Meet Scarsdale's New Village Planner Kellan Cantrell
- Monday, 18 September 2023 20:20
- Last Updated: Monday, 18 September 2023 20:28
- Published: Monday, 18 September 2023 20:20
- Joanne Wallenstein
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Scarsdale's new Village Planner Kellan Cantrell joined the team at Village Hall in June, 2023. With land use laws, flooding, tree removals, affordable housigng and zoning top of mind, we asked Cantrell for his views on some complex issues. Here is what we learned:
Tell us about yourself – where were you educated and where did you work before coming to Scarsdale?
I mostly grew up in South Carolina and still have deep roots there. After graduating from Indiana University with a Bachelors of the Arts in Anthropology I received my Masters of Science in City and Regional Planning from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. I was in the Town of New Castle Planning Department for over 5 years prior to coming to Scarsdale. My wife grew up in Edgemont and has really helped me understand the area and its’ history.
Explain the role of the Village Planner.
The Village Planner provides technical support on land use issues, conducts and facilitates planning studies and is the Environmental Review Officer for the Village of Scarsdale. I have never been accused of being artistic but being a Planner is like being a painter, you bring together other professionals into a project in order to paint the overall picture of that project.
How have you found the new position so far? Does Scarsdale do anything differently than other places you have worked?
I have really enjoyed Scarsdale and the work I am undertaking here. The residents really care about the Village and the staff have been very welcoming, it has been an easy transition.
What are some of the challenges posed by our topography (flood plain)?
Climate change is something communities across the nation are struggling with on multiple levels. The increased frequency and severity of storms presents many challenges. Municipalities can use their regulatory powers and infrastructure investments to reduce exposure to the impacts of flooding. However, we are confronted with the dual realities that stormwater can’t be effectively controlled within our boundaries, as it is a regional problem calling for regional action, and that historic land use patterns in Westchester County have translated into properties being developed in locations prone to flooding. The Village leverages each of the tools available to us to minimize local exposure to flooding, including coordination between Planning, Engineering, and the Building Department, though our ability to cultivate significant improvement is limited by the regional circumstances we are confronted with. We will continue to work aggressively toward implementing strategies determined locally feasible and prudent while also seeking to grow interest in and commitment to regional mitigation and resilience strategies.
Scarsdale recently amended the building code in regard to construction within the property buffer. Can you explain the new code and comment on how it affects those who are renovating or building new homes?
This is a one of the continuing efforts by the Village to identify opportunities to enhance stormwater control and reduce stormwater runoff. The Village Code, Chapter 254, was amended recently to regulate any land disturbance within the 30-foot rear yard setback and the side yard setbacks that are already regulated via Chapter 310 of the Village Code (Zoning). Essentially this law ensures that any proposed disturbance within those prescribed areas is minimized or eliminated to reduce stormwater runoff and mitigate future flooding conditions posed by future development.
What’s your view on Governor Hochul’s bid to build affordable housing along the Metro North route?
It is difficult to legislate land use policy without an understanding of local context, as one size does not fit all and collaborative problem solving is superior to mandates. Following national trends, housing in our region is not affordable for many. Transit-oriented development has demonstrated value in reducing the combined costs of transportation and housing, substantial portions of most household budgets, thereby helping to make life, generally, more affordable for individuals and families. I am confident that our region will make progress in this area through thoughtful consideration of alternatives, appropriate public engagement, and collaboration between state, county, and local officials.
The housing stock in many areas across the United States is low due to many factors including population shifts, supply shortages during the pandemic and more recently high interest rates. Housing, especially housing affordability, is a complex and complicated topic. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I am optimistic that this situation will ease in the coming years as more housing is built across our region and workers have more flexibility to work remotely.
In the past few years we have had very low housing inventory for prospective buyers, driving up demand and prices. How do you view this situation?
See the above answer.
We also have developers purchasing older homes at average value and replacing them with homes valued at $4 million plus. In some cases the lots are subdivided and two very high end homes go up in place of one average home. Do you have any views on the mix of housing stock? Is it important to maintain a balance?
See the above answer.
Would it be legal to ban additional subdivisions due to the lack of infrastructure for stormwater and power lines to support additionally housing?
The Village Board continues to work with staff and counsel to identify any needed regulatory changes as such opportunities arise. Any proposed solutions will also seek out community input in order to gauge community support. Residents should keep in mind that any proposed subdivision in the Village must comply with the current laws of the Village Zoning Code.
Scarsdale has had limited success with historic preservation. In fact, the few homes that were voted worthy of preservation are now being disputed in court. What can the Village do to strengthen our preservation laws?
See the above answer.
How does our building code regarding housing bulk and lot coverage compare with neighboring towns or other places you have worked? Do you think any changes are needed?
Local land use laws vary widely from one municipality to the next, especially in a home rule sate. Each municipality has its own regulatory framework that is often difficult to compare. I know working collaboratively with the Scarsdale community, the Village Board and my colleagues on any future regulatory changes that are needed to our land use regulations can be developed with the common goal of keeping Scarsdale a welcoming and vibrant Village.