Election 2021

Democratic Slate Recommended to Move New Castle Forward

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Every once in a while, an election comes along that’s about one issue.

In New Castle in 2021, that issue is the Form-Based Code.

Introduced as a land development and zoning tool that emphasizes appearance – or form – over uses, it has gradually been introduced in communities across the United States.

Of course, there are many other matters of high importance in town, and certainly there are residents who don’t view the Form-Based Code as their make-or-break issue.

But while there may be modest differences, at most, among the candidates on how best to help Millwood, protect the West End, sidewalks and walkability, recreation and building a more diverse and inclusive community, there is a stark divide between the two slates when it comes to downtown Chappaqua and the Form-Based Code.

It really comes down to whether a resident believes that the seemingly elusive vibrancy long sought by officials and some residents for downtown Chappaqua requires a new strategy that admittedly has been used far more often in larger communities than Chappaqua. Or can developers be lured to town to build mixed-use projects with restaurants and attractions through a more measured approach.

Unite New Castle Supervisor candidate and two-term Councilwoman Lisa Katz and running mates Tara Kassal and Vicky Tipp want to negotiate with developers and use overlay districts and special permits, among other tools to help the hamlet.

(Andrea Sanseverino Galan is on the ballot for Unite New Castle but announced she would be moving and will not serve. Chris Hildenbrand is campaigning with them and would be appointed if Sanseverino Galan and the ticket win a majority.)

The Democratic/4 New Castle ticket of Holly McCall for supervisor, Councilwoman Lori Morton and Michael Weinberg for the four-year Town Board seats and Jennifer Bounds for the unexpired term favor the Form-Based Code.

While downtown Chappaqua is hardly decaying, in order for it to reach its potential a more dynamic approach is needed. That is why it is recommended that McCall, a former Chappaqua school board member, Morton, Weinberg and Bounds be given a chance to move the hamlet forward while tending to all the other pressing issues.

Each member of the ticket has served the community admirably in different capacities before this run.

They recognize that while a municipality and its officials may have a rough outline of what they want to see, you still need the private sector, which has the capital, and the town’s planning professionals to provide guidance.

The strong push-back to the Form-Based Code has proved successful even if opponents dismiss the concessions made by the town. Limiting any initial rezoning to six acres on North Greeley Avenue, rather than the entire 72 acres, is significant. After the reaction of the past year, it will be nearly impossible for a new board to rezone beyond North Greeley for a while – at least. Bringing the Planning Board back for some downtown applications is helpful.

For sure, some of the arguments against the code have some merit. There are those who don’t want to see a hamlet lined with four-story buildings, which is possible. It’s still a large question mark where parking would be located if a fairly significant project is proposed.

However, there have also been gross mischaracterizations. The chances of nearly 1,000 residential units, the maximum build-out cited in the environmental review, has little to no chance of occurring, according to the town’s planning director. Some Chappaqua School District enrollment projections, including one from 2018 for this academic year, overestimated by more than 450 students.

The pandemic has so far failed to trigger an anticipated enrollment bump from all the families streaming out of the city.

There are large tracts of municipal land and school property that are also unlikely to be built upon anytime soon.

Katz and Tipp, in her 11th year on the Chappaqua Board of Education, have been dedicated public servants. It would have been advantageous for Kassal to have been more visible over the past six months. It is hard to recommend voting for Sanseverino Galan when she will not serve.

There is little doubt that if Katz and Tipp would be elected the town would be in strong hands on most any other issue.

But on the issue that has dominated this campaign and town discussions for more than a year, a more proactive strategy is called for.

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