By CHRIS EBERHART
and PHIL NOBILE
With a tentative Playland voting date set for May 13 to decide whether or not a Playland renovation plan will be sent to the Board of the Legislators, the Westchester County Parks, Labor, Planning and Housing Committee, which is a subcommittee of the Board of Legislators, outlined the ensuing 12 weeks of meetings as it relates to the amusement park.
Parks committee chair Peter Harckham, a Bedford Democrat, said the idea behind the timeline is to create an “open, thorough and transparent” process as the committee vets not-for-profit Sustainable Playland Inc.’s proposal to renovate the county-owned amusement park.
SPI, which is the Rye-based group chosen by County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, to manage the park, created controversy with its proposal to construct a 95,000-square-foot field house in the Playland parking lot. The lot is also in a flood zone, just yards away from a residential neighborhood in Rye.
Harckham said by being “open, thorough and transparent,” he hopes to “calm some public anxiety” regarding the controversy that has stemmed from the plan for the park’s future.
“We’re trying to calm everyone down and let them know we have a plan and let them know we want everyone’s opinion heard,” Harckham said. “Everyone will have a chance to weigh in.”
Rye resident Mack Cunningham, a former Rye City councilman and outspoken opponent of the field house, said he appreciates Harckham and the committee’s transparent and thorough mindset, but held steadfast to his disapproval of SPI’s plan as a whole.
“There’s already a lot of money vested behind this project,” Cunningham said. “No matter what, this decision will be driven by money and politics.”
On Feb. 25, during the parks committee’s initial meeting on Playland, county Legislator Catherine Borgia, an Ossining Democrat, said a lack of information held up the Playland vetting process last year. And, she said, it’s the same information the Board of Legislators is still missing today.
According to the outline laid out by the committee, the Board of Legislators is still waiting for financials from SPI, along with an overflow parking plan, which were requested in October 2013 by the now defunct Government Operations Committee, which was vetting the SPI proposal at the time. The parks committee is also missing a revised parking analysis and a marketing analysis from SPI, which were both requested by the Government Operations Committee last December.
Throughout the Feb. 25 parks committee meeting, Harckham stressed the committee will undergo a thorough evaluation, but, afterwards, he did acknowledge there is a clock that the Board of Legislators is watching.
Harckham said SPI has until May 11 to pull out of the agreement.
With that being said, the committee laid out a tentative, weekly plan for each meeting regarding SPI’s Playland proposal that runs through to a tentative voting date of May 13. Throughout March and April, the committee will tour the Playland and potential field house site, hold meetings on traffic, parking, environmental, financial and legal concerns, meet with Rye officials and hold public hearings, based on a timeline set up by the committee and released on Tuesday.
That will lead up to deliberations in the first week of May and the final vote of the committee on the second Tuesday in May. Harckham said this is a “fluid” timeline that can change if more information is needed or further explanation is required.
During the process that will span over the next couple of months, the plan must be vetted by the parks committee as well as the county’s Budget Appropriations Committee before the vote date. If the plan is passed, it will head to the floor for a full Board of Legislators vote.
Harckham declined to speculate on what would happen if the plan were to receive a no vote from the committee.
“Let’s take it one step at a time,” he said.