The North St. site (photo by Will Dendis)

The North St. site (photo by Will Dendis)

Against a backdrop of debate over the growth of rental housing in Saugerties, planners approved the 55-unit Country Meadows senior and low-income complex on North St. The project, like two others of similar size in Glasco and Barclay Heights, had been kicking around for several years as developers sought state funding. It’s the first to gain approval.

Fifty-five units in two buildings will be divided as follows: for seniors, 22 units, all single-bedroom; for workforce housing, 33 units (six three-bedroom, 19 two-bedroom, and eight one-bedroom). Rents will range from $300 to $600. The total population of the complex would be 127, with an estimated 20 school-age children. According to village trustee Patrick Landewe, the developer, Premier Development, agreed to pay $400 per unit in taxes, though the agreement has not yet been signed. (Taxes for large projects are usually paid according to a payment in lieu of taxes [PILOT] agreement rather than assessed annually.)

Construction is expected to begin next spring and not last longer than 18 months, said developer Pat Simmons. Rural Ulster Preservation Company (RUPCO) is a partner in the project.

The board officially approved the project at its Dec. 13 meeting, simultaneously declaring no negative environmental impact, granting a special-use permit to construct housing in an industrial zone and approving the site plan.

Board member Mary Leahy was the lone “nay” vote on all three items. She said approving 55 rental units would create an imbalance between rentals and single-family homes.

 

Opposition not as strident

Neighbors came out in force to oppose previous affordable housing projects. Opposition to Country Meadows was comparably muted. It came from citizens who were not neighbors and thus lacked a visceral concern over property value and neighborhood character. They pointed to the percentage of rentals in the village—56 percent of all occupied housing—as too high, and said adding 55 units of subsidized rental housing when many existing units are vacant was both unnecessary and damaging to landlords. (Steve Hubbard, a real estate broker, spoke on behalf of the latter group.) There were 62 rental units vacant in the last census.

Those census numbers, also cited in the draft comprehensive plan, have come under fire by Alex Wade, who is in charge of special projects for the village and has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Saugerties. He called the numbers, “very, very misleading statistics from which it is easy to conclude that the village is being overrun by rental housing.”

The census and comprehensive plan say the village has 1,046 renter-occupied units, but Wade believes the real number is much lower. He said the census missed units that used to be rentals but no longer are. “I’m sure that several of the B&Bs are counted as apartments in the comprehensive plan figures and that no one bothered to deduct the large number of conversions and demolitions,” Wade wrote in a letter to the board.

As part of last week’s approval process, Simmons said he would construct about 1,600 feet of sidewalk that would run from the project up North St. and to Cantine Field and the Senior Center on Market St.

Board member Gary Newkirk, who voted in favor of the project, said that it appears that apartment units are they way things will be going in the village.

Board chair George Lewandowski said the approvals are good for one year and if the developer does not get a building permit within that time, he must come back before the board for a new hearing.

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