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Final Port Chester Comprehensive Plan Hearing: Zoning Concerns

The public hearing was closed but the window to submit written comments to the Village Manager will remain open for 10 days.

The held the final leg of the Public Hearings on the Monday evening. Some members of the public addressed concerns—mostly on zoning changes—but others spoke about the board with nothing but admiration for the work that had gone into the Comprehensive Plan.

“Thank you to the public for coming out and for making very insightful comments,” said Trustee Dan Brakewood. “For challenging and stretching the plan and improving it, thank you.”

The Comprehensive Plan, which is now backed by the Port Chester Planning Commission, is to preserve the existing residential neighborhood character of the Village by reducing potential density. The Comprehensive Plan would accomplish this by eliminating new multi-family homes from being constructed or existing homes to be divided in certain areas.

The plan also seeks to channel future mixed-use development opportunities to the Downtown, train station and other key areas of the village to enhance the vibrancy  of the central business district while relieving development pressures on the Village’s residential neighborhood.

The public hearing was closed but the window to submit written comments to the Village Manager will remain open for 10 days.

“This is not something that is legally required but it is good to make sure the public has every chance to raise any issues they might have,” said Frank Fish of BFJ Planning. “Some people listen to the public meetings and like to have time to sit, think and write a letter. It is just a courtesy to the public.”

Most of the concerns raised by members of the public during the hearing surrounded zoning changes.

The proposed zoning amendments are needed to implement the goals and vision of the village’s draft Comprehensive Plan. These amendments will work with the Plan’s policy recommendations for the future development of the Village. The core intent of the proposed zoning amendments is:

  • to reduce future density increases in residential neighborhoods
  • preserve existing neighborhood character
  • identify areas for limited growth
  • improve development predictability
  • eliminate floating zones

Homeowners have previously shown concern about the zoning changes because certain areas, which currently fall under multi-family, could be rezoned into single family.

Legal multi-family homes that fall in rezoning areas will be allowed to maintain their multi-family status.  This would not necessarily reduce density immediately but potential density is something the Board hopes to limit.

An amnesty program that would allow people to come to the building department and check the legality of the residences structure is in the works. Nothing has been agreed up by the Board but a proposal was made. The proposal includes a possible waiving or reducing of certain fees or penalties for working proactively with the building department.

“We are very pleased that things are moving forward and happy that, give or take a few days, we should be meeting the Mayor’s deadline of Halloween or November,” added Fish.

There was a brief update from , whose  is to redevelop the site into a mixed residential and commercial complex. Previous concerns of the trustees and residents the on the Port Chester public school system. The proposed comprehensive plan would also set zoning rules governing the former hospital site.

"We want to thank the board for making the amendments to the comprehensive plan to allow the flexibility to let us move forward with our development plans,” said Tony Gioffre, White Plains attorney and Starwood representative. "We’re still working with our team and staff to bring a development proposal to the board for approval.”

Despite apparent progress, certain trustees still question Starwood's overall community contributions.

George Datino August 07, 2012 at 10:01 AM
"We want to thank the board for making the amendments to the comprehensive plan to allow the flexibility to let us move forward with our development plans,” said Tony Gioffre, White Plains attorney and Starwood representative. Ah, the proverbial "Wink, Wink". Don't worry, we've made sure you guys are taken care of. Just keep that small percentage of retail space and we can keep calling this behemouth of a residental project "mixed use"!
Anne Latella August 07, 2012 at 12:22 PM
Big mistake again. No apartments on United Hospital property! You absolutely need to court a hospital like Cleveland Clinic. A Village of 2 Sq. Miles with a population in the vicinity of 30,000 residents needs a good hospital. Adding over 800 apartment units is financial doomsday for Port Chester. Get some Economic sense and take care of the existing residents. You are in the process of creating a development which certainly will wind up costing the taxpayers an increase in their already existing burdensome taxes. A hospital is absolutely needed there and will create a diversity of many lifetime good jobs which are much more needed then a massive increase in residents. No matter how you slice it. As pretty as Starwood may be. It is a financial overload on the villae of Port Chester. Also where will all of these additional people receive Medical Care when there isn't any now for the existing population?
Aidan August 07, 2012 at 01:09 PM
No to any housing that impacts the schools at all. None. Zero. Nada. What separates Port Chester from the other Sound Shore communties is the presence of a top flight school district. I am NOT bludgeoning our schools for a poorly managed school district. They do a stellar job under circumstances other folks do not have to contend with. Because of our population we spend millions on remedial education and programs to get non-English speakers up to speed ... at the expense of programs designed to enrich a strong core offering. Rye and Harrison and Mamaroneck are not similarly burdened ... and their program offerings reflect that. From a real estate perspective, nothing increases value in a home more than a top-flight school district. This is no secret. And this is where the BOT and the BOE have to come together ... and listen to one another. We've made strides in code enforcement. And we seem willing to accommodate new business ventures. That's great. But we need to quicken the pace ... and to wield some real clout on this housing issue. No single issue trumps it all as the housing issue does. Get on it and stay on. Be aggressive.
willie vega August 07, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Sorry to disagree with you Adan, but the type of housing that Starwood would like to build is not a low income type of housing that P.C. is known for-(purdy,townsend,and the one on midland that cost taxpayers $) The apts. at united should generate taxes without adding childern to the schools by being so expensive that everyone would be out working and too tired to make babys to put in the schools.As long as it is not affordable housing which P.C. has to much of, let see what they want to build before we shoot it down.
Aidan August 07, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Willie, if that's the case, then I'm okay with it. But I want genuine restrictions of some sort ... not some supposed guidelines that are (magically) going to attract only a specific type of resident. If our schools are impacted, well, then everything that follows doesn't happen. Fix up downtown. Fix the waterfront. Dress up those shops and restaurants. But if you don't fix the schools, it'll all be for naught. And I will opposed any all suggestions for affordable housing. NO MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN PORT CHESTER. EVER.
George Datino August 07, 2012 at 02:44 PM
So I guess the 400+ second bedrooms can only be used for guest rooms, home offices, dens, large walk in closets, etc. No cribs allowed!
Interested Reader August 07, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Starwood's estimate on the number of school age children this project will bring is an absolute insult to our intelligence. NO TO HOUSING, no to zoning changes unless the project is a perfect fit with full tax assessment. A different response would fly in the face of common sense.
willie vega August 07, 2012 at 10:12 PM
George, could you see yourself living in a two bedroom, nowadays they are only around seven hundred sq. ft. I know that would be cramped for me and my wife. And to Intrested Reader, you have to be kidding, What do you expect the owners to do, build something that won't sell? Let's have them put millions of dollars inrto a project that won't hurt any one. And if you can tell us what to build that won't affect anyone, and make a profit, then you have my vote for Pres. of the U.S.
Anne Latella August 07, 2012 at 11:56 PM
This is the kind of thinking that spells doomsday for the taxpayers of Port Chester & the Town of Rye. Sounds like the thinking of President Obama who added 9 Trillion dollars to the U. S. Debt. Maybe you think China can bail you out of this one. It sounds like you think there is going to be a Planned Parenthood Clinic in one of the Starwood units. There is nothing wrong with more children. Just need someone with Economic sense to provide for them and their schooling. Children are the future of Port Chester & the U.S.
MM11 August 08, 2012 at 11:41 AM
Interested Reader/Aidan: What exactly is wrong about having more school age children? Are there some problems with the schools I don't know about? For what it's worth, I graduated PCHS in the past ten years, and I can say for certain there is not an overcrowding issue. Classes in the 60's had over 60% more students in the same exact building. I sat in study halls which were just a way to waste classroom space with less than 15 students on a daily basis. As far as I remember, the middle school and my elementary school seemed to have plenty of capacity. Ms. Latella: You left town 40 years ago. Give it a rest. Besides, on a different story you posted about how Port Chester was stupid for NOT building more upscale housing back when you are around. You were the only proponent, you claim. Now you are over here saying the exact opposite. At least be consistent (and on topic) in your belligerence.
Aidan August 08, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Yes, there is something wrong with the schools. And it seems you don't know about it. It's about overcrowding and about the type of offerings that are unavailable because of a very different school population. I outlined this in an earlier post. The addition of every new student increases taxes and requires even more rugged choices for the BOE. I have nothing against children. But there comes a point where even the most idyllic thinking adult realizes that a saturation point has been reached... and what follows is generally a decline in the educational opportunities for youngsters. Schools are not factories that can adjust their output easily. We're making thinking, responsible adults, not book shelves. To openly invite a school population increase means more strain on everyone ... from the taxpayer to the faculty to the plants themselves. At some point, quality has to become the issue. And that's where we are now. Having enough elbow-room for kids is only part of the equation. Better to level off (or even reduce) the district school-age population and focus on improved quality. This would help the taxpayers, leave more leeway for the schools in program choice, and raise the value of homes because of the presence of an effective and enriched school system.
Conservative NYer August 08, 2012 at 12:49 PM
For what it's worth a lot of has changed in the last 10 years!! And for what it's worth are YOU a current homeowner in PC now as of your post paying property and school taxes that come out of your paycheck? Because if you're not and your only tie to PC is graduating within the last 10 years your comments are null and void and holds no value whatsoever. The P.C. homeowners are tired of increasing taxes (school and property). If it’s not going to be another HUD financial drain and housing for those who actually work and pay their fair of taxes then it should be considered. But what are you going to say to prospective renters and/or buyers who wish to live at this property? Yes we would love to have you live here but we have a policy that there be no children. You can't dictate to people not to have children who are living there especially if they are paying to live there. So now we go back to square one, the school issue once more. If PC were not such a sanctuary town quite honestly, we would not have these problems in the first place. I wish I did not have to pay to send my children to private school but quit honestly we have to because the quality of the education children receive in the PC school district now is not up to par (perhaps 10 years ago it was) but this school issue has nothing to do with “overcrowding” that is just a small fraction of it.
FJT August 08, 2012 at 03:21 PM
You wrote: "If PC were not such a sanctuary town quite honestly, we would not have these problems in the first place." I agree. The sanctuary town aspect of PC is the elephant in the room, and it grows ever larger while nearly everyone pretends it doesn't even exist. Personally, I don't know what to do about this since the federal, state and county governments all seem to be fine with it in practice. I do see much higher school taxes in our future based on the number of new students projected to enter PC schools in the coming years. Unfortunately, I can no longer afford to live here (6K in taxes per year to live in an unrenovated studio), but I am glad there are many other communities in the US that manage their affairs far more effectively than PC and offer a better quality of life for taxpayers. If I can sell my studio, I will say good-bye to this community of good people that has been in desperate need of quality leadership for as long as I've lived here (12+ years).
Bart Didden August 11, 2012 at 04:12 PM
There is no doubt that our federal government is not doing their part in controlling our boarders, but that is not the only answer. Locally we need to be doing our part as well and that is accomplished by not just promoting but insuring safe housing conditions within the Village of Port Chester through education and Code enforcement. Some years back Mayor Pilla and Police Chief Krzeminski when on a speaking tour to reach out to the undocumented community not to be scared of the police services. Regardless of what the message was designed to be, by reaching out to these people sends the wrong message about the Laws and the enforcement of those Laws. The Mayor and Chief both took an Oath of Office where they affirm that they will support and defend the Laws of the nation, state and village. Instead I think they are sending mixed messages based on the group they are speaking to at best. Its time for a change and the opportunity is next March.
Brade August 11, 2012 at 04:58 PM
What Trustee Didden chooses to ignore (Because he can't be that dense) is the link between community outreach (Yes undocumented immigrants are in our community like it or not) and code enforcement. Clearing illegal and substandard housing has been a challenge on multiple fronts. Constitutionally, gaining entry to these houses is largely a voluntary affair. The court can compel introspection but we all know the ineffectual village court has long been a bottleneck for building code cases. Depending on who you know, your case can be held up for years, fines dropped, adjournments guaranteed month after month. (while the land lord who is pulling those strings continues collecting absurdly high rents) Reaching out to this immigrant community is a good way to fight the system of substandard housing abuse and neglect because they are the ones largely being victimized by this system. Informing tenants of housing standards and laws (even if they are illegal tenants) without the threat of deportation, which the village isn't capable of doing anyways, can encourage greater access to those eyesores and death traps that we all know plague our village. If the landlord is under no requirement to let our officers in then "deputizing" their tenants to open those doors is the next best step.
Brade August 11, 2012 at 05:18 PM
*inspection not introspection
Bart Didden August 11, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Brade, you must think that undocumented people are stupid, they are not, they are very smart. They are here because they can earn a living, maintain a place to sleep and send a majority of whats left to their family who are many times in another country. I give them a lot of credit for taking the chances, and doing what they need to do to survive. Thinking that you can "deputizing" them will do anything is just nuts. They know they need to stay under the radar, and they know that if they report unsafe conditions that will just remove one more potential place to stay and make the demand even higher, along with the rents. Trust me, they are not reporting anything! They know what they are doing and we are just kidding ourselves to think that they are going to help the government that is unwilling to help them. Keep supporting outreach with our out of touch Mayor, we can get more of what you railed about, nothing, nada, zero, zilch. Just more of the same and no progress.
George Datino August 11, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Let us be clear. Illegal/Undocumented Immigrants are a contributing factor to the oveercrowding issue in our community however the real culprits, criminals, parasites who have caused this problem are the greedy property owners (who I am assuming are legally in this country because they own property) who have made a concious decision to build illegal apartments and overcrowd legal space all in the name of money. Not every single person living in an illegal apartment or overcrowded situation is in this country illegally. I am not saying that people who are not in this country legally are innocent but even though there is some overlap, these are two seperate issues. For me, the blame for overcrowding falls more squarely on the greedy and corrupt.
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