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Revisions Made in Affordable Housing, Parking for Form-Based Code

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A majority of the New Castle Town Board agreed on additional changes for the proposed Form-Based Code legislation regarding affordable housing, parking issues and Planning Board involvement for combining smaller lots.

The revisions last Tuesday evening came during a work session that also discussed the parameters for the draft findings statement on whether to extend the retail requirement farther down North Greeley Avenue, as well as building height and construction phasing should multiple projects be given the green light in a short period of time.

Under the latest modifications, for developments of at least 25 residential units in the Form Based Code district, the town would decrease the percentage of affordable housing units from 10 to 8 percent but add a 4 percent workforce housing requirement. Under the New Castle Town Code, income for workforce housing is 80 percent of area median income (AMI), which in 2021 for a four-person household has a cap of $102,000.

Officials could choose to use that threshold or the adjusted median salary of all town employees or Chappaqua Central School District employees.

By contrast, for affordable housing units, the county uses 60 percent AMI, which this year is $76,500 for a four-person household.

The 10 percent requirement for projects from 10 to 24 units and for developers to provide at least one unit for a proposal of five to nine residences would remain in effect, said Town Attorney Ed Phillips.

Other changes proposed last week include prohibiting stacked parking unless it’s built within the building to limit negative visual impacts and to give the Town Board the authority to work out an agreement with a developer for parking on municipal land. Furthermore, the board scrapped the proposed ride-share arrangement that could have seen off-site parking located as much as a mile from a multifamily dwelling in the district as long as shuttles were available from 5 a.m. to midnight.

As a result of a collection of small properties on North Greeley Avenue, the board agreed to have the Planning Board review an application where at least four properties are combined but do not reach a half-acre in the aggregate. The proposed code had already recommended Planning Board review be triggered for a development on at least two lots that are combined amounting to a least a half-acre.

Director of Planning Sabrina Charney Hull said 10 of the 21 parcels on North Greeley Avenue are .1 acres or less.

On the change in the affordable housing plan, Councilwoman Lisa Katz opposed the idea, saying it would reduce the number of housing units that could be created under the county’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) definition. The town adopted the 10 percent requirement as part of its model ordinance in 2011.

“I just think that for those who are touting this as a tool for social justice, there is actually less affordability than what was initially proposed in regular zoning that was voted down by the majority of the board of 10 percent AFFH, which would no longer happen under this proposal,” Katz said.

Acting Supervisor Jeremy Saland responded that Katz’s plan earlier this year was to increase AFFH housing and mentioned that adding an extra layer of affordability would be advantageous to the town.

“There is an extreme value in diversifying housing and if that means we have less lower-end affordability for an AFFH model, as you get more and more units, not in the lesser units in terms of percentage, you gain workforce housing,” Saland said. “That’s a win because you’re providing more affordable housing to a wider range of people and that’s what we want to do.”

Other issues included in the draft findings statement would require that at least 50 percent of units in a development contain market-rate housing and that two-bedroom units would not exceed 66 percent of total apartments.

The board majority agreed to maintain a three-story maximum for any construction on the east side of North Greeley Avenue with the option of scrapping the ground-floor retail component.

However, buildings could rise to as much as four stories with mandatory ground-level retail on the west side.

The town was scheduled to refer the findings to the county Planning Department, prompting Katz to question why the board was seeking feedback when certain aspects, such as the parking requirements, cannot be met.

“My concern is that we’re designing a code that’s not actually workable,” she said. “A developer can’t build a building without parking but the parking may not be available to build and (with) the height of the buildings that we say are allowable, and there’s really no other option for them to get it.”

The board is scheduled to adopt the findings statement at its Nov. 10 meeting and open a public hearing on the legislation on Nov. 16.

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