Commentary: A New Direction for the Proposed Form Based Code in New Castle

By Holly McCall, Lori Morton, Michael Weinberg and Jennifer Bounds

Although there are many issues facing New Castle, the Form Based Code (FBC) is rightfully one of the most prominent. More than a mere zoning code, the FBC can enable the revitalization that the Chappaqua hamlet has lacked to date and in a manner consistent with 2017’s Comprehensive Plan. 

We, like many residents, had concerns and questions about the implementation of the code to the original 72-acre study area. We are reassured by the Town Board’s new direction:

  • Limiting the FBC solely to the six-acre North Greeley corridor (a more than 90 percent reduction);
  • Restoration of oversight by the Planning Board and Architectural Review Board;
  • No five-story buildings; and
  • Excluding public spaces, such as the train station parking lot.

We believe that this new plan is both reasonable and the right path forward to create a vibrant and healthy community.

But to be clear this is a zoning change, not a development or construction plan. Only if and when property owners decide to build, within the code, would anything be built. Although there is much to be done beyond the FBC to achieve our collective goals, there is a pathway forward not merely for the sake of development but in a manner that meets community needs in both of scale and size.

Each member of the Democrats 4 New Castle slate is deeply vested in our town. Before stepping up to serve the community as candidates for the Town Board and long after we hopefully have the honor to do so, we were and will remain residents first.

We and many fellow community members cite the exceptional Chappaqua Central School District as a reason for choosing New Castle as our home. We understand that the due diligence applied by the district and Board of Education was to the premise of a full build-out scenario, but believe many of these concerns are now mitigated by the limited scope of rezoning currently under consideration. 

The potential of a few hundred new students is now reduced to a few dozen spread over multiple schools. We believe we can, as a community, welcome new students without diminishing educational quality. 

We support the opportunity for multiple entry points into the New Castle housing market. We believe that there are several advantages offered by stimulating housing development in the hamlet: revitalization, economic and business development for New Castle, lowered carbon footprint of downtown buildings and the inclusion of residents currently unable to live or stay in our community.

We support the addition of affordable and workforce housing, and appreciate that the housing need extends beyond it. New and varied housing options are needed in New Castle to support young adults, empty-nesters, two-household families and middle-income families.

In order for Chappaqua to retain its quaint charm while incentivizing development that will create a flourishing and vibrant hamlet, there is much work to be done. We are ready to roll up our sleeves and do that work. Implementing the NYSERDA building code that mandates higher energy efficiency standards for new construction can lower our footprint.

Increasing housing options helps us do our part to mitigate some of the housing crisis in our county.

Policy experts and local leaders like the Interfaith Council and the Council for Race and Equity (CRE) recommend implementing the FBC as part of a plan to move toward racial equity. In fact, the CRE’s Housing & Planning Committee conducted exhaustive research and due diligence and concluded that the best practice for New Castle is an FBC to create a more diverse and inclusive community. North Greeley Avenue can, and we believe will, be a shining example of smart growth and green building construction. 

Whatever the path forward may be, have no misgivings. The Democrats 4 New Castle slate will not implement any future zoning change in the hamlet without robust public engagement. Any consideration to expand the FBC would not only be contingent upon the outcome and success of the North Greeley corridor but require that such zoning be specifically tailored to the location in which it would be implemented.

Most importantly, we will listen to all voices, remain open to opposing ideas and demonstrate with our actions that before anything else, you, the residents that make our community a place we are proud to call home, always – always – come first.

We look forward to continued dialogue, working together, and your support on June 22.

Holly McCall is a Democratic candidate for New Castle town supervisor. Lori Morton, Michael Weinberg and Jennifer Bounds are Democratic candidates for Town Board. They will also all appear on the independent 4 New Castle line.