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Mount Pleasant Comp Plan Generates Little Zest From Community in Sparsely Attended Hearing

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Mount Pleasant
The Mount Pleasant Town Board listens to Hawthorne resident Jim Russell on the Comprehensive Plan last week, one of just three residents who spoke during the opening of the public hearing.

Mount Pleasant took the next step toward its first Comprehensive Plan update in 50 years last week, opening the public hearing with limited but pointed comments. 

Three residents spoke during the hearing on various aspects of the 234-page Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) called Envision Mount Pleasant. Two of them expressed concerns about the possibility of excessive or inappropriate development in the center of the hamlets.

The town is focusing on revitalizing the downtown commercial hamlets of Hawthorne, Thornwood and Valhalla by potentially revising the zoning to allow for mixed-use development featuring commercial uses on the ground floor with residential rental units upstairs.

Resident Joseph Menta, who moved to town earlier this year from New York City, said he acknowledges that the commercial districts of Hawthorne and Valhalla need help, but he wanted to make sure that the town will retain its character.

“While I believe that revitalization is important, it’s a slippery slope and there can be things that are in (the plan) that may make sense but may not make common sense,” Menta said.

He also raised concerns that too much development could stress the volunteer emergency responders, particularly the fire departments.

Another resident, Jim Russell of Hawthorne, criticized the form-based zoning that the town has proposed for the hamlets, contending that it could degrade quality of life, particularly for those who live in residential zones adjacent to the downtowns. Potential negative impacts on resources, such as the effect on schools, should be studied, he said.

Russell urged town officials to send out surveys and schedule public engagement sessions to let as many residents as possible know that significant zoning changes are being considered. There was a sparse turnout for the hearing last Tuesday evening during the first regular Town Board meeting to take place in person at Town Hall in 15 months.

The DGEIS outlines the possibility of four-story structures in the downtown, Russell said.

“This could be the trend throughout the downtowns of Thornwood, Hawthorne, Valhalla,” he said. “I don’t know if the residents there really want to see this type of development. Revitalization, yes, but having to introduce middle-, low-income multi-dwellings to support businesses that come in there and to support the developers who develop these areas, I don’t think that’s necessarily the idea that most people would agree with.”

Town Attorney Darius Chafizadeh said just prior to the start of the hearing that building height is an issue that the Town Board may want to reconsider. Currently, four stories and 50-foot buildings are proposed but may be too high for the areas in question.

“You don’t want to hover over the streetscape,” Chafizadeh said. “This Environmental Impact Statement, you may want to consider three stories and 40 feet. It’s just something for you to consider over the next few months.”

Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi said there have been some multilevel residential buildings in Valhalla for many years, but to state that the town is looking to bring in tall buildings is inaccurate.

“We don’t want to misstate anything, that we’re looking to bring in big, tall buildings and take away from the character that we have in the hamlets because that’s totally against what this Town Board wants,” Fulgenzi said.

Chafizadeh added that the proposed code for the hamlets has other features that are advantageous, such as many design guidelines that make for better and more attractive buildings.

Steven Kavee, chairman of the town’s Conservation Advisory Council (CAC), was complimentary of the concept. He said the CAC supports the form-based zoning because the increased density is considered energy-efficient housing.

He also called on the board to schedule public education sessions to help people understand the positives of the zoning. For example, residents who live in the perimeter area would have shops and other resources to walk to.

However, Kavee urged officials to include more definitive language in the code relating to conservation issues such as the preservation of wetlands and open space.

The hearing was adjourned until the June 22 meeting.

It wasn’t mentioned when the hearing on the DGEIS may close, but Fulgenzi said the board is not looking to be hasty.

“I don’t believe the town is in any rush to try to move this any faster than it should be,” he said. “We want to give it the time that it needs.”

Bid Award for Carroll Park Work

Also last week, the board awarded a contract for $1,407,000 to Peter J. Landi, Inc. of Hawthorne to complete the installation of the pond’s new shorelines and dredging and repaving the parking lot at Carroll Park.

Fulgenzi said the project is expected to begin in less than two weeks and is scheduled to be completed in late September.

It is the same firm that installed a sidewalk on Garrigan Avenue in Thornwood earlier this year and is also putting in sidewalks in Hawthorne.

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