Monday, Feb 26th

scarsdalevillagehallScarsdale Village Trustees were back at work right after the New Year to consider fair and affordable housing in Scarsdale and a village-wide revaluation.

On Wednesday January 5, the Trustees Law and Land Use Committees met to discuss how Scarsdale might comply with the  County’s affordable housing settlement that requires Westchester County to provide 750 units of affordable housing by 2016. Though the Federal Monitor has not approved Westchester’s entire plan, the clock is running, and if the County fails to meet deadlines they could pay large penalties. The cost of this penalty could be passed along to municipalities in the County.

Therefore, the Mayor believes it would behoove Scarsdale to take steps to comply to demonstrate the Village’s willingness to do our share. The Federal Monitor James Johnson did approve a Model Code Provision that meets the requirements of the stipulation. The Model Code is provided as a template for municipalities to adopt, and the monitor is hopeful that Villages in Westchester will incorporate the provisions into their own code.

Village Planner Elizabeth Marrinan reviewed the Model Code to determine if portions of it could be adopted by Scarsdale.

Here are the provisions under consideration:

  • A requirement that at least 10% of the total number of units in residential developments of 10+ units be Affordable Affirmative Furthering Fair Housing Units (AFFH)
  • Income limits for owner occupied sale units of 80% of area median income (AMI) and income limits for rental units of 30-60% of AMI for AFFH units
  • That developers market the AFFH units in accordance with an approved Affordable Housing Affirmative Marketing Plan
  • That the affordable units remain affordable by deed restriction or covenant for 50 years.

Following a discussion, the Trustees asked the Village staff to do the following:

  • Suggest revisions to the Model Ordinance to fit the facts and circumstances of Scarsdale
    Obtain information from other villages about they are doing and not doing vis-vis the model ordinance.

The Village staff agreed to have this information to the Trustees within 45 days.

Revaluation: Following the discussion of Affordable Housing, the Trustees Law Committee considered revaluation. On the table was a resolution to ask the Village staff to draft an RFP to retain an expert to conduct the revaluation in Scarsdale.

After some discussion, the Trustees determined that this did not require a resolution and that the document drafted by the Village staff provided more detail than needed about the revaluation.

They decided to simplify the request and agreed that the Village staff should draft an RFP that will allow the Village to determine what experts are available and what the cost might be.

The complication is that Westchester County is considering a Countywide revaluation and is already in the process of taking aerial photographs that could be used by Scarsdale as one piece of the revaluation. However, the County has adopted a four-year timeline for their revaluation, and if Scarsdale waits for the County to complete their data collection and photography it could be up to six years before Scarsdale would complete their revaluation. Though the County would defray some of the cost of the revaluation, six years may be too long to wait. The number of tax grievances in Scarsdale continues to climb and a recent report by the Scarsdale Forum calls for an immediate revaluation.

Therefore, the Trustees asked the Village Manager to draft an RFP to determine the cost of conducting a revaluation for Scarsdale alone, in conjunction with one more additional municipalities or as part of a countywide revaluation. In addition, the RFP should request pricing for the ”Chevrolet” approach where fewer factors are considered and fewer home entries required, versus a more in-depth revaluation with a longer list of home characteristics to be considered and a higher percentage of home entries.

Robert Berg attended the meeting on behalf of the Scarsdale Forum and asked the Trustees to do more than draft the RFP, as the Forum is eager to move forward with the entire revaluation. As no other objections were heard, the Trustees agreed to request the RFP and the meeting was adjourned.

 

scarsdalecrestThe Citizen's Nominating Committee (CNC) is looking for potential candidates for Mayor and Village Trustee. Our non-partisan system tries to get the best Scarsdale citizens to serve on our Village Board. The committee considers all who are interested in the positions available. For further information, please contact a member of the CNC ( http://www.scarsdaleprocedurecommittee.org/ncmembers.htm ) or CNC Chair Bruce Wells at 472-2696 or brucekwells@gmail.com .

The deadline for submission of materials is January 18th at 5 p.m. The CNC plans to announce the slate on January 26th.

 

 

parkbenchThe Land Use Committee of the Scarsdale Village Board of Trustees met on Wednesday December 8 to continue the discussion on the establishment of an Open Space Fund to allow the Village to purchase selected properties and safeguard them from development. The meeting began with a presentation from Village staff, which addressed the creation of a fund. Upon completion of the presentation, the trustees had a discussion and then opened the floor to the public to voice their comments.

Here are a few of the highlights of the presentation, titled “Community Preservation Fund and Real Estate Transfer Tax Report,”

• In order to establish a Community Preservation Fund, an Open Space Advisory Board and impose a Real Estate Transfer Tax to fund it, the Board of Trustees would need to adopt a resolution and hold a mandatory referendum.

The Community Preservation Fund would be used to preserve community character by acquiring an interest in real property, establish a bank of development rights and for management and stewardship of the program.

An Advisory Board would be established to review and make recommendations on proposed acquisitions. The Board would consist of five to seven members with experience in conservation and land preservation, who are not already serving on another town board.

A Community Preservation Project Plan would be required to list every parcel under consideration for acquisition with a detailed evaluation of available land use alternatives, and prioritization for preservation. This plan could be amended at any time in the 60-day period before the referendum and would need to be updated once every five years.

Selection criteria for properties to be preserved include ecological importance, protection from flooding or use as a water resource, distinctive character, park or recreational value, important landscapes, capacity for public use and enjoyment, preservation of native biological diversity, passive use and preservation of culture.

• The current list of parcels for consideration include: Scarsdale’s Woman’s Club, the Church on Murray Hill and Post Roads, Fenway Golf Club, Ramsey Farm, Boulder Brook, Parlato Property, Quaker Ridge Golf Course, and the gas station on the corner of Post and Popham Roads.

• A Real Estate Transfer Tax of up to 2% of the amount above the median sale price of a Scarsdale home would be imposed and paid by the purchasers of homes in Scarsdale.

• The timeline for the establishment of an Open Space Fund includes committee meetings on draft proposals, public hearings, and adoption of the local law and plan by a vote. Pending approval, there would be a village wide referendum.

In the discussion many of the trustees, pointed out issues with the plan, and concurred that this project might not received the necessary public support. Trustee Flisser expanded upon this concern by acknowledging that the public may turn the proposed plan down, taking away time and energy that could have gone towards a more viable project.

Lynne Clark, a Scarsdale resident, real estate broker and member of the Conservation and Advisory Council, said that though she liked the idea of the preservation fund, she would not support the Real Estate Transfer Tax.

Commenting on the fund and the meeting Clark said, “As a member of the Conservation Advisory Council, I am an advocate for the preservation of open space. However, I am not in favor of taxing buyers to build up a fund to do so. If in the future our Village Trustees feel this is a top priority, the expense should be shared by all the residents of the Village. It seems to me that a few new residents to our community should not have to bear the brunt of raising funds for the enjoyment of the many who already live here. It is not fair, in my opinion. In principle, as an experienced real estate broker at Houlihan Lawrence, I felt also that in this economy and with our housing market slowly easing out of a decline, it was not an appropriate time to put an additional transfer tax burden on Scarsdale buyers. Buyers today are looking for the best value and are searching everywhere. Our prices and taxes are already among the highest in the County and State. To maintain a stable real estate market here, we need to remain competitive with other fine Westchester communities who do not have such a tax. I think our hard working Trustees have made the right decision for this time and place."

The Board decided to postpone the issue for later discussion and to consider doing a survey of residents to assess support for an Open Space Fund. The Board concluded that they needed to get a feel for community sentiment before moving forward. Read the report in its entirety on the Village website.

Kids’ B.A.S.E: In other news from Village Hall, the Village Law Committee met with representatives of Kids’ B.A.S.E. of Scarsdale on Wednesday December 7th to discuss plans to build extra classrooms in the interior courtyard and as well as a playground on the perimeter of their site facing Saxon Woods.

The extra classrooms would allow the school to create a proper library and a resource/discovery center. It was made clear that these plans, specifically the playground, would in no way infringe on the Saxon Woods property and that the new facilities will provide a safe environment for the children. Trustee Toder asked the attendees if there were any downsides to the plan and no objections or comments to his question were voiced. Since the Board of Trustees determined that their interests are protected by the plan, the committee unanimously decided to support the building improvements.

It’s finally settled -- Ridgeway Golf Club will now be home to the French American School – ending the property’s long history as a golf club. The French American school reached a deal to purchase the club for $11 million earlier this month, and plans to consolidate their 852 students onto one campus. Currently they run a preschool in Scarsdale, a lower school in Larchmont and an upper school in Mamaroneck.

It is difficult to imagine the grand clubhouse with its gracious dining room and marble locker rooms as a school. Beyond the indoor facility there’s an Olympic-sized outdoor pool, ten tennis courts and the 18-hole golf course. The club was the site of many happy occasions – including bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings, delicious Sunday brunches and charity fundraisers. The dining room windows looked out over the bucolic golf course and dining there you could easily forget you were minutes from downtown White Plains.

The city of White Plains had considered purchasing the 128-acre property and creating a semi-private recreational facility but the school stepped in with their offer before White Plains could reach a decision. According to a statement from the school, they will no longer maintain a golf course on the property, but much of the land will remain as open space.

The club began in 1912 as the Gedney Farm Hotel that included tennis facilities, a swimming pool, bowling, squash courts, stables, a polo field, ice skating rink, and a kennel for pets of guests. A picture of the original pool from a penny postcard is included here. Howard Willets, who owned racehorses, stabled them in a barn that is now the men's locker room. Also shown here is a lease for the property for the creation of the Gedney Farm Golf Club in 1922. On September 20, 1924 a fire destroyed the original hotel and Eddie Cantor, a guest at the time, witnessed the 9-hour blaze.

The golf course remained as part of the Gedney Farm Golf Course until 1952 when it was purchased by a group of individuals from Harry Lewis and renamed the Ridgeway Country Club.

Though it thrived for decades, the club fell on hard times in 2009, losing 25% if it’s membership. Facing a deficit of $1 million on a $4 million budget, they originally sought to sell the club for $20 million and to keep it open for another five years. They also reduced the initiation fees hoping to attract enough new members to stay afloat. However existing members left for other clubs, and though some new members signed on, there were not enough members to meet expenses.

In December 2010, the club was sold for half of the original asking price. Sadly, this beautiful expanse in the heart of White Plains will now be used for education, rather than recreation. Share your memories of Ridgeway below:

handsWithin the last few weeks, Scarsdale has experienced a number of deaths under tragic circumstances. Times like these raise difficult questions with no easy answers. In response, the community is planning a number of town meetings to be held on Wednesday, December 15th at:

1:00 pm - Scarsdale Women’s Club, 37 Drake Road

7:00 pm - Girl Scout House, 31 Wayside Lane

8:30 pm -Wayside Cottage, 1039 Post Rd.

Scarsdale mental health professionals, clergy and civic leaders will provide leadership and facilitate discussion. The meetings will focus on ways we can support each other and the community. In addition, resources and information on suicide, including a discussion about how to talk to children of all ages, will be presented.

To attend, please RSVP by CLICKING HERE or by calling Scarsdale Family Counseling Service at 723-3281.

 

 

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