Brian Pugh: Balancing Community Needs & Environmental Protection With Smart Growth

Dear Neighbors:brian-pugh-group-cropped
The proliferation of suburban sprawl has harmed the quality of life in Westchester County and the health of our environment with residents burning time and gasoline as they sit in traffic on the way to complete their errands. With smart land use policies allow for the construction of multifamily and mixed use buildings like those embedded in draft Local Laws 9 and 10, which are before the Village of Croton’s Board of Trustees, we can help reverse this trend, strengthen our communities, build our local economy and protect our environment.
Every building has an environmental impact. The key is to make sure that new construction is done near existing infrastructure, especially transportation, and that space is used efficiently. With vacancy rates hovering around 1%, there’s an acute demand for additional housing–both affordable and market-rate. Blocking new homes and businesses and pushing new construction to more distant communities only exacerbates the problem of suburban sprawl.
“Sprawl is one of the most important issues facing society today; indeed many of our social problems are connected to our pattern of development..By dispersing our population further away from traditional centers, we are only diluting the tax base and placing an increased burden on taxpayers,” explains Audubon New York in its “Smart Growth Overview.”
At the November 6th Public Hearing, Frank Fish, the Village’s planning consultant reviewed the recommended zoning changes in proposed local laws number 9 & 10 for Municipal Place and North Riverside Avenue for consistency with the US EPA’s smart growth principles: 1) Mix land uses; 2) Take advantage of compact building design; 3) Create a range of housing opportunities and choices; 4) Create walkable neighborhoods; 5) Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place; 6) Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas; 7) Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities; 8) Provide a variety of transportation choices; 9) Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective; 10) Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions.
The proposed local laws are consistent with the EPA’s smart growth principles. Draft Local Laws 9 and 10 allow for mixed use, multifamily construction (not to exceed 35 ft. in height) in an existing commercial corridor and near major transportation routes (Route 9, Metro North and several Bee Line stops). They proposed local laws will require the addition of sidewalks and civic space at Municipal Place. The recommendations were developed in a highly public process that featured, to date, two public workshops and two public hearings.
Further, each individual proposed buildings under the proposed local laws will have to go through the usual approval process. That means a public review by the Planning Board that’s legally required to include, among other things, an examination of adequacy of water supply and sewage disposal facilities, preservation of scenic views and vistas, traffic safety and convenient pedestrian access to the site and to adjacent streets.
The Board of Trustees is still reviewing the proposed local laws. Important issues have been raised in the public hearings that we will do our best to address. The details matter and so does the overall plan–allowing mixed use and multifamily opportunities that are appropriate for their neighborhood is key to keep our community affordable and liveable.
By building walkable communities through mixed-used zoning and compact construction, we can reduce driving, increase the use of mass transit, support local businesses by building a natural customer base in close proximity to existing and future shops and offices. Mixed use construction and multifamily housing is an essential component of the Upper Village, one of the most iconic parts of our Village. I believe that applying these principles to other commercial districts in the Village, as we’ve already done in Harmon, is part of strengthening our community’s small-town character and building on it for generations to come.

Brian Pugh

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