New Castle’s Form-Based Code Financial Analysis Seriously Lacking

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I am a longtime apolitical Chappaqua resident, having moved here in 1995, and I am increasingly concerned about the politics apparently driving the discussion of the adoption of the Form-Based Code.

Last week’s article, “New Castle, Chappaqua Schools at Odds Over Funding Projections,” outlines a key problem. It is not clear to me what the motivation of several of the Town Board members may be, but I have concluded that the Board of Education clearly knows best about the potential financial impact on our school system. 

As a finance professional, I would have thought that, after so many legitimate questions were raised by the Board of Education, Planning Commission and concerned citizens, the latest consultants’ reports would have come up with far better answers and more solid financial analysis to support the Town Board’s proposal. Instead, we hear that they continue to use disputed assumptions flatly rejected by the Board of Education to support the Form-Based Code proposal, and still don’t answer key questions.

It is quite extraordinary to be having the Town Board hurriedly move forward with such a flawed plan over the objections and concerns of both the Board of Education and the Planning Board, as well as many local taxpayers. More outrageous, as pointed out in the Sept. 29 letter from counsel for the Board of Education to the Town Board, the analysis of the financial impact on the school system has not even been properly done! Note that school taxes make up about 65 to 75 percent of the total taxes we pay in this town, and any mistakes made will be paid for in the future by the legacy single-family homeowners of the town.

The Form-Based Code basically does away with zoning and Planning Board oversight and instead gives commercial developers virtual free rein to maximize their potential short-term profits irrespective of the long-term impact on the community, its school system and current taxpayers. 

I moved to this town and remain here despite having completed putting three great kids through its school system because I like the town generally the way it is. If I wanted a bigger downtown and lots of apartment buildings, I could move to White Plains. I am hopeful that those on the Town Board who have been so dogmatic in their support of the Form-Based Code will begin to understand the risks they may inadvertently be courting and develop a more strategic approach to solve the problems they perceive. I can only conclude they don’t understand the real numbers.

Rob Rauch

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