New Paltz vs. Crossroads

When I go to public events, whether they are hearings, speeches, presentations, etc., I always pay a lot of attention to the crowd. The crowd that attended last night’s public hearing before the town planning board on the Crossroads project was an especially serious group. Those who spoke while I was there (for about an hour) did so with a sense of urgency, criticizing the plans to build a 250-unit apartment complex and retail commerical district adjacent to the Thruway toll plaza.

I got antsy to say something myself, but after weighing that prospect against the probable panic attack it would bring on, discretion won out over my valorous urge to lay the whole deal at the feet of Boss Hokanson.

At one point someone quoted from the developer’s environmental statement that the project was in line with the town’s “master plan,” and I think that’s half right. In order to stop suburban sprawl, I believe there was some kind of planning consensus to encourage development of “high-density” housing both in the village core and in the satellite hamlets, such as Ohioville, where the Crossroads project is sited.

I have long thought that that was a bad idea, to encourage that kind of development or, conversely, to encourage the kind of development that involves tract housing of the single-family kind. Small villages and towns should give preference, first, to people who want to build houses for themselves, and next to builders who want to build spec houses, and that sort of building should be made easy because it allows organic growth of the housing stock and doesn’t prostitute the community to the burgeoning (until recently) exurban real estate market from Neu Yalk Citee.

But the point I’m making is that the Crossroads project is what the planning consensus has seemingly called for: high-density development in the hamlet areas.

That said, the Crossroads project is before the board in order to get itself matched to that site, where it wants to build under the designation of “planned unit development,” a bit of planner’s jargon and legerdemain that means “we’ll change the existing zoning for you but pretend it’s something more elevated than that.” That site next to the Thruway plaza is currently and wisely zoned for light industry and, apparently, commercial use (although light industrial would be preferable in my eyes).

Boss Hokanson has been soft-selling the “planned unit development” change for the Crossroads project for some time, and from what I could tell had been hoping to be in heaven with the thing a half-hour before the community woke up to what it was (that, as far as I can tell, is a key component to her modus operandi much of the time). And I believe that she believes that she will find a way to ram this thing through no matter what. Here I would caution the community about the “contrite developer” ruse, where sloppy and negligent plans are suddenly reworked, with apologies, to satisfy both serious and some unserious objections in the hopes of putting out the flames of opposition (i.e., either putting the local resistance to sleep and/or wearing it down).

Boss Hokanson has previously lauded a reworking of the plans and implied that a glide path to approval had begun. It’s hard for me to tell whether or not BoHo knew from the beginning that this project was a dog, but I’m going to go with the assumption that even if she did, she didn’t and doesn’t care. From there one can only go to motives, and I’ll leave that to the speculation of others.

My bottom line on Crossroads is that it is precisely targeted at the exurban market in the Big City. It is the wrong way for any small rural village or town to grow, and would have an even greater negative impact on New Paltz than its most vigorous critics think.

It is, however, time for the greenies and rejectionists who are wont to complain about any development to realize that resisting an industrial use for that site will be to cut off the nose to spite the face. The time has come to get serious about making New Paltz friendly to some sort of business, other than retail stores, that produces products or services and comes with jobs. That site next to the Thruway plaza is zoned for that because that is precisely what it is suited for.

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