New Castle First Quarter Under Review
Town Supervisor, New CastleI have said it again and again: it is truly an honor to serve the citizens of New Castle. From the start, I have believed that your Town Supervisor should be guided by rights and obligations. The rights of the community to be heard and to be informed are critical to a responsive Town Government. And we must always be conscious of our obligations to listen and communicate effectively as we work to address current concerns and problems while at the same time improving our Town and planning for the future. I also recognize that while town-wide issues are my focus, no individual matter is too small for a responsive town government. I welcome those opportunities for more personal contact with residents. As we look ahead, there remains much work to be done, and I will continue to work hard for the entire community. It is my pleasure, then, as Supervisor to provide a quarterly report – 1st Quarter of 2017 – to the community about current Town projects and initiatives.
- Three Year Anniversary of eNewsletter!
- All Are Welcome Here
- 2016 Budget
- Downtown Infrastructure and Streetscape
- Arts & Culture Committee
- Final Draft 2017 Comprehensive Plan
- Chappaqua Crossing & Whole Foods
- Distracted Driving
- Town Hall Basketball Court / Playground
- Millwood – 200 Year Anniversary
- Millwood Plaza (where DeCicco & Sons is)
- Millwood – Sewers
- Millwood Sidewalk Improvement Project
- Millwood Replica Train Station
- Millwood Community Garden
- Hunts Place
- Westchester Power Program
- New Castle Name Change – Town of Chappaqua
- Recreation & Parks Smoking Ban
- Be Seen
- Compact Car Parking
- Name change
- Inclusion & Diversity Committee
- Transgender Bathroom
- Clean Energy Community
- Architectural Review Board
- Mandate Committee
- Close Indian Point
- New Castle Youth Civics Action Committee (“YCA”)
- Emergency Preparedness Committee
- Exceptional People Committee
- Solar Installation Moratorium
- Keeping of Poultry
Three Year Anniversary of eNewsletter!
The eNewsletter just had its 3 year anniversary! The first eNewsletter was sent March 11, 2014! To date, 245 eNewsletters have been sent.
All Are Welcome Here
This banner hangs in the lobby of our Town Hall. I hope that the new banner will make our residents proud to be part of a community that celebrates diversity and the value of a diverse community. As the Town Board stated last November: We, as a Town Board, condemn any acts of unlawful discrimination, violence, and intimidation that target differences in national origin, race, sex, gender, religion, disability, or political viewpoint across our nation. Such acts run counter to the rights and freedoms upon which our country was founded and to the core values of the Town of New Castle. Like I said last month when we held the “We are all Immigrants” demonstration, we are a community that doesn’t just tolerate diversity, we embrace. We believe in highlighting the beauty and benefits of appreciating different backgrounds, interests and sexual orientations. We encourage respect and tolerance for those individual differences that enrich our community. It’s the reason we started the Inclusion & Diversity Committee last November. In the near future, we will be inviting our Chief of Police to a Town Board work session to discuss what, if anything, New Castle Police Department currently does re: immigration and suggest ways that the Town Board could reaffirm our policies. There is great value in reassuring residents and communicating our policies and practices.
Our 4th quarters number are in. Some are concerned that the Federal budget being proposed could have a negative local impact. The proposed Federal budget should have limited budgetary impact on us. We typically don’t get much in the way of Community Development Block Grants. Meals on Wheels (SNAP) reimbursement comes through the county (from the state) and comes in about $20,000 to $30,000 per year. Not a significant impact. Here are some final numbers from the 2016 Budget Information:
- Remained under the tax cap
- Average tax increase per household $20
- 3 of 4 major funds projected to have operating surpluses (General, Highway, Refuse)
- Total road paving near $1,000,000 again (3 year total $2.8MM, average of $946,938 per year (2014-2016)
- Building Permits +$500,501 (62.6%)
- Commuter Parking Fees +$146,197 (18.2%)
- Fines & Forfeited Bail +$134,848 (60.0%) – Distracted Driving
- Total Legal Fees decreased $91,885 over 2015.
Downtown Infrastructure and Streetscape
Our voluminous and intricate plans to remake our Downtown infrastructure and streetscape went out to bid. The construction drawings and details are over 200 pages in length and were sent to 727 vendors who could potentially bid to construct the project. This is a massive project which includes infrastructure such as sanitary sewer, storm sewer and water mains, as well as streetscape such as landscape, lighting, sidewalk, curbing and street characteristics. We expect to have bid responses within 4-5 weeks with construction starting in the Spring. Some work in the downtown will begin as early as March 2017, as Con Ed starts replacing gas mains. Filings for road improvements with NYSDOT was done on January 18. We are now responding to DOT comments. Lastly, we issued a Request for Proposals (“RFP”) to hire a professional construction management firm for this project. We interviewed three professional construction management firms. We chose one and we are now working on their contract. They will be leasing the former EZ Sports space to have a street presence. They will be the 24/7 liaison between the town, public and general contractor, as well as oversee quality control and contractual costs.
We want to ensure that our merchants are informed of the details of this construction project and address their concerns. The Town Board hosted a presentation for merchants regarding the technical aspects and details of the upcoming Infrastructure and Streetscape project. The Chappaqua-Millwood Chamber of Commerce is also hosting two presentations. The 2nd presentation will be on Friday, April 7th from 8:30 AM to 10:00, Le Jardin du Roi. The presentation is open to all but is geared towards the merchants and shops directly impacted by the project. Topics include project scope and completed project vision for Downtown; project sequencing and plans to minimize impact to merchants (night work vs. day work); the project liaison to merchants; construction manager set-up and location; and communication processes between the project manager and the merchants. We’re also working on a pre-construction merchant outreach survey. Our merchants can expect monthly project update emails, and we will be establishing a project hotline and email.
We will ensure that access is maintained to all storefronts. We also want to ensure that additional signage is provided to ensure visibility. We will also provide marketing support so that residents and visitors are encouraged to continue shopping during the construction period.
We are also committed to keeping residents informed and safe during construction. We understand construction can be a disruptive. That is why we’ve updated our Town website to keep residents and the community informed about our infrastructure and streetscape projects and share important notifications. Use these links to find out more about the project, and you can sign up for project updates:
Go to www.DowntownStrong.com to find out more about the project, and you can sign up for project updates:
- Construction Information
- Project Details
- Contact Information
- Activity History
- Documents and Reports
- Sign-up for Project Updates
Arts & Culture Committee
Lots of exciting Arts and Culture happenings in New Castle. The Town Board voted to change the name of the Wallace Auditorium to the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center. This will help bring us one step closer to our goal of making this venue the premier destination for arts and culture in northern Westchester. The Town Board also approved the appointment of John Fanelli of Lighthouse Youth Theater as our new theater manager. We interviewed many excellent candidates for this position and are thrilled that we were able to bring such a respected and successful artist like John to our community. John will be responsible for booking acts at the Performing Arts Center, as well as for managing the theater. John fully intends work with the some phenomenal promoters to bring high end art, theater, dance, comedy and other events to Chappaqua Performing Arts Center. The venue is already being put to great use. Through our recreation department, DramaBee is coming to town and bringing Broadway musicals to pre-school aged children. Our DramaBee performers will spend 9 weeks having fun learning a classic Broadway musical. At the end of the 9 weeks there is a show performed on “stage” in costume for family and friends! John will also be running a theater summer camp for older kids and teens this summer. Stay tuned for information on this amazing opportunity. I want to thank the Arts & Culture Committee for their hard work and dedication. I look forward to reporting on future events at the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center soon. In the meantime, join the Arts & Culture Facebook page for information on events at this fabulous amenity in our community!
Final Draft 2017 Comprehensive Plan
The Town Board is now working on the final draft of the 2017 Comprehensive Plan. This process has involved an unprecedented amount of community input. The desires, hopes and opinions about New Castle form the basis of the document. This document represents a real a collaborative community effort. The Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee met with the Planning Board, Environmental Review Board, Conservation Board, Beautification Advisory Board, Recreation Commission, Sustainability Advisory Board, Board of Architectural Review, Historical Society and the Landmarks Advisory Committee. We discussed the history of the plans development, as well as its contents, which include Comprehensive Plan goals that are found within each section as well as the Implementation Table. We also had a demonstration of the comp plan website, which is still under construction. This comp plan is intended to be a live document easily accessible on the web with links to other information status updates and more. This is a model for other communities to follow, and many communities have already reached out to us for guidance. I would encourage residents to check out the Town’s web site to learn about the Comprehensive Plan update. http://mynewcastle.org/master-plan/about-the-project/ We had a very productive joint work session with the Planning Board to discuss the Revised Final Draft 2017 Comprehensive Plan. The document was amended to reflect the feedback generated from that joint work session.
The public hearing is scheduled for April 18, 2017 at 7:45 p.m. Kevin Dwarka will be present on that day to discuss the environmental review and the EAF part 1 that was prepared and circulated with draft comp plan that was referred to the Westchester County Planning Board and the New Castle Planning Board. Please click this link to view the document.
Chappaqua Crossing & Whole Foods
I know many residents are concerned about the recent report that Whole Foods (“WF”) is closing some stores, and any potential impact on Chappaqua Crossing (“CC”). To date, WF is still committed to this project. Summit Greenfield (“SG”) has asked WF for three extensions. They’ve all been granted. Due the delay caused by NYC Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”), WF has pushed their store opening date to the Spring/Summer of 2018. SG anticipates completion of all core and shell work (which is essentially an empty building) to be completed in the 4th quarter of 2017 which would then allow tenants – such as WF – to start their individual store build outs. The rest of the stores – including Lifetime Fitness – are planned to open by the Fall of 2018. SG finally received their DEP approval. They now have all their approvals from the various regulatory agencies. Preparatory work has begun. One building (the “100 building”) is already being demolished. Some houses on Roaring Brook Road – which are owned by SG and on their property – will soon be demolished. Once construction starts, I will provide periodic construction updates to residents. We will be doing the same with our downtown infrastructure/streetscape project.
As part of the approval of retail at CC, SG was required to pay for improvements to the Horace Greeley High School entrance drive, estimated at $1,300,000. NYS Department of Education has approved the improvements. This work will be done this summer. Upon issuance of our building permit, SG will provide the Town with performance bonds on the infrastructure work, a cash deposit or bond for tree replacement, a huge building permit application fee, and the $1,500,000 million (60 days after the building permit issues) to help mitigate the impacts of their proposed development. When this mitigation measure was negotiated, it was earmarked for the Chap Line. However, our feasibility studied revealed a price tag of $10,000,000 – thanks to extensive wetlands that would require a 1.5 mile raised platform. Planning for contingencies, we negotiated language that gave the Town some flexibility in case the ChapLine could not be built for some reason (like a $10,000.000 price tag!). Although we don’t have a blank check, since we have maintained a positive working relationship with Summit Greenfield, I feel confident they will accommodate our requests to use the money as we see fit. My suggestions are:
- Economic analysis of the re-disposition of Town held property in downtown Chappaqua to meet the needs of millennium & seniors as stated in the comp plan
- Create a maintenance district for downtown Chappaqua for post streetscape – sidewalk maintenance, snow cleaning, garbage, tree trimming, watering, etc.
- Millwood sewer study
Jacy Good and her husband Steve Johnson of www.HangUpandDrive.com will be offering a Distracted Driver Diversion Course to persons ticketed for distracted driving offenses in New Castle. They will share their incredibly powerful story of an accident, caused by a distracted driver, that killed Jacy’s parents and left her with a traumatic brain injury. The Distracted Driver Diversion Course was developed to help lower crashes caused by people using cell phones and electronic devices while driving. The course is impactful presentation that can change attitudes and cause drivers to make a decision to stop using electronic devices while driving. In fact, attendees often become advocates who encourage their family, friends and coworkers not to use electronic devices while driving. While no promises or commitments are being extended, completion of this one-hour course prior to your pre-trial conference date will be given favorable consideration in determining whether, and to what extent, any plea bargain may be offered to you. Each paid registrant will be permitted to bring one family member or friend to the presentation. Bringing a loved one with you to the course, will help them be a safer driver.
The course will be given at Chappaqua Performing Arts Center (f/k/s The Wallace Auditorium). Four dates have been scheduled. Click here for dates & times, along with Frequently Asked Questions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has indicated they will be sending a representative to view our program. I was also very happy to hear that AAA will be highlighting New Caste’s Distracted Driving in a report about distracted driving enforcement across the state. The report will feature New Castle as a model for distracted driving enforcement/education efforts and how communities throughout New York could follow our lead. They saw New Castle Police Officer Chad Golanec’s presentation at the New York State Highway Safety Symposium last year, and they were impressed with the commitment from the Officer, the Department, and the Town to the initiative. They noted that most other communities don’t come anywhere close to our level of engagement with this critical traffic safety issue.
This report will be distributed to police departments, legislators, and media across the state. New Castle Police Chief Charles Ferry, Police Officer Chad Golanec and Ben Lieberman will be presenting “Advances in Combating Distracted Driving” at the 2017 Empire State Law Enforcement Traffic Safety Conference on April 6th. During this session, they will discuss “textalyzer” technology that can detect illegal touching and swiping of a device – without revealing any private content. Also, they will discuss how New Castle developed a comprehensive distracted driving enforcement program called “Hands Off the Phone and On the Wheel.” The program notes that our initiative has earned the support and admiration of the community and is being duplicated in other areas.
Town Hall Basketball Court / Playground
Believe it or not, our town doesn’t have a basketball court. The only full court basketball courts in New Castle are contained within the Chappaqua schools. There are outdoor basketball hoops in the Robert E. Bell Middle School parking lot but those are for half-court games. Since 1998, the Town has been looking to install a lighted full court basketball court. This is finally becoming a reality! We received a $100,000 grant from Senator Terrance Murphy to construct a lighted full court basketball court within the back corner of the Town Hall parking lot. The next step is awarding an engineering contract to get construction drawings and move along with construction. We issued a Request for Proposals for the preparation of Conceptual Plans, Construction Drawings and Construction Documents for a lighted basketball court, playground area and parking lot improvements located at the New Castle Town Hall. The proposed lighted basketball court will be 84’ x 50’ with 10’ clear zone. The proposed playground area will be a minimum area of 4,000 square feet, but we hope much bigger. We would like to integrate the new playground with the new basketball court.
Millwood – 200 Year Anniversary
Work has started on the celebration of Millwood’s 200 Year Anniversary. We talked about many potential exciting events, and will soon start recruiting residents to volunteer.
Millwood Plaza (where DeCicco & Sons is)
I’m also happy to report that some improvements will be coming to the Millwood Plaza. The owner will be giving the building a clean fresh look. The property needs some blacktopping, sidewalk work and aesthetics. They expect the work to take most of the spring and part of the summer.
Millwood – Sewers
The Town of New Castle has contracted with Woodard & Curran Engineering to undertake the Millwood Sanitary Sewer District Feasibility Study. The project is intended to occur over a four month timeframe and is intended to study the technical and financial feasibility of providing sewers to the Millwood Study Area. The Town’s consultant will prepare a preliminary engineering report and engineer’s cost estimate, prepare a preliminary sanitary sewer layout and pump station design, and determine the estimated costs for all permits and approvals.
As far as our diversion project, this has been going on since 1997 when the town secured $16 million in funding for a new sewer line that would connect three communities in the Croton Watershed – Riverwoods, Random Farms and Yeshiva – to the Saw Mill Valley Trunk Sewer line. This project is about clean drinking water. It’s about protecting NYC’s drinking water supply – 9 million users – 1 million people in Westchester County and 8 million in NYC.
On November 23, 2015, the Westchester Board of Legislators voted 12-5 to enter into an Inter-Municipal Agreement with New Castle and New York City Department of Environmental Protection to distribute that $16 million in East of Hudson funds for this sewer diversion. The legislation was promptly signed by County Executive Rob Astorino’s office. Unfortunately, what began as a $16 million project has grown to an approximately $24.5 million project. The Town has gone to great lengths to try and secure grant funding to offset the costs to the local taxpayers, however to date no additional funding has been received.
We’re now thinking outside the box! We looked into a number of options, which includes bifurcating the project. The sewer diversion for Riverwoods & Yeshiva would go to Mt Kisco. The sewer diversion for Random Farms would go to Briarcliff. After several meetings with Westchester County, we received a firm commitment that they support diversion of Fox Hollow (Riverwoods / Yeshiva) to Mt. Kisco. This is also good news for Random Farms & ultimately Millwood. By bifurcating this project, we save $4.5MM! By bifurcating this project, it gets the project moving forward. By bifurcating this project, we could ultimately bring sewers to Millwood Business District. Diversion of Random Farms to the county trunk Line in Briarcliff would involve laying a sewer pipe in Route 100. We would work to connect Millwood Business District to that sewer pipe in Route 100!
Proposed Millwood Sidewalk Improvement Project
As many residents know, we received a $500,000 grant, thanks to Senator Terrence Murphy, to install ADA compliant sidewalks and curbing along the intersection of Route 100 and Station Road. In addition, decorative lighting improvements along Station Road will also be included in the project. A second component will install 474 feet of sidewalk improvements including a crosswalk and decorative lighting along NYS Route 100 in proximity to Millwood Park. Based upon previous discussions with the NYSDOT, permanent easements are no longer allowed for new sidewalk improvements that encroach over and across private property along a state road. The NYSDOT now requires that the property, which is impacted by the new sidewalk improvements, to be acquired from the adjacent property owners. We need acquisition maps. Therefore, we are currently seeking proposals for a professional Land Surveyor to prepare the requisite survey maps.
Millwood Replica Train Station
For years, there has been talk of building a replica of the former Millwood train station. I have been working on it for 4 years! We are making progress! The major problem was that the North County Trailway (“NCT”) was in a legal state of limbo. NYS owns the NCT. They lease it to Westchester County. That lease expires on December 31, 2018. For years, there has been talk of NYS turning over ownership of major portions of the NCT to Westchester County. The problem is that neither NYS nor Westchester County wanted to approve our replica train station until the acquisition was completed. As well, Westchester County has a capital project to rehabilitate and reconstruct major portions of the NCT but they cannot go out to bond until the acquisition was completed. A few weeks ago, a conference call was held with Senator Terrence Murphy, Rob Astorino’s office, as well as numerous representative from NYS DOT and Westchester County, to discuss the transfer of ownership. While NYS DOT is still interested in turning over ownership of major portions of the NCT to Westchester County, it was acknowledged that the process for that transfer is involved & will take time. On the call, it was decided that Westchester County & NYS would work on the steps necessary to acquire the property but they also agreed that – in the interim – NYS would renew the current lease for another 25 years. By renewing the lease now, NYS would allow Westchester County to undertake the needed rehabilitation – and we can build our replica train station! NYS & Westchester County have already started working on the lease renewal. We’ll be working on full construction drawings, including engineering, drainage and utilities. BOCES previously offered to build this for us, and they are still interested! We’re looking to secure funding from Westchester County.
Millwood Community Garden
We continue to make progress with the Millwood Community Garden. We have compiled anticipated expenses for the garden. We are currently exploring whether we want to put in a pump at the pond or use town water. They are planning their first meeting with the gardeners.
Late last year, the Town Building Inspector issued a “Phase I” Building Permit for the Chappaqua Station workforce housing project at 54 Hunts Place. The Building Inspector’s issuance of this building permit was based upon his determination that Conifer had satisfied all of the conditions set forth in the Special Permit issued by a prior Town Board in 2013. The Building Inspector is solely responsible for issuing building permits. That said, I want to remind residents that the current Town Board worked hard to persuade Conifer to relocate its project to a different location, or alternatively, make it smaller, so it could provide better emergency access for first responders. In the end, we were not successful. We could not rewrite history. We could not change what a prior Town Board had done, and we were not able to persuade Conifer to change its plans. The federal government has been very critical of our efforts to relocate or change this project. Just last month, the US Attorney’s Office accused the Town in court papers of “delaying, impeding, deterring, and obstructing the progress of Chappaqua Station.” What members of the Town Board have done, including myself, is express opinions about the project site. We have expressed concerns about safety, which were shared by our Building Inspector and others. And we have said that the building’s location is terrible, and may tend to stigmatize and isolate its future residents. At all times, however, we have followed the law. I also want to say that when this building is finally built on Hunts Place, as now appears inevitable, I will be the first person in line, right along with my fellow Town Board members, to welcome its new residents to the community.
Westchester Power Program
As you may know, in May 2016, New Castle residents and businesses joined the Westchester Power program and began receiving electricity supply from The Energy Services Company ConEd Solutions (except for residents and businesses that opted-out). The program provides a fixed rate for green-based electricity and to-date it has saved money vs. Con Ed’s normal program that provides primarily fossil fuel based electricity. The contract for supplying the electricity is now being assigned from Con Ed Solutions to a different company, Constellation New Energy (an Exelon company) THIS CHANGE WILL IN NO WAY IMPACT YOUR SUPPLY OF ELECTRICITY OR ITS COST. The new ESCO must continue to supply New Castle residents and businesses (who have not opted out) under the terms of the contract negotiated with Con Ed Solutions. The fixed rate will not increase during the term of the contract. If you have any questions, please contact Con Ed Solutions at 888-437-1722 or Westchester Power at 914-242-4725. If you still have concerns, please email the New Castle Sustainability Advisory Board at firstname.lastname@example.org
New Castle Name Change – Town of Chappaqua
We asked residents for feedback on changing the town’s name to Chappaqua in hopes of reducing confusion, making the municipality more identifiable and the ability to promote Chappaqua. We’ve received a lot of feedback. We’ve received many comments in favor, and against. No doubt, it has elicited strong opinions on both sides. Which, to me, means it doesn’t have the overwhelming support. Like I stated from the beginning, without overwhelming support we should not proceed. Putting that aside, many residents provided valuable feedback. It’s always helpful to hear what residents love about New Castle &/or their hamlet, and things they’d like to see improved.
Recreation & Parks Smoking Ban
Our Parks & Recreation Commission is suggesting a new rule which would prohibit smoking in our public parks. We asked for feedback on this proposal, and the feedback has been unanimous in support of the ban.
Walking when it’s dark outside can be dangerous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 75 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur during hours of darkness. New Castle Police want to help residents BE SEEN and stay safe. New Castle Police are offering residents a free pedestrian safety reflector. Officers will also be carrying reflectors in police vehicles to provide to pedestrians walking in dark areas. These reflectors can easily be attached to your clothing or items you carry to help increase your visibility while walking. They can also be used on a dogs collar to make nighttime dog walking safer. The reflectors will also be available at the police station.
Compact Car Parking
We have temporarily suspended enforcement of our compact car legislation. For over 10 years, the Town has set aside a limited number of parking spaces in the train station parking lot for “compact cars”. The town board has only done two things recently – increase the size of cars that may utilize the “compact car” spots and replace missing/damaged parking signs so that the ordinance could be enforced again. No other changes to the Town Code were made. We currently have 81 compact car spots. However, some of those spaces are narrower than the rest. In fact, there is one cluster of 13 parking spaces within the current compact parking area where the spaces are less than 90 inches. These 13 parking spaces simply cannot handle larger vehicles. The Town Board, with input from our Chief of Police, has decided to limit the compact car area to those 13 smaller spaces.
Inclusion & Diversity Committee
Our newly formed Inclusion & Diversity Committee is working to create community awareness about differences in others as related to race, religion, cultural differences, sexual preferences and gender identity. The Committee is working to develop and implement programs designed to create a spirit of diversity and inclusion of all that live and work in the Town of New Castle as part of “one” unified community. The Committee is working to promote the diversity goals of the Town – to understand and respond to the needs of an increasingly diverse community – and encourage respect and tolerance for those individual differences that enrich our community. Check out their Facebook page.
It is the policy of the Town Board to celebrate diversity and promote the full equality, inclusion and acceptance of all individuals through meaningful and visible strategies rooted in education, understanding and respect. In 2016, the Town Board established a Community Inclusion and Diversity Committee to develop and implement programs designed to foster a spirit of diversity and inclusion in our community. The Town Board wishes to examine whether it would be advisable and appropriate to implement any changes to the public restroom facilities at Town Hall to better accommodate transgender individuals. The Town Board hereby requests that the Community Inclusion and Diversity Committee review and make recommendations to the Town Board on whether it would be advisable and appropriate to implement any changes to the public restroom facilities at Town Hall to better accommodate transgender individuals.
Clean Energy Community
We received a $100,000 grant! The Town of New Castle is incredibly proud to have been the first community of its size range in the state and the first of all municipalities in Westchester County to receive the Clean Energy Community (CEC) designation. Over the past several years, New Castle’s Sustainability Advisory Board (SAB) has executed a number of very impactful sustainability projects in the community. Since the Town was notified of its CEC designation, Town staff and the SAB have worked diligently to develop potential projects to implement using the CEC funding. I would like to thank our incredible Sustainability Advisory Board for their commitment to the environment, and Town Board member Jeremy Saland for bringing this grant opportunity to our attention. The project undertaken by the town are both environmentally friendly and cost-effective. We’re greener in every sense of the word!
Architectural Review Board
We held a joint work session with our Architectural Review Board (“ARB”) to discuss ways to improve how the ARB reviews residential and commercial projects. The ARB has worked with Town staff and our Town attorneys on a number of proposed changes to the Town Code that I look forward to discussing. I’d like to thank all those involved for their efforts. I am particularly looking forward to exploring ways we can ensure that the ARB plays an important role in shaping future improvements within our business hamlets.
No doubt, hard feelings remain after last November’s presidential election. Personal relationships have been negatively affected. Some completely avoid political talk to avoid arguments. We need to move away from partisanship division & vitriol, and towards respect for a standard for decency and politeness in the community. Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, we must respect different political viewpoints. We must be more tolerant. We must come together around a group of common/shared values. We are one community. We must restore some basic sense of decency and community in the wake of a bitter election cycle. No minds sought to be changed nor political agenda sought to be promoted. Just residents of goodwill of all stars and stripes seeking to reinforce the concept that at the end of the day, we are all members of the same community with an undeniable basic common interest in civility and genuine harmony. As the Town Board stated last November: We, as a Town Board, condemn any acts of unlawful discrimination, violence, and intimidation that target differences in national origin, race, sex, gender, religion, disability, OR POLITICAL VIEWPOINT ACROSS OUR NATION. Such acts run counter to the rights and freedoms upon which our country was founded and to the core values of the Town of New Castle. New Castle is committed to fostering welcoming communities and an equitable, diverse, and inclusive society.
By way of background, in 2014, the Town Board held three scoping sessions and ultimately adopted a 36-page Scoping Outline for this project. The Planning Board provided input with respect to the Scoping Outline, as did the Westchester County Department of Planning. Since then, however, the project has changed. When initially proposed, the project called for the adaptive reuse of the existing institutional building. That is no longer being proposed. We requested that the Applicant explain how this project is consistent with our draft Comprehensive Plan. The Applicant returned with revised plans. This project must be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. The Applicant provided the Town Board with Concept Plans and a Table in an effort to illustrate that the project complies with the Town’s draft Comprehensive Plan. From the outset, the Applicant has understood that the Town was updating its Comprehensive Plan. The Applicant decided to move ahead with its project, assuming the risk that the zoning change it was proposing might not be consistent with the revised Comprehensive Plan. In my view, consistency with the Town’s Comprehensive Plan is critical insofar as the Town Board’s decision-making because the Applicant is asking the Town Board to enact a zoning change in order to allow this project to move forward. To me, that has always been, and remains, the critical threshold question. Would this project be consistent with our Comprehensive Plan, and would it serve the best interests of our community?
In 2014, the New Castle Town Board established a Mandate Relief Committee based on the belief that certain New York State Mandates have and continue to impose significant financial restrictions on our Town, restrictions that must be addressed in order to ensure the stability and sustainability of local services to residents. In September 2015, the committee presented a formal report to the Town Board detailing the dramatic negative economic impact of various mandates on the Town and providing a series of recommendations. On March 3, 2016, New Castle hosted “The Coming Storm: Unfunded Mandates and Their Rising Impact”, a roundtable featuring EJ McMahon of the Empire Center. A video of this roundtable may be found here. The committee is committed to securing meaningful mandate reform from Albany and seeks to keep residents informed of the progress of our elected officials on a regular basis.
The mandate committee sent letters to Senator Terrence Murphy and Assemblyman David Buchwald requesting an update on whatever efforts they have made, or are currently contemplating, to provide mandate relief to New Castle residents. Thank you to Senator Terrence Murphy for sponsoring legislation that prevents local governments and taxpayers from being burdened by unfunded mandates. This legislation passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support. The bill has been sent to the Assembly. We are hoping for support from our Assemblyman, David Buchwald.
Close Indian Point
The Town of New Castle has previously expressed its concern over the continued operation of the nuclear power plants at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. The Town Board established the Sustainability Advisory Board (“SAB”) to assist the Town Board in monitoring, developing and administering environmental and energy policies. We asked the SAB to review and provide written recommendations to the Town Board as to (1) the pros and cons of closing the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant within 5 years and (2) whether the Town should support the Indian Point Closure Agreement dated January 8, 2017. (3) language for a resolution.
New Castle Youth Civics Action Committee (“YCA”)
We approved the creation of the New Castle Youth Civics Action Committee (“YCA”) to increase youth participation in local government. Our youth should add their voices to local policies, practices and services offered in the communities that concern them. Our youth are valuable stakeholders, capable of contributing to the vibrancy of our communities. This committee will teach democracy by giving young people first-hand experience of decision-making in a democracy. This committee will empower youth to act as advocates for themselves and their peers through identifying and representing the needs of the youth community. They will advocate for policies and programs for youth. They will coordinate with other town committees. They will work with parents, agencies, schools, businesses, faith groups, civic groups and community-based organizations that advocate for our youth. They will work with non-partisan organizations that encourage youth participation in government.
We are looking into monthly training sessions to help prepare residents and neighborhoods to respond to emergency or disaster. We all hope that a disaster will never happen, but we want to do our best to give our residents the peace of mind in knowing that they are prepared as possible to protect themselves, their family and their neighborhood if it should. The first session will be held in New Castle Town Hall on April 12th, 2017 starting at 7PM. This session titled “Civilian Response to an Active Shooter” will provide information to help citizens be better prepared should they be in the vicinity of an active shooter incident. The session will be instructed by Officers from New Castle’s firearms training unit who have been certified to provide this course.
Future sessions will continue to prepare New Castle citizens to effectively respond in the initial phase of an emergency or disaster. The sessions will include participation by the Towns Fire Departments and Ambulance Corp. Residents will learn about the types of items they may want to have in their homes and be provided with the basic skills to handle initial response to fire and medical emergencies. In the final session we will move New Castle citizens from individual and family preparedness to neighborhood preparedness. We will encourage neighbors to have a conversation amongst themselves about their resources, such as which homes in their neighborhoods have emergency generators, what skills their neighbors have that can be used during an emergency, identifying neighbors who are frail or have special needs, and preparing for the care of the neighborhoods children and pets. First responders and the Towns Emergency Preparedness Committee will provide guidance on how to have these discussions to prepare your neighborhood for effective response in emergencies. The degree to which people want to be involved and commit to helping their neighbors will be an individual decision.
Exceptional People Committee: Autism Speaks
Once again, we took part in the “Light It Up Blue” campaign to raise awareness of autism. Thank you to the Exceptional People Committee, our merchants, and the New Castle Police Department and PBA for supporting this important initiative
Solar Installation Moratorium
The Town Board passed a moratorium will prevent any new building permits from being issued for ground-mounted solar energy collectors in any zoning district and roof-mounted solar energy collectors and/or equipment in any business or industrial zoning district. Our Town Code doesn’t presently address these types of solar installations in a meaningful way. The moratorium will allow the Town Board to adopt new zoning legislation before any new projects are built. The goal is to address the subject through reasonable zoning requirements before we receive complaints. The industry/products are evolving very quickly and we need to keep pace with the changes. The Town strongly supports solar equipment as a sustainable energy source and wants to ensure that we are encouraging and facilitating its use. That means having clear rules and a straightforward application process. We expect that 3 months will be enough time for the Town Board to complete its work.
Keeping of Poultry
Over the past 4 years, many residents have expressed interest in having backyard chicken. We currently only allow chickens in New Castle on lots of at least 10 acres. A few residents have provided laws from neighboring municipalities towns which are much less restrictive than our legislation. We reviewed laws from Briarcliff Manor, Croton-on-Hudson, Ossining & Yorktown. I reached out to my colleagues on the Westchester Putnam Association of Town Supervisors, and we heard from North Salem, North Castle, Pound Ridge & even Rosendale (Ulster County). We are considering various issues such as restriction on number of chickens (no roosters), lot size, distance of coop from lot line, appropriate containers for food, cleanliness issues, wildlife issues, enforcement issues. We are consulting with our environmental coordinator. I want to thank Councilwoman Hala Makowska for creating a matrix which will summarize – in a clear and easy to compare way – the way various towns handle this issue.
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These are the highlights of the matters of Town-wide concern that we have been addressing recently. As I noted at the beginning, a responsive Town government listens, responds and communicates. We work for you, our fellow residents! As we look ahead, I will continue to work hard and get things done that benefit our entire community.