Building in Beacon is happening very quickly right now. While it seems overnight to people who have not followed the news about it, or attended meetings of the City Council, Zoning Board or Planning Board, it is very much the norm for Beacon residents who have followed those meetings.
The thing is, many buildings that you have been looking at for years and years are about to go away, to be replaced by new construction. In most cases, that will mean taller buildings. Arguments can be made about whether that's a good or a bad thing, but no matter what, when you eventually see them, those new structures will likely induce some feelings in you.
For instance: A project called Edgewater plans to have seven buildings and 307 apartment units, to be located in the woods along the Hudson River, slightly northeast of and uphill from Riverfront Park. The project has been granted a vote to go through the process of getting approvals to move forward and get closer to building. This project was held up for several months while attorneys for the Beacon City Schools' Board of Education argued that so many new residents would have a negative effect on the current school district, as the rapid influx of new kids would overwhelm classrooms. The development attorneys and the City Planner did not agree. Yesterday, finally, a vote was cast by Beacon's Planning Board, and it was voted that the impact would not negatively effect Beacon City School, and that the project could move forward. There are many other potential issues with this project. Among them: anticipated traffic impacts. The official projection is that vehicular traffic from this 307-unit collection of buildings (essentially a community) will not impact current traffic. This is just one example.
Up on Main Street, the old single-story building across from Homespun Foods was demolished this week; a new building is set to replace it. The empty factories at Madam Brett Park are proposed to be new apartment buildings. All of these projects are moving forward at the same time, and while it's exciting in theory to watch it all, people living in Beacon are feeling a desire to take a minute to catch up, to see how these are planned to progress, before it all happens, and to learn more about who owns these properties.
More and more residents are "coming online" about this issue. People who normally don't pay attention to boring Zoning Board meetings are starting to pay attention, so that they can know what to expect - what's coming down the pike. Because no matter what, when you see major construction happening, it can be surprising.
In Beacon, there are only a few local media sources. A Little Beacon Blog, The Beacon Free Press, and based in Philipstown but covering Beacon, The Highlands Current. Which sometimes makes it difficult to get information. Facebook groups often turn up leads, but are awash with emotion, speculation, facts, and everything else. Beacon beat reporter Jeff Simms has been covering these building projects for some time for The Highlands Current.
A Little Beacon Blog will begin covering development as well, and we will do so as carefully as we can. The learning curve is steep, and we are all in this learning process together. The feeling of Community is very strong in Beacon. That feeling does not exist in every community - it's something really special here. There is a desire to preserve that feeling, and continue living small, even while the city grows. Living smaller but bigger. It's possible, it's just a careful job.
This Saturday, The Beahive is hosting a public forum that focuses on zoning in Beacon. It seems to serve as a Zoning 101 for people who are unfamiliar with nuances in Beacon's code that could allow - or not allow - buildings to get built in a certain way. And exactly what that "certain way" is, is varied and can look like pretty much anything. To help see what that looks like, the forum this Saturday at Beahive will be facilitated by City Council Member Lee Kyriacou (who will be acting as a private citizen, not representing Beacon in any official capacity). Those who watch City Council meetings or other meetings know that Lee is one for detail, whose jam seems to be property issues. At a recent City Council meeting that had a very large public turnout to discuss the rezoning of Central Main Street, Lee commented that he was happy to see how many people were "nerding out" about issues that usually very few do. The whole City Council, the Mayor and the City Administrator are working together to address growth issues in Beacon.
A number of planning and zoning experts will be at the Beahive event to take questions from the audience.
The forum is on Saturday, December 15, from 9:30 to 11:30 am at Beahive, in the Telephone Building at 291 Main St., Beacon, NY.