White Plains Council to Make Decision on Completeness of Environmental Impact Statements

Steven Silverberg of Silverberg Zalantis LLP, an attorney hired by White Plains to represent the city regarding zoning and land use issues, stands with Commissioner Susan Habel at the July 30 meeting.

The White Plains Common Council held a special meeting July 30. Two items on the discussion agenda directly impacted the future of the French American School of New York and its intention to build a campus for a regional K-12 school on the site of the former Ridgeway Country Club. Both items seek a determination by the council on the completeness of Draft Environmental Impact Statements that would initiate public hearings and comment on the statements and would take each application further along the process to an eventual decision.

The first, a Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS), proposes an Open Space Recreation District, a change to the White Plains Zoning Ordinance that would affect the property now owned by FASNY because of its location on the site of the former Ridgeway Country Club. The Westchester Hills Golf Club and the Maple Moor Golf Course would also be affected.

A major goal of the proposed zoning change is to protect open space within White Plains and limit development that could negatively impact the surrounding neighborhoods, supporters of the proposed amendment say. Any changes to the existing R-130 zoning would impact all three sites. As the DGEIS now stands, Commissioner Sue Habel told the council at the meeting, “All residential use would be removed.”

The second discussion item was the DEIS from FASNY for its application for a special permit to run a school at the former Ridgeway Country Club site in what is currently a R-130 residential zone, which would allow such a use if the special permit is granted.

Zoning change proposal: According to Habel, city staff has reviewed the DGEIS document for the proposed zoning change and has determined that it is complete. If the council agrees with that determination at its monthly meeting on Aug.  6, the complete document would be posted on the city’s website and a public hearing could be set as early as September 4. After the public comment period closes, the document and comments go through a substantive review by the council during which changes and modifications are made and put into a Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (FGEIS). The public is then notified, amendments are made to the Zoning Code and the Comprehensive Plan, and further hearings would be held. Habel explained that the FGEIS is a Common Council document and environmental finding that leads to zoning legislation.

At the meeting council members asked numerous procedural and scheduling questions to determine how long the process might take.

FASNY special permit application: After brief discussion on capital projects concerning the Department of Public Works, the meeting turned to the DEIS submitted by FASNY. Again, Habel indicated city staff had reviewed that document and had determined it is complete based on the wording of the initial scoping document. Habel did emphasize that the council did not have to agree with that analysis. Since lack of adequate traffic information was a major reason for the initial DEIS being returned to FASNY, Habel indicated that Traffic Commissioner Tom Soyk felt there now was a baseline of traffic data and adequate information for the council to make a decision on the completeness of the document.

FASNY had resubmitted the DEIS on July 9. The council has 30 days from that date to determine whether or not the resubmitted document is complete. If the council does accept the document a similar process to the one for the zoning change begins except the conditions are site-specific to the FASNY property and not generic to an entire zone and the conclusion involves a special permit for one applicant, not legislation. The first of two public hearings could commence as early as September 4, depending on the council’s action.