New Castle Comprehensive Plan on Target for Fall Approval

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The three-year process to update New Castle’s Comprehensive Plan is expected to conclude this fall as the town board may vote as soon as November to approve the plan’s first substantive revisions since 1989.

Kevin Dworka, a land use consultant and a senior fellow at the Pace Land Use Law Center who has been working with the town on the project, said last week there will be at least one public workshop in early October to unveil the changes that the town board will consider.

Officials are eyeing Wednesday, Oct. 7 as a tentative date for the workshop, which will likely be conducted in a free-wheeling “farmers market approach,” where the public can visit various kiosks set up to address different aspects of the plan, Dworka said. There would likely be about eight stations, six to address Comprehensive Plan topics and two others for the town’s pair of area studies that have been worked on simultaneously.

Depending on the volume of feedback from the community, the town could schedule a second workshop. A venue for the forum was not discussed at last Wednesday’s town board work session.

“We’re now coming to you to tell you what the plan is,” Dworka told the board. “These are the actual components of a long-term, 10-year horizon of what we would like to see happen in this community, so it’s important for (residents) to come out.”

A survey will also be conducted this fall to help gauge public reaction to specific information that is included in the proposed updated plan, Dworka added. There will be about 300 survey respondents.

Meanwhile, the town’s two area studies, the Chappaqua Revitalization Strategy and the Millwood Revitalization Strategy, have been completed this summer, Dworka said. The contents of the Chappaqua study have already been posted to the town’s website and the Millwood study is likely to be posted this week.

Sabrina Charney Hull, the town’s director of planning, said officials are on target to finish the update possibly in the next two months.

“We will provide the town board with the Comprehensive Plan and two area studies this fall,” she said. “So Oct. 7 is the public unveiling of the information.”

The area studies include not only real estate development issues but the overall quality of life in the hamlets, including recreation and cultural opportunities, Dworka explained.

He cautioned the board that it will be for members to decide which of the various Comprehensive Plan scenarios they would like to implement for their town.

“We’re not going to tell you this is the way you want to do this,” Dworka said. “We’re going to lay out scenarios and be very blunt about what are the pros and cons of going through different changes so you can make an informed decision from the input you get from the community about which way to go.”

To try and maximize community turnout and participation, Supervisor Robert Greenstein stressed an aggressive approach to make sure residents are aware their input is sought. During last year’s outreach forums participation was strong, although Greenstein cautioned that the public can get meeting fatigue especially when the process has taken as long as it has.

“The public wants to be involved,” Greenstein said. “They were involved in the public outreach meetings and now they are starting to get involved again. There’s been a lot of stuff that’s been done and we have to do a better job of telling people what’s been done, and we will. But now the public is on deck and ready to come to the plate.”

Dworka mentioned that the area studies have also outlined the advantages and challenges the town faces in looking to remake its hamlet centers. He said that the town could have an easier path to reshape downtown Chappaqua because of all the municipal land it owns.

The opportunity to remake Millwood is also available, especially if officials hoped to connect the two small retail centers, Dworka said. However, a less strong community identity coupled with the lack of sewers and large tracts of privately owned property pose some steeper obstacles for the town, he said.