Candidates opposed to Blues Factory have similar views on developent
Based largely on their positions on growth and development, Mike Gasper and Don Cosentine knocked incumbent Port Washington Ald. Bill Driscoll off Tuesday’s ballot for the 3rd District aldermanic seat.
Now, the challenge before them is to distinguish themselves from each other.
“Mike and I pretty much agree on everything,” Cosentine said. “We both want more open government.”
The difference, he said, is that he has the ear of more people in the district.
“I think I’m more in contact with the residents,” Cosentine said.
Gasper agreed that the two have similar positions on the issues, but said he believes he has a broader perspective when it comes to the search for answers.
“I think I’m a little more up on what other communities are doing to solve these problems,” he said. “I’d like to think I have a little bit to offer more in terms of solutions.”
Both men said they decided to run for office based on the city’s decision to sell a publicly owned lakefront parking lot for the Blues Factory.
Cosentine, 72, of 518 Brentwood Ct., said he would prefer the city use the parking lot as a public space, saying people often park there and look at the lake.
There are several things Cosentine said he doesn’t like about the Blues Factory proposal — its emphasis on the blues, which he said isn’t popular, and the architecture, which resembles the former Chair Factory.
“Why do we want to copy an old building?” he asked.
Downtown development in general shouldn’t copy the existing architecture, Cosentine said, but be in a more modern style.
Major projects, he added, should be decided not by the Common Council but by referendum, and more information should be made public before major decisions are made.
“I want everyone to be heard,” Cosentine said, adding he would call people in his district to get their opinions on major issues.
Gasper, 38, of 514 W. Chestnut St., said he opposes the Blues Factory largely because most people seem to.
“I haven’t heard anyone in Port who seems to be in favor of it,” he said. “Their (city officials’) vision seems to be different from most people.
“I think on big picture things, you absolutely need to reflect what your constituents want.”
Gasper said he’s not against the Blues Factory concept— particularly the theater space — only the location.
“It could be across the street and be fine,” he said.
There are better uses for that site, he added, such as a headquarters for the proposed shipwreck sanctuary or a business that requires lake access.
In terms of other marina district developments — townhouses proposed by architect Stephen Perry Smith and Ansay Development’s plans for a six-story commercial development on the NewPort Shores restaurant property — Gasper said he prefers to see smaller-scale development.
That, Gasper said, would allow maximum flexibility and benefit the community.
He said he would advocate for a form-based zoning code in downtown that would set the parameters for structures rather than the current use-based zoning.
“Anything new should fit into what’s already there,” Gasper said, and form-based zoning would be a better way to ensure that happens.
Gasper also said he opposes the use of development incentives through the tax incremental financing district. TIF districts were originally intended to redevelop blighted property, he said, and should be used only for that purpose.
Otherwise, he said, the city is taking on some of the risk of development.
Many communities do use TIF development incentives, he acknowledged, “but from my perspective, it’s not something you should do. A lot of cities are doing that, but does that make it the right thing to do?”
Cosentine also disagreed with the use of development incentives, saying too many of the developments offer little to residents.
He said he is wary of the proposed lakefront developments. There’s no need for more residential growth downtown, Cosentine said, noting he fears it will crowd the area and exacerbate parking problems.
“Condos and apartments are not the answer for downtown,” Cosentine said. “Perhaps offices would be better for downtown.”
He said he favors creating a transportation system that would take Port residents to places such as Bayshore Town Center and bring those residents to Port to shop.
“I think that would bring development to downtown, more so than condos and apartments,” he said.
Cosentine said he wants to see the city slow down development.
“To see Port Washington grow is wonderful, but let’s slow it down a bit,” he said. “I think people appreciate coming to a town that doesn’t change much or change too quickly.”
Cosentine said people should vote for him because he is willing to take the time to ensure they are heard.
Gasper said he will bring a new perspective to government and work to ensure projects brought to the Common Council are financially viable now and in the future.
“I’m not afraid to vote against the crowd,” he said. “I haven’t liked the entire direction the council has gone. People live here because they like the charm, and they don’t want to see it all changed to generate tax base.”