Port Chester officials held a second review of the village's proposed Comprehensive Plan Monday night, hearing more concerns from residents over the possible impacts of revisions to local zoning laws designed to control potential development and population growth.
Frank Fish of BFJ Planning, who is working with the village on the new zoning policies, gave a detailed presentation of the zoning changes and stayed around to help answer the public’s questions. A copy of that presentation can be picked up at the or at .
“The main idea of this plan is to try to keep Port Chester at the current density it is at or to reduce that density,” said Fish. "Very rarely do you see a tax reduction. But if we do this right and balance the growth correctly, the rate at which tax increases will slow. I’ve lived in Westchester for 30 years and my tax has never gone down. The goal is to be fiscally prudent to contain the rate of tax increases.”
During the public hearing a number of residents took to the podium to ask questions and raise issues they saw in the proposed plan and the zoning amendments that go with the plan.
“I think the plan is going in a good direction,” said Trustee Dan Brakewood. “People are genuinely engaged and providing us with excellent feedback and we are going to sit with the staff to consider it and refine things.”
The bulk of the questions and feedback from the community surrounded the legality or illegality of a large number of multi-family homes in Port Chester.
“The first problem I have that I have never really seen addressed is all the illegal housing in Port Chester,” said Port Chester resident Kathleen James. “On my street I’ve seen it. Housing that is pretty much the same as mine might have 30-35 people living there with 8-10 kids going to the schools and we’re all zoned as single family homes.”
Current legal multi-family homes that fall in rezoning areas will be allowed to continue their status as a multi-family home in a type of “grandfathered in” situation. An amnesty program will be available for people to come forward to the building department and discuss concerns about their residence and work proactively toward getting their property up to legal specifications. However, if the property in question is discovered by the building department, before the owner has brought it to the billage’s attention, they would not be eligible for the amnesty program, which would provide amnesty from fines and permit fees.
“With housing that already exists between multi-families being grandfathered in, we are not really going to reduce our density,” added James.
“It’s a reduction in the potential density,” responded Port Chester Mayor Dennis Pilla. “What we are doing in this program is trying to get people to proactively come to us before we catch them and take them to court.”
The amnesty program was not agreed upon by the entire board and another workshop was suggested by members of the board and village staff.
“Things are going very well. We’re on schedule. As the Mayor said, the plan is to be done by Halloween and I agree that we should have everything in place for a vote by the end of October,” said Fish.
There was a brief update from regarding their just off Boston Post Road toward the end of Monday’s meeting. The company wants to redevelop the site into a mixed residential and commercial complex.
Board of Trustees members and Port Chester residents have expressed concern that the development plan could put more stress on the Port Chester public school system by bringing in more families with children.
“We heard the message loud and clear,” said Tony Gioffre, White Plains attorney and Starwood representative. "It was Trustee Terenzie who said, ‘get creative’ and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’ve been reaching out to the school board as well to incorporate any concerns that they have. We’re committed to maintaining dialog with this community as we work through this process.”
The proposed comprehensive plan would also set zoning rules governing the former hospital site.
Key elements of the comprehensive plan include reducing the heights that are allowed by law for development of commercial buildings in downtown Port Chester, as well as reducing the height of any potential development at the Port Chester train station.