The Examiner

New Castle Starts Work on Public Outreach for Master Plan Update

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The New Castle Town Board and the Master Plan Steering Committee met with representatives of the Pace University Land Use Law Center last week to discuss how best to gather community feedback to use for the document's update.
The New Castle Town Board and the Master Plan Steering Committee met with representatives of the Pace University Land Use Law Center last week to discuss how best to gather community feedback to use for the Master Plan update.

Obtaining community feedback that accurately reflects public sentiment for New Castle’s Master Plan update may be one of the biggest challenges facing officials in their quest to update the town’s blueprint for the future.

Last week, the town board and Master Plan Steering Committee sat down with two representatives from the Pace University Land Use Law Center to discuss how best to collect useful information from the public to incorporate into a revised document.

“I think what’s facing our town right now will have significant impact forever and we can’t get it wrong,” Councilwoman Lisa Katz said.

Last month the board agreed to spend up to $15,000 for the center for a 12-week engagement to assist the town with public outreach as New Castle officials look to update the Master Plan for the first time in 25 years.

Attending the March 18 joint committee and board meeting at town hall were Tiffany Zezula, managing director of the Land Use Law Center, and Pace Law Professor John Nolon, the center’s founder who teaches property, land use and sustainable development law. They recommended to officials that several public meetings throughout the town be scheduled over the next three months and to develop a brief but properly constructed survey containing five to seven questions that touches on broad themes as part of the effort.

For the survey, the town should reach as many of its residents as possible both online and in person in areas of town where a cross section of the municipality’s population can be included, Zezula said. Board and committee members suggested visiting venues such as the Chappaqua train station, the library, the A&P in Millwood and the senior center as potential sites. Enlisting the Chappaqua Interfaith Council to include town residents who belong to New Castle’s various houses of worship was also suggested.

“I think that the community component for us is to find the strategic places where people live and breathe in New Castle and go to them,” Zezula said.

Zezula said the center can forward sample surveys to the committee to give members an idea of the types of questions to ask.

Regarding sites for the public meetings, Town Administrator Jill Simon Shapiro suggested holding them at the seven election polling places in town. They include town hall, Horace Greeley High School, Westorchard Elementary School and the Presbyterian church.

Nolon said the committee should devise topics for discussion that would be addressed at all meetings.

He commended the town for reaching out to the community to gauge public opinion on some of the key planning issues facing the town, particularly since the legal requirement for public input is “extraordinarily minimal.”

Each one of the committee members raised concerns. One of the most pressing was brought up by Supervisor Robert Greenstein who asked what the town should do with pending applications, particularly for a couple of big projects. This winter formal review began for the New Castle hotel and spa proposed for the Legionaries property on Route 128 and another revised plan for Chappaqua Crossing has also been discussed.

“We do have some applications pending and some of them are bringing much controversy with them,” Greenstein said, “and they’re going to be decided in the public outreach process–or not. But they’re out there.”

The entire Master Plan update process is expected to last 12 to 18 months.

Nolon said that the town must continue to review the applications that are before its boards unless it’s planning on a moratorium, which he called “harsh.”

“You have to follow the schedule that law determined for reviewing these projects,” he said. “You can’t hold them up unless you adopt a moratorium.”

The five-member committee and the town board plan to meet again next Tuesday, Apr. 1. The town plans to publicize the community Master Plan meetings once they are scheduled


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