by Elaine Marranzano –
The Sleepy Hollow Board of Trustees has proposed a novel zoning tactic that gives it power to make zoning changes on village-owned property in the inner village. Zoning variances are typically made by the Zoning Board of Appeals. While opponents call the move a “power grab,” the board views the proposed legislation as an expedient way to spark redevelopment of underutilized municipal properties.
“Our goal is to make these properties more desirable to a developer by specifying we are interested in granting certain variances while making sure the village gets what it wants in return,” said Village Administrator Anthony Giaccio.
Under the proposed Strategic Property Redevelopment Floating Zone, the trustees will have the flexibility to offer certain incentives to developers in exchange for benefits, such as the creation of affordable housing, improvements to village parks, streetscapes or roads.
For example, trustees may approve a building that is 20 percent higher than current code dictates if a developer agrees to construct a road to the east parcel of the Edge on Hudson development.
“The Zoning Board would never negotiate that deal,” said Giaccio.
One property in question is 193 Beekman Avenue. Purchased by the village for about $800,000, the former UAW building was a possible new location for Sleepy Hollow’s building department until renovation costs proved prohibitive. After trying unsuccessfully for a year to get developers interested in buying the building, the village hopes the incentives in the proposed floating zone, such as allowing a rooftop restaurant, will do the trick.
“This is a good approach for Sleepy Hollow,” said John Nolon, Law Professor and Counsel to the Land Use Law Center at Pace Law School. “Use variances under state law are almost impossible to get from a Zoning Board. They are rigid when what you need is a flexible approach.”
There has been some public backlash to the legislation, which was opened for public hearings on November 12.
“Giving Sleepy Hollow Board of Trustees a free hand to rezone the village-owned properties to whatever they want is undemocratic,” remarked Sleepy Hollow resident Haya Adner.
According to the draft proposal, only changes consistent with the Village’s Comprehensive Plan and Local Waterfront Revitalization Program will be considered and may include building size variances, nonresidential uses on upper floors and reduced parking requirements. Public hearings and planning board participation are still required.
“There will be opportunity for a lot of public input on this,” said Mayor Ken Wray. “We are being very cautious and are looking to test this concept at 193 Beekman.”
Public hearings on the matter remain open until at least January 14.