By PHIL NOBILE
Although public comments regarding the controversial revamp of the Village of Mamaroneck’s Local Water-front Revitalization Program are now closed, questions and concerns remain from residents who are worried about the focus of the document and the transparency of the process.
According to critics of the updated waterfront document, the latest version, released in January after being under review since 2008, speaks in state-oriented and focused terms that lose the intent of the original 1984 document.
“What has been done in this draft is you have it very state-policy and generic,” Daniel Natchez, a former Democratic village trustee and an author of the original LWRP [Local Waterfront Revitalization Program], said. “There’s a difference between the generic approach and the specific approach, and that problem reeks throughout the entire document.”
The Local Waterfront Re-vitalization Program serves as the encompassing guide to expansion along the village’s coastal zone, attempting to preserve natural resources and direct potential developers in the proper direction.
The latest draft has been under review for six years by the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program Update Steering Committee and BFJ Planning, a consulting firm that specializes in waterfront development.
It is the use of an outside firm and focus on state policy as opposed to village policy that has residents worried about the ultimate focus of the update. Specifically, critics claim the terms of the update have been altered to be less Mamaroneck-centric.
Throughout the update, the village’s waterfront areas are referred to as the “Long Island Sound” rather than Mamaroneck focused or specified terms. These changes, according to Natchez, allow for the document to be broader than before, and overlook specific-to-Mamaroneck issues.
“The terminology is more state-oriented, not village-oriented,” Natchez said. “It doesn’t have the character of the original [document], and it doesn’t emphasize that we have the last working harbor in Long Island Sound that has retained all of its clubs and boatyards since inception. It hasn’t fallen victim to the desire to build and development pressures.”
Natchez argues that the lack of statement and focus in the document could lead to an easier process for developers to pass through, and that the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program’s wor-ding should coincide with how the village’s code defines coastal areas. In Chapter 240 of the village code on the coastal zone and harbor, definitions are provided of Mamaroneck’s water areas and boundaries. “It contains definition of the entire watershed within Mamaroneck, it doesn’t discriminate,” Natchez said.
In response to the criticism, Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, said the terms used in the update were “appropriate,” and the changes served as consolidation of guidelines “so it’s more workable.”
“You don’t want to get caught up in semantics,” Rosenblum said. “You’re going to have other people believe what they think is best, but all members of the Board of Trustees have the sole goal of what’s best for the village.”
Although critical, Natchez admits that the generic policy isn’t “unreasonable,” just not applicable to the specific needs of the village.
In the third section of the updated LWRP that discusses waterfront policies, the update talks about taking measures to avoid hazardous erosion and flooding scenarios. One of the policies listed is for the village to “use vegetative non-structural measures” as opposed to armored or physical structures, which are generally considered more appealing and environmentally friendly.
According to Natchez, more than 95 percent of Mamaroneck’s shorelines are armored, which means they are protected from erosion by physical structures rather than natural vegetation. The policies put in
place on non-structural met-hods of erosion protection in the updated LWRP would be violated whenever repairs or expansions would be made to armored shore lining.
“This is a state policy that is a fallacy when applied to Mamaroneck,” he said. “Mamaroneck’s shoreline is armored because the sound is subject to significant storms that will rip out vegetation. It’s a great policy that makes sense, but only on a site-specific basis.”
Beyond the wording of the update itself, others have argued that the update process as a whole has lacked transparency and public discussion has been curtailed to a two-week comment period that ended on Feb. 28.
In a 2004 grant document from New York State regarding the LWRP and the update process, Task 10 of the document requires the village to hold public information meetings regarding issues addressed, and “solicit public input regarding completeness and accuracy” of the updates.
Mamaroneck resident Allison Stabile argues that the updating process as a whole “has illustrated the antithesis of public participation,” and that the village is not following the agreements set forth in the 2004 state grant, which awarded the village $50,000 for the revitalization project.
“I’m very concerned that the village is not adhering to requirements described in the grant document,” Stabile said. “The public must be actively engaged and in discussion, and the end product of a collaborative, rather than exclusionary, review process will surely be the result this community needs.”
Rosenblum called the criticisms of transparency “disingenuous” and “totally false,” and affirmed that he and the Board of Trustees are following procedure.
“We are absolutely following the appropriate steps beyond a doubt,” the mayor said. “We’ve been open from the very beginning. Whether you agree or disagree with someone, to say that it’s not transparent because of some things you don’t agree with is wrong.”
Review of the LWRP update now sits with the Board of Trustees, who will meet with advisors from various village boards and hold a March 31 work session on the matter, according to Rosenblum.
Although no public input will be allowed at the work session, Rosenblum said the public would have “sufficient” time for further comment in the near-future.