Village Board Proposes New Building Standards

Photo by Lizzie Nimetz.

The Village of New Paltz discussed the implementation of new building standards by the Village Planning Board during a recent village board meeting. If passed, these new building standards would require more uniform exteriors of buildings — both residential and commercial — in the village.

The intent is to create a more visually cohesive experience in New Paltz for tourists and locals. Architects and designers would decidedly choose a visual theme for buildings on Main Street to be implemented.

According to The New Paltz Times, Planning Board Chairman Maurice Weitman “envisions standards that will shift some of what the board now suggests to developers into the realm of requirement.” Weitman noted how examples of possible building standards “could include a requirement for a digital rendering of the buildings to give a better understanding of the scope [of building projects].” Weitman pointedly mentioned his desire to “[strive] to include a diverse group of stakeholders” in the planning process before any final decisions are made.

“It’s up to us as a community how rigid [these standards] become,” Weitman said.

Amy Cohen, co-owner of The Groovy Blueberry in New Paltz, immediately critiqued these proposals. Cohen said the reasoning behind her opposition to these policies was in part due to concern of losing business.

“What [the local government] means by visually cohesive is that they want to restrict builders and property owners so that what is built or renovated matches what our ‘style’ is,” Cohen said. “[The village] wants to better regulate and control business and property owners, thus making freedom more difficult and hurting local business.”

According to Cohen, there are drastically more important issues that the village government should be addressing instead of these policies.

“Currently, my view is that the village needs help,” Cohen said. “[This help includes] help with better parking signage, help to create downtown public bathrooms and rest areas, help for beautification, better safety initiatives for pedestrians, bikers and children, help to better maintain public parks and help to improve these areas. Our village government should be working with local businesses to help improve, not to restrict.”

Cohen believes that the discussion of these building codes points to a greater issue at hand — a “terrible board” whose policies “hurt local business.”

“They pass laws like the ‘plastic bag law’ and they did not even poll business owners,” Cohen said, referencing the board’s controversial ban of plastic bags among businesses within the village. “They just made that law. This law costs over $5,000 and they could be using this money to help, not hinder. Nobody on this board is a business owner or has a child in this school district. They exist in a vacuum.”

Cohen made her opinion  as a local business owner clear.

“Hopefully these laws will not be enacted,” Cohen said. “New Paltz is a cool, artsy place. With these ‘laws,’ we will become a boring ghost town.”