Tuesday, October 20, 2020 Special Edition

The Town of New Castle invites all residents and interested organizations to participate in two upcoming public hearings on the proposed Form Based Code as described in the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS).

The Form Based Code aims to move Chappaqua forward through making our Town's zoning code clear, concise, and efficient. The Town recently conducted three community engagement sessions that reviewed the proposed code, potential transportation and environmental impacts, and alternatives. More than 400 people participated in the engagement sessions, with many more viewing past recordings and asking questions of the Development Department afterwards.

Our goal is to reverse the long, slow decline of the hamlet by allowing smart, measured growth that is mindful of the character of the hamlet while increasing feet on the street — people to support the kind of quaint local businesses we all love.
 
This e-mail newsletter is to provide you a comprehensive guide to the FBC. All of this information can also be found at the Chappaqua Forward website.

  • Public Hearings
  • Informational Engagement Sessions
  • Testimonials
  • Documents and Notices
  • Facts about the FBC
  • For More Information

Public Hearings


Register below for Public Hearings: You can virtually attend the public hearing before the Town Board or submit written testimony.
 
Submit your testimony: E-mail your testimony to either
publiccomment@mynewcastle.org and chappaquaforward@mynewcastle.org.
 
Substantive comments submitted through this process will be responded to in writing as part of the Town’s preparation of the Final GEIS following the close of the public hearing. Once the Final GEIS is accepted, the Town Board will issue a findings statement, finalize the legislation, and schedule a vote -- keep in mind, the Town Board has yet to schedule a date for when this will occur.
 
It is highly recommended that you submit your comments in writing.

 

Informational Engagement Sessions 


The Town conducted three informative and educational engagement sessions on the Form Based Code. Many town residents participated in these sessions and were able to get answers on their questions regarding the proposed re-zoning.
 
Many more residents and interested parties viewed the recordings after the original presentations.
 
Missed one of the three public engagement sessions? Watch them on demand.

Session 1 – Introduction to the Project, originally presented on Tuesday, September 29 at 7 p.m.  
 
Session 2 – Visual & Transportation Impacts, originally presented on Thursday, October 8 at 4 p.m.
 
Session 3 – Alternatives to Proposed Action, originally presented on Thursday, October 15 at 10 a.m.
 
Here are the PowerPoint presentations from each session:
 
Session 1 - Introduction to FBC
Session 2 - Visual & Transportation Impacts
Session 3 - Alternatives to Proposed Action

Testimonials

Watch and listen to those in our community who are in support of the FBC - from residents, business owners, and advocates on why the FBC is needed for the future of Chappaqua.

Watch video testimonials
 

Documents and Notices


View the Form Based Code here.
View the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement here.
View SEQRA Forms and Notices
 

Facts About the Form Based Code:

 
The FBC is nothing to fear, but is meant to provide clarity in the zoning code for Chappaqua to revitalize itself. Many of your questions have been answered as part of our FAQ, found below and also linked via the Chappaqua Forward website.
 
The FAQs are full of facts, so please take the time to read through the FAQs and additional documentation and information available at the Chappaqua Forward website.
 

Q. What is a form-based code?

A form-based code is a means of regulating land development to achieve a specific urban form. It is a way to regulate development that controls building form first and building use second, with the purpose of achieving a particular type of “place” or built environment based on the vision of a community.
 

Q. What is the purpose of Chappaqua’s comprehensive plan?

The New Castle Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2017 sets forth policy statements, goals and actions that will enable New Castle to navigate shifts in the world today and continue to thrive as a desirable place to live, work and play for generations to come.  Generally, comprehensive plans should be updated every ten (10) years to account for any changes in community policies and goals over that period of time.  Under New York State Law, a comprehensive plan serves as the foundational document for zoning legislation within the municipality.  Zoning laws are required to be in accordance with the municipality’s comprehensive plan.  
 

Q. What is the goal of rezoning the Chappaqua Hamlet? 

The goal is to ensure that all ele­ments of the built envi­ron­ment, includ­ing land use, trans­porta­tion, hous­ing, ener­gy, and infra­struc­ture, work togeth­er to pro­vide sus­tain­able, green places for liv­ing, work­ing, and recre­ation, with a high qual­i­ty of life. Specifically, the Form Based Code will create the structure to diversify the town's housing stock (both housing type and price point) and revitalize the existing business area which is and has been plagued with vacant storefronts.  
 

Q. Will the rezoning change the history of Chappaqua?

No. All devel­op­ment should com­ple­ment and main­tain the historic char­ac­ter that exists today. The proposed legislation protects the historic buildings and landmarks that exist within the hamlet today.


Q. Is the Chappaqua form-based code a construction project?

This is legislation not a construction project. This form-based code offers opportunities for property owners to reinvest and redevelop their properties in the hamlet to help meet the goals of the community as outlined in the Comprehensive Plan.
 

Q. What is GEIS?

“GEIS” refers to a Generic Environmental Impact Statement.  Upon review of the proposed Form Based Code the Town Board determined that the adoption and implementation of the Form Based Code may result in one or more significant adverse environmental impacts.  Therefore, the Town Board adopted a “positive declaration” pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) which triggers a requirement to prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  In this instance, because the action being studied is the adoption of legislation rather than a defined development project with specific impacts the Town Board decided to use a “Generic” EIS, or GEIS. A GEIS is a useful tool for studying the impacts of multiple actions within a geographic area.  Once a Draft GEIS (DGEIS) is accepted as complete (meaning, it contains all information outlined in the Scoping Document) the Town Board will hold a public hearing on the DGEIS.  All substantive public comments received during this period, both written and verbal, will be responded to in writing through the preparation of a Final GEIS (FGEIS).  After the FGEIS is accepted by the Town Board as complete (meaning, all substantive comments have been responded to accurately and adequately) the Town Board will prepare an Environmental Findings Statement.  The Findings Statement is a document in which the Town Board will evaluate all information in the GEIS (draft and final) to determine whether the proposed Form Based Code, or one of the alternatives studied in the GEIS, avoids, minimizes or mitigates all potentially significant adverse environmental impacts to the maximum extent practicable. Following the Findings Statement, the Town Board can make a decision on whether or not to adopt the Form Based Code.


Q. Why does the DGEIS study a "full build out" or "maximum buildout scenario" of the Chappaqua Hamlet under the Form Based Code? 

The “full build out” or “maximum buildout scenario” studied in the DGEIS for the Form Based Code represents the maximum amount of development that could reasonably be expected to occur in the hamlet under the proposed legislation. In order for the “full build out” to be realized many factors must align. Some of these assumptions include the assemblage of many small parcels of land for redevelopment, the provision of adequate on-site parking and retention of some lots in their existing condition due to physical or other limitations on redevelopment such as the post office, fire house, Verizon communications building, Greeley House, school, and town recreation fields. Parking demand was also a factor in determining the buildout scenario. Pages 2-22 through 2-24 of the DGEIS provide additional information on the scope of the buildout scenario. The reason a “full build out” of the Form Based Code is studied, even though that full scope of development may never occur, is that under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) the Town Board is obligated to analyze the environmental impacts that may result from the adoption of the Form Based Code. Since the Form Based Code is legislation and not a development project, the DGEIS includes a conceptual study of what could occur if all the assumptions, some of which are listed above, were to come to fruition in order to study the environmental impacts of the proposed Code.


Q. Does the Form Based Code allow the entire Chappaqua Hamlet to be 5 stories in height?

No.  The Form Based Code allows up to 5 stories in only a few strategically selected areas of the Chappaqua Hamlet. With the exception of five properties under private ownership, the majority of the land area proposed to allow up to 5 stories is public land.  The private property is located on either side of the triangle coming off of the Quaker Street Bridge.  These areas were targeted to create a visual connection from the Quaker Street Bridge and the Conifer building into the hamlet.  The public lands surround the Metro-North train tracks and are targeted for 5 stories as a portion of these lands surround the Quaker Street Bridge and are located across from the Conifer Building.  The other area proposed to allow up to 5 stories is located in the train station parking lot.  It is important to note that the areas proposed to allow up to 5 stories in the train station parking lot are considered interior to the parking lot.  The height limitation along Washington Avenue is 2-3 stories and 2-4 stories.


Q. Does changing the legislation mean development on the Town-owned land?

No. The Form Based Code proposes to rezone Town-owned land from an “industrial” zoning designation to a zoning designation that provides an opportunity for the Town Board to consider the sale or lease of Town-owned land for future development.  No development of Town-owned land is currently proposed.  Rather, the Form Based Code designates Town-owned land surrounding the train station as a center, calling for enlargement of the landmarked A.H. Memorial Park (similar to Central Park) if it was to ever be considered for any other use than it is today.


Q. If the Town Board determines in the future to sell or lease Town-owned land for a development project, will I have an opportunity to vote on whether or not that should occur? Will there be a referendum?

The current Town Board has no intention of selling or leasing Town-owned land without considering public opinion.  New York State Town Law §64 provides that the decision of a Town Board to sell or lease Town-owned land is subject to a permissive referendum.  A permissive referendum is a process by which members of the public may petition the Town Board to require the matter be submitted to a public vote.  In the event a valid petition is timely submitted, the decision of the Town Board does not take effect unless and until it is approved by a majority of the qualified voters.  New York State Town Law §94 provides that where a Town Board decision is subject to a permissive referendum, the Town Board has the authority to submit the matter to a referendum on its own motion, without waiting for a petition to be filed seeking a referendum.  Therefore, in the event the Town Board decides to sell or lease Town-owned land the public will have an opportunity to petition the Town Board to hold a referendum, or the Town Board can decide on its own motion to submit the matter for a referendum.  


Q. Has the Town been in contact with other public entities on this proposal (e.g. the school district)?

Yes, the Town has been in ongoing discussions with the Chappaqua Central School District, including the Superintendent, and staff in regards to the Form Based Code – specifically in terms of projecting potential changes in the number of pupils attending Chappaqua schools. The school district was also involved with the 2017 Comprehensive Plan.


Q. Once the Form Based Code is in place, what are the next steps for the Town to attract interest in potential opportunities for development?

Market conditions will dictate potential opportunities for smart development within the hamlet. The Form Based Code, however, provides a critical step to allow for the Town to create opportunities for smart development and, maximize potential use consistent with the goals of the community as set forth in the Comprehensive Plan.


Q. Does the Town plan to use eminent domain to buy and consolidate privately owned, small contiguous parcels?

No.  The power of eminent domain is a seldom used tool of government.  Eminent domain refers to the right bestowed upon the government by the Fifth Amendment to take private land for a public purpose with the payment of just compensation.  The Town Board has no intention of using eminent domain in the Chappaqua Hamlet.  Instead, private market forces will dictate whether smaller contiguous parcels are assembled and consolidated to allow for redevelopment at the maximum potential permitted under the Form Based Code.


Q. Do voters approve the Form Based Code?

The Form Based Code is legislation that will be voted upon by the Town Board just like every other local law. Before the Town Board votes, the environmental review process must be completed.  The environmental review process includes the October 20, 2020 public hearing, preparation and acceptance of a Final GEIS which responds in writing to every verbal and written substantive comment received during the public hearing, and adoption of an Environmental Findings Statement which evaluates the relevant environmental impacts. 


Q. How does the public notification of a proposed development project change with the Form Based Code?

There is a neighbor notification provision within the Form Based Code. The Form Based Code requires notification to be given to owners of property abutting the proposed location of a development project. All abutting property owners will be notified of the proposed project and invited to come in and speak to the Development Department about the project.  The notification must include a project description, the project’s location on the subject lot, and elevations.  The intent is for the Development Department to engage with the abutting property owners and serve as a conduit through which project changes may be discussed with the applicant to effectuate reasonable modifications to the project to address neighbor concerns.  Members of the public who are not abutting property owners may also submit comment to the Development Department for consideration.

Under today’s existing Town Code, projects which are the subject of a building permit or other purely administrative review are not subject to public comment.  If notification occurs as a result of the permit process, there is no formal means by which public comment is considered in the review of the permit application.  For example, unless a property is located within a conservation subdivision or is subject to some other restriction, a residential property may be improved with a swimming pool without opportunity for neighbors – near or far – to comment on that permit application.  When the scope of the development triggers a requirement for site plan, special permit, subdivision, wetland permit, steep slopes, or variance approvals from the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals, there is a formal public hearing process by which members of the public may submit written or verbal comment to the appropriate land use board for consideration. These comments inform the board’s review of the application but, by law, the board’s decision cannot rely solely on generalized community support or opposition to a project.  Instead, the board must review the information, studies, comments and professional reports submitted in favor of and in opposition to the project and apply that information to the standard of review set forth in the Town Code.  The Form Based Code maintains opportunity for public comment and maintains the purpose for which public comment is used in the application review process, but it changes the forum for providing comment.
 

Q. Why is this the appropriate time to adopt a Form Based Code for Chappaqua?

Vacant storefronts exist throughout the hamlet.  While vacancies may have increased due to the pandemic, the vacancy rate prior to the pandemic was unacceptably high in part due to the popularity of online shopping.  The 2017 Comprehensive Plan recognized this and called for a revitalization of the Chappaqua Hamlet.  That Plan also identified the need for the community to diversify its housing type from a single-family community to one that offers more options for our younger and older residents.  The Comprehensive Plan also called for protecting our single family neighborhoods and targeted new development to locations where we had the infrastructure to support it. The Chappaqua Hamlet has a commuter train station within walking distance to the entire hamlet and it contains sewer and water infrastructure.  It is the perfect place to meet the goals of the Comprehensive Plan.  Re-writing our zoning code allows us the ability to consider the form of future development- something that we can’t do in the same way under the existing zoning code.  Form is an essential component of keeping our community character.  Combining the form with a use based code enables us to embrace elements of regulation that are not currently contained in our existing zoning code along with typical controls regarding uses  we want to see in our hamlet.  The Form Based Code will allow residential uses on the first floor of buildings within certain areas of the hamlet.  This will help put more feet on the street, which will create more people living and walking around our downtown area to sustain the businesses that are shuttering today. A form-based code provides an opportunity for us to shape the future of the Chappaqua Hamlet. 


Q. Does Chappaqua have the water and sewer infrastructure to handle future development? 

The DGEIS included an analysis of water supply and wastewater treatment.  As analyzed in the DGEIS, the existing infrastructure for both water supply and wastewater is adequate in that it could handle the demand generated under the build-out scenario.


Q. Why has the Town conducted engagement sessions?

The engagement sessions were held to educate the community on the contents within the DGEIS.  These sessions should enable the community to provide meaningful comments at the public hearing. 


Q. What assumptions were the foundation of the Form Based Code?

The Chappaqua Hamlet is an existing built environment.  As such special considerations formed the basis of the proposed Form Based Code (FBC).  These considerations included a policy directive that all new development under the proposed FBC must provide for parking.  It is important to the Town Board that the FBC result in no net loss of existing municipal parking.  It is also important to note that the proposed FBC includes revised parking standards based on updated industry standards, which is different from what is in the existing zoning code.  Another consideration in forming the standards of the proposed FBC was consideration of the high groundwater table in the Chappaqua Hamlet.  This means that there is an understanding that new development will not be able to utilize underground parking areas.
Visit chappaquaforward.org to find out more information about the form based code. If you have questions regarding the FBC, you can e-mail chappaquaforward@mynewcastle.org or call (914) 238-4723 to speak with Sabrina Charney Hull, Director of Planning for the Town of New Castle.

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