By ASHLEY HELMS
Village of Mamaroneck mayoral and trustee candidates sparred at an Oct. 9 debate over pertinent concerns in the village including the water rate tax decrease and land use issues. They also took questions from a full room of attendees. This was a combined debate; with candidates running for village trustee also facing off during different parts of the evening.
Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, is being challenged by Democrat Clark Neuringer, an architect and business owner in Mamaroneck. Neuringer has lived locally for 38 years and said he has spent 23 years on every land use board in the village. Neuringer wants to address issues he feels are critical, such as “spiraling taxes,” protecting the environment and preserving Mamaroneck’s uniqueness.
“As mayor, I will tackle financial issues head on,” Neuringer said. “Real estate developers will not rewrite our zoning codes.”
Rosenblum said he loves being mayor and that, during his tenure, he has opened Board of Trustees meetings for public comment and completed an all hazard mitigation plan, among other accomplishments.
“I offer our record for your consideration that we deserve another term to continue our dedication to all residents, businesses and visitors in our friendly village,” Rosenblum said to attendees at the Mamaroneck Town Center.
The first questions posed during the forum came from The League of Women Voters, the group hosting the event. To start, moderator Lindsay Feinberg asked what the most critical issue is facing the village and what the candidates can do about it.
Neuringer said the tax burden impedes on the uniqueness and diversity of the coastal village and doesn’t allow people to live there financially.
“Work has to be done to everything to reduce costs,” he said.
What Neuringer wants is what Rosenblum’s administration has already done, the mayor said. When he first took office in 2010, Rosenblum said, the village saw only a 0.35 percent tax increase, one of the lowest in village history.
“The Village of Mamaroneck is extremely successful and we are financially strong and our rainy day fund is as big as it has ever been,” Rosenblum said.
Feinberg, on behalf of the league, then asked the candidates what their visions were for the village’s downtown industrial zone and what can be done to bring in more tax money.
Rosenblum said the village is looking at a complete zoning change in the industrial area and that inquiries are received on a weekly basis from people who want to develop in the location.
“The key is to keep [Mamaro-neck’s] diversity; in this village, the greatest gift is the diversity of its residents,” he said.
The village must preserve and nurture its industrial area, Nueringer said, but the zoning regulations could be slightly more lax in that section. The way the codes were written is outdated and they only allow for industrial businesses that aren’t feasible today.
“It should be less exclusionary; that area can be opened up,” he said.
Maggie O’Neil, a forum attendee, asked what the candidates are doing about flooding and what they would continue to do if elected.
In about six or seven months, the village can make a decision with the Army Corps of Engineers to tackle flood mitigation problems, the mayor said. The village is purchasing a machine in order to dredge local waterways on an annual basis to cut down on the risk of flooding.
“God helps those that help themselves,” Rosenblum said.
Also included in a separate debate were Republican Trustee Louis Santoro and his opponent Kerry Stein, a Democrat.
Stein has lived in the village for 20 years and said that he will work tirelessly to be sure that no resident will be taxed out of living there.
“I really believe many of the actions and inactions of my opponent have been detrimental to the village,” Stein said.
Santoro is a lifelong village resident and said he got involved with village politics because he felt the community was not moving in the right direction.
“I know I am energized and committed to another two years to help make the right directions and decisions for the Village of Mamaroneck,” Santoro said.
Feinberg asked the trustee candidates if they support the Hampshire County Club’s plan to request zoning code changes in order to build a high-density condominium complex on its property.
Stein said he is unequivocally not in support of a zoning change and noted that one of the best ways to mitigate flooding is by preserving the village’s open space.
“I would absolutely be agai-nst a petition to change zoning without any process as to what they would build,” he said.
By advice of a legal counsel, Santoro said he will not take a position on the Hampshire Club, but said the club has not put in an application to change its zoning codes as yet.
Village Democratic Party Chairwoman Elizabeth Sanger asked the candidates what they have to say about the recent decrease in Westchester Joint Water Works bills and what they would do about recent sewage crises in nearby rivers.
On Sept. 23, the Board of Trustees voted to decrease the village’s water bills by 16 percent after the controversial decision was passed by a 3-2 partisan vote. Opponents of the decrease wanted to keep the water bills flat in order to set aside money for fines that may be levied against the village for failing to meet deadlines for the construction of a mandated water treatment facility.
The village was paying about 30 percent more for its water bills than the surrounding Town of Harrison and unincorporated Town of Mamaroneck, which also receive water from the Westchester Joint Water Works, Stein said.
As for water pollution problems, Stein said it’s an ongoing issue, but a county wastewater treatment plant on Boston Post Road is undergoing major renovations both inside and out.
“100-year-old infrastructure is one of our biggest issues,” he said.
Santoro said that, by decreasing its water rates, the village will be unable to build up a surplus and meet financial obligations when fines become due.
“If anyone is sitting here saying we’re not going to get fined, I’d like them to sign a piece of paper and I’d be more than happy keeping that until the day the fines come and we’ll see who was right and who was wrong,” Santoro said.