Brian Pugh: What’s next for Rezoning?

Dear Neighbors:brian-pugh-group-cropped

The Board of Trustees for the Village of Croton held a public hearing on a revised version of the proposed changes to the zoning code regarding the Municipal Place Gateway Overlay zone and North Riverside Avenue that were updated in response to feedback from public comments at last year’s public hearings.

I appreciate everyone that has taken part in this process, whether by correspondence with the Board, by comments at Monday’s public hearing or the two public hearings held in 2019 or by taking part in the public workshops last spring.

The Board has sought to address some of these concerns by revising the draft laws. These changes include:

1. An extension to properties on Beekman Avenue of the requirement for a 50 foot vegetated buffer along Wells Avenue).

2. A reduction in the maximum allowable floor area ratio (FAR), the ratio of a building’s total floor area to the size of the piece of land upon which it is built, for the Katz property from .8 to .5.

The proposed local laws would allow for 3-story, mixed-use construction in the Municipal Place Gateway and parts of North Riverside Avenue that are already zoned commercial (including Katz). It also reduces the permissible size of new construction, the FAR, on some parts of North Riverside and reclassifies some stretches of North Riverside and Brook Street as residential to better reflect the existing environment.

The proposed local laws will NOT change the 35 foot height maximum or the legal protections for scenic views of the Hudson River that exist in the zoning code. Also unchanged are the setback requirements for properties that abut residential properties.

Nor would the proposed changes allow for anything radically different than what already exists in our community.  Croton already has apartment houses (some, like Bari Manor and the Van Wyck Apartments, much larger than what would be allowed under the new zoning) and 3-story mixed-use buildings on Riverside and in the Upper Village.

The current zoning code does not prevent new development on North Riverside or Municipal Place and changes to the code will not automatically cause new development.  With the exception of public property, the what, when and how of development is in the hands of individual owners. The point of the code is to help harmonize any development with the needs of our community.

The 2017 update to the Village’s Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted unanimously and on a bipartisan basis by the Board of Trustees, called for a review of the zoning on North Riverside and Municipal Place.  Survey respondents and many attendees at public hearings made clear their views that any changes to the areas in question should preserve scenic vistas, minimize the impact on the environment, manage traffic, and preserve community character. All these priorities are reflected in the original proposed zoning amendments and the very recent edits to the first drafts.

I believe it’s important to encourage new investment in our community to broaden the tax base so we can control property taxes. We need new housing opportunities, both affordable and market-rate, for people of all income levels for seniors, young people and for others for whom home ownership is not a viable or desirable option.

Absent new housing options, population growth combined with a fixed housing supply will inexorably lead to hire prices that make our community unaffordable for middle class families. Further, trying to block new homes in our Village will push growth into other towns, exacerbating the problem of sprawl. Many of those same individuals, who might otherwise have lived in Croton, will still be on our streets as commuters headed towards Metro North or down Route 9–still burdening our roads, still adding to local air pollution but not contributing to the tax base and rarely, if ever, patronizing local businesses.

We also need to encourage mixed-use development that encourages walkability. By putting homes near businesses, we can reduce the number of vehicle trips people take, mitigating air pollution and promoting public health and exercise.  Similarly, by creating walkable mixed-use areas, we create a natural customer base for local businesses and support shopping local.

The Village applied this concept in Harmon through rezoning several years ago. At the time this was controversial. We are now seeing positive results in Harmon with new business and housing opportunities for our community.

Residents have valid concerns about how growth could affect traffic and quality of life. The Board of Trustees has sought to address some of those concerns in our revisions to the proposed local laws. If these local laws are adopted, we will use the Request for Proposals process and work with the Planning Board to make sure any and all proposals are as much of a win for our community as Harmon rezoning has been.

Sincerely,

Brian Pugh

 

 

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