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New Castle Postpones FGEIS Vote on Form-Based Code Until Oct. 12

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The New Castle Town Board postponed a vote on accepting the draft Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (FGEIS) as complete last week after the Chappaqua School District argued that impacts on the schools failed to be addressed.

On Wednesday, Adam Stolorow, an attorney for the district, sent a letter to the members of the Town Board urging that more time be afforded because the document is deficient. Stolorow stated that the FGEIS neglects to include analysis on school taxes and budgets and contains no thresholds or mitigation measures relating to potential adverse impacts on the district.

He also mentioned that the town has refused to allow even modest time extensions for interested parties, such as the district, to adequately review and comment on the draft FGEIS.

“This timetable was not intended to, and did not, allow time for the School District to provide detailed input on the FGEIS,” Stolorow wrote. “The School District further objects to the FGEIS as woefully incomplete in its analysis of socioeconomic impacts and community services and the impact that the proposed Form-Based Code (FBC) will have on Chappaqua schools and on Chappaqua taxpayers who may be displaced by tax increases resulting from new development.”

Last Wednesday evening, while the Chappaqua Board of Education was meeting, the town sent out an advisory that the following evening’s scheduled vote on the FGEIS was being postponed. The Town Board will hold another work session and public engagement session on the matter and has tentatively scheduled Tuesday, Oct. 12 for when the board will accept the FGEIS as complete.

In a community e-newsletter sent last Friday afternoon by Acting Supervisor Jeremy Saland, it was stated that the Town Board has gone “above and beyond” the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) requirements allowing for public comment. The SEQRA process does not require community engagement sessions and interactive work sessions with the public on multiple occasions, the newsletter said.

The newsletter took exception to the notion that the town is merely checking boxes to get through the process instead of engaging in meaningful review.

Setting aside the insinuation that the Town Board is merely going through the motions, which is neither fair nor accurate, it is important to recognize the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) was accepted as complete over a year ago,” it stated. “Not only has Town staff and outside consultants worked diligently, but the Town Board has done so as well.”

At last Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting, several school board members spoke out, stating that the district is neither for or against the Form-Based Code. However, school officials expect to have the information needed so the same high-quality education that the Chappaqua schools are known for is able to continue.

“We are trying to let the community know what our concerns are, what mitigation factors are to be included in here so that we can continue to educate our students in the way that we wish to continue educating them and (with) the quality that people have come to expect from this school district,” said board member Jane Shepardson.

Others said it wasn’t about excluding certain students but knowing all the factors that the Form-Based Code could entail.

“We will accept them gladly with open arms and with open hearts,” said board member Victoria Tipp.

At last Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, it had appeared the board majority was going to go forward with approving the FGEIS as complete. Saland said he was satisfied that the document was sufficient and adequate.  

“I’m comfortable with where it’s going and where it’s been,” he said.

Board opposition to the Form-Based Code has come from Councilwoman Lisa Katz, who has stressed that the town should not be considering the FGEIS for the entire 72-acre study area. If the town is looking at legislation to rezone the North Greeley Avenue corridor, that’s what the document should be confined to, she said.

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