Bridge Street Properties Managing Member Bill Thompson made his point loud and clear Monday night: if the Village Board passes the revised waterfront zoning law as is, they will sue.
Until recently, the lengthy document that outlines a master plan for Irvington's land closest to the Hudson River allowed developers to propose a project that included a parking structure—something otherwise banned in the village—as long as it met a number of stringent criteria.
However, after more than 80 residents signed a petition to stop the passage of the law and attended six public hearings speaking out passionately against the allowance of a garage, the board tabled the law—later amending it to omit the right to build a parking structure under any circumstances.
"I was shocked that you took out the parking structure," said Tompson, an Irvington resident and partner in the developing company that owns the waterfront land. "This is unfair, counterproductive and conflicts with all the priorities you laid out for the waterfront."
Thompson argued that it was unjust for the village to strike the parking structure from the law, while simultaneously retaining large setbacks on all sides of the property which render about 25 percent of the land off limits for development.
John Marwell, attorney for the developers, took Thompson's speech one step further.
"You're putting a strait-jacket on future development," he said. "If you pass this law, it won't end the discussion."
Trustee Walter Montgomery asked Marwell to clarify his statement.
"This could well go to litigation if you pass this law," he said.
Clearly winded by the the developers' strong statements, trustees opted not to vote on the law Monday night, postponing its passage again after more than seven years in the works.
"It seems imprudent to push ahead with this when the village is clearly so divided," Montgomery said. "When we changed our mind on the parking structure, I had a good sense of the depth of opposition to it."
Montgomery continued that in recent discussions with residents, many admitted having a "visceral reaction to the words parking structure"—and after looking more deeply into the issue, said they were less opposed.
Resident Cathy Sears disagreed.
"The waterfront is not just an ordinary place; it is a sense of identity for the community," she said. "I don't know who those people are who were uninformed, but everyone I know has followed this from the beginning and read all the information."
The board closed the hearing without establishing a set date for it to be reopened.
"What's clear is that we need to try harder to bring the community together on this issue," Montgomery said, asking for suggestions on how they could reach out to more people. "We can't go forward with anything when the community is so polarized."