John Habib: What you should know about rezoning

To The Editor:

I am writing again about the proposed construction of a 3-story apartment building on the old Croton Hardware store site and adjacent parcels. I will not address the application’s pros and cons. Instead, this is a reminder of how a project proposal like this one came to be received, and how a rigorous examination process will move forward while taking into account key data points. Of course, this application never would have been submitted absent the recent approval of zoning law amendments applicable to North Riverside Avenue & Municipal Place. These amendments were derived from clear recommendations in the 2017 Comprehensive Plan. That Plan – approved on a bipartisan basis by unanimous vote of the Village Board – states: “Adapting housing [stock]…will help a vibrant and engaged senior population to securely age in place and contribute to a vibrant community. At the same time, the Village must…attract and retain the new Village immigrants and younger workforce needed to replace a labor force that is shrinking as the population ages.” This new construction application reflects the past cross-party vote of Croton’s local government to attract new housing options to the Village.

Let’s also remember the core aspects of the rather conservative changes made to the zoning code: 1) substantially reducing the ratio of a building’s total floor area to the land upon which it is built (the “FAR”) – which now matches the FAR of the Harmon overlay district, where a new mixed-use project has emerged at 375 S. Riverside Avenue housing Baked By Susan, M Salon and several apartments; 2) permitting multi-unit, all-residential construction because the previous zoning required residential uses to be paired with commercial space, effectively forcing much higher traffic-generating projects into the areas; and 3) approving 3-story buildings instead of only 2.5 stories, while maintaining the exact same 35 foot height restriction.

When the new zoning was adopted, the Mayor, Trustees and Village administration members emphasized that new building applications undergo many months of vigorous scrutiny focused on numerous topics, including quality-of-life issues such as traffic and school capacity. It is important to point out that a low-rise residential structure of 10,000 sq. ft. generates approximately less than ⅓ of the amount of traffic created by a similarly sized shopping center. As for student enrollment, our school district’s population peaked in 2009 (1,760), and declined substantially by 2018 (1,608). Westchester County birth rates have been dropping since 2000, which has reduced enrollment for many districts. These statistics, while not dispositive, are directly relevant to expert evaluations of whether any new project could somehow overwhelm our district.

I have spent just about my entire life tightly connected to this Village. My family arrived here in 1967, when I was 4 years old. I am a 1981 CHHS graduate, and the Village was my home base throughout college and law school days. My career caused me to relocate around the US and overseas. But Croton has always been my “True North”, particularly because many of my immediate family members never left here. As a Board member now, I can assure all residents that the Mayor and my fellow Trustees will only support new development projects they honestly believe are in the best long-term interests of our Paradise-on-Hudson. 

John Habib, Trustee

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