REPRINTED: Where We Left Off:  Pace’s “Master Planning Public Engagement Report” is released

Reprinted from: Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Editor’s Note:  Below are excerpts from the New Castle Master Planning Public Engagement Report produced by Pace Land Use Law Center from sessions conducted in May and June of this year with close to 300 participants.  For each of five topics—Commercial Development, Environment & Habitat, Pubic Works & Infrastructure, Public Services & Recreation and Housing—Pace facilitators asked residents, “What’s good now”?  “What’s not working?” and “What are some strategies to overcome what’s not working?”  Pace did not conduct a survey; its informal discussion groups were a qualitative, rather than a quantitative, effort to identify what residents considered “priority issues, assets, and challenges facing the town.”  The report is just shy of 300 pages, much of it in simple list form, with some narrative summary, analysis and conclusions.

Editor’s Note:  Below, NCNOW has first reprinted the entire “Executive Summary”; second, only the “Commercial Development section of the “Analysis,” since that subject was the hottest throughout the sessions; and lastly, from Appendix D, the responses generated from the four Horace Greeley High School participants in a June 23 session, of some interest since they were the only non-adult group captured in an outreach.

To view the entire report on the town’s website, click HERE.

Table of Contents

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ............................................................................................................ 3

INTRODUCTION ......................................................................................................................... 7

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION METHODOLOGY & PROCESS ............................................................ 8

RESULTS .................................................................................................................................... 12

ANALYSIS .................................................................................................................................. 65

CONCLUSION ............................................................................................................................ 83

APPENDICES ............................................................................................................................ 84


From the Executive Summary:

Commercial Development

For Commercial Development, participants were most concerned with encouraging and facilitating a diversity of retail, food, and service establishment to meet residents’ needs in the Town of New Castle. In particular, they would like more restaurants and shops such as bookstores. Additionally, they want to regulate the number of certain types of businesses allowed in the downtown Chappaqua Hamlet, such as nail salons. Participants also want the Town of New Castle to create a destination or focal point in the downtown Chappaqua Hamlet, such as a theater or arts center, and many participants want a new supermarket built somewhere in Town. Additionally, participants want to prioritize local businesses over chains, want some nightlife activities in the downtown Chappaqua Hamlet, and believe retail and services mixed with diverse housing is appropriate for downtown.

Participants felt strongly about where to locate future commercial development. Many participants want to concentrate commercial development in the downtown Chappaqua Hamlet and near the train station, while some want to add new commercial development at Chappaqua Crossing/Reader’s Digest. A few participants also suggested Millwood as an appropriate location. Participants were divided particularly about whether to locate commercial development at Chappaqua Crossing, and several suggested that the Town government should improve the development process for Chappaqua Crossing to appropriately deal with traffic, environmental, and economic impacts and to ensure community benefits, deal with uncertainty/divisiveness, and improve communication with the community.

Participants expressed a desire to attract more consumers to the Town of New Castle by improving dated storefront façades, beautifying lots, and adopting design standards for the community. Additionally, participants want the Town government to host more events, such as parades and festivals, to attract consumers, and think the Town government should adopt policies to attract and support businesses. Suggested policies include tax abatements and other incentives, a Town marketing campaign to attract consumers to the Town’s businesses, and a program to encourage lower commercial rents.

Environment & Habitat

For Environment & Habitat, a large number of participants are very concerned with protecting the Town of New Castle’s unique character from development impacts. These participants noted the importance of the Town of New Castle’s quaint, small-town, rural feel; good family neighborhoods; varied and unique architecture; historic buildings and stonewalls; and scenic country roads. Additionally, participants generally like the Town of New Castle’s natural and environmental features and are concerned about protecting and maintaining the Town of New Castle’s green, public open space and natural areas, such as the Audubon Preserve and the Arboretum. Participants also like and want to strengthen the Town of New Castle’s environmental regulations and policies, including balanced tree protection management, the environmental review process, nuisance wildlife policies, water resource protection, a nighttime light pollution ordinance, policies to respect the Town’s hilly and rocky topography, a noise ordinance, wetland regulation, pesticide regulations and policies, and invasive species policies.

Public Works & Infrastructure

For Public Works & Infrastructure, participants overwhelmingly expressed an interest in establishing a complete streets policy that improves the Town of New Castle’s streets to facilitate multiple modes of travel. In particular, participants want to enhance the pedestrian experience by creating more sidewalks throughout Town, install better bicycle lanes and bicycle parking infrastructure, and install traffic calming measures to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Further, participants want to improve sidewalk, trail, and bicycle path connections, particularly in downtown where added crosswalks and sidewalk connectivity would improve walkability. Additionally, participants suggested enhancing streetscapes with trees, landscaping, planters, and outdoor seating; upgrading public transportation and creating a community trolley or shuttle; and improving train station access and maintenance.

In addition to complete street improvements, participants would like better parking at the train station and downtown to improve access to commercial development and civic uses, as well as better and more parking generally. They also expressed a need for better maintenance for roads and related infrastructure and suggested the Town government could control stormwater runoff by regulating impervious coverage, installing green infrastructure, collecting rainwater, and fixing the town’s drainage problems. Suggested utility improvements include expanding sewer lines, maintaining and burying power lines and other overhead wires, building less intrusive cell towers, installing natural gas lines, extending the Town’s water service, and utilizing renewable and alternative energy sources. To expand development, several participants expressed the need to extend infrastructure, such as roads, sewers, and gas lines. Finally, a large number of participants are concerned with improving traffic patterns in specific areas of town to alleviate traffic congestion and safety hazards, as well as building more roads to improve access and installing traffic lights where appropriate.

Public Services & Recreation Facilities

For Public Services & Recreation Facilities, many participants like existing parks and want to improve them, as well as build new parks. Additionally, a large number of participants want to create more year-round, indoor and outdoor, accessible sports facilities, such as a community pool and recreation center. They expressed a need to improve year-round recreational programming for children and adults, as well as athletic fields. Others suggested parks and recreation improvements include improving landscaping maintenance; building more versatile, safe, and accessible playgrounds; building a small park and more landscaped areas downtown, and adding more outdoor seating and gathering spaces.

In addition to improved parks and recreation facilities, participants would like several Town administration improvements. Prior to further development, a large group of participants would like the Town government to complete the master plan to determine future housing, commercial development, infrastructure, and natural resource protection.

They also would like to enhance planning processes by including more public input, appropriate studies, professionals, local board members, and respect for the current plan. Further, participants would like a streamlined project review and approval process, as well as improved communication between the Town government and residents and the Town government and the school board, Metro North, Westchester County, and surrounding services through increased tax revenues from commercial properties and other funding sources; lower taxes and give rebates where appropriate; and better enforce local regulations, especially zoning.

Participants expressed an interest in maintaining and increasing Town services, including garbage services; improved and expanded recycling services that incorporate composting; more community events, such as festivals and concerts; improved senior center activities; library services; an upgraded and expanded community center; the art center and expanded cultural and art facilities; efficient and safe snow removal; and improved services for young people and families, such as a youth center. Furthermore, participants would like improved emergency services, including a disaster emergency center and plan and better communication with the community. Finally, participants generally approve of the schools but suggested improving school bus service and stops and student drop-off locations.

Housing

Several participants think existing housing is good and should stay consistent and would like to maintain low-density, single-family homes on large lots with limits on housing expansion. Conversely, several participants believe the Town government should create housing that serves seniors, young families and households, and similar groups and want to create affordable housing for these groups. These participants want to provide a greater variety of housing types, such as multi-family, condos, townhomes, starter homes, rentals, and accessory dwelling units, and want housing that will attract and accommodate a diverse range of residents. Additionally, some participants would like mixed use development. Participants suggested locating affordable housing appropriately, especially in the downtown Chappaqua Hamlet, and support locating higher density housing downtown, as well as building more housing near the train station.

ANALYSIS [starting on p. 65 of the report]
In (parentheses) are numbers-of-people participating in each topic discussion, then broken out under each topic.

Commercial Development

Quality of Commercial Development


Encourage and facilitate a diversity of retail, food, and service establishments,
including restaurants and bookstores, to meet residents’ needs in town. Regulate the
number of certain types of businesses allowed in town, like nail salons (120)

• Like the diversity of retail, food, and service establishments (35)
• Too many of the same types of establishments (10), especially nail salons (5)
• Regulate number of same businesses in town (2) and do not allow more of the same
types of establishments (12), especially nail salons (6)
• Need more diversity of retail, small shops, services, amenities, and activities so
residents do not have to go elsewhere to fulfill their needs (21)
• Allow and promote a diverse range of retail/services/stores downtown (7)
• In particular, need more and diverse restaurants (12)
• Establish more restaurants to attract consumers (6)
• Open a bookstore (4)

Create a destination or focus downtown to attract people (26)
• Need a draw downtown to attract consumers (8)
• Create a destination or focus downtown to attract people. Ideas include a destination
restaurant, pool, non-chain anchor stores, movie theater, arts center, and playhouse
(18)

Build a supermarket somewhere in town (23)
• Need a supermarket (15) in Chappaqua (2), Millwood (1), downtown (1)
• Build a supermarket (4)

Prioritize small, local businesses over chain stores and large commercial
developments (19)

• Like having few chains, big-box stores, fast food establishments, and large commercial
developments (9)
• Like having small, independent mom-and-pop businesses (10)

Create nightlife in New Castle, and encourage stores to open on Sundays (16)
• New Castle needs a nightlife and stores and services open in the evening and on
Sundays (7)
• Create opportunities to go downtown in the evening and at night with later business
hours (7) and open stores on Sunday (2)

Allow mixed uses with retail, services, and diverse housing (multifamily, small
single-family, senior housing, affordable housing for artists) (11)

Location of Commercial Development


Concentrate commercial development downtown and near the train station (43)
• Like the central, downtown location of the town center (15) and municipal facilities (2)
and see opportunity for expansion there (3);
• Like that the train station is convenient to retail and services in downtown (4)
• Focus commercial development in downtown (supermarket, higher density
development, town hall/library/police station, train station, King Street, North Greeley)
(19)

Add new commercial development at Chappaqua Crossing or another site, such as
Millwood or Readers Digest (27)

• Shift expansion of downtown to another site (3)
• Add new commercial development at Chappaqua Crossing (grocery store, civic uses,
theater, museum, town hall, train station) (14)
• Develop Millwood Square; redevelop Millwood firehouse (2)
• Move civic uses to Millwood area (2)
• Redevelop Readers Digest (3), move Bell School here (1), build train station (2)

Avoid commercial development at Chappaqua Crossing (will harm downtown,
residential property, trees, environment, traffic patterns) (12)

Improve Chappaqua Crossing development process (deal with traffic, environmental,
and economic impacts, ensure community benefits, deal with uncertainty/divisiveness,
communicate fully with community) (5)

Storefronts


Improve storefront façades, beautify lots, and adopt design standards for community
(29)

• Downtown storefronts look dated and are not cohesive, lack vibrancy, and need a face
lift (10) and commercial areas need upgrades (3)
• Improve façades and beautify lots (9)
• Adopt design standards for community (6) that conform to existing architecture (1)

Community Activities


Create more events to attract consumers to town (20)
• Like the town’s community activities, including parades, the children’s book
fair/festival, farmers’ market, village market, recreational programs (12)
• Need more festivals and a community gathering center in town (2)
• Create more events to bring people to town (6)

Commercial Development Policies


Adopt policies to attract and support businesses (26)
• Barriers to starting business (regulatory, costs) (6)
• Should adopt policies and incentives to attract and support businesses, such as a tax
abatement program, controlling costs (7)
• Support and invest in businesses and downtown (4), including through an economic
development board (1) or staff person (1) or a business improvement district (1),
better signage (1)
• Provide financial, tax, or other incentives for storefront improvements, downtown
establishments, redevelopments (5)

Develop a marketing campaign to attract consumers to the town’s businesses (16)
• Marketing issues for businesses (1)
• Encourage sale days, retailer events, monthly merchant event (3)
• Develop a marketing campaign to attract consumers to the town’s businesses
(brochures, branding /public image effort, social media campaign, co-marketing with
other towns, “shop local” signs, town billboard) (12)

Create a program to encourage lower commercial rents (11)
• Rents for retail space downtown are too high (6)
• Create a program to encourage lower commercial rents (5)

Editor’s Note:  Appendix D—which runs from pp. 91 to 196—contains a straight-up list of responses elicited from each of the groups—

Both the General Public:

Bell Middle School: Wed. May 7
Horace Greeley HS: Sat. May 10
Westorchard Elementary: Thu. May 15
Seven Bridges Middle School: Wed. May21

... and from Additional Specific Groups:

• New Castle Senior Programs—May 22 New Castle Community Center
• League of Women Voters—May 28 Chappaqua Library
• Chappaqua Moms’ Group—June 4 Gedney Park
• Chamber of Commerce—June 11 Le Jardin du Roi
• Town Staff—June 18 Town Hall
• High School students – June 23 Horace Greeley High School

—on each of the topics:

Commercial Development and Town Centers: The Commercial Development and Town Centers topic provides the framework for discussing the quality and character of the economic centers in the town, both present and future. The topic includes economic development, jobs, and needed tax revenues.

Environment & Habitat: This topic refers to the town’s natural environmental features, including topography, scenic resources, ridgelines, wetlands, parks, open space, sustainability, habitats and the connections among them, including those needed to provide maximum benefits to the community.

Public Works & Infrastructure: This topic refers to the roads and streets in the town, public transportation, the train station, paths and sidewalks, traffic signals and the need for accommodating a variety of methods of moving people and goods into and throughout the community. It also includes other infrastructure improvements including cellular communication facilities, cable, electricity, water, sewers, drainage, flood control and other utilities.

Public Services and Recreation: This topic refers to town-provided services, such as senior services, building permits, garbage collection, recycling, etc. It includes libraries and passive/active recreation. It includes school and educational facilities. Also included are security, public works, fire safety, cultural and art facilities and programs, and related matters.

Housing: This topic refers to the housing needs of both New Castle and the region. This includes housing choices and housing types needed to accommodate the needs of the current and future residents of the town including seniors, young households, workers, town employees and volunteers, and others in the region searching for suitable housing.

—following the same lines of questioning:

What’s good now?
What do you like?
What should be maintained?

What’s not working?
What do you dislike?
What needs to be changed?

What are some strategies to overcome what’s not working?
What new things can we do to make it better?
What opportunities are there?
Where can we make these opportunities happen?

June 23, 2014—High School Students
[Editor’s Note: This session at HGHS had only four participants, but as the only non-adult age group they offer an interesting perspective.]

What’s working now? What should be maintained? Positive:


Commercial Development
• Small businesses are good
• Hall of Scoops is a good thing
• Sherry B’s, Susan Lawrence and Starbucks are good

Environment & Habitat
• The environment-trees, parks fields

Public Works & Infrastructure
• No comments.

Public Services & Recreation
• Good schools-lots of opportunities (classes/diversity/advanced classes-good prep
for state exams)
• Safe community
• Community is a place people want to be
• Easy back streets to run on (safe)
• Chappaqua Library is the best!

Housing
• No comments.

What’s not working? Issues:


Commercial Development
• Most kids go to Mt. Kisco (shopping, movies, etc.). No one hangs out in Chappaqua
• Chappaqua Crossing we don’t need all that retail-cause more issues with traffic and
noise
• People have a lot of $ and do things out of Town.
• Need more restaurants (high end-like Stonebarns Bluehill)
• No one goes to Chappaqua (hamlet) to spend money, it’s too expensive
• Sherry B’s desserts are too small
• Chappaqua is a “grab and go” town, not like Mt. Kisco where you can walk around
• Concerns about impacts on economy

Environment & Habitat
• No comments.

Public Works & Infrastructure
• Need more sidewalks
• Need secondary access for High School
• Riding the bus takes too long to go from 7 bridges to the school, it’s slow and the
traffic is inconvenient, no one is on it.

Public Services & Recreation
• Drugs and Drinking
• School entry points (too many of them)
• Parks (not that accessible)
• The only reason people come to our town is for the schools and the housing and
once their kids are done with school they leave.
• Taxes are too high-budget cuts affect the students, take away recreation, arts, music,
child study, field trips
• Community invests in sports because there are no art programs
• The new ILAB- money should have been spent to do other things- taking away the
hallway was a mistake, it’s only open to 3 classes at a time
• There is no student voice in the town/school budget
• We need a pool +/-
• Facilities for sports are far away can’t have volleyball tournaments in HS ceiling is
too low.
• People with a stake in local government are older and have been here a long time
• Decisions made behind closed doors.
• Town (Chappaqua) is more appropriate for 5th/6th graders

Housing
• Kids who finish college don’t want to come back because taxes are too high
• Affordable housing is bad for the tax base

Strategies:


Commercial Development
• Encourage people to spend more $ here

Environment & Habitat
• No comments.

Public Works & Infrastructure
• No comments.

Public Services & Recreation
• To solve problem of families leaving after graduation create more recreation
• Change Town meetings to be earlier 6:00/6:30
• Make Town Hall meetings more inviting- no suits, more casual, no lecturing more of
a discussion, use technology better, just talk about the issues, have refreshments,
etc. 

Housing
• Millwood good for more housing
• Develop more condos that would be a good thing
• Lower taxes

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