Completing the long-awaited Comprehensive Plan update and attracting developers to consider construction of housing for seniors and empty-nesters are two of the key issues Mount Pleasant officials hope to address in the months ahead.
Last Saturday morning, Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi and most of the Town Board held an in-person forum at Town Hall for residents to ask questions and receive updates on issues large and small facing the town. About 20 residents attended the session, in what Fulgenzi hopes will be the first of periodic public forums to interact directly with town residents after more than a year of virtual board meetings.
The board was also joined by Highway Superintendent Richard Benkwitt and County Legislator Margaret Cunzio.
Fulgenzi said the town is working toward completing the Comprehensive Plan update, which would be the first revision to the document since 1970 when it was known as the Master Plan. It is believed the town will have it completed within the news few months, he said. Currently, public comments on the scoping document are being incorporated into a Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS), which could be completed by June, followed by a public hearing.
The focus of the Comprehensive Plan is on revitalizing the hamlets through targeted rezoning to improve the Hawthorne, Thornwood and Valhalla business districts and entice builders to include mixed-use development.
While there will be changes, Fulgenzi said the idea is to freshen, not alter, the look and feel of the hamlets.
“We’re not going to change the face of our hamlets,” Fulgenzi said. “We want to improve the spaces in our hamlets, that’s all.”
He also hopes the updated Comprehensive Plan will motivate property owners to make improvements to their buildings, and if one building owner makes improvements, it could inspire others to follow suit.
He said the stakeholder meetings over the past three years have been resident-driven with the help of the town’s consultants. It’s the Town Board’s responsibility to approve the updated plan and implement the zoning changes to help realize the community’s vision, the supervisor said.
“Now we have a Master Plan to help drive the town into the future, and this Master Plan was done by residents like you who came to meetings and gave suggestions on how we should move forward,” Fulgenzi said.
Also part of the plan for the future is to attract senior housing to town. While there are plans for assisted living facilities, including the recent overlay zone approval for Brightview Senior Living on Grasslands Road that contains some independent living units, there is currently no restricted housing reserved for the 55-and-up crowd.
Fulgenzi said while the town approved the 73-home Baker Residential plan on 165 acres of the Legion of Christ property off of Columbus Avenue in 2018, that project has been abandoned by the developer. The town is pushing hard for the Legionnaires to accept the idea to entertain developers of age-restricted communities, but they have been resistant so far, he said.
Fulgenzi called the Legion of Christ property “an ideal site” for senior housing. The parcel is located next to the town’s community center.
Councilwoman Laurie Smalley said the need for senior housing is crucial because Mount Pleasant, more than many Westchester communities, is a multigenerational town.
“It’s so important to keep generations here,” Smalley said. “We’re unique in that way.”
There were complaints about the ongoing noise from the Saw Mill Parkway road raising project by the state Department of Transportation (DOT). Fulgenzi said the DOT has been largely unresponsive not only to the town but to state representatives Sen. Peter Harckham and Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti as well.
The state is raising the parkway to alleviate the persistent flooding in heavy rain.
“They have no regard at all for the hours that they’re working,” Fulgenzi said. They’re there on Saturdays, they’re working until one in the morning, making all kinds of noise. It’s one thing getting the project done. We understand that it needs to be done, but have a little respect for the neighbors’ property.”
Benkwitt said the 18-month project is advancing at an impressive pace because of the extended hours; otherwise, the work could last up to four years. He said the pile driving on the southbound side of the highway is progressing quickly with crews approaching the Marble Avenue exit. That exit will soon be raised about 18 inches, Benkwitt said.
Then work will commence on the northbound side, he said.
Residents along Pollywiggle Lane, Booth Street and Hobby Street have been severely impacted, and some in the crowd asked officials to arrange a meeting with Harckham and DOT representatives.
“The DOT is going to accept that you’re not going to be happy,” Benkwitt said. “They’re going to try to do it in 18 months, they’re going to try to do it shorter, and I’m not telling you to do that, but you’re going to be very frustrated for the next 18 months.”
Fulgenzi mentioned that there are currently no plans to move forward with the controversial lights installation at Pat Henry Field, which was a source of angst for South Kensico Drive residents before the pandemic. However, he expects there to be movement soon to revive a plan.
He also expects installation of the carports at Town Hall and the Community Center that will hold solar panels to be done this year. Solar panels are also being installed on the roof of the Highway Department building.