As indicated in the January 30 edition of The Miscellany News, Vassar’s Inn & Institute (I/I) project is facing some serious hurdles before any demolition or construction can begin. Alas, to understand what’s going on requires delving into a few technical details.
Section 210-38 of the Town of Poughkeepsie’s Zoning Law explicitly lists the “permitted uses” for the “Institutional Zone,” to which all of Vassar’s property belongs. For Vassar, the only relevant item
However, Vassar is appealing the ruling, arguing that colleges operating hotels
Even if Vassar ultimately wins its appeal with the ZBA, it would still have to win approval from the Planning Board, whose next public hearing may be at the Feb. 20 meeting (5 p.m. at 1O Overocker Road; public comments welcome). When making its determination, the Planning Board must heed the content of the Zoning Law. In particular, Section 210-38 says that “[The Institutional Zone] recognizes the importance of these institutions and provides protections for their continued growth and operation while ensuring that nearby residential neighborhoods are protected,” (emphasis added). Therefore, the impact of Vassar’s I/I project on the adjacent College Avenue residential neighborhood is front and center. Vassar’s project would ruin one-half of the lovely green park along Raymond Avenue (home to the weekly Farmers’ Market and other community events), it would demolish the 21 apartments within the three Williams faculty housing buildings (gifted to Vassar in the 1920s by Harriet Williams, class of 1870) and one more faculty house, replacing them with two giant parking lots; and it would increase traffic and noise, and decrease pedestrian safety. Concerned by these impacts, one of the Planning Board members admonished Vassar at the September 2019 Planning Board meeting:
“We don’t want you to waste your time and money…We are not satisfied…That building is going to be a dominant factor in that neighborhood. And it seems to me you could spend a little more time— and I wouldn’t be surprised if our Board didn’t ask you to spend a little more time looking at some alternatives. I think you get the idea that we are not happy…In that location, we are not happy. And if you wanted to put that same building on the campus somewhere, on the east side of Raymond Avenue, or if you wanted to put it on the Farm, on Hooker Avenue, I don’t think we would have any problem, because there it’s a different context. That’s the problem that we’re having. It’s not that we don’t want you to do this. It’s that design, in that location, I think, generally that we’re having a problem with. Really, we’re imploring you—so that we don’t have to keep doing this over and over and over again—to come up with a different plan” (YouTube, Town of Poughkeepsie, “Planning Board 201909-19,” 09.26.2019).
In short, the I/I is far from a “done deal.”
Anyone who is concerned about the serious impacts of Vassar’s I/I project is welcome to attend any of the public hearings of the ZBA or the Planning Board. The Planning Board’s Feb. 20 meeting is likely to be crucial. (Check the Town’s website to confirm the agenda.) Public comments are limited to three minutes per person.
Prof. Luke Hunsberger
Chair of Computer Science