Letter to the Editor: Yorktown Officials’ Discussion on Overlay Law Was a Dereliction of Duty

You might have heard that the Yorktown Town Board is considering a change to town rules that would effectively greenlight a plan to turn the historic Soundview property at the corner of Route 118 and Underhill Avenue into a mixed-use strip mall.

Regardless of whether you support or oppose the draft of the revised overlay law, have no position on the law or don’t even know what the law is about, you’d have to agree that last Tuesday’s Town Board discussion of an updated version of the law was an egregious failure of our Town Board’s ability to lead. The meeting was depressing, frustrating, disheartening – and frightening. 

Our Town Board members abdicated their responsibility to grapple with the substantive issues involved in a major piece of legislation.

See for yourself. The video is on the town’s website. Scroll to the one-hour, 47-minute mark.

https://yorktownny.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=1222.

If this is this how laws are made in Yorktown, we’ve got a problem. A serious problem.

The purpose of the meeting agenda item was clear: to review the comments the Town Board had received from its advisory boards to the draft of the new overlay law. Like all proposed legislation, draft laws can usually benefit from additional sets of eyes and some tweaking before being scheduled for a public hearing. That’s the purpose of the referral process. The Town Board doesn’t have to accept any of the recommendations, but, at a minimum, one would expect them to discuss them. Otherwise, why bother asking the advisory boards to spend their time reviewing the drafts? 

But that’s not what happened last week.

Instead, Town Board members spent an hour selectively reading portions of the comments that supported the general goals of the overlay law and justifying the need for an overlay law, which the Town Board already adopted in 2020. What’s new, and in need of a serious discussion, is a significant procedural change to the way the law currently works – and the addition of two specific overlay districts: Yorktown Heights and Lake Osceola. 

At one point, Supervisor Slater said he disagreed with one of the Planning Board’s recommended tweaks. But he never explained what that recommendation was or why he disagreed with it. And the rest of the Board said nothing. Nothing.

Shame on the members of our Town Board. We expect more from you. We hope for more the next time these matters come before you.

Michael Hickins
Yorktown Heights

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