HUDSON — Common Council members agree that affordable housing is a priority. But that consensus is being put to the test by Galvan Foundation’s proposed housing development planned for North 7th St.
The council’s July 21 vote on whether to grant the Galvan Foundation a partial tax exemption became a referendum on the city’s housing future.
Some council members backed the 77-unit development, while others urged restraint. Both sides agreed the project could affect Hudson for years to come.
After much discussion, the council withheld its support for the project by a vote of 5-4 with one abstention, but will revisit the issue in August during the Housing and Transportation committee meeting and the board’s informal meeting Aug. 10.
Galvan is seeking a 95% partial tax exemption in exchange for an annual payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, agreement to build the North 7th Street housing complex. The developer cannot secure state funding without a council-approved PILOT agreement.
At the same time as the council is considering a 30-year PILOT agreement with Galvan, the city is also seeking to hire an outside consultant to create an affordable housing development plan.
“The plan will review developable properties, funding opportunities and development feasibility in order to create a document that recommends the operations, timeline and partnerships for developing affordable housing,” according to the city’s call for applications, posted on its website.
First Ward Alderwoman Jane Trombley questioned the wisdom of giving Galvan the go-ahead to seek funding for its 7th Street project before the affordable housing development plan is completed.
“Why not do the study first?” said Trombley, who voted against giving Galvan the go-ahead.
Second Ward Alderwoman Tiffany Garriga condemned the foot-dragging at the July 21 meeting.
“Everything that we have requested from the Galvan Foundation through Dan Kent has been accommodated and you people are still trying to find some little thing to say no,” Garriga said.
Galvan has agreed to several changes to the proposed PILOT agreement since it was introduced in April. The developer increased the amount paid to the city in lieu of taxes in the first year by $3,000, reduced the length of the PILOT agreement from 40 years to 30 years and committed to entering into a new PILOT agreement at the end of the 30 years, according to Kent, vice president of initiatives for Galvan.
The developer also paid for an evaluation of the PILOT agreement in response to concerns from the council. The PILOT agreement was deemed “defensible” and “clearly in the public interest” by Joshua Simons of the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz, who carried out the evaluation.
The changes did not satisfy the majority required for council approval.
Alderwoman Eileen Halloran and Alderman Dominic Merante, who represent the city’s 5th Ward, where the proposed development is located, both opposed entering into the PILOT agreement at July’s meeting.
Halloran and Merante both cited the city’s budget woes resulting from the COVID-19 crisis as a source of their reservations.
“We don’t know yet what the city’s revenue shortfall will be,” Halloran said Thursday. “Once we see what the tax burden will or won’t be for the next fiscal year, then we will see what tax breaks we will or will not be able to give.”
Merante expressed concern about what will happen at the end of the 30-year PILOT agreement and said he wants to ensure homeowners aren’t forced to carry the city’s tax burden disproportionately.
“This is a big project that is going to set our future,” Merante said Thursday. “I’m not against it, but it has got to be the right project for everyone involved.”
Fourth Ward Alderman Malachi Walker, who deliberated for several minutes before casting his vote, said he felt conflicted “knowing what is at stake here.”
“The need for affordable housing is always going to feel like a necessity, because it is,” Walker said Thursday. “[The council is] considering adjustments to make this project the best that it can be, given that it is a huge project and the PILOT is pretty long.”
Walker said he knew he would take some heat for his decision, but that he voted with his conscience.
“I am doing my due diligence for my community, out of respect for my community,” Walker said. “I understand the frustration, I understand the need, but I do also understand patience and trying to do better.”
Galvan first proposed the North 7th St. project, which includes four floors of 77 rental units perched atop 4,000 square feet of commercial space, in late February. The project grew out of a meeting between Galvan and Mayor Kamal Johnson that took place shortly after Johnson took office on the first of the year, Johnson said.
Galvan’s proposal has been given careful consideration, Common Council President Thomas DePietro said.
Rather than rubber-stamp the project, the council has done its due diligence to ensure that Galvan’s aims are consistent with the city’s 2018 Strategic Housing Plan and that the project addresses the real need for affordable housing, DePietro said.
The council president acknowledged the project has been greeted with mistrust, given that the Galvan name has what he called “a complex history in the city.”
But despite the mistrust, Galvan has shown a willingness to make concessions, DePietro said.
“No one else is offering to create affordable housing,” DePietro said.