By PHIL NOBILE
Criticism of changes to the Village of Mamaroneck’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, the village’s encompassing waterfront planning and protection document, is nothing new. But now the voices raising concerns include members of the steering committee tasked with changing the LWRP in the first place, and their suggestions range from going through more in-depth reviews to more public hearings.
George Shieferdecker and Philip Horner, two members of the committee, submitted letters at the end of February to Mayor Norman Rosenblum and the Board of Trustees stating skepticism and worries about how the process has gone so far.
“The original LWRP was produced by village residents, and some of those village residents are among the most vocal critics of the current draft,” Shieferdecker said. “This is a very important document and it is clear that quite a few people think the current draft could be improved upon.”
A Feb. 28 deadline for public comment drove the two members of the steering committee to formally voice their concerns. Since that deadline, the trustees have been in the process of compiling public comment, and will participate in a March 31 work session dedicated to the LWRP update.
In the letters, obtained by the Mamaroneck Review, Shie-ferdecker and Horner list concerns about the update process with Horner suggesting the steering committee, “was not organized the way that I and many of the public assumed that it would be.”
Horner, the treasurer of the steering committee and a member of the village’s Committee for the Environment, criticized the committee for infrequent meetings and few public meetings. He said there was virtually no revision or work on the update from June 2012 to January 2014, when the update was distributed publicly, to the committee’s knowledge.
“The steering committee was disbanded without us ever seeing how [BFJ Planning] incorporated many points and suggestions that had been raised for the last year and a half,” Horner said.
Rosenblum, a Republican, refuted Horner’s use of the word “disbanded” in regard to the committee, saying the committee “ran its course” after the update was submitted to the Board of Trustees in January 2014 for approval.
After claiming village officials failed to acknowledge “repeated requests…over the last six months to clarify the process,” Horner ended his letter to the trustees by describing the update as “inadequate,” and suggesting a new citizens group be formed to “give a focused charge” to “salvage what we have.”
Rosenblum defended the process of the committee, which he personally created and appointed its members to in 2010 due to a lack of progress on the long-desired update. Describing the LWRP updating process as “in limbo” back in 2010, the mayor said there were time commitments to keep in submitting the update to the Department of State in order to receive a $50,000 grant from the state for the project.
According to Village Manager Richard Slingerland, the initial grant contract was set to terminate on Dec. 31, 2013, and the village was granted a final, one-year extension by the state to “go through the remaining process” and have a revised LWRP vetted and adopted by the end of 2014.
The mayor said the criticisms from the committee members are “interpretations” of the process as a whole.
“The last steering committee meeting had a vote by the full committee to accept the LWRP update and move it to the trustees in January,” Rosenblum said. “Like anything else, when you have a group of different people, you’re going to have a difference in opinion and conclusions.”
In his letter, Shieferdecker, a Flood Mitigation Advisory Committee member and former Planning Board member in the village, said the need for an update to the LWRP “is clear,” but the update as it currently exists lacks the clarity and succinctness of the original document and is more generic to the Long Island Sound than specific to the village.
“Our village coastline has a much greater preponderance of working or developed coast [compared to other coastal communities], and the document needs to address that more forthrightly,” the committee member said.
Shieferdecker finished his letter by suggesting an entirely new committee to take over the work of the steering committee.
Calling for a “Writing Committee” to take up where the steering committee left off, Shieferdecker said major revisions to the policies section of the LWRP update need to be done and the reworking cannot be done by the Board of Trustees alone.
“I would caution the trustees that they cannot, themselves, provide sufficient corrective measures by their diligent review over a short period of time,” he said.
Rosenblum said he doesn’t see the purpose of creating a new committee or extending the LWRP revision process further.
“It was done by the process that was intended,” the mayor said. “It is now like any act of legislature and is before the Board of Trustees, and they should not abdicate their responsibilities. Anyone else’s idea is not more or less important in that process, and [Horner and Shieferdecker] are not elected officials.”
The March 31 work session focused on the LWRP update will be open to the public, but no public comment will be allowed. According to Rosenblum, the updated LWRP will then be sent to the Department of State for review, and, after it returns to the trustees, public meetings would be open for comment “like any proposed legislation.”