Town adopts Master Plan update

A rendering taken from the Master Plan update enacted by the Town Council at the end of 2013. The map highlights proposed areas of development and renovation, such as a portion of the Platinum Mile district along Westchester Avenue in Purchase. Rendering courtesy Town of Harrison

A rendering taken from the Master Plan update enacted by the Town Council at the end of 2013. The map highlights proposed areas of development and renovation, such as a portion of the Platinum Mile district along Westchester Avenue in Purchase. Rendering courtesy Town of Harrison

By PHIL NOBILE
After a process dating back almost a decade, a unanimous Town Council formally adopted the Town/Village of Harrison Comprehensive Plan at its final meeting of 2013, adding updates and additions to the town’s original 1988 master plan.

The update, which began in late 2004, focuses on three points: Resolving planning issues from the original document, identifying and resolving new issues, and incorporating any new town projects into the master plan.

The plan, which was compiled by consulting firm BFJ Planning, as a whole features extensive statistics on town size and features and is defined as a “guide to Harrison’s decision makers on major planning issues and their solutions.”

“Basically it takes us into the 21st century,” Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont, a Republican, said. “Places like downtown, Westchester Avenue need facelifts and we have to do new, innovative things.”

The mayor envisions the comprehensive plan as a guiding document to potential developers looking into building in Harrison.

According to the section of the plan titled First-Priority Items, the town is hoping to begin redevelopment of the Metro-North property located along Halstead Avenue, known for many years in the town as the MTA Project.

The plan calls for developing the 3.3-acre train station property Metro-North owns into a second street with a wall of stores and mixed-use facilities, akin to the main streets in neighboring districts, and new housing. Agreements between all involved parties are pending, according to Belmont, who refused to comment further on the project or specific parties involved.

The MTA project is one aspect of the plan’s consistent theme of downtown revitalization. Calling for the promotion of Halstead Avenue as the main street in the downtown business district, the update makes mention of new design to encourage new development, such as renovating buildings, a streetscape, sidewalks and landscaping throughout the town.

Also under the list of recommendations for the downtown district is to improve road safety at Harrison’s main intersections, improve accessibility for people with disabilities at stores and on streets and implementing possible parking fees to cover transportation updates and costs.

The Platinum Mile district along Westchester Avenue in Purchase also has a list of potential projects for development outlined in the master plan in “the area bounded by I-287, I-684 and the Hutchinson River Parkway,” such as housing, retail-use or improved vehicle or pedestrian access.

“We’re going to wait for some developers to come in with some good ideas,” Belmont said. “Perhaps assisted living. Right now, we have a good fitness center and medical stuff going on up there. We’re open for business, we want to be given a proposal.”

Town resident Robert Porto voiced his disapproval of the update at the Dec. 19 meeting. He said “people are making fun of Harrison” as the decision to adopt the update was made.

“The problems are numerous, but the general idea is that the plan does not try to preserve any open space,” Porto said. “I love Harrison and, although I would prefer to be sitting at home, I am compelled to fight for my town.”

Before the update was approved for adoption by the Town Council, the board approved a recommendation to accept a negative declaration under the State Environment Quality Review, or SEQR. New York State law requires all projects or activities proposed by a municipality must undergo an environmental impact assessment. A negative declaration is described as having no “significant adverse environmental impacts,” according to the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Porto opposed the passing of a negative declaration, calling it ridiculous.

“I believe that the value of our town is in keeping its small town feel as much as possible,” Porto, a lifelong Harrison resident, said. “I see the current board as developers and feel they are giving away our town to the highest bidder.”

Republican councilmen Step-hen Malfitano and Joseph Cann-ella deflected Porto’s comments by describing the plan as a living, active document that is a “major improvement” over the previous 1988 version. Cannella admitted that the environmental factors were a concern, but that Porto was ultimately wrong.

“A negative declaration was absolutely appropriate,” Cannella said. “I think that, given the nature of what this is, it’s a good analysis of where we are and what needs to be looked at. Someone looking for perfection in a master plan, where each issue is resolved, is close
to impossible.”

Contact: phil@hometwn.com