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The Mount Kisco Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2019, identified the need for more housing, particularly for young professionals and for seniors. We sought to fill this need with a developer’s proposal of a $130 million investment that would have added approximately 200 new housing units downtown. Had that plan moved forward, New York State would be applauding our accomplishment and there would be no need to focus further attention on adding housing in the village.
Fast forward to 2022, when New York State declared a “housing crisis,” setting a goal of creating 800,000 additional housing units over the next 10 years.
During the past two New York State legislative sessions I worked with colleagues across the state and county to advocate against proposals for mandatory statewide zoning changes, which would have overridden Home Rule, the ability for local municipalities to make their own decisions based on the needs of their community.
In response to the state-proposed legislation, I drafted an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) code, which has been reviewed by the Board of Trustees in multiple work sessions. This was a strategic option, to pass local legislation (taking into consideration the existing zoning in our community) that would be “grandfathered” so that we would not be at the mercy of state legislation. A large number of Westchester municipalities permit ADUs, including our neighbors in Bedford, New Castle, North Castle, Pound Ridge, Yorktown and Ossining. Tarrytown and Dobbs Ferry recently adopted ADU legislation with no negative impact.
Actions and programs from the state, which are continuously evolving, require us to be both thoughtful and fluid in response. As we awaited information on a new housing program, I did not move the draft ADU legislation forward. This proposed code has not moved past a work session. It has not been on a Board of Trustees meeting agenda and has not been formally introduced to the public. The proposed legislation remains a draft, set aside, as we now must shift and decide if we want to participate in the governor’s new Pro-Housing Communities Program.
As I shared at our last Board of Trustees meeting, this new program prioritizes $650 million in state grants for communities who have added housing, or commit to policies that encourage additional housing. Unfortunately, the village has not increased the requisite number of additional housing units to enter the program, so our entry would have to be based on a commitment to policies that would encourage the creation of new housing units. Another option is to take no action, which would make our ability to access state grant funding more challenging. There will need to be much conversation about the path we take.
Nothing is ever as simple as the sound bite or the click bait. Issues are complex as are solutions. We must proactively evaluate and consider all options to best position our village with the state and address the very real housing needs in our community.
Mayor, Mount Kisco
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