‘Vision’ forums target Walkway entrances
The reality that without planning, chaos ensues is true about most everything in life, but it is most critical when it comes to developing plans for a municipality.
The decisions officials and residents make today will impact the look, cohesiveness and economic viability of a community, not just in the immediate years ahead but for decades well into the future.
Jeff Anzevino, director of Land Use Advocacy for Scenic Hudson – a Poughkeepsie-based environmental protection organization – has organized two “Walkway Gateway Visioning Meetings” to elicit comments and feedback from town officials and residents alike on the future of the areas surrounding the entrances to the Walkway Over the Hudson on both sides of the river.
The first Visioning meeting took place on June 26 in Highland; however a second one is scheduled for Thursday, June 28 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in room 2023 of the Hancock Center at Marist College in Poughkeepsie.
The forums are designed to pose questions: In Highland, how do we entice visitors into the hamlet? What forms of architecture should be used in the redevelopment of the Route 9W corridor between Milton Avenue and the Mid-Hudson Bridge? How can pedestrian and bicycle safety be improved in this area? What can be done to create a good first impression to Walkway visitors along Havilland Avenue and in Poughkeepsie near the gateway to the Walkway? What kinds of stores would you like to see in this area? Should residential uses be promoted to support area businesses? How can more parking be provided without seriously impacting the area neighborhoods? How best can people be encouraged to reuse old or closed industrial buildings in the immediate vicinity of the Walkway?
Anzevino described the goals he hopes will come out of the meetings.
“We’re looking to establish zoning in both communities to take better advantage of the land around Walkway and the Hudson Valley Rail Trail,” he said.
Anzevino said the Route 9W corridor in Highland near the Walkway has a car dealership, gas stations and restaurants with drive-through windows and “a road that is designed to speed as much traffic through as possible.” He said there have been preliminary discussions on recreating this corridor with more of a Main Street setting. He said by the town creating new zoning and adding other incentives within this area, property owners may be more willing to develop their vacant parcels or rehabilitate their existing structures for more intensive uses.
“The idea is not to limit development,” he said. “The idea is to encourage more development but with the right kind of form that encourages more walking along the sidewalk [and] extends the feel of the hamlet from Vineyard Avenue and Main Street up Milton Avenue onto Route 9W.”
Anzevino said consideration should be given to allow an increase in building size and height and to creating a thematic style of architecture that will enhance and compliment the Walkway entrance areas.
“It is the relationship of the buildings to the street, the forms of the buildings and the types of uses and the way parking is arranged,” he said. “Have more parking in the back and buildings closer to the road. There is no reason buildings cannot be two or three stories along Route 9W and possibly apartments or offices up above.”
Anzevino said Scenic Hudson does not have all of the solutions and he hopes the forums will help formulate “something that everyone can buy into. Right now we have a lost opportunity. We have a highway strip, traffic drives through it and it doesn’t attract people from the Walkway to our hamlet.”
Anzevino said the Town of Lloyd has been working on rezoning along the Route 9W corridor and it appears to be more interested than ever in establishing and injecting the critical component of design standards into the town code.
Anzevino said presently there is “no sense of anticipation of arrival” as one approaches the Walkway that gives visitors a sense they are entering a special or unique area. He pointed out that thousands of people visit the Walkway every weekend and with careful planning both Highland and Poughkeepsie could entice them to visit and linger in their communities.
Supervisor Paul Hansut said the forums will provide important feedback.
“I think this is good for our town and this whole overlay [zoning] project is being funded by the Dyson Foundation. It is not costing the town any money,” he said. “I think its going to change the way our town looks.”
Hansut said he is hopeful these forums will lead to even greater interest in planning for the future on both sides of the river.
By MARK REYNOLDS