A Public Hearing held by the Comprehensive Plan Committee of the Village of Croton on Hudson was held on September 30, 2002 at the Municipal Building, One Van Wyck Street, Croton on Hudson, NY 10520.
Ann Gallelli, Chair of the Comprehensive Plan Committee, opened the Public Hearing at 8:00 pm. She introduced herself and the other members of the Committee, Kurt Carlson, Justin Casson, Paul Doyle, and Roger Solymosy to the attendees. She also introduced Paul Buckhurst and Elana Vatsky of Buckhurst Fish & Jacquemart, the consultants to the project.
Ms. Gallelli gave a short introduction. She thanked the audience for attending and explained that the public hearing was being televised live. She went on to say that the meeting was public noticed in the Gazette and the Journal News, there was a press release and an advertisement in the Gazette. Copies of the draft plan are available at the Village Offices and the Croton Free Library and available on line on the Village Web Site.
Ms. Gallelli gave some background on the process of developing this plan. The draft plan was developed over a period of two years. During this period of time the committee held three public input workshops focusing on specific topics, they developed and sent out a residential survey that was responded to by 26% of the Village. The committee has had several workshops with the Planning Board and the Village Board and have gone through a number of drafts of this plan. This is still a draft document, a work in progress, since this committee is not an official board of the village government; the committee is compelled to hold its own public hearing. Following this hearing, the committee will consider incorporating comments heard tonight, as appropriate, or any written comments
received within the next two weeks and send the draft plan and the incorporated comments to the Village Board of Trustees. The Village Board has certain steps it must take by law. The Board must declare itself lead agency according to state environmental quality review law, there is then a time clock running where the Board must hold its own Public Hearing which will give the public another chance to express its views on the document. After that, the Village Board will adopt the plan. Essentially this plan is similar to the earlier Master Plan of 1977 which viewed the Village as a community of residential neighborhoods. Conditions have changed since 1977 when the village was largely undeveloped but the essential concepts are the same that Croton is a residential area, a community of neighborhoods. This plan emphasizes this as well and reaches for ways to improve the residential community. A comprehensive plan is a land-use document.
Under NYS law Villages are supposed to have a comprehensive plan. It outlines the way land use decisions are made. Once the plan is adopted, zoning regulations and the village code are supposed to follow from the guidelines in the plan. Once this plan is adopted, the village will have to undertake a second step to look at the Village Code and revise and amend it to be consistent with the adopted plan.
She went on to explain that tonight there will be a short presentation by Paul Buckhurst and Elana Vatsky who will outline the key recommendations in this document. Following that, the members will listen to residents’ comments.
2. Power Point Presentation
Paul Buckhurst and Elana Vatsky gave a power point presentation on the key recommendations of the plan:
The overall vision of the plan is to preserve the Village’s traditional qualities and to strengthen its assets. The plan’s recommendations are divided into the following sections: commercial districts, natural resources, transportation, residential neighborhoods, and community services and facilities.
The commercial districts are divided into five areas: the Upper Village, Municipal Place/Croton Commons, North Riverside, Harmon/South Riverside, and the North End Office District. The Municipal Place/Croton Commons area, Harmon South Riverside section and the North End Office District are considered gateways to the Village.
The recommendations for the Upper Village are as follows: extend streetscape improvements, place overhead utility lines underground, made façade improvements, and attempt to create additional parking.
The recommendations for Municipal Place include redeveloping the Katz property with mixed uses including an arts/community center and improve the pedestrian network in this area.
The recommendations for the Harmon/South Riverside area include the burying of utility lines, reduction of curb cuts, screening of parking lots, and the addition of bicycle lanes to the train station.
The recommendations for the North End district include improved landscaping, sidewalk improvements, and the use of stone walls to coordinate with some of the residential homes in this area.
The recommendations for natural resources included expanding the objectives outlined by the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, protecting the Village’s natural resources, enhancing trails and links, improving waterfront access, and proceeding with the new Waterfront Park.
The recommendations concerning transportation were as follows: improve sidewalk and pedestrian networks, implement traffic calming and congestion mitigation measures, and improve access to public transportation.
The residential neighborhood section was divided into five key areas: architectural and historic heritage, architectural standards/housing scale, home occupations, off-street parking requirements, and affordable housing.
Preserve Architectural and Historic Heritage
The recommendations for this area included: developing criteria for identifying significant homes and buildings, establishing a current list of historic and architectural resources, and developing guidelines for renovating/maintaining properties to preserve historic and architectural value.
Architectural Standards/Housing Scale
The recommendations for this area included: setting architectural standards for exterior building design, creating design guidelines for building size, materials, ornamentation, fencing, walkways, and landscaping, and developing bulk controls for housing such as floor area ratio standards, lot coverage percentages, and setback requirements.
The plan recommends revising home occupation regulations to protect quality of residential neighborhoods. The regulations would develop standards for business-related traffic volumes, parking coverage and parking of commercial vehicles, signage, exterior alterations to the home, number of on-site employees, and permitted equipment.
Off-Street Parking Requirements
Off-street parking requirements should include regulations restricting the storing of boats in front yards and the prohibition on storage of large-scale construction equipment on residential lots.
Recommendations for affordable housing included identifying the population and income groups in need of housing support, developing an inventory of living conditions and existing rental stock, continuing to explore affordable housing opportunities such as new construction, adaptive re-use, density bonuses, village or developer-dedicated land.
Community Facilities and Services
Recommendations included the creation of a community center at Municipal Place, continuing capital improvements to water and sewer systems, the maintenance of Village parks, and the expansion of recreational facilities.
3. Public Comments
Doug Wehrle – 84 Old Post Road South. Mr. Wherle would like the plan to be more specific in its recommendations. However, where the plan did make certain specific recommendations, he doesn’t necessarily agree that these are priorities. The recommendations regarding traffic calming and neck downs used certain streets as examples and he doesn’t feel they are necessarily the streets where safety is an issue. His major concerns for traffic calming would be Route 129 through the Village, Cleveland Drive, Truesdale, and Old Post Road North. His major concerns are pedestrian access, sidewalks, safety and the ability for adults and children to access village facilities safely. There should be a crosswalk from the opposite side of Cleveland Drive
leading to the Croton Free Library. The sidewalks along Cleveland Drive are horrendous, there black asphalt sidewalks, black asphalt curbs, no buffer zone, next to a black asphalt road. This is the kind of specificity he would like to see addressed.
His vision of the Upper Village is to use the rental space for retail, not for warehouse space. The Village needs a vision for its retail areas. He would like to see more retail shops such as The Blue Pig which puts people on the street.
John Philips – 149 Maple Street. He just moved into the area. His recommendation for a creative parking solution would be to look at the parking area behind the Holy Name of Mary Church. Since that area is below street level, perhaps a two-story structure could be built. He is wondering if anyone has done a parking study in the Upper Village to see if additional parking is really needed.
His next point concerned Municipal Place. Coming off the exit for 129 going up Municipal Place there is a wonderful vista and a terrible architectural atrocity of CVS. This does not seem to be addressed in the Plan. One of his suggestions would be to take the Post Office and put it on the street side with the parking in the back. He agrees with Mr. Wehrle on the danger of limited specificity. He doesn’t think the few specific recommendations should become the Village’s priorities. He doesn’t think that all the issues have been researched as much as they should have been. His questions to the Committee were what is the time frame for the plan and what is the priorities of the committee members.
John Karpoff – Sunset Drive. – He congratulated the committee on a great job and the amount of time they have put into it in the last two years. He agrees with the focus on the riverfront – the views of the Hudson River and the beauty of the Croton River need to be preserved. He is the owner of a Sears house – it is listed nationally. He has a concern about maintaining the architectural integrity of the neighborhoods – in particular in the Harmon area where there are older houses. He is concerned with maintaining the house to house and house to lot ratios. There have been a lot of teardowns and a lot of large houses being built on very small lots. He is concerned that the setbacks and side lots and the coverage be dealt with
when the zoning changes occur. As a resident he recognizes his responsibility to maintain his sidewalks and hopes that the Village will continue assisting residents to pay for major reconstruction of sidewalks. His concern is that trees create most of the damage to the sidewalks and they are village trees. Concerning affordable housing – he is one of the few people in town with a legally approved accessory apartment – it is something for a contingency for his retirement planning – would like to be ensured that it will continue to be approved in the long term. He would like to know what the Village is looking at long term for accessory apartments as part of their affordable housing mix.
Jon Goplerud. – Finney Farm Road, Chair of Conservation Advisory Counsel. His comments are on behalf of the CAC. He would like to extend his appreciation to the Committee in persevering in putting together an excellent progressive study. When the Master Plan of 1977 was originally written – one of its main guiding objectives was that the waterfront should be accessible to village residents. In the last 25 years the Village has put in place a wetlands watercourse law, erosion sediment control law, local waterfront revitalization programs, a trailway master plan, open space inventory, and greenway vision plan. These plans were put in place to protect the Village’s open space resources. This document reflects the need to protect the Village’s natural environment and the committee should be commended for that.
The CAC has a couple of thoughts it would like the committee to consider. In the recommendation section he would like to see added the preservation of the Croton River Gorge. This was a recommendation included in the 1977 Master Plan. Another measure he would like to see included for the Croton Gorge is scenic easements on private lands as well as Village lands which would prohibit the felling of trees as well as the clearing of land. The committee may want to consider adding as an objective preserving the viewshed of the Croton Gorge from the Dam to the estuary. It is also important to look for compacts with other municipalities who own the land on the other side of the Croton River to continue the protection along this area.
Another recommendation he would like to see added is the preservation and improvement of the biodiversity of the Croton Gorge - one of the goals to consider would be to undertake a study to better understand the biodiversity of this area.
The Croton River Bay – the Estuary – is another special segment within the Croton River. He would like to see added to the plan the objective of continuing to remove the railroad ties from the Estuary– unless the Hudsonia Report advises against it. He would also like to suggest that a biodiversity study be undertake in the estuary as well.
The canoe launch area should be expanded to include the salt shed area as well. If another area can be found for the salt shed that area could become a canoe and kayak storage area.
The residential survey identified the protection of the natural environment as the number one objective and the 4th and 5th were to providing park areas along the waterfront and to improving the access to the waterfront. Page 72 in the plan discusses the four plans in the Feasibility Study for developing Croton Landing and the preferred alternative. The preferred alternative as described in the Feasibility Study recommends maintaining the park as flexible open space which would include trails, picnic areas, boat launch, jogging, and walking and things of that nature. The CAC strongly objects to the inclusion of the last paragraph point in this section which refers to future development options including a restaurant and a small marina. Those suggestions have to do with options
B and C in the feasibility study and were not part of the preferred alternative. The CAC would like that paragraph to be taken out. On page 102 – still concerning the waterfront park - this paragraph notes that there was a preferred alternative but that this plan (the Comprehensive Plan) recommends a creative mix of uses that could be employed by the broadest segment of community. He thinks this could imply a commercial use and is not in keeping with the preferred alternative of passive open space. He would prefer the term creative passive recreational uses or creative open space uses.
He would like to see the Village undertake a tree study of the Village to better manage the trees and to understand their life cycle. He also wants to mention that the CAC is currently working on a tree walk guide – one of the recommendations mentioned in the plan.
The CAC views the FARs and architectural reviews as being directionally correct in striking a balance between the natural environment and the man made elements.
He would like to suggest that a recommendation be added that would rezone Croton Point Park to PRE 1.
With respect to parks, he thinks the Village needs to develop a plan for the parks. The Duck Pond Park and Black Rock Park need a plan to make then more user friendly. They need landscaping design.
In terms of scenic views – perhaps there could be a recommendation to cut down some of the trees along Route 9 approximately 1 mile north of the Senasqua Road Exit in order to enhance the views of Haverstraw Bay.
With respect to the Gateway areas, the train station and its parking lot should have been added as part of the Harmon Gateway district. Some consideration should be made to make the train station more inviting and functional.
The plan should also more strongly encourage the use of bicycles throughout the village by recommending more bicycle paths and more bicycle racks throughout the Village.
Another recommendation would be to encourage energy conservation by the Village and its residents and to encourage the use of solar energy.
Chairman Gallelli closed the meeting by thanking everyone for attending. All the comments will be taken into consideration and be forwarded to the Village Board. The Village Board will hold its own Public Hearing once the plan is transmitted. She stated again that this plan is a land use document which will result in changes and revisions to the Village Code. The plan could not attempt many specific recommendations because most of these recommendations would have required specific studies to be undertaken.
The Public Hearing was closed at 9:15 pm.
Janine King, Secretary
Ann Gallelli, Chair