By ASHLEY HELMS
If a recently proposed measure is approved, the Town of Mamaroneck will change zoning codes for the Boston Post Road and Myrtle Boulevard areas in order to construct about 300 residential units over the next 10 years, which is intended to make the location more aesthetically and financially appealing.
The initiative also ties directly in with Westchester County’s 2009 affordable housing settlement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that requires the county to build 750 units of affordable housing in select communities over a seven-year period.
According to Town Supervisor Nancy Seligson, a Democrat, village government started looking at the idea of amending the zoning code to add residential units about six years ago.
“We ended up adopting design guidelines, but we didn’t go forward with the zoning,” Seligson said.
BFJ, a planning and zoning ordinance firm, has been hired to provide an updated analysis of the benefits, any possible environmental concerns for the town and how the project would go forward.
Together with BFJ, Seligson said the town created a generic environmental impact statement, which allocated about 1,600 acres to possible development.
“Over 10 years, if people who owned those sites decided to move forward with creating residential development, they could develop 300 residential units,” she said.
A State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA, study was also conducted, which showed no negative environmental impacts for the town if it goes forward with the zoning change and future development. Seligson said the Planning Board reviewed the SEQRA study and agreed with the town board’s initiatives. The county and neighboring municipalities didn’t have any objections to it either.
The plan does not require business or property owners to change anything they’re doing or force them to build residential units, Seligson said. If they decide to utilize the residential zoning, however, there would be specific regulations and restrictions to which they must adhere. This will open the door for mixed residential and commercial development.
As for any fear of overpopulating the area schools with the potential for an influx of new residents, Councilwoman Abby Katz, a Democrat, said the belief is the development would only add about 20 students over the next 10 years.
Donald Mazin, an attorney whose offices are located at 1415 Boston Post Road in Larchmont, attended the Sept. 18 Town Council meeting—when the potential rezoning was addressed—on behalf of a client, who owns a property on Myrtle Boulevard. Mazin said Myrtle Boulevard is within walking distance of a Metro North train station, shopping areas and entertainment. After a comprehensive assessment with BFJ, Manzin said the town’s experts, the town Planning Board and the Town Council found Myrtle Boulevard to be the best place to advance affordable housing.
“If it’s a perfect site to build affordable housing, the board should look to provide the ability to do so,” Mazin said, in reference to changing the zoning code to allow for affordable housing development.
John Verni, a Republican running for the county legislator seat in District 7, said he thinks it is more important for the town as a whole to address redevelopment and flood mitigation issues in the Washingtonville neighborhood as proposed in a recent transit-oriented development study, conducted by BFJ, than to use resources to develop multifamily housing on Boston Post Road. He said that focusing on Washingtonville would address flooding, extend the successful business area in the Village of Mamaroneck and provide additional affordable housing.
“In the allocation of scarce resources, it would seem that the redevelopment of Mamaroneck Road in the Washingtonville area is a higher priority with a three-tiered benefit,” Verni said.
The Town of Mamaroneck was one of 31 Westchester communities identified by HUD in the settlement, which required them to build 125 units of affordable housing.
But Verni, a real estate redeveloper, said it’s unfair for HUD to look at the Town of Mamaroneck as a whole without considering the villages inside the town when it made its requirement.
According to a report card issued by HUD federal monitor James Johnson, the Town of Mamaroneck has not built any of the required units of affordable housing. According to a response letter crafted by Seligson to HUD in August, the town has constructed 54 units of workforce housing at the Hommocks Apartments and provided 650 Section 8 vouchers.
Verni said that the town’s diversity is one of the reasons he is moving to Mamaroneck from New Rochelle.
“Together, [the villages of Larchmont and Mamaroneck] make up a wonderfully diverse community, which is evidenced by the diversity in the Mamaroneck school district,” Verni said.