To The Editor:
The Board of Trustees for the Village of Croton voted to move forward with the process of reviewing and potentially adopting the rezoning recommendations from our planning consultant for the North Riverside Avenue and Municipal Place Gateway Area. The recommendations broadly mirror the mixed-use zoning now in place on South Riverside Avenue at Benedict Blvd., in the Harmon Gateway, which has stimulated the redevelopment of the site of the former Nappy’s auto body and the current convenience store. We began the SEQRA process (State Environmental Quality Review Act) at last night’s meeting, which will culminate with a public hearing on November 6.
The zoning study for North Riverside and Municipal Place is a direct outgrowth of the Comprehensive Plan. The Comprehensive Plan, the legal roadmap for land use in our community, was adopted unanimously and on a bipartisan basis by the Village Board in 2017.
The need to provide more housing options for seniors and young workers was a key theme in the Comprehensive Plan (the full text of which can be found on the Village web site, http://www.crotononhudson-ny.gov, in the “public documents” section).
As stated in the Comprehensive Plan: “In many municipalities, the shift in age distribution has led to a re‐examination of priorities, as issues such as affordable housing for seniors have become more pressing…At the same time, the Village must provide the services and quality of life that will attract and retain the new Village immigrants and younger workforce needed to replace a labor force that is shrinking as the population ages.”
There is a clear demand for new multifamily housing in our community. In 2003, the Board of Trustees declared a continuing housing emergency (a vacancy rate less than 5%) and imposed rent stabilization on Bari Manor. Since then, the underlying “emergency” condition has continued with the latest Census data indicating that the rental vacancy rate stands at about 1.3%. This is an issue that affects a large section of the Village population, as more than a quarter of the Village rents.
The Comprehensive Plan also explicitly called for the Village to “ prepare a summary of current and recommended conditions that distinguish and reinforce the Village Gateway Districts and three Commercial Districts – Upper Village, North Riverside, and South Riverside / Harmon,” and “Develop a land use plan for the Village‐owned Gateway properties near Route 9/9A, Municipal Place and Riverside Drive (i.e. former Katz property and former skateboard park / storage yard.).”
The North Riverside and Municipal Place Gateway areas are a strong candidate for revitalization through rezoning. These areas are already a commercial corridor for the Village featuring the Croton Commons, Croton Auto Park, and a host of small retail establishments.
The current zoning for the areas is primarily commercial zoning with a maximum of 2-stories (although their exist many existing non-conforming structures built before the adoption of zoning in our Village in the 1960’s that are grandfathered in–including several multistory mixed use buildings). According to the research of our consultants, this is out of step with the demands of the real estate market, which now favors mixed-use construction of a minimum of 3-stories.
The recommended zoning changes will have only modest impacts on the larger community.
Any changes in the built environment will come about organically. Rezoning does not require an immediate change in use by current property owners. Zoning laws are “forward looking” and regulate future uses of a land or property site rather than the existing ones. Zoning laws are not retroactive. Individual property owners decide if, when and how they will to make new investments in their property.
The entire zoning study area is close to major transportation links, including Route 9, the Croton-Harmon Metro North Station and several Bee Line stops–minimizing the effect of additional traffic on the rest of the Village. The recommendations DO NOT include any changes to the maximum allowable height of 35 feet. Further, the recommendations include a requirement for off-street parking for new construction. Finally, the recommendation for the addition of mixed-use and/or multifamily housing is the least likely to add new students. School enrollment in the Croton-Harmon District is down by some 10% over the last ten years.
Our Village was recently ranked No. 1 in New York State by USA Today. That’s not because we’ve been frozen in amber in 1896. Rather, it’s because successive generations have planned prudently and acted deliberately. If we are to keep our community vibrant and affordable we must continue to do so.
Brian Pugh, Mayor