Public hearing on affordable housing enlightens on Amenia’s actual need

AMENIA — In an effort to accomplish a regular update of the town’s Comprehensive Plan and to address the issue of affordable housing, the town board held a public hearing on Thursday, Oct. 6 at Town Hall to inform residents about details of the process, including updated demographics and goals to answer housing needs.

“The Comprehensive Plan must be updated in terms of statistics, particularly in relation to affordable housing,” said town board member Leo Blackman. The plan was developed in 2007, containing a clear call for workforce housing.

A draft of the updated plan will be posted soon on the town’s website. The next opportunity for public comment is through a continuation of the Oct. 6 hearing, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 20 at Town Hall, beginning at 7 p.m.  A second public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 3, also at Town Hall. When all public comment is completed, the town board will consider adopting the changes to the plan in December.

Presenting an overview of the changes to the town plan was Ashley Ley, vice president for planning at AKRF, an engineering consulting firm. With a practice centered in the Hudson Valley and Connecticut, she has been acting as a consultant on the update process. A proposed goal to be added to the defined goals within the current plan envisions installation of a solar farm atop the old Amenia landfill.

Demographic changes to be incorporated into the plan, according to Ley’s report, include changes in local population trends. For example, over the past 30 years, Amenia’s population has declined by 27.4% while Dutchess County has risen in population by 14.1%.

The need for affordable housing is demonstrated by the reporting that 29% of homeowners are paying more than 30% of their gross income on their housing, and 46% of renters are doing the same. Further, 9% of homeowners are paying more than 50% of income on housing; 23% of renters are.

Blackman noted a dearth of starter homes available for purchase by younger families and the need for affordable housing options.

Housing goals already defined in the current plan include maintaining a balance between agriculture and residential, attracting new businesses, providing employment opportunities for young people, encouraging more housing diversity and promoting opportunities for older residents to live conveniently. A new suggested goal is to promote environmentally sustainable energy practices.

Speaking of the work of the local housing board, board member Vicki Doyle said the goal of the housing board has been to make it easier to fund affordable housing. She added that a key goal has been to promote density within the hamlets and to provide for affordable housing within walking distance of businesses.

A former member of the town’s housing board, Blackman observed that the housing board has been working for three years to encourage affordable housing and has always supported the idea  of promoting foot traffic within the hamlets.

One resident noted the impact of Airbnb on affordable housing, asking that the board consider regulating the practice.

Other residents encouraged greater communication, urging the board to do everything necessary to inform the public about the work of the housing board. Wassaic General Store proprietor Sharon Kroeger said she plans to have copies of the draft plan available at her store for interested residents to borrow and return.

Recalling the advice of the town attorney, town Supervisor Victoria Perotti noted that if the town makes zoning changes, then those changes need to match the comprehensive plan. When zoning changes, then the plan should change to match.

Reviewing proposed zoning changes, Ley reported that suggested amendments include changes to minimum square footage for an apartment, allowing more flexibility in creating accessory apartments within existing homes, reducing parking space requirements, promoting local workforce housing and requiring that all such housing applications should be sent to the housing board, and eliminating the present preference list.

Ley emphasized that there will be a separate public hearing process established to consider the proposed zoning changes. They are not under consideration in the current plan update that concerns only the segments that discuss affordable housing.

“When the comprehensive plan gets rewritten, there will be a broad public process. We’re trying to get the affordable housing portion moving,” Ley said.

Perotti added that in order to make the affordable housing portion a reality, “we chose to do that portion of the comprehensive plan, along with attendant changes to the applicable zoning regulations.”

Housing board member Charles Miller said the Oct. 6 public hearing was the opening of the public comment process and that seeing the updated demographic statistics becomes helpful to that process.

Latest News

Inspiring artistic inspiration at the Art Nest in Wassaic

Left to right: Emi Night (Lead Educator), Luna Reynolds (Intern), Jill Winsby-Fein (Education Coordinator).

Natalia Zukerman

The Wassaic Art Project offers a free, weekly drop-in art class for kids aged K-12 and their families every Saturday from 12 to 5 p.m. The Art Nest, as it’s called, is a light, airy, welcoming space perched on the floor of the windy old mill building where weekly offerings in a variety of different media lead by professional artists offer children the chance for exploration and expression. Here, children of all ages and their families are invited to immerse themselves in the creative process while fostering community, igniting imaginations, and forging connections.

Emi Night began as the Lead Educator at The Art Nest in January 2024. She studied painting at Indiana University and songwriting at Goddard College in Vermont and is both a visual artist and the lead songwriter and singer in a band called Strawberry Runners.

Keep ReadingShow less
Weaving and stitching at Kent Arts Association

A detail from a fabric-crafted wall mural by Carlos Biernnay at the annual Kent Arts Association fiber arts show.

Alexander Wilburn

The Kent Arts Association, which last summer celebrated 100 years since its founding, unveiled its newest group show on Friday, May 11. Titled “Working the Angles,” the exhibition gathers the work of textile artists who have presented fiber-based quilts, landscapes, abstracts, and mural-sized illustrations. The most prominently displayed installation of fiber art takes up the majority of the association’s first floor on South Main Street.

Bridgeport-based artist Carlos Biernnay was born in Chile under the rule of the late military dictator Augusto Pinochet, but his large-scale work is imbued with fantasy instead of suffering. His mix of influences seems to include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s popular German libretto “The Magic Flute” — specifically The Queen of the Night — as well as Lewis Carol’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” The Tudor Court, tantalizing mermaids and exotic flora.

Keep ReadingShow less
Let there be Night: How light pollution harms migrating birds
Alison Robey

If last month’s solar eclipse taught me anything, it’s that we all still love seeing cool stuff in the sky. I don’t think we realize how fast astronomical wonders are fading out of sight: studies show that our night skies grow about 10% brighter every year, and the number of visible stars plummets as a result. At this rate, someone born 18 years ago to a sky with 250 visible stars would now find only 100 remaining.

Vanishing stars may feel like just a poetic tragedy, but as I crouch over yet another dead Wood Thrush on my morning commute, the consequences of light pollution feel very real. Wincing, I snap a photo of the tawny feathers splayed around his broken neck on the asphalt.

Keep ReadingShow less