic Hudson is seeking a few willing and able helpers to take part in the Dr. Oliver Bronson House Volunteer Work Day. From 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 22, volunteers will help clean up from the 2016 construction season, set up an architectural fragment archive, and perform light landscaping work. To be a part of it, contact Historic Hudson by email or phone (518 828-1875) to preregister. On the day of the event, wear comfortable clothes and sturdy shoes, and bring work gloves and eye protection. Light refreshments will be served.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Nothing Is Ever Easy

Three years ago, Per Blomquist had a plan to demolish two buildings in the 200 block of Columbia Street--248 and 250--and build a new building that would have five affordable one-bedroom apartments. Blomquist's plan ran afoul of then city attorney Cheryl Roberts' misreading of the bulk and area regulations in the city code, which according to her dictated that the minimum size of an apartment was a palatial 1,500 square feet. The apartments Blomquist was proposing would be about 770 square feet.

Not everyone was happy with the prospect of demolishing two 19th-century vernacular houses, even though they were abused and ramshackle, but the idea of five new apartments that would be affordable for the many twentysomethings who are finding their way to Hudson was appealing. Unfortunately, before a voice of reason could be heard and the misreading of the schedule was acknowledged, Blomquist had spray-painted the buildings gold and moved on.

Now it seems the City, which regularly (and figuratively) wrings its hands over the growing lack of affordable housing, is about to throw a similar roadblock in the path of the self-defined "New Urbanist" architect who wants to build a block of four new row houses on Hudson Avenue.

The problem is that part of the land on which he wants to build these houses is zoned R-3 (Residential) and part is zoned I-1 (Industrial).

The plan came before the Planning Board in March 2016, and because a use variance was required, it was referred to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The ZBA, during the same meeting at which it granted a use variance to Redburn Development to create a hotel at 41 Cross Street, denied a use variance to this project, because they determined that the hardship was self-created: the owner of the land knew, or should have known, when he purchased the parcels, that part of the land he had purchased was zoned industrial. The ZBA recommended that the applicant petition the Common Council to change the zoning.

Months later, in September 2016, an amendment to the zoning law, authored by Third Ward alderman John Friedman, was introduced in the Common Council. The amendment would change the zoning of three parcels on the west side of Hudson Avenue from I-1 (Industrial) to R-S-C (Residential Special Commercial). The Council voted to forward the proposed amendment to the Hudson Planning Board and the Columbia County Planning Department for review. 

Last week, the amendment was discussed at the Planning Board meeting, and Planning Board chair Tom DePietro expressed his opinion that, because all three parcels were owned by the same person, this was an example of "spot zoning," which is illegal. He and Planning Board counsel, Mitch Khosrova, agreed to send a letter sharing this opinion and urging the Common Council to undertake a comprehensive revision of the zoning laws, which could take years, instead of making specific amendments.

Spot zoning typically involves property owned by a single person or entity, but that in itself is not the definition of spot zoning. Anderson's American Law of Zoning defines spot zoning as "the process of singling out a small parcel of land for a use classification totally different from that of the surrounding area for the benefit of the owner of such property and to the detriment of other owners." Granted the proposed new classification is different from the surrounding area--R-S-C (Residential Special Commercial) instead of the simply R-3 (Multiple Residence-Conditional Office), which is the zoning of the adjacent property to the north and all the property across the street--but it hardly seems that the new classification is "totally different" or that what is proposed--building four row houses--would be a "detriment to other owners." 

A website called PlannersWeb: News & Information for Citizen Planners elaborates on spot zoning:    
When considering spot zoning, courts will generally determine whether the zoning relates to the compatibility of the zoning of surrounding uses. Other factors may include: the characteristics of the land, the size of the parcel, and the degree of "public benefit." Perhaps the most important criteria in determining spot zoning is the extent to which the disputed zoning is consistent with the municipality's comprehensive plan.
Hudson's fourteen-year-old Comprehensive Plan doesn't address this specific zoning issue, but it does anticipate the need for new home construction. This paragraph appears in the Executive Summary (p. xi) of the document.
Develop a Housing Strategy While many of New York State’s urban communities are struggling with strategies to attract middle-class residents, Hudson has already started to attract this group. Hudson’s continuing revitalization is likely to coincide with increases in the cost of housing (including housing values and rents). For the most part, this increase in value will be a very good thing for Hudson. However, the challenge for local decision-makers, the business community and neighborhood residents will be to ensure the benefits of Hudson’s resurgence are shared among all community members. Consequently, a coordinated, multi-tiered approach must be developed involving the City, the private sector and not-for-profit organizations such as Housing Resources. 
Addressing the idea of new development within the context of the existing city, these are among the policies recommended by the Comprehensive Plan on page 17: 
  • Sites should be redeveloped at high densities by minimizing lot area and maximizing building coverage. 
  • New buildings should be multi-story (two to four stories)--building up rather than out. 
  • New buildings should be located close to the street and close to each other-- minimizing lot frontage and setbacks. 
  • Whenever possible, development should strive for higher density, mixed use development. 
The proposed amendment to the zoning law cites additional statements in the Comprehensive Plan that support the change.

The City's Local Waterfront Revitalization Program makes specific reference to the site of the former McGuire Overhead Door factory and its zoning. On pages 74 and 75, the LWRP states: "The City proposes to maintain the industrial zoning but acknowledges that this site has great potential for residential, commercial, and recreational uses. A zoning change in the future to accommodate nonindustrial development would be consistent with the LWRP."

This opinion is reiterated on page 79 of the LWRP:
In the southern waterfront area, the City maintains the McGuire property within an industrial zone because of its proximity to the railroad spur and the existence of a well maintained industrial facility and infrastructure. However, if the land does not return to productive industrial use within a reasonable time frame, perhaps 3 to 5 years, a change in zoning to commercial, residential, open space, recreational use or institutional use to better accommodate the needs of the City at that time the would be supported.
The LWRP was adopted by the Common Council in 2011. This language was added to the LWRP at least two years prior to that. McGuire Overhead Door closed down in 2006. Hence, it is fair to say this site has not returned "to productive industrial use within a reasonable time frame," and it is also fair to conclude that the LWRP supports the requested zoning amendment.

It seems the test of whether a change to existing zoning is "spot zoning" is not if the subject parcels are owned by the same person, but if the proposed new zoning is "totally different" from the surrounding area, if it benefits the owner to the detriment of other owners, and if it is inconsistent with the community's comprehensive plan. Judged by those three criteria, it hardly seems reasonable to suggest that the proposed amendment, to allow the construction of four row houses on Hudson Avenue, would constitute spot zoning.