Friday, Jul 12th

Will the Proposed Building Code Changes Solve the Problems?

57 FayetteRacing to have new land use code in place so that Scarsdale’s Building Moratorium can be lifted, the Village Trustees held a work session prior to the 6-11 Board of Trustees meeting where they reviewed suggested revisions to the proposed code with consultants BFJ. See the memo here:

The consultants were originally charged with making recommendations to:

-Reduce stormwater flooding
-Reduce the appearance of home bulk

They came back with a long list of small adjustments to current Village code and new requirements for Planning Board Review for projects where there would be land disturbance above specified thresholds. They also suggested new “open space” percentages to guarantee more permeable surfaces and recommended that the Village change the definition of gravel surfaces to impermeable for lot coverage calculations. That means that gravel driveways would now count in lot coverage calculations and would limit the size of other structures and paved areas on a site.

The current code offers bonuses in interior space for setting back homes beyond the required minimum. As of late, homes appear to be too large. The consultants recommended maintaining these bonuses for increased setbacks but reducing the square footage of those bonuses by zoning district.

At a prior meeting, a resident asked what the cumulative effect of changes in lot coverage, FAR, and bonuses would be. The consultants came back with this response. “We determined that the recommendations would result in an average decrease of 1.25% for FAR overall and an average decrease of 32% for the FAR side yard incentive. “

So it is yet to be seen if a 1% change in Floor Area Ratio and some decreases in bonus square footage make a noticeable impact.

Zoning District vs. Lot Size

Some of the discussion on Tuesday centered around regulations based on zoning district, vs. lot size. As all lots in a district are not uniform, some of the larger lots in one district exceed the size of those in the next, so trustees questioned whether or not it was fair to homeowners for example who might require Planning Board approval for a lot in A4, which is actually larger than a lot in A3 that would not require Planning Board review.

After much discussion, the Trustees opted to maintain these threshold numbers by zoning district.

Tree Canopy

Other changes were made due to resident comments. The provision for Planning Board review was amended to include consideration of impacts o the tree canopy. The new text says, “The location and characteristics of the different areas of vegetation, including the identification of all individual trees 6 or more inches in diameter at breast height (“DBH”), protected trees of any size, as well as stands of trees, wooded areas, and tree canopies within areas of proposed disturbance.”

Construction Management Plan

Another new provision is the addition of a construction management plan to the code. So when applicants file they will need to demonstrate how the building site and neighbors properties will be safeguarded during construction.

Impervious and Pervious

Now that gravel driveways will be considered as impervious, there was considerable discussion about the use of permeable pavers. Should they be considered pervious or impervious? Some have suggested that over time, the permeable pavers settle and the grout between them hardens into an impervious surface. Consultants recommended allowing permeable pavers to be considered as “pervious” surfaces though it was noted that they are far more expensive than gravel. And requiring their use might incentivize people to move homes closer to the street to avoid a long driveway.

Removed from the proposed code was a provision that would have allowed homes built in the flood plain to be 3 feet taller – so that they could be built above the water table. The Planning Board feared that this would encourage building in the flood plain so it was removed.

Non Conformities

There was considerable discussion about the new regulations causing existing properties to become non-conforming. For instance, if you have a one-story home that is currently set back 10 feet, and the new requirements are for a 12 foot setback, you would need a variance to build a second story on your existing house.

How big is this issue? Village Planner Kellan Cantrell said he reviewed 50 applications to the BAR and believed that only 3% of these applications would require variances under the new code.

Toward the end of the discussion Trustee Karen Brew expressed some skepticism about whether these changes would tackle the original issues that brought the Village to declare the building moratorium. She said, “There is general concern with the appearance of bulk in the A5 district (lots of .11 acres or less). She referred to the proposed regulations and said, “We are not changing a thing. The setbacks are not changed. The FAR is the same. The open space (requirement) will not make a difference. And we are still giving a FAR bonus (for additional setbacks beyond the minimums.)

FARChart

The consultants responded saying, “Smaller lots are challenging. Middle size lots will be more impacted.” They added that the bonus square footage for the FAR incentive in the A5 zone would be reduced by 80 square feet.

Brew continued, “If you drive around A5 and you see what is being built, they are massive. It makes the whole neighborhood ugly. It is destroying the neighborhood. The whole idea was to decrease bulk and change stormwater management. And this is not going to help this.”

Mayor Arest asked the consultants to “look at other neighborhoods. And take another look at that.”

PenaltiesWoodlands2

Closing the work session, Mayor Arest asked the Village Attorney to look into drafting stricter penalties for those who take down homes without a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Committee for Historic Preservation. He asked, “Could they be required to rebuild the original home?:

Similarly could penalties be increased for those who clear cut properties without a permit. He wondered if the Village could require the offender to replant with similar sized trees.

Events

In other news from the Village Board, Mayor Arest reminded registered voters to vote in the primary on June 25, 2024 or to vote early, beginning Saturday June 15 at local locations. See the list of locations and voting times here.

Trustee Ken Mazer announced three events for Scarsdale seniors including a pizza party at the Scarsdale Pool on June 20 from 12-3, a Father’s Day celebration at the Girls Scout House and a Safety Expo at Scarsdale Library on Thursday June 27 at 11 am.

Trustee Gruenberg relayed that she had attended a ceremony at Wayside Cottage on Friday June 7 to commemorate slaves who resided there in the 1700’s. Witness stones were placed to remember Rose and her seven children who were slaves and residents of the cottage.

Resolutions

Trustees passed resolutions to furnish mobile radios for the Scarsdale Police Department, to purchase radio equipment for the Scarsdale Police for use in the MTA regional radio system and to purchase a Zetron Radio Console for the Police Department.

They agreed to an amendment of the CSEA Local contract to include Juneteenth. (June 19th) as a paid holiday.

They appointed Randi Culang to the Board of Architectural Review in place of current member Raul Mayta who will now serve as an alternate.

Tax Collections

Though Treasurer Ann Scaglione was not at the meeting, Mayor Arrest was pleased to report that the tax collection rate for County, School and Village taxes have all exceeded the five-year average and are all above 99%.

Village Tax Bills will be mailed out on July 1, 2024.