By GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN — More than 50 people packed the Cooperstown Central School cafeteria for a public hearing on the proposed Chestnut Crossing apartment complex at 10 Chestnut St.
The Cooperstown Village Board of Trustees moved the meeting to the middle/high school because of the public hearing, the first official chance for residents to speak for or against the 13-unit apartment complex proposed by Josh Edmonds and Francesca Zambello for two pieces of land they own on Chestnut Street and a third on Pine Boulevard.
The overflow crowd did not disappoint, with about 30 people speaking on the issue and two more speaking about a proposed licensing law for village-owned Cooperstown icons. Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh lifted the typical one-hour limit length for public hearings, gave each speaker five minutes to speak on each issue, and even allowed a handful of people to speak a second time or ask limited questions.
The public hearing portion of the meeting took more than two hours and the meeting itself wrapped up after 11 p.m, but Tillapaugh said she expected as much.
“It is important for everyone to have the opportunity to speak and be heard by all,” she said. “I expected it to be a large crowd and a late night.”
The views on the project were clearly divided, with about 60% of the speakers in favor of the project, but nearly every single neighbor and Pine Boulevard resident against the density of the project, which they argue is too big for the lots, which total just less than a half-acre.
Edmonds and Zambello also gave a presentation about the project, which would replace a dilapidated building of approximately the same size and footprint. The project would have eight two-bedroom apartments, one one-bedroom apartment and four studio apartments. The apartments would be for long-term rentals only, with at least one-year leases, no pets allowed and no outdoor amenities, in an effort to funnel the residents to the village parks and keep them away from close proximity to the neighbors.
Late in the evening, Edmonds said the project needed the density to make the numbers work for a bank loan.
“We can quibble about 12 units versus 13 units,” he said. “At 10, there is no project. It is just the stark reality of right now.”
Cooperstown Fire Chief Jim Tallman asked a series of questions on behalf of the department, making sure there would be continued access to the property. However, later in the evening he said he favored the project in general because Cooperstown is aging out of its fire department and needs new recruits, new families and new revenues.
Tallman said the village is moving toward a professional fire department and that would inflate everyone’s taxes.
“I think as a community, we are better than saying not in my backyard,” he said.
However, for the residents on Chestnut, Pine and Main Street the quality of life issues gave them passion and pause. Most said they favor some development, and they like Edmonds and Zambello generally, but they worry about traffic on Pine that is already busy from Otesaga customers all summer.
“I love what I am hearing about the project, but I am 100% against the density,” said Frank Panzarella, who lives at 16 Pine, across the street from the back of the project. “I want to see the land developed. I think the building is an eyesore there. So much of what has been said here today is spot on about the density.”
With 21 bedrooms, the project needs 21 parking spaces, four of which will come through an easement on the Pine property, which may also be developed at a later date.
Tillapaugh said she laid out a schedule for the proposal that includes the trustees thinking about what they heard before deciding on a special-use permit to allow the higher density. She said there will be a dedicated meeting on the issue at 6:30 p.m., Monday, July 12, where the trustees can discuss the issues and come to a final ruling on the special-use permit.
If the project is approved July 12, then the design and safety issues would be worked out in the village’s Planning Board, Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board and Zoning Board of Appeals.
No one spoke about another public hearing, which dealt with opening two Consolidate Funding Applications for the village during this year’s grant cycle. The proposal passed unanimously.
However, the trustees sent the licensing proposal back to committee to clean up some of the language after Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tara Burke and Destination Marketing Executive Director Cassandra Harrington objected to the idea that they might be charged for using village icons in tourism marketing.
Tillapaugh told both women that the trustees did not want to charge partners, but wanted to protect and profit from its brand and symbols in commercial matters.