Government

Tarrytown Waterfront Zoning Woes and Misunderstandings

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by W.B. King – 

In November, Tarrytown’s Planning Board received a proposal from a developer calling for a hotel, marina and residential complex on the waterfront causing considerable outcry from concerned residents. A few weeks later, the Board of Trustees held a public hearing on the contested issue, which was attended by droves of nonplussed locals.

Tarrytown Village Administer Richard Slingerland said there have been misconceptions about possible changes to zoning laws as well as the aforementioned proposal submitted by the YZK Development Group.

“The village has no agreement with this developer, and we did not solicit this proposal from them,” said Slingerland. “We informed them that any proposal for property they were under contract for at the Tarrytown Boat Club that sought to include village owned-land was not only premature but would also require authorization from the Board of Trustees. And they do not have that approval.”

David Aukland, who serves on Tarrytown’s Planning Board, explained that YZK Development Group’s proposal was in response to a rezoning effort that began more than five years ago and is referred to as the Station Area Overlay District (SAO). The SAO includes four parcels on the waterfront. Two are owned by the village and two are owned by the Tarrytown Boat Club.

“The rezoning effort emerged from station area revitalization work Joan Raiselis and I started in 2014,” Aukland said in reference to his fellow board member. “It crystallized late last year into the performance-based approach currently before the Board of Trustees. The board opened the public hearing on the zoning code last week, and will field further questions in January. No date is fixed for the vote, which will depend on what issues surface out of the public hearing.”

YZK Development Group couldn’t be reached for comment. During the November Planning Board meeting, David Steinmetz of the White Plains-based law firm Zarin & Steinmetz, who represents the Tarrytown Boat Club, said the sale of the boat club and its marina to YZK was imminent. He added that the proposed development would fall in line with the SAO plans the village is considering.

Residential Concerns Mounting

The Board of Trustees fielded numerous questions from concerned residents and business owners ranging from environmental impacts, viewshed issues and the ability for residents, visitors and emergency vehicles to safely and easily access the waterfront area. Many locals said the antiquated H-Bridge, which straddles the train tracks, won’t be able to handle traffic patterns resulting from a significant influx of new residents and businesses.

“With the overlay and comprehensive plan something is going to get done. We just need to figure out what is going to be the best for our village and residents. There are a lot of ‘ifs,’ but there is nothing truly definitive, and I don’t hear anyone speaking about traffic patterns,” said Tarrytown resident, and owner of Coffee Labs, Mike Love.

“We have Sleepy Hollow [construction] going on and everyone wants this development—they want shopping, they want a new hotel, they want a marina. Great—that’s all fine. I’m a business owner and am all about making money, but you are going to take away from businesses on Main Street, and even more so, how will people get around? You can’t widen Broadway or Main Street—where are these people going to go?” Love stated.

Aukland said traffic impacts are always a “priority consideration” no matter the size of a proposal.

“For the station area, traffic is an element in the proposed new zoning code, and any new application will certainly be scrutinized for emergency and regular traffic needs, as is required under established approval procedures,” he said.

As for viewshed concerns related to YZK’s proposal, which was purported to include building heights of 10 stories, Aukland said the Planning Board has yet to officially review YZK’s proposed development.

“The zoning does include constraints on height and viewsheds, which would no doubt play in any review of YZK’s proposal,” he said. “At the initial public hearing on the code, residents’ questions showed substantial misperception of what would be permitted. The new code is aimed at preserving assets such as views, not blotting them out.”

A Novel Approach to Zoning

Raiselis explained that this all-important public hearing/comment period is part of the New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) process, which allows the board to “evaluate and modify the zoning proposal in response to the comments heard.” She added that Tarrytown’s SAO zoning initiative is the first of its kind in the state.

“Our consultant, George Janes, is helping us form the new zoning code, which is an overlay to existing code. I believe there are examples in California, and that New York City is considering the approach,” said Raiselis. “The aim is to enable developers to propose creative ideas for the station area, recognizing that they will likely be more aware than the village team of appropriate best practices.”

Raiselis said that since “zoning speak” can sometimes be confusing, the board will write a preamble to each section of the SAO in layman’s terms that clearly states the purpose of the section.

“The current public hearing is still open and there will be one or two, I would think, further opportunities for the public to comment on the proposed code, even as and after new modifications are made,” she said.

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