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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Rhinebeck housing project gets cold reception – Daily Freeman

RHINEBECK, N.Y.  – The proposed 256-unit EcoVillas project drew objections for zoning changes that would allow more housing per acre along state Route 308 at the village line.

Without updating land use regulations, there would be substantially fewer units, Supervisor Elizabeth Spinzia said during a Town Board meeting Monday.

“This is on four plots that are only zoned for (minimum lot sizes of) five aces,” she said. “So under our current zoning, only…12 houses at the max would be able to be built.”

The draft plan calls for 19 single-family houses, 40 duplex units, 145 townhouse units, and 52 condo flats, according to developers’ drawings from May 31. The single-family houses and duplexes would be 2,400 square feet each with two-car garages; the townhouses would be 1,600 square feet with a one-car garage; and the condo units would be 900 square feet and not have a garage.

The developers also had promotional material that used language government officials have used, including drafting a page called “Real Time News” with the headline, “Governor Hochul Calls For the End of The Housing Crisis in New York.” The accompanying story used language that chided “lengthy planning board approval processes” coming at the same time that “builders are struggling to absorb the cost” of projects.

However, when developers were pressed by audience members and the Town Board to support the state concept of housing affordability, they said they were not prepared to explain whether their prices would fit any commonly accepted calculation for housing that can fit a budget for people in the region’s median income range.

Developer Phil Mehl described the concept as “achievable housing” that brings prices down by putting a lot of units on the market.

“There’s affordable programs that require subsidies from taxpayers and a variety of grants,” he said. “The other way to increase affordability is to increase the availability of housing to people.”

The proposal drew eight speakers who objected to creating a neighborhood in an area that has already lost much of its rural character due to the Brookmeade retirement community, which is across the highway from the proposed EcoVillas project site.

“My biggest concern … is the light pollution,” resident Kirsten Greene said. “We have a lot of zoning laws in place addressing light pollution but the town doesn’t seem to be upholding those laws. … I don’t even have to turn on the lights in my house at night because Brookmeade is so bright.”

Several residents objected to the influx of traffic it would bring to an area that is considered a symbol of the town’s rural character. For resident Tom Wiever, whose property has three sides that abut the project site, the prospect is frightening.

“You look at their pretty little pictures they’ve got pickleball courts right next to my (house),” he said. “We didn’t buy there to have 250 townhomes in our front yard.”

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