Attorney Warren S. Replansky today filed a hard-hitting, 10-point brief with the City of Hudson and New York State, detailing a host of legal problems which continue to afflict Hudson’s waterfront planning process. A summary follows below of the serious legal issues raised by Replansky in his memorandum (click here to download it in full) on behalf of the Valley Alliance.
Replansky’s extensive experience includes assisting municipalities and citizens throughout the region to properly enact and enforce land use planning laws. He has acted as special counsel to the Town of Rhinebeck in the recent passage of their Comprehensive Plan, Zoning Law and Wetlands Law, and has served as the attorney for area municipalities such as the towns of Gallatin and North East. In Greenport, he assisted residents who opposed a gravel mine expansion, winning a case at the trial court level and on appeal. His work representing the towns of Ancram and Copake regarding the mile-long Palumbo gravel mine along the Route 22 corridor resulted in a rare denial of the mining permit by the DEC Commissioner; Replansky then worked with Ancram and Copake in developing Scenic Overlay Protection Districts.
10-POINT MEMO ADDRESSES KEY LEGAL FLAWS IN PROCESS
In his memo, Replansky cites extensive case law to argue that:
- Since significant and substantial changes have been made to the Waterfront plan since the close of the public hearing, the law requires that the hearing be re-opened, so that citizens have a fair opportunity to participate.
- As lead agency, the Common Council has failed to take the requisite “hard look” required by law at the impacts of enacting the Waterfront plan.
- The lead agency improperly postponed necessary review (and the possible imposition of mitigation measures) of the impacts of Holcim and O&G’s site-specific plans.
- The lead agency failed to evaluate the impacts of the recent work on (and use of) the so-called “causeway” as a heavy haul road for moving gravel.
- The Council has received mistaken legal advice about whether Holcim and O&G’s use of the dock and “causeway” are entitled to protections, and whether the City has the power to control or stop it.
- The plan’s alternative analysis is deeply flawed, as it considers only a “no action” option, and fails to consider other potentially-viable alternatives.
- The entire process has been perverted by the plan’s identification of the “causeway” as its preferred route for moving gravel.
- Calling the “causeway” a “temporary short term measure” undermines the endorsement of it as the City’s preferred alternative route.
- The proposed zoning is fatally flawed because it provides no mechanisms for terminating the “causeway” as a short-term option.
- As either a short-term solution or a permanent alternative, the plan has failed to consider either banning or otherwise regulating truck traffic.
Details of each of these ten numbered points can be found in the full legal memorandum, which is attached.
ABOUT THE VALLEY ALLIANCE, COMMENTS FROM ITS DIRECTORS
Since 2007, the Valley Alliance has represented hundreds of residents in the 12534 zip code who have been concerned with the direction of the City’s waterfront plan. Several thousand citizen comments have been submitted over the years to the City and State expressing those concerns, but the City’s legal and planning consultants have been largely unresponsive.
“The City has spent over two decades and hundreds of thousands of dollars, just to accommodate Holcim and O&G,” said Alliance co-director Peter Jung, “Meanwhile, residents’ concerns have gotten the short end of the stick.”
“After all this time, they still haven’t solved the problem of the gravel trucks,” Jung noted. “Every ward of the City is still being affected by Holcim and O&G’s heavy dump truck traffic. Now it’s just been moved to upper Columbia and 3rd Street. This plan doesn’t fix that problem anytime soon, even though Hudson’s consultants have already given away the store to Holcim and O&G.”
“This is simply not a plan that anyone can point to with pride, or as a model of how to do waterfronts right,” commented Alliance co-director Sam Pratt on Wednesday.
“For all the time and money it’s taken to piece together this deeply-flawed plan, Hudson is no better off if it passes,” Pratt added. “The plan does little except preserve the status quo: No new jobs or construction at the Waterfront. No realistic improvement in public access to the River. No restoration of the South Bay. No community consensus. No public acceptance or enthusiasm. No unification of past divisions.
“The plan’s vision statement is a hodgepodge of technocratic mumbo-jumbo, inspiring to no one. And its details offer only muddled guidance to future leaders on how to proceed. As it stands, this plan just perpetuates existing problems—dooming the Waterfront to mediocrity at best, failure at worst. Frankly, the City’s planners and attorney have made a mockery of the State’s well-intentioned goals for Waterfront planning. Hudson can, and must, do better.”
Regarding the Replanksy memo, Pratt noted that “Over 80 people showed up for their last meeting, but the Common Council would not allow any comments or questions from the audience before rushing to take a vote. If they had, our attorney was there and prepared to address each of these issues. This memo then might have proved unnecessary. Hudson is already beset with lawsuits, so it’s a lousy idea to recklessly invite more legal headaches. Instead of continuing to shut residents out and heed shoddy legal advice, we hope the Council will take a serious look at Mr. Replansky’s forthright legal memo, and then sit down with people to work out a more amicable and positive outcome. We continue to believe that for the people who live here, there are more points of common interest than of disagreement, once the smokescreens created by foreign and out-of-state interests are cleared away.”
The Alliance will also be submitting, within the 10-day window for comments on the GEIS, a 20-plus page supplement to Replansky’s memo consisting of citizen comments on the process and how it has gone wrong. Residents interested in learning more about the Alliance are encouraged to send an email inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.