Planning board tucks into 1989 town development plan with an eye to revision and participation
Members choose their five-ish top priorities for the future
March 16, 2012
by Christine Yeres
Writing 23 years ago, the group of New Castle residents charged with producing a Town Development Plan stated their purpose for revising a document first published in 1928 (then in 1958 and 1968): So that “the most desirable development of New Castle as now foreseen can take place.”
The Town Development Plan, they wrote, is “a fundamental tool for guiding town development over the next several years. It should not be thought of as a rigid blueprint, but rather as a general guide to the town’s growth. The proposals of the town plan do not have the authority of law or regulation; instead, they are broadly based recommendations for future development and improvement in New Castle over a long period of time.”
At the request of the town board, the planning board has now tucked into the town development plan. In a March 6 planning board meeting, each member came away with his or her top five-or-so priorities for updating it—and wondered aloud to one another about they could engage residents in the process.
Richard Brownell, Chairman
Create a more sustainable future: greenness, more open space, postpone expansion of trail network until we have more money to maintain it. [The bulleted points interspersed among Brownell’s comments are items from a list compiled by out-going Town Planner David Brito to which Brownell referred by number in his comments.]
• Upgrade energy efficiency of municipal buildings, and encourage energy efficiency upgrades to private residences and commercial properties.
• Identify ways to encourage green infrastructure development throughout the town. This includes low impact development strategies, native landscaping.
• Incorporate other recommandations from CAP and from the Sustainability Advisory Board.
Character: Improve the character of the business district, make hamlets more sustainable, may have to change some zoning to make it more sustainable.
• Improve character of the business districts. This includes municipal investments in the streetscape. It can also include developing a set of recommendations or gudielines for commercial buildings, e.g., guidelines concerning architectural character, lighting, signs.
• Make New Castle a more walkable community, including expanding the sidewalk network in Chappaqua and Millwood.
• Incorporate recommendations from the study of Millwood by Project for Public Spaces.
Zoning: Important because it’s a fundamental piece of a development plan.
• Update the town’s zoning to reflect preferred future development patterns, to simplify the application process where appropriate.
• Update Millwood Design Guidelines LINK and create design standards for Chappaqua.
• Plan for future reuse of big parcels in town that may one day discontinue their current uses—camps, golf courses, etc.
Increase housing diversity: Encourage affordable, more diversity in housing stock, housing for empty nesters and seniors, transit-oriented. Look at zoning, reflect preferred future development in the new plan.
Increase commercial tax base: Character, parking, traffic, zoning; share resources
• Diversify the tax base to include more commercial tax revenue.
• [Repeated under “Character,” above:] Improve the character of the business districts. This includes municipal investments in the streetscape. It can also include developing a set of recommendations or gudielines for commercial buildings, e.g., guidelines concerning architectural character, lighting, signs.
• Assess adequacy of parking supply in the business districts, both for current development patterns and for future development patterns.
• Update traffic studies of both hamlets, taking into account potential future development patterns.
And possible changes to our zoning to accomplish a reasonable measure of the above.
“A community is developed over the years as the result of hundreds of individual and group decisions to buy land, subdivide land and build houses; decisions to locate and construct new businesses; and decisions by community officials to improve and create new public facilities. Whether all these decisions made separately and over a relatively long period of time will add up to a convenient and attractive community depends on how well they are related to the community’s objectives as expressed through a well-considered development plan.” ~ 1989 TDP, Intro
I was interested in process. We should look through the previous plan to see what were the goals, were they accomplished, are we on the right track? Do we want to redirect some of these goals?
Look for new conditions in the town, situations that weren’t considered back then and see how to work those into the process.
Brownell: “The approach we have for municipal buildings to be more sustainable?”
Schuerman: Yes, perhaps communications. How people communicate, how they get around town, how they get ideas around town. See what conditions and situations are different.
Look for new regulations at all the various levels of government that might impact what we said in the original town development plan.
Think of new conditions related to Homeland Security and any regulations that come along with that.
Another process: Boundary planning with adjacent towns. Somehow work into the process “How do we work with our neighbors to share all kinds of services across the boundaries?”
Update the overall resource index.
“In order to remain valid, the Town Development Plan must be open to refinement and improvement, where and when necessary, to reflect new conditions and problems, or to take account of changing goals and policies. However, the Town Plan should be modified only after thorough study indicates that such changes are in New Castle’s long-range interest. A continuing planning program should be maintained so that the Town Plan can be of continuing value in guiding the community’s growth in an orderly and satisfactory manner. Such a planning program is one key to the successful implementation of the Town Plan.” ~ 1989 TDP, Intro
I was thinking in a more “granular” way. I would add to that list one big macro, though: What kind of public participation there would be in setting the community-wide goals and objectives, so that it wouldn’t all come from here or whatever committee might be set up. Some sort of public forum.
We’ve heard a lot of different ways to do that in workshops we attended.
How it might be organized
Brownell: We would want a planning board member or two on the committee that would sponsor and move this forward, regular updates from members to the larger planning board, and information shared with the whole community.
Crespi: That’s not what I had in mind. I was thinking about how we gather input as to what is important to the community.
Brownell: That could be done by sharing information here in planning board meetings.
David Brito: You were thinking more about how to gather input from hundreds of people? Through visioning?
Crespi: Yes, then embodied in a report. Perhaps a survey, an online survey.
Brito: I think a mix of all those. Once the committee is formed, the committee will take it a couple of steps forward. At that point you want to have the larger visioning sessions and the surveys to focus on specific issues. It should all be part of the toolbox.
Crespi: So, to be more granular now: Parking in the hamlet is an issue, the old fire station, and in any infill of stores in parking areas parking may become an issue there too.
Business development in the Chappaqua hamlet; I haven’t heard the same kinds of concerns about lack of diversity in Millwood [businesses] as I have in Chappaqua. A chamber of commerce or zoning.
Brito: People may be disappointed about D’Agostino [supermarket] leaving or by having too many nail salons. Maybe put some zoning tools in place? Something that even states your goals, stating “This is what we envision for our community.”
Brownell: You can’t force it, but maybe reward it. Otherwise people will say “You’re taking my value away.”
Crespi: Perhaps a moratorium on certain businesses. We said at the time we should look at other towns. Other issues are flooding and flood relief; recreation facilities and an inventory of fields, what would be ideal for the population, amount of use, number of teams, playgrounds. There aren’t many playgrounds here—no swings, slides.
A rec center for teens, the library. Another area is cooperation and planning with the school district. We’ve seen ideas on their side and on the town side go awry. The trailway between the firehouse and Westorchard is an example. Or the drive-through from the Bell School entrance on Senter Street back to South Greeley Avenue. We recommended it and they were not in favor of it. Things like that. Our planning goals could be in sync between the town and schools.
Also cell towers, explaining federal mandates that local municipalities have to operate under. Cell tower design and whether we can express a preference for monopoles.
Les Steinman [counsel to the planning board]: One of the mandates of the state is to specify a renewal date for your town development plan.
Crespi: We had a workshop on master plans. There was still no timeframe for when it becomes stale. You need to update them before someone says “You can’t refer back to it; it’s too old.” We would need to take those parts [of a new TDP] that become out of date and change them. Updates are very important.
A town development plan “sets forth a future development policy for the town. It presents an up-to-date set of guidelines on which to base New Castle’s future development, guidelines that are related to present conditions and the anticipated nature of future development pressures, taking into account the pertinent changes in such matters as land use, the environment, demography, fiscal conditions and legislation that have been underway since the last comprehensive update of the Town Plan was completed in 1968.” ~ 1989 TDP, Intro
I think we need to understand the demographics of the town. People are living longer. Maybe we need to expand the senior center to other locations. And if there are fewer children being born into the community, how will that impact it? It’s starting to impact the school district. Do you really need two middle schools if the population starts to decrease? Should we be looking at Bell school in terms of a different use? Residential or commercial.
Steinman: You have to be careful about respecting other jurisdictions.
Brownell: In the last plan, that was part of what was looked at: the changing demographic in school children.
Curran: I’d like to see more cooperation among surrounding towns, with county and state, a better understanding of potential revenue streams that could come from those. We look at them as sucking resources from us, but what could we gain from them that we could share?
Another subject is sewer implications for Millwood, how to tap into some of those projects that are now being funded by the county. And storm water: If crazy weather continues or increases, how many times are we going to have the 100-year flood? The town—especially here in Chappaqua—will have to do things to the infrastructure. We need to think about how that will impact the community.
I’m a big proponent of sidewalks. That will start to play out. As people start to age they like to walk. Not only here in the east but in the west end of town—county trailway, for example, which goes to my point about cooperation [with the county].
I’m a firm believer in making our downtowns more pedestrian-friendly. Outdoor dining is very attractive to people. How might we be able to improve outdoor dining here and in Millwood—as opposed to some of these nail salons, although ultimately, I know, it’s a matter of supply and demand.
Brownell: It’s a complicated thing. If the demand is there, these places will come.
Crespi: The infrastructure point: Think about a timeline for what needs to be done: short term, water line replacement, for example, and a five-year and ten-year plan that takes into account the useable lifespan, what you’re going to need to do. Other public works too.
Brownell: Make that one of the requirements of the development plan: Every five or ten years, for example, you could review the waterlines. You’d have the opportunity to say “This parcel or that parcel doesn’t have the infrastructure” wouldn’t have to be done in the development plan, but in the review, where you could say “Well, we should change direction here.” We’d be taking a snapshot now, and would build in a schedule for revision.