LWRP: A question of character

While the Mamaroneck harbor is often considered paramount to the village’s character—something to be protected by the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program—not everyone in the village thinks the LWRP is about character, or thinks character is about the harbor. File photo

While the Mamaroneck harbor is often considered paramount to the village’s character—something to be protected by the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program—not everyone in the village thinks the LWRP is about character, or thinks character is about the harbor. File photo

Those invested in the ongoing debate and maneuvering surrounding revisions to the Village of Mamaroneck’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program often cite the village’s character as the reason the LWRP must be preserved, or changed, but the definition of character depends on the person providing it.

Although it’s progressed in fits and starts since 2010, the LWRP revision process has ramped-up in recent months after the village received a one-year extension from the state, which provided a grant, in December 2013 to complete changes to the guiding document.

Originally adopted in 1984 as a joint effort between the village and New York’s Department of State, the LWRP promotes a balance between economic development and preservation in order to permit the beneficial use of coastal resources while preventing damage to wildlife, ensuring public access to the waterfront
and maintaining the scenic beauty of the waterfront area.

For some, like Democratic Trustee Leon Potok, the LWRP is vital to protecting the harbor, an integral part of what he sees as the village’s character.

“We have a working harbor,” Potok said. “The special character of the village is the diversity of its economic base and the diversity of its people. The community values the waterfront. They’re not looking for development on the waterfront.”

John Hofstetter is a former Democratic trustee. For him, the village’s waterfront is a marquee attraction.

“I think people moved here because [the village] has a working waterfront, not because it has condos stretching from one end of the Boston Post Road to the other,” Hofstetter said.

Potok and Hofstetter share the view of many in the village who feel if the LWRP’s standards and guidelines for the waterfront are removed or too diluted, the village will be open to unfettered development, which would do great harm to what they believe is essential to the village’s character.

Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, said the character of the village has not changed in the 30 years since the original LWRP was written, nor will it change as long as he’s in office.

Nevertheless, the mayor has his critics when it comes to his handling of the LWRP revision process.

In March 2010, his first year in office, Rosenblum formed a steering committee to guide updates to the LWRP. The committee met inconsistently until January of this year, when the Board of Trustees assumed control of the process with the one-year extension from the state left in which to draft a final revision to the LWRP.

Whereas the original document was written by a group of citizen experts, the evolving, revised version is, according to village Harbor and Coastal Zone Management Commission member Clark Neuringer, “consultant driven.”

“I think the whole process has been changed,” Neuringer, a former Democratic mayoral candidate, said. “It’s a non-
inclusive, non-participatory process.”

Although Rosenblum is quick to point out one of the consultants imported to aid the revision process, Charlie McCaffrey, is an author of the original LWRP, the real problem, according to Neuringer and others, is the participation, or lack thereof, of the harbor coastal commission in the process.

As it stands now, the Harbor Coastal Zone Management Commission is charged with, among others things, determining whether or not proposed development projects in the village are consistent with the LWRP.

Once the harbor coastal com-mission’s determination is made, though, there is disagreement among factions in the village over what can happen next.

Rosenblum said, as things stand now, the harbor coastal commission’s consistency deter-mination can stop a proposed project in its tracks, even over the objections of the Board of Trustees, which is the only legislative body in the village.

Others, such as Hofstetter, say any determination the commission makes currently can be overturned by the Board of Trustees if it can demonstrate a substantial legal basis for doing so.

An attempt to obtain an opinion from village land use attorney Les Steinman was unsuccessful at press time.

For some time, the concern among Rosenblum’s critics has been his desire to revise the LWRP to make the harbor coastal commission strictly advisory, as similar committees are in most municipalities in New York State.

If that happens, the question of village character returns to the fore.

“We are probably the only working harbor on the Long Island Sound that has a mixture of boat yards, boat service centers, marinas, housing; it’s all part and parcel,” Neuringer said. “We have a mixed use, working harbor and it’s unbelievable. That, to me, is the essential character of this village.”

Although he would like to see the harbor coastal committee made advisory, Rosenblum said he does not think there are currently enough votes on the five-member board to make it happen.

While the commission’s oversight power may not be in as much jeopardy as Neuringer fears, he, and most other current members of the harbor coastal commission, is not currently scheduled to participate in the series of LWRP review meetings the Board of Trustees plans for the balance of 2014.

Neuringer said the village code calls for the harbor coastal commission to consult with the board on the process.

Potok has written to the state for an opinion on the matter. He awaits a reply at press time.

Rosenblum said Village Attorney Charles Goldberger is examining the legality of the commission’s involvement in the review process.

When read Chapter 240-37 of the village code, which outlines the powers of the harbor coastal commission and states, in part, the commission shall “consult with, advise and make recommendations to the village Board of Trustees on all matters relating to…the harbor,” the mayor noted the lack of the word “consent” in the code, indicating the Board of Trustees would not be bound by any suggestion harbor coastal members might make, but said members of the commission are welcome to participate in the trustees’ upcoming review meetings.

While the mayor said the character of the village can be found in the diversity of its population and vowed to never let the open space of Harbor Island Park fall to development so it can be enjoyed by all, there are some in the
village who think the LWRP is not about protecting character, but about making sure there’s still a Village of Mamaroneck at all.

Doreen Poccia-Roney is a lifelong village resident. For her, the LWRP must be maintained as it has existed for two specific reasons.

“It’s about water quantity; flooding and water quality; pollution,” she said. “That’s what the LWRP was developed for.”

Poccia-Roney said if there are going to be changes to the LWRP, they should address the water pollution that comes with storm water flooding.

For some, the harbor doe-sn’t particularly figure into the village’s character.

Nancy Wasserman is a commercial realtor who’s lived in the village since 1961. For her, events like Clean-Up/Green-Up Day and the upcoming craft beer festival are key because they bring the village’s diverse community together.

“Politics should be left out of the character of the village. When decisions are made, the village as a whole needs to be taken into consideration,” Wasserman said. “The more people see the community, that adds to people coming in and buying from our merchants; that is prosperity in the community.”

While Potok said he sees the value of village events, there is one thing driving his desire to see the LWRP revision process go the way he thinks it should.

“I’m less interested in having the number one destination for visitors,” he said “I’m more interested in having the number one destination for residents; a place where people want to live.”

The next Board of Trustees LWRP review meeting will be held on May 5. As of press time, the meetings are open to the public, but closed to comment.

CONTACT: jason@hometwn.com