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Scarsdale Board of Trustees Holds First In Person Meeting After the Pandemic

Scarsdale Train StationThe MTA will install a new elevator at the Scarsdale Train StationThe Board of Trustee Business Meeting on July 13th marked a major step in the return to normalcy as the Board held its first in-person meeting in Village Hall since the beginning of the pandemic. This meeting was also the first led by interim Village Manager Rob Cole, who will fill in for retired Village Manager Steve Pappalardo until his replacement is hired.

During his announcements, Cole announced that smoke testing will be conducted in various areas of Scarsdale over the summer and that during the tests, smoke may be discharged from building foundations, sewer cleanings, and may seep from the ground. If the smoke is entering a resident's home, this likely means there are other unsafe gases are entering the premises and posing health risks. Any resident in a potentially affected area will receive direct notification from the village about the dates the tests are being conducted. Residents will also receive instructions on how to report any smoke detected in their home. Cole emphasized that the smoke is non-toxic and non-staining and that the tests will ensure that the village is up-to-code.

During Mayor’s comments, Mayor Jane Veron touched on a variety of topics including her excitement over the town’s first in-person meeting and an update on the status of the village manager search. After receiving 56 applications, the village narrowed the field to 14 qualified applicants for village manager and conducted extensive interviews for the Village Manager position over two days. Finalist interviews will be held in late July.

Proposed Changes to Building Code

Mayor Veron also addressed the local zoning law that was taken up during a public hearing later in the evening. Below is an excerpt from her statement:

"In just a few moments we will open a public hearing on the proposed changes to land-use code. To offer context, over 15 years ago, a SNAP subcommittee along with other community groups, land use boards, and village representatives developed draft FAR legislation to address complaints about bulky houses and the risk to neighborhood character. Ultimately, these efforts led to the FAR code change. Over time, many residents have called for stricter requirements and have asked that the Village reexamine the FAR legislation yet again and consider other regulatory tools. This issue is never easy as we regularly struggle to find the right balance between individual property rights and public good. We also know that Scarsdale's charm is its diversity of neighborhoods and finding a solution that is good for all can be complex. Pre pandemic, Land Use Board Chairs formed a working group to examine multiple reports and recommendations made over many years that they felt would have helped Scarsdale move closer to the collective desired outcome. The Village Board referred this working group's proposal to the Planning Board in early 2021, and the Planning Board deliberated for many months and made the recommendation to the Village Board that is on the agenda this evening. We look forward to the public hearing. We will listen and absorb, and we will not vote on the matter this evening. I expect that this item will be back on the agenda in early August.”

Next, the Board opened the public hearing to amend a local zoning law. The proposed law will amend existing legislation by:

• Reducing the maximum permitted roof height from 35 feet to 32 feet;
• Reducing the FAR side yard setback bonus by 30%;
• Eliminating the requirement that any home addition must be to the read of the home in order to utilize the side year FAR bonus;
• Clarifying the Village Code to specify that the FAR garage credit applies to the square footage of the floor level of the garage where cars are parked, excluding space on upper floors;
• And requiring Planning Board Sit Plan approval for single-family residential projects involving more than 15,000 square feet of gross floor area, eliminating review through a Special Use Permit from the Board of Appeals.

Only one resident, Brian Nottage, spoke during this public hearing. Mr. Bottage said, "to me, it strikes me that this law is targeting something specific (overbuilding homes) by doing something very general. If the issue is that new homes are too big, the law should address this specifically." He also commented that "these rules are impossible for any citizen to understand. I have no real concept of what these rules do… it would probably be a problem for my house. I would like to see something more targeted." Mr. Nottage also spoke about his concern that the amendment would penalize existing homeowners and encourage more teardowns in neighborhoods.

Trustee Arest also raised his concern that in the amendment, the term "bulk" is subjective and that the vague nature of how parts of the amendment are written will force a future Board to reevaluate the matter in a few years. Trustee Arest questioned the wisdom of the Board's incremental approach but also stated that he currently has no plans to vote against the legislation. Trustee Whitestone added that the law "seems to balance interests of homeowners and developers pretty well… I feel there is targeting and specificity to the recommendations… it is not ideal to go back (to reevaluate) three years from now, but balancing all these considerations it makes sense to consider what we have before us." Trustee Lewis affirmed Trustee Whitestone's position.

New Elevator and Heated Canopy at Scarsdale Metro North Station

The last significant agenda item of the meeting was the passing of four resolutions. The first, presented by Trustee Arest, was a resolution to authorize the execution of an easement agreement for the Metro-North Scarsdale Station Project. Metro-North submitted renderings of what the project will look like – see figures 1 and 2. This project is subject to an RFP, so the below drawings of the station improvements are not exact, but rather an estimation of what the work will look like. This is a two-phase project; the first phase will be installing a new elevator (see figure 1) and relocating the motorcycle and scooter parking to meet ADA compliance. Phase two will feature the installation of a canopy, a heated platform, and other amenities. Before voting unanimously to pass the resolution, Trustee Whitestone commented that Metro-North has "a bad track record of designing facilities updates with commuters in mind." He stated that the last improvements were done without sincere regard for how residents actually used the facilities and that the Board needs to "keep a close eye on" how the project develops.

Appointment to Library Board

Trustee Brew led the next resolution, where the Board voted to approve the appointment of Robert Jeremiah to the Scarsdale Library Board. Jeremiah will finish the five-year term of Deb Morell who submitted her resignation earlier this year after moving out of Scarsdale.

Transportation

Next, Trustee Lewis presided over the resolution to executive an inter-municipal agreement with Westchester County for prisoner transportation services. He remarked that this agreement provides compensation to the village for these services and enhances public safety as well as improves police department work. The resolution passed unanimously.

Library Bench

Finally, Trustee Whitestone introduced the last resolution to accept a gift of a new library pond bench in memory of Scarsdale resident Dr. Tanya Dutta. Dr. Dutta was in her mid-40s and passed away in early June 2021 after a battle with cancer. She was a renowned cardiologist and a wonderful resident of Scarsdale. To honor Dr. Dutta’s lifelong passion for reading and learning, her family decided that the library pond was a fitting location for a bench in her honor. The board voted unanimously to approve the acceptance of this gift and agreed it was an appropriate way to honor the tragic loss of Dr. Dutta.

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