Wednesday, Jun 19th

Letter: Consultants Need to Analyze the Causes of Flooding Before Proposing Solutions

George FieldThis letter, outlining concerns about the proposed new building code, was written by Scarsdale resident Cynthia Roberts.

Scarsdale Village Board of Trustees Meeting May 28, 2024

Dear Mayor Arest and Scarsdale Village Board of Trustees,
I appreciate the effort you are taking to use the Moratorium period to gain further insight into the factors that currently threaten Scarsdale’s housing market.

As we all know, families come to Scarsdale seeking excellent public schools. What they may find are distinctive, well-designed homes in a bucolic, leafy setting in some neighborhoods. But increasingly in Scarsdale they are finding new cookie cutter “mcmansions” with scant space for landscaping and trees. While the high price paid for one of these oversized generic homes may thrill the developer, the fabric of our neighborhoods is ultimately cheapened.

There are many issues that threaten Scarsdale’s housing market.

Of greatest concern is the flooding of homes that never flooded before now. Current residents now experience property damage, expense and anxiety with regularity. They wonder whether in the future they will be able to sell their homes, often their largest single investment. Their financial security, as well as the physical and emotional safety their homes once provided, are sinking in stormwater. Once the word gets out that Scarsdale housing stock is waterlogged we have a big problem.

What are the causes of Scarsdale’s run-away flooding? This question should be posed to BFJ Planning. They need to identify the specific causes of the flooding and the magnitude of contribution of each cause in Scarsdale, in order to recommend effective solutions.

The lot coverage of new homes and additions has increased. How does BFJ quantify this trend such that solutions can fit the problem?

This covered land can no longer host plants and trees that would slow and absorb rain. It would be easy for BFJ to compare the lot coverage per square foot of a site on projects approved in the last two years with the lot coverage allowed and built ten years ago.
Scarsdale has lost at least 1,000 trees per year, most of which are not replaced. The small number of newly planted replacement saplings are unable to compensate for the loss of mature canopy trees capable of handling thousands of gallons of stormwater per year. How does BFJ quantify the loss in stormwater mitigation from our diminishing tree canopy?

Without quantifying what is occurring in Scarsdale, how can BFJ predict that expanding the side yard setbacks by 2 feet on each side of a home will substantially alleviate flooding? How do they use these 2 feet to account for expanded lot coverage, significant tree loss, and a rising water table?

There is no disputing that the water table has risen in many areas of Scarsdale. Before a new home or an addition is proposed to our Board of Architectural Review our Engineering Department appropriately requires essential data from both deep soil testing and what is known as percolation testing.

This is one of the key pieces of information that must drive the amount of land that is allowed to be covered with structures and hardscape. This key deep soil and percolation testing information also drives the requirements for drywells on the site. If these tests indicate that the water table is high, a drywell will be of no use in stormwater mitigation.

To ensure the tests are appropriately done and the data appropriately recorded, these tests should be witnessed by either our Village licensed engineer, or licensed engineers hired by Scarsdale to witness the testing done by a developer’s contractor. Other Westchester communities hire licensed engineers to ensure this data is as accurate as humanly possible. They know that this data forms the basis for the appropriate lot coverage that a particular piece of land can accommodate without resulting in flooding the new house, the neighbors, or the neighborhood. Scarsdale owes our residents this safeguard.

BFJ has suggested that gravel and porous asphalt should be considered impermeable surfaces and I applaud this suggestion. Unfortunately, BFJ also suggests that “porous pavers” should be considered a permeable surface. Please ask BFJ how the regular maintenance of “porous pavers” and the soil quality and type into which they are installed impacts whether they should be considered permeable long-term.

In order to better understand the current flooding crisis in Scarsdale, BFJ should be provided with the minutes of the Planning Board meetings regarding the proposals for 46 Lincoln/101 Carthage and for 80 Garden Road. Scores of Village residents are literally pleading for help from our Village government.

Finally, it would be helpful if BFJ were asked whether the two new homes built at the corner of Crane Road and Church Lane on Church Lane would have been permitted under BFJ’s proposed code changes. Only in this way can the Board and the residents start to understand the proposals.

Thank you very much.
Cynthia Roberts
15 Autenrieth Road

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