Column: City Council updates

Over-building and its impact on Mayor-Doug-French
our neighborhoods and schools
For a number of years, residents have stated their concerns that some new residential construction is considered potentially out of scale in size, height and/or bulk. It’s been 10 years since the city looked at this issue and we wanted to ensure we reviewed it before too much more time elapsed. Building activity in Rye is high again. Many residential applications involve substantial renovations or demolition of existing residences, and construction of new homes that are significantly larger than the homes they replaced. In many cases, the proposed gross floor area of the residences is only a few square feet shy of the maximum permitted floor area. The city planner drafted changes to the local law that addressed bulk and height concerns associated with residential attics and provided greater consistency between the requirements of the city zoning code and the New York State Building Code. The law was reviewed by the Planning Commission at their August meeting and was unanimously supported.

The local law changes the ceiling height provision in attics to seven feet. Floor area under roof rafters, not collar ties, having a ceiling height of seven feet or greater would be required to be included in the maximum permitted floor area for a residence. Unlike the current law, this floor area would be counted at 100 percent, not at 50 percent and there would be no seven-foot minimum width requirement for such floor area to be counted. In addition, the floor area under dormers within attics having a ceiling height of five feet or greater would also be required to be included in the maximum permitted floor area. The local law is consistent with existing laws in Greenwich, Conn. The council had one public hearing and will continue to hear public input at its next regular council meeting.

Next stop:  Rye train station
As part of the Rebuild Rye Initiative, which has seen investments made in downtown, roads, sewers, sidewalks, bridges and more the last few years, the next major project is the Rye train station. Now, with reserves on hand from the sale of 1037 Boston Post Road, I have made inquires to the MTA to begin discussions on improvements to the parking lot, crossings and roads. This is a much-needed project that has been neglected far too long, but has been on our radar and is a priority. The city is now in a good position to begin discussions with MTA.

Funding for Safe Routes to Schools projects
The city was awarded a federally funded Safe Routes to School grant coordinated by the Rye YMCA in the amount of $223,952. Thanks again to the YMCA for spearheading initiatives year after year that better our community. The projects included in the grant are: pedestrian activated rectangular rapid flash beacons, Theall/Osborn Road intersection pedestrian improvements, Grace Church Street intersection pedestrian improvements, and Milton School sidewalk safety improvements. A preliminary meeting with New York State Department of Transportation was held to review project implementation, schedule and reimbursement under the federal grant program. The timeframe for the projects is dependent on state DOT requirements, but the city hopes to complete the projects in 2014. In a related update, the new crossing guard program instituted by the city has gone exceedingly well in terms of overall performance and manning of posts, which has greatly reduced the need to use police resources for crossings.

Improvement plans submitted for Playland
Sustainable Playland, Inc. has submitted the Playland Improvement Plan for approval by the county Board of Legislators. The plan seeks to balance the amusement park and seasonal uses with new amenities, venues, and programs. The investments will be in excess of $34 million over the term of the management agreement if all improvements are approved and completed as proposed. The first improvements can begin in 2014 with significant upgrades to the Amusement Zone and Kiddyland specifically. The PIP also focuses on the historic preservation and restoration of the national landmark buildings, amusement rides and landscape, while adding new rides and venues to the amusement park area and state-of-the-art sports and recreation amenities like sports fields, water deck, etc.–much desired and needed by Westchester County residents. SPI presented before the council last meeting and we will continue to share our interest and concerns throughout the process with SPI and the county.

Executive search for a new police commissioner
A majority of the council again reaffirmed its position to focus on public safety first by authorizing the city manger to begin a search to replace retiring Commissioner Connors. Time is of the essence to engage a firm that can produce as many candidates as possible. There will be a representative committee established to screen candidates before a final offer is made.

For more information, please contact me, the city manager, a Rye City Council member or visit the City of Rye website. Office hours of the mayor by appointment by e-mailing @ryeny.gov” dfrench@ryeny.gov.