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Residential Zoning Amendment Stirs Concerns in Pleasantville

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The Pleasantville Village Board opened a public hearing last week to amend the village residential R-2A zoning district, which if adopted, would require the entire frontage of two-family homes to face Bedford Road.

Susan Favate of BFJ Planning, who helped the village craft the proposed amendment, said the change was fairly minor and would potentially impact only four properties along Bedford Road.

“We looked at the impact of the existing two-family homes as well as future development of two-family homes and only four lots along Bedford Road could potentially be developed as two-family homes,” she said.

The issue surfaced in April when a proposal was presented to the Pleasantville Planning Commission to build two two-family homes, one for the corner lot of Bedford Road and Clark Street and the second pitched for the adjacent lot on Clark Street.

Objecting to the proposal was former Pleasantville mayor Bernard Gordon who said the proposed two-family home on Clark Street shouldn’t be considered in the R-2A but in the zone for one-family homes. All houses on Clark Street are single-family homes. Since then, the developer has changed the plan to build single-family residences on Clark Street.

There is also growing concern that the prospective buyer of the Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson property on Bedford Road and Great Oak Lane would build multiple two-family homes. However, Mayor Peter Scherer said under the current proposal, should it move forward, the existing parcel would be subdivided into six lots with two two-family homes facing Bedford Road and four one-family homes on Great Oak Lane.

Some village residents expressed concern at last week’s hearing that the amendment could prevent additional affordable housing sock that multifamily homes could offer.

“I see the need by the village for a capacity for a range of housing types and a range of price points where people can come in and get started,” said resident Peter Russell. “Two-family homes are a lot of times a place where families can get started, whether it’s rental or ownership, it can be a house where people can build some wealth.”

Russell said the proposed amendment could be a signal that the village is pushing against the development of more multifamily homes.

Scherer explained that what has been pitched is modest and primarily addressed some residents’ concerns.

“For a long time, there have been quite a number of two-family homes embedded into single-family neighborhoods,” Scherer said. “These (two-family homes) have been very successful without difficulty and we have been accommodating as a community to new rental housing.”

That the amended code would lessen economic diversity in the village and is instead a response to a fear of larger development was voiced by Pastor Susan Chupungco of Pleasantville’s United Methodist Church.

“It seems counter to our goal to enact legislation that will continue to ensure the cost of living in Pleasantville continues to be unobtainable for more people,” Chupungco said. “Reducing the number of two-family homes will continue to decrease affordability and economic diversity in our village even further. The ability to live in the downtown area is incredible and it should be expanded to more people of various economic means.”

Chupungco said two-family homes can better accommodate single parents and makes it possible for married couples to afford to have a parent stay with them.

“That would create stability for children who can stay in their communities and in their schools with their friends rather than relocate to more affordable housing,” she said.

Gordon thanked the board for moving quickly to amend the zoning and suggested the village consider some long-range planning for future housing.

“If it’s going to change the nature of single-family residences, it should be done with the community in a long-range plan so everybody understands the issues involved in changing a single-family zone into a two-family or multifamily zone, Gordon said. “We all can appreciate the difficulty and cost of housing for first-time home buyers. It’s not an issue of zoning but more an issue of the economy and all the other factors that go into that.”

Having a more flexible range of housing stock is key to the village’s future, Russell said. “It’s not just for young starters, but for folks my age who are living in houses too big for them. It’s hard to downsize and stay in the same community. We place a high value on walking and shopping in Pleasantville.”

The public hearing will remain open until the next board meeting on Oct. 13, when a formal vote is expected.

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