OneNightOnlyEdgemont residents who were disappointed when they saw that the second draft of the Town’s comprehensive plan hadn’t changed much from the draft they objected to in droves a year ago had better show up Tuesday for the Steering Committee’s final public hearing.

That’s because steering committee members said today they don’t plan on holding any more hearings after Tuesday — before voting to recommend the plan for the Town Board to adopt.  The Town Board will eventually conduct its own hearings.

The Steering Committee is planning two public hearings at Town Hall on Tuesday, one in the afternoon between 1 and 4 p.m. and the second, in the evening, between 7 and 10 p.m.  If residents are unable to speak within either of those limited time frames, committee members said they will let the hearing continue Tuesday until everyone who shows up speak has spoken, no matter how late the hour may be, but what they will not do, they said, is continue the hearing for another day.

The committee’s actions today are likely to anger even further those in Edgemont who are planning to come out to speak at Tuesday’s hearing in opposition to the latest draft plan,  The concern is that with so many wanting to speak, many will likely be unable to stay late because of family and work obligations.

The message from steering committee members today though is “too bad, if you leave, and don’t speak, you won’t be heard.”  Committee members said they would instead “keep the record open” for a period of time for residents who wanted to speak but didn’t get a chance to submit their comments in writing.

The committee’s actions, taken at their regularly scheduled Friday morning meeting, seemed to reflect the view that it doesn’t really matter what residents opposed to the plan might say Tuesday — committee members who support the plan in its current form greatly outnumber those on the committee who don’t, and they plan to approve the plan and send it on to the Town Board for its approval no matter how many Edgemont residents show up Tuesday in opposition and no matter what those residents may say.

Edgemont residents are expected to oppose the plan, as they did last year, because it calls for the creation of three “nodes” — two on Central and one near the Hartsdale Train Station — in which the Town would encourage the construction of hundreds of multifamily housing units to be built on top of retail stores.  Existing zoning does not allow new multifamily housing to be built on top of retail stores.

Edgemont residents say they fear the comprehensive plan’s emphasis on encouraging the immediate development of additional multifamily housing in Edgemont — where one third of its current housing stock is already multifamily housing — would result in the nation’s top rated school district becoming unaffordable and unable to continue to maintain the quality of an Edgemont education.

If the comprehensive plan steering committee has its way, zoning along Central would be changed to allow for the creation of “nodes” at the intersection of Ardsley Road and Central, and along Central in the vicinity of Mt. Joy and Henry  Streets where developers would be encouraged to build multi-use structures with retail on the ground floor and three or four stories of apartments on the upper floors.  The new buildings would also likely be built to the sidewalk along Central, thus creating an “urban” feel.

The same set of parameters would also apply to the area near the Hartsdale Train Station between Old Colony Road and Pipeline, where a commercial office building and large parking lot current exist.

The steering committee says if the “nodes” become part of the plan, they would recommend that Central Avenue then be rezoned  to bar the development of any future multifamily housing along other parts of the street.

The ECC opposes the plan and has called on Edgemont residents to attend the hearing Tuesday to register their opposition.

ECC president Bob Bernstein has said that the proposed plan for Edgemont is not about opposition to multifamily housing and said the steering committee’s offer to bar the development of multifamily housing outside of the “nodes” is like offering “ice in the winter” because the mixed use zoning that’s already been in place for the past 40 years along Central Avenue has succeeded in creating the right balance of residential, retail and office building use.

“The zoning that has been in place in the Edgemont School District for the past 40 years has already resulted in one third of Edgemont’s entire housing stock now consisting of multifamily housing. That translates to more than 900 apartments, many of which qualify as workforce housing, and they make Edgemont one of Greenburgh’s more ethnically and economically diverse sections of unincorporated Greenburgh, with more than 20% of our school children coming from multifamily housing,” Mr. Bernstein said.

“The Town’s plan, however, risks upsetting that delicate balance by encouraging the immediate development of hundreds more such apartments in an already highly congested area, which will burden existing infrastructure and have dire short and long term consequences economically,” Mr. Bernstein said.

“The ECC would prefer instead that the Town modernize the zoning code along Central not to eliminate multifamily housing that is already there, or to prevent new multifamily housing from being built, but rather to further enhance the district’s ability to attract a better mix of up to date retail and office uses,” he added.

Steering committee members, however, are unlikely to be persuaded by what Edgemont says and a majority is expected to vote to recommend that the plan be adopted by the Town Board.  All they need to do is have the public hearing on Tuesday be declared over and any subsequent “waiting period” for written comments be deemed expired.

A minority of steering committee members does appear to be opposed to the plan, or at least to some of its recommendations and there is talk about the possibility of a minority report being prepared.

However, those opposed to the plan’s recommendations, including Ella Preiser, a resident of the North Elmsford section of Town, and the only “community representative” on the panel, would have to do the work entirely on their own and, unlike the majority, cannot count on town staff to assist in the drafting of any such dissent.

Discussion at today’s meeting dealt not with the ‘nodes’ so much as the so-called “charrette” process by which the steering committee majority thinks impacted residents will get together informally with developers and town officials in “visioning” sessions to get community buy-in to major zoning changes for the “nodes” before such zone changes are adopted.

Opponents of the “charrette” concept point out that while there are legally recognized processes in New York for community participation in zone changes under the SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) process, there are no laws in New York even recognizing “charrettes” much less outlining how they would work.

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