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A New York State Supreme Court judge ruled last week in favor of the Town of Yorktown in its creation in 2021 of an Overlay Zoning District.
In a Nov. 21 decision, Supreme Court Justice George Fufidio concluded the Overlay Zoning District, which was implemented in the Yorktown Heights and Lake Osceola business hamlets with a goal of encouraging creative redevelopment approaches, complied with the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) and the town board properly considered its cumulative impact.
The overlay zones allow a greater diversity of permitted uses, including residential, with the goal of revitalizing specific neighborhoods.
“The whole plan was carried out in a proper, careful and reasonable manner,” Fufidio stated.
After the town board voted 4-1 in Dec. 2021 to add the zoning district to the town’s books, a lawsuit was filed on April 28, 2022 against the board and Unicorn Contracting, developers of the Underhill Farm project on Underhill Ave, by Protecting Yorktown’s Quality of Life Foundation, Inc., Martha Dodenhoff, Susan and Steve Dolled and Louise Fang.
In part, the lawsuit contended the Town Board made a mistake when reviewing the Overlay Zoning under the SEQRA.
“There will be significant impacts to existing community and neighborhood character and historic resources, and the Town Board should have issued a Positive Declaration and required preparation of a generic environmental impact statement to assess all the direct and cumulative impacts of the (Overlay Zoning) law in the manner the law intended,” the lawsuit stated.
The Overlay District was first introduced by Yorktown Supervisor Matt Slater as part of his reboot Yorktown Task Force, which he convened following the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan also included a comprehensive rebranding of the town through the “Destination Y” campaign.
Slater, now a state Assemblyman who called the lawsuit when it was filed “a sham” and politically motivated, said Monday the Overlay Zoning was a cornerstone of his economic development plan for the town.
“The court’s ruling validates the great care we used to craft an economic development plan that will revitalize the Yorktown Heights business district,” Slater said. “The Overlay District law has been the key to attracting millions of dollars in new private investment in Yorktown Heights, and it will continue to transform our town and grow the local commercial tax base.”
John Ravitz, executive vice president and COO of the Business Council of Westchester, also applauded the court’s decision.
“The BCW recognized early on that then-Supervisor Slater was trying to think outside of the box and crafted an economic development approach that could be a model for local governments across the state and nation,” Ravitz said.
Besides the multi-use Underhill Farm development on the former Soundview School property, a Gardena Boutique Hotel on Commerce St. has also been approved under the Overlay District.
“We adopted this overlay zoning ordinance with the goal of bringing an economic rebirth to our business hamlets that we have struggled for years because of changes in the retail landscape,” said current Yorktown Supervisor Tom Diana, who was a councilman when the district was approved. “This overlay zoning is intended to position Yorktown businesses for success, and that’s where we are headed.”
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