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Picinich Set to Offer Mt. Kisco Accessory Dwelling Unit Legislation
Mount Kisco Mayor Gina Picinich is set to propose accessory dwelling unit legislation for the village early next year with hopes of providing additional housing that is more affordable while helping some homeowners generate more income.
Picinich said it would be wise for Mount Kisco to consider the measure after last year’s attempt by Gov. Kathy Hochul to impose a sweeping statewide change that would have allowed for as-of-right accessory dwelling units in residential zones. The initiative was vigorously opposed by municipal officials across the region and state.
“We have a choice: We can do absolutely nothing, and I think if we do absolutely nothing we will be at the mercy of the state of New York,” Picinich said. “The other thing that I will also say is the spirit of the accessory dwelling units is to enable an alternate type of housing, and it can be affordable and a revenue-generating opportunity to allow people who are older to stay in their homes and generate revenue by having someone rent that space.”
It could also allow families the ability to have a parent or grandparent live with them but have separate quarters, she said.
While the measure is being reviewed by members of the Village Board and Village Attorney Whitney Singleton, key points of the proposal would require the unit be part of the main structure, that the main residence or the accessory unit be occupied by the owner and that it meets all zoning, setback and safety and fire code requirements, Picinich said.
Unlike some neighboring communities, Mount Kisco has been one of the municipalities in Westchester that does not have an accessory dwelling unit law on the books. Picnich said that was likely because the village has had widespread multifamily zoning, including some traditional apartment buildings, so it was not deemed necessary. Plus, the village has more than 300 units of subsidized housing, she said.
However, as housing costs have skyrocketed in recent years throughout the region, the prices for residences in multifamily zones have become out of reach for an increasing number of families.
“It can contribute to more housing, it may help to ease the cost burden on someone who owns a home and then creates an accessory dwelling unit, but there is no guarantee that an accessory dwelling unit can be more affordable,” Picinich said of encouraging more units.
The mayor will propose legislation as New York State is likely to come up with another plan to address the need for additional housing units.
State Sen. Peter Harckham (D-Lewisboro), who sponsored the Senate’s accessory dwelling unit bill before Hochul unsuccessfully tried to include it in the current fiscal year’s state budget, said he is working on a voluntary, incentive-based proposal for municipalities.
“We want to give municipalities the flexibility to do it in a way that works for them,” Harckham said. “On the other hand, there has to be certain guidelines and principles to make sure that the law achieves the housing goals that you want them to achieve.”
Assemblyman Chris Burdick (D-Bedford) said he has heard incentives may be financial, whether that be increased state aid or some other enticement.
While last year’s attempt may have flopped, Harckham mentioned that it did spark an important dialogue among municipal officials. Already, five Westchester municipalities that did not have accessory dwelling unit legislation have approved local laws, he said.
“So I’m glad the conversation is ongoing with people understanding there’s some kind of need for legislation to increase housing density, so the conversation’s happening in a positive way,” Harckham said.
For Mount Kisco, any legislation will hinge on the support of at least two of the Village Board’s four trustees. While three board members did not respond to an e-mail or phone message last week, Trustee Karen Schleimer said she would need to learn more about the proposal.
Schleimer said she wants to be certain that after the village has finally gotten a better handle on illegal apartments, the measure will not undo the progress it has made by encouraging accessory units.
Making sure there is adequate parking and how the law might relate to condos and co-ops, if at all, needs to be addressed, she said.
“I’d have to hear a whole lot more before I could embrace it,” Schleimer said.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/