New Law Raises Concerns and Lowers Roofs

The New Paltz Village board recently voted on a new resolution which could restrict future development in the Neighborhood Business Residential Mixed-Use District (NBR). 

On Nov. 28, board members voted, 3-2, to approve a three-story height cap on buildings in the NBR which amended the previous four-story limit. 

“There are significant challenges with water and sewage capacity in that district,” said New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers. “We already have challenges to meet the demand that we currently have, so adding density to our already limited capacity could be problematic.” 

The NBR includes a small collection of properties between North Chestnut Street and Broadhead Avenue including the Zero Place, BOCES, Gateway Industries and Stewart’s. According to the Town of New Paltz website, the NBR was “established to promote the development of a neighborhood defined by a mix of residential, retail, service, professional, civic and cultural uses and which encourages travel by walking, bicycle and mass transit.” 

One concern held by those in favor of the amendment was that the mismatched heights of the buildings would degrade the overall aesthetic quality of the area. The NBR neighbors Historic Huguenot Street and the local Historic Zone. Board members worried that the excess height of these buildings would look awkward and clash with the historical surroundings. 

“When the neighborhoods are created, you want to have the same size buildings on the same side of the street,” Rogers said. “It’s an odd collection of buildings, where their southern portion looks smaller so it would look awkward.”

Rogers also addressed environmental concerns with new development in the area. With the NBR’s close proximity to Tributary 13, a stream running along the backside of NBR’s six lots, construction could further contaminate the water. 

However, other board members, such as Deputy Mayor KT Tobin, feel that the proposed restriction would be detrimental to the local community. 

“I think that appropriate development along this corridor (NBR) includes having four-story buildings and that buildings of this height will not harm the quality of life or character,” Tobin said. 

Tobin cited a unanimous resolution produced by the New Paltz Affordable Housing Board (AHB) which favored keeping the old four-story cap. The Village’s Affordable Housing Law requires residential developments with 10 or more units to set aside 10 percent of their space of affordable units. The AHB claimed that “the reduction of the maximum number of floors from four to three will unquestionably reduce the number of affordable housing units added in the NBR zone.”  

Additionally, Tobin drew from her recent work in constructing the “Mid-Hudson Sustainability Plan,” and wrote “Value of Open Space in the Mid-Hudson” which preach the environmental perils of sparsely developed communities. She contended that in order to reduce the environmental impact of future development, the village should promote dense construction with walkable neighborhoods in the core. 

“We can simultaneously retain our community character while creatively and appropriately addressing our significant environmental and affordability challenges,” Tobin said. “We should not shy away from doing so out of misplaced fears that these goals are mutually exclusive.” 

Before the law can be officially instated, board members will have to convene again to make a final decision on the matter. The board must produce a formal proposal to enact these changes and a response to the New Paltz Planning Board who also disagreed with the height change.