New Castle officials are contemplating a six-month moratorium for new applications in two of downtown Chappaqua’s retail zones as changes are sought for the town code that could allow for mixed-use development in the hamlet.
The moratorium would allow a consultant the time to make the changes to “form-based zoning,” said Director of Planning Sabrina Charney Hull. Last week the Town Board moved to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) in hopes of hiring a consultant to help make the revisions to the code.
Form-based zoning includes design parameters and an architectural element along with examples of zoning through images to execute the town’s vision for the downtown, Hull said.
With the updated Comprehensive Plan adopted in June 2017 and the downtown infrastructure and streetscape project expected to be largely finished before summer, there are downtown property owners who are eager to see zoning changes that could help bring about a greater mix of residential and commercial uses to the hamlet, she said.
Encouraging investment in downtown properties with the goal of having more people live in the hamlet is a key objective of the revised Comprehensive Plan.
“They’re very much looking forward to changes to be made to commercial zoning in the hamlet so that they can maximize the potential of their properties to help us meet the goals in our Comprehensive Plan,” she said.
Under the draft of the local law, properties in the Retail Business (B-R) and Retail Business & Parking(B-RP), which comprise the bulk of the downtown retail space, would be prohibited from receiving site plan or special permit approval, variance relief, building permits or sign permits.
Any applications for those approvals received by the town after last Tuesday, Oct. 30 would be subject to the moratorium, the proposed law states. The clock would start ticking when and if the board approves the moratorium and the law is filed, said Town Attorney Nicholas Ward-Willis.
Exemptions to the law would include any improvements deemed necessary by the building inspector for health or safety reasons as well as existing commercial or retail spaces with a gross floor area of less than 3,000 square feet, Ward-Willis said.
A property owner may also apply for an exemption if officials can be convinced there would be a severe financial hardship, he said.
Board members indicated the move is a temporary but necessary step to ensure that the foundation for the types of changes sought for downtown Chappaqua are in place.
“There’s a lot of exciting things on the horizon. Applicants are coming to you and asking you when are you executing the Comp Plan, when’s this happening, when’s that happening and we’re concerned there could be new applications that basically thwart some of the goals that we are carrying out,” said Supervisor Robert Greenstein. “So this moratorium would essentially freeze those applications.”
Ward-Willis said this would be the appropriate time to enact a moratorium “to preserve the status quo.” The state recognizes that municipalities have the right when contemplating redevelopment to take a brief timeout so property owners don’t race to make submissions, he said.
“You’ve updated your Comprehensive Plan, you’ve had public meetings, there’s interest in this redevelopment and you’re going out for an RFP, so you want to make sure that the vision the public had and the vision you had for the plan can be implemented,” Ward-Willis said.
Hull explained that the form-based code is very different than what New Castle and most municipalities in this region currently have. It provides the character, density and scale of what is envisioned for the hamlet, she said.
A public hearing on the proposed law has been set for the board’s Nov. 13 meeting.