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New Castle Extends Form Based Code Hearing Another Month

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New Castle hopes to enliven downtown Chappaqua with new form based code
The New Castle Town Board hopes to enliven downtown Chappaqua with a new form-based code that would allow for mixed-use development in the hamlet.

The New Castle Town Board last week extended the public hearing on the proposed Form Based Code into next month to await the Chappaqua School District’s final report on enrollment and capacity.

Following appeals from the attorney representing the school district and numerous residents during the fifth public hearing session on the town’s Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) last Tuesday, the Town Board decided to hold open the hearing until its Feb. 23 meeting. It had previously been looking to close out the hearing last Tuesday and allow the public to submit written comments for another 30 days.

Allison Sloto, the attorney for the district, said the Jan. 13 presentation of the report before a joint Town Board-Chappaqua Board of Education meeting, was “a first look” at the data. She said the entire report will be completed within a month.

Following last Tuesday’s hearing, the Town Board convened an executive session for more than 20 minutes. When board members returned, town Supervisor Ivy Pool said in light of the district’s request and the Town Board’s hope to have a good working relationship with the school board, they would hold a sixth hearing on Feb. 23.

Pool said the Town Board has invited the Chappaqua Board of Education to another joint meeting next Tuesday, Feb. 2 to continue the discussion. While the two boards have publicly remained cordial with one another, district officials were irked by the delayed delivery of the DGEIS in late September.  Pool pointed out last week that the Town Board received the district’s report a couple of hours before the Jan. 13 joint meeting.

“We need to have that kind of collaboration, we need to be able to have the kind of relationship where we’re communicating mostly with one another and not through our attorneys, where we’re really able to put issues out on the table in a joint meeting with one another and not speak through intermediaries,” Pool said. “I think it’s in the best interests of the community where we can talk to one another.”

Board of Education President Victoria Tipp said the school district provided the town with the presentation slides on Jan. 13, the same day the school board received them.

On Jan. 13, the district’s consultants disclosed that under the full build-out scenario of 997 residential units produced by the downtown rezoning, there would be 150 additional school-age children, as opposed to the town’s consultant’s estimate of 114 children.

Tipp said she has reached out to members of her board about their availability for another joint session next Tuesday.

“Our goal is to work collaboratively with the town and we’d like to meet with them as soon as we have more information,” Tipp said.

During last week’s hearing, an overwhelming percentage of about 35 speakers panned the proposed Form Based Code as a rezoning that could inundate the downtown with development that is out of character with the hamlet. Many called on town officials to restart the process by seeking community input on a plan where consensus can be reached.

“It’s not too late for you to now make a good choice, to pause, to roll up your sleeves and to collaborate with our community to co-create a vision for the hamlet through a genuine charrette process and have that be at the core of a Form Based Code that the community is enthusiastic about,” said King Street resident Scott Levine.

Resident Dan Soloway of Crossways said the proposed code is too developer-friendly because of an expedited town approval process if an application conforms to the zoning. During the course of the hearings, criticisms have also been leveled at the possible maximum height of buildings up to four or five stories in certain areas, although town officials have indicated they would not consider five stories in the limited areas that had been proposed.

“We need to be having changes that prevent property owners from having their way,” Soloway said. “The Form Based Code actually gives property owners their way again. We need to look out for the other stakeholders in town.”

Others pointed out that to execute the Form Based Code the town would most likely eventually need parking structures to accommodate the extra residents and activity. Aspen Road resident Steve Kemler said tall buildings and garages would be badly out of character in Chappaqua.

“They are not for a town like this. They don’t fit in,” Kemler said. “You will not be happy. It will fundamentally change the character of this town. It will still be called Chappaqua, but it won’t be Chappaqua.”

While there was significant criticism of the proposed Form Based Code, a couple of speakers pointed out that one of its goals is to help diversify the housing stock. Resident Victoria Alzapiedi said that New Castle has had a long history of opposing multifamily housing, which has prevented people from different economic backgrounds from living in the community and having children in the schools.

“I personally am in favor with that and I think it would bring in a lot of newness to our community and exposure to both young people and adults who are different from them,” Alzapiedi said.

Pool said she was fine with holding open the hearing but cautioned that the process must on to the next stage because the town needs to have its consultants respond to the wide range of substantive comments from the public dating back to October.

“I want to be able to turn that back to our professional consultants and start to get the results of the additional analyses that are provided,” she said.

There would still be a 30-day written comment period following the closure of the hearing. Click HERE to submit a comment.

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