The Examiner

Public Comments to Begin on New Chappaqua Hamlet Zoning Code

We are part of The Trust Project

The New Castle Town Board hopes to attract public feedback starting next Tuesday for the town’s proposed Chappaqua Hamlet Form Based Code that officials hope will help reinvigorate the downtown business district.

Last week, the board approved opening the public scoping session at its Jan. 28 meeting, declared itself lead agency for the project and issued a positive declaration under the state’s Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) because of the possibility of significant adverse environmental impacts.

Officials are anticipating that the form-based code, which stresses the appearance and form of the structures rather than dictating specific uses for each property in Chappaqua’s Retail Business and Retail Business & Parking zones, will allow for mixed-use buildings and encourage developers to invest in the business hamlet. The two zones have been under a moratorium for spaces that are greater than 3,000 square feet since December 2018.

The Downtown Working Group, comprised of the Town Board, three Planning Board members and three town residents, has helped shaped the current draft of the new code with the guidance of the town’s consultants and Development Department.

“We believe that this is a truly exciting way to plan for the future of our beloved downtown,” said Supervisor Ivy Pool. “Working with the members of the Downtown Working Group, the Town Board is charged with creating a form-based code that reflects the goals of the town’s 2017 Comprehensive Plan (update), which is to preserve the town’s bucolic residential character and its historic resources while promoting new mixed-use development in the hamlets to meet the community’s housing needs and foster thriving commercial and civic spaces.”

Prior to the board’s action, the Downtown Working Group convened to hear a presentation on the key points of the proposed code’s second draft from planning consultant Erik Aulestia of Torti Gallas and Partners.

There was also debate within the group regarding to what extent approvals should be handled by the Development Department and how much public input should be allowed for individual downtown applications.

One pivotal feature of the currently-proposed form-based code would allow for five-story structures in two locations downtown, the west side of South Greeley Avenue near the base of the Route 120 bridge and in the train station parking lot around the circle. There would be a maximum allowable height of 11-and-a-half feet per story, Aulestia said. The lone exception would be a maximum height of 22 feet for the first-floor space if it is used for commercial purposes. He said building height would no longer be measured in feet but in the number of stories.

Furthermore, a fifth floor would have to either be built into the roof or be recessed at least 10 feet from the first four stories to make the structure appear shorter and less massive, Aulestia said.

In the remainder of the downtown district, the maximum building height is proposed to increase to four stories, he said.

Aulestia mentioned that for new buildings or buildings that would be torn down and rebuilt there would be a 16-foot setback requirement from the curb to the build-to line. Existing structures can remain at their current depths.

“Long-term, what you’re trying to do is create a sidewalk that has an appropriate width for pedestrians, for outdoor dining and that sort of thing,” Aulestia said.

Another proposed regulation would waive parking fees for projects of four units or less. If a developer requests a fee in lieu of parking, the parking for the use or uses would still have to be in place by the time the space is occupied.

There would be no change to the current parking requirements for restaurants, he said.

Aulestia said the proposed code recommends the town have 4 percent affordable housing units and add 2 percent workforce housing for residential projects with eight to 79 units. Projects with at least 80 units would have 8 percent affordable housing and 4 percent workforce housing.

Pool said she disagreed with that proposal. Currently, the town requires at least 10 percent affordable housing units for projects of 10 or more units and one affordable unit for projects that are eight or nine units.

“I just think that the majority of (projects) in this town will be in the eight to 79 category and I don’t know why we would step back the requirement from what we have today and that’s what this feels like,” she said.

Most of the debate last week among the Downtown Working Group centered around the approval process. Part of the objective of the form-based code is to streamline the applications.

“What we’ve done here is really try to put most of the approvals in the hands of the Development Department because the code actually kind of spells out what the issues are,” Aulestia said. “So as long as you comply with the rules there shouldn’t be a longer, more involved process there.”

Planning Board Chairman Robert Kirkwood and Planning Board member Thomas Curley, both part of the working group, objected to that proposal. Kirkwood said that public input has proven invaluable and residents or other stakeholders raise valid issues that often improve an application.

He said that unless the public comes out for the scoping session or public hearing this spring there may not be the chance for input on individual applications downtown.

“I think we should be very, very careful in taking away the ability for the public to appear at the (Architectural Review Board), the Planning Board of the ZBA on many of these applications,” Kirkwood said.

Councilwoman Lisa Katz said the town needs to find a balance between trying to expedite applications for the business hamlet while still allowing for a mechanism for a more detailed review, if needed, on the part of the boards reviewing the application.

Aulestia said the regulations need to be clear, consistent and predictable, which would likely prevent most major issues with a project since the Development Department would still be scrutinizing an application.

The public can view the current draft of the form-based code on the town’s website,, by clicking on the Government tab and then the Chappaqua Hamlet Form Based Coding Project.

Editor’s Note: The originally posted article incorrectly reported that the form-based code would allow for a maximum building height of five stories throughout most of the downtown business district. As currently proposed, the new code would allow for four stories in most of the downtown and five stories on the west side of South Greeley Avenue near the base of the Route 120 bridge and at the train station parking lot near the traffic circle.

We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.