Katz Sets Ambitious Goals to Start Term in New Castle

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New Castle Supervisor Lisa Katz has laid out an aggressive agenda for the next few months, including tackling at least a couple of potentially controversial topics.

New Castle Supervisor Lisa Katz announced last week an ambitious set of goals for her first 100 days as the town’s chief officer, at least two of which have the potential to touch off robust debate.

At the Town Board’s virtual reorganization meeting last Tuesday evening, Katz listed seven items she hopes can be implemented in the opening months of her administration, including the adoption of a social media policy to set parameters for the content published on the town’s Facebook page and passing an affordable housing requirement of at least 10 percent for any future residential units that would be built in the Chappaqua hamlet.

Other goals would be to hold discussions with the Planning Board to find ways to streamline the site plan review process; revising the town’s sign ordinance; filling vacancies on the town’s volunteer boards, including seating the Committee on Race and Equity, the Ethics Board and the Arts and Culture Committee; create a Student Advocacy Committee; and initiate a New Castle Community Corner that would announce achievements and milestones of town residents.

Katz acknowledged that it would be a lot to accomplish in the first three-plus months of the year, but she wants to set an expectation of making progress on issues that need to be addressed.

“It is not a small amount, but I’m hoping that we can all work together to get this done,” she said.

During the Form-Based Code debate last year, Katz had called for the town to require at least 10 percent affordable housing in the Retail Business and Retail Business & Parking zones, the two districts that made up the 72-acre study area. Those two zones were not included when the town adopted its affordable housing law based on Westchester County’s model ordinance.

As a result, the mixed-use development at 91 Bedford Rd. did not include any affordable units, Katz said.

One goal that could cause controversy is the adoption of a social media policy, of which discussion is scheduled to begin at Tuesday’s work session. Katz said she that she wants the Town of New Castle Facebook page to be used for announcements mainly designed to push out information, such as storm advisories, recreation programs and other matters of importance and interest and not be a source for wrangling.

There are other social media forums for debate and discussion on a wide range of topics, she said.

Katz said the board needs to discuss and decide what would get posted and who would be the person or people designated for posting the information.

“I don’t want anything being disseminated to the public as though it is coming from the full Town Board if it’s solely the opinion of a board member,” Katz said. “Board members are always welcome to publish their own opinions (elsewhere), but it needs to be sufficiently indicated that this is the opinion of that Town Board member and not necessarily the views of the Town Board.”

Announcement of a social media policy comes after a dust-up on the town’s Facebook page over New Year’s weekend. An announcement was posted by Katz welcoming the board’s newest members, Tara Kassal, Victoria Tipp and Chris Hildenbrand, and wishing its two most recent former members, Lori Morton and Lauren Levin, well.

One resident objected to use of the word elected since Hildenbrand was not on the ballot and was scheduled to be appointed at the Jan. 4 reorganization meeting after Andrea Sanseverino Galan, who was one of the winning council candidates, officially resigned because she no longer lives in town.

Later, another resident questioned why the post was being revised multiple times.

At that point, Councilman Jeremy Saland replied that residents’ comments should not be deleted from the town’s Facebook page, particularly on a topic that Katz had initiated.

“Setting aside the Town Facebook page is not her private campaign page, I’m not quite sure she has the right to silence a resident who made a fact-based and non-offensive comment,” Saland stated before the threads were permanently removed.

Katz said going forward the policy would be for the Town Board to vet any content unless it is completely factual.

“So that’s one of the things I want to make sure about, that the public does not misunderstand what is coming from the Town Board,” she said.

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