47 West Market Street building in the Village of Rhinebeck.  Sarah Imboden/The Observer
47 West Market Street building in the Village of Rhinebeck. Sarah Imboden/The Observer

Rhinebeck orders 2 mental health groups out

Zoning board finds their services at 47 W. Market St. violate local law

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Two of the three nonprofit mental health organizations at 47 West Market Street in Rhinebeck have to leave, village zoning officials have ruled.

At its Jan. 16 meeting, the Zoning Board of Appeals gave Hudson Valley Mental Health and Lexington Center for Recovery 60 days to relocate from the mental health center in the middle of the village, citing the non-conforming nature of the services they provide.

Occupations Inc., the third nonprofit organization, will be allowed to stay in the building, which has housed mental health facilities since 1975.

Attorney Jeffrey Martin, representing property owner Daniel Colnaghi, told the Observer that his client was “disappointed with the decision, and I believe very strongly that he’ll exercise his right to appeal.”

A cease-and-desist order was issued for the site in August by the village Zoning Enforcement Officer after investigation showed no new site plan was filed when the three nonprofits took over the lease from the Dutchess County Department of Mental Health in 2011.

Neighbors raised numerous concerns about the facility’s clients, traffic and loitering starting last May. As village officials responded, a packed town forum and emotional public hearings followed.

Colnaghi chose to appeal the cease-and-desist order starting in October, and public hearings were held Nov. 7 and Dec. 10 as part of the ZBA’s deliberations. Numerous documents were supplied by both sides, and Martin strongly argued that the building has never changed its use as a mental health center since 1975.

“I think the decision speaks for itself,” ZBA member Rachel Cavell said as the zoning board voted unanimously to reject Colnaghi’s appeal without further comment. The issue took less than three minutes of meeting time.

In its decision, the board laid out several facts:

• The original approval for the property in 1975 was for use as a “mental health facility” only.

• An expansion of outpatient services was reviewed and approved by local officials in 1988 when the county’s Department of Mental Hygiene was still operating the facility.

• Village zoning was then updated in 2001, and no longer included “outpatient day treatment centers” as a permitted use, which made the “1988 existing use a non-conforming use in accordance with the provisions of the Village of Rhinebeck Zoning Law.”

• But there was no village review when Colnaghi entered a lease agreement with Hudson Valley Mental Health in June 2011 for use of “20 percent of the entire building premises” and executed another lease in March 2012 with Occupations for “80 percent of the building.” ZBA documents state that no lease agreement with Lexington was recorded, but they apparently moved into the location in June 2011.

The one-page resolution adopts an eight-page decision that is bolstered by dozens of pages of supporting documentation.

“While this board recognizes the legitimate objectives of the current use of the site—service to those in the Village of Rhinebeck and surrounding area who suffer from mental depression and substance abuse—it is obliged to follow the laws of the Village of Rhinebeck, and the question before the Board is whether the use as presented is, or is not, a valid continuation of a pre-existing non-conforming use,” the decision said.

It then added, “It is the determination of this Board in this matter that it is not.”
Noting that use of the facility had intensified since the 1975 and 1988 approvals, the decision found that both Lexington and Hudson Valley Mental Health have office hours that extend beyond 5pm and that “the services provided by HVMH (and its apparent sub-tenant LCR) clearly are an expansion of a non-conforming use and prohibited under the Code of the Village of Rhinebeck.”

Occupations, however, has daytime hours that coincide with those that were originally approved and its services are also in line with previous approvals, which is why the board determined that they can stay.

An initial reaction to the decision came from Oak Street resident Kathleen Brazee.

“The residents and businesses of Oak Street and surrounding neighborhoods are happy to see the situation at 47 West Market St. finally addressed, but there are still issues that have not been addressed,” she said, citing clients who are not supervised when they are outside the building as example.

Brazee also said she felt the zoning board’s deliberations were not handled in a transparent way because the board did not explain their decision at the meeting.

In his statement to the Observer, while affirming Colnaghi’s intent to appeal, Martin noted that his client was “very grateful to the village zoning board for what had to be an enormous devotion to looking over the documents and reviewing all of the information which was provided. We provided the zoning board with transcripts of the public hearings and numerous documents and supporting information, case law and legal arguments. They had an enormous amount of paperwork to review, and I think they did a great job.”

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