From the Mayor: Village Comprehensive Plan Is Both an Aspirational Document and a Working Template Print

alt

By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville

Jul. 10, 2019:  The trustees and I continue to finalize our 2019 comprehensive plan. Though sounding innocuous like a document headed for a bookcase shelf, it is actually a very important instrument for village governance. This will be the sixth community plan for Bronxville: the village’s first overall plan was adopted in 1971 and subsequently reviewed in 1980, 1992, 1997, 2002, and 2009. The plan actually fulfills a statutory obligation so wisely placed in our village code by our prior governing boards.

Essentially, experts in planning, design, traffic, and development are hired under one umbrella firm to look at the village from 30,000 feet and assess whether we are achieving optimal aspirations for the village.

In essence, the overall goal of the plan as envisioned is to:

  • Preserve and promote the special architectural character and appearance of existing buildings and neighborhoods.
  • Maintain the natural landscape of the village.
  • Retain the pedestrian scale of buildings, streets, and open spaces that currently exist.
  • Encourage land uses that are appropriate to the existing pattern of development and that will help ensure the economic stability of the whole community.
  • Mitigate the impacts of flooding on residential and commercial properties within the village. 

The subcategories needing review to preserve the village character include:

Residential Areas 

  • Preserve the quality and character of existing single-family residential zones.
  • Retain the roughly even balance between single-family and multi-family units.
  • Achieve the appropriate balance in regulation to ensure that new construction and large renovations maintain a reasonable scale in relation to lot size.

Transportation and Parking

  • Promote policies to help ensure convenient and safe traffic flow on the village street network.
  • Ensure adequate public transportation services, particularly for residents without access to private automobiles.
  • Enhance pedestrian safety throughout the village and create opportunities for alternative vehicles where possible.
  • Ensure an adequate supply of parking for commuters, shoppers, merchants, and other visitors to the central business district (CBD) consistent with the residential character of the village.

Commercial Uses

  • Maintain the "village" character of the CBD through careful control of land uses, storefronts, and signage; adequate building maintenance; and ongoing streetscape improvements.
  • Maintain and improve the mix of retail stores, services, and other commercial uses that are geared to the needs of local residents and those in adjoining communities.
  • Ensure that any new development is related in scale and character to the existing buildings within the CBD.

Open Space and Recreation

  • Preserve and enhance existing public open space areas with special attention to seating and landscape improvements, including along village streets, parking lots, and the Metro-North plaza area.
  • Encourage continued use of natural landscape elements within existing development.
  • Ensure high-quality maintenance of existing recreation facilities. 

Community Facilities

  • Maintain high-quality services and facilities for village residents.
  • Ensure efficient use and maintenance of public services provided by the police department and the department of public works. 

Tax Base 

  • Achieve fiscal savings without sacrificing existing high-quality village services.
  • Maintain balance between user fees and the costs of providing services.
  • Preserve the commercial property tax base in the CBD.
  • Conduct regular revaluation updates as needed to ensure that assessed property values are consistent with real estate values and other conditions.
  • Enforce regular assessment updates of individual properties to reflect any improvements that may change their assessed value.

As an illustration of how the plan will guide changes in village codes and policies, the planning and zoning realms provide specific examples. 

Even just during the course of the comprehensive planning process, the village board of trustees adopted Local Law 1-2019 to amend Chapter 112, Building Construction Regarding Demolition Permits in response to concerns over “teardowns” of vulnerable historic homes. Through stakeholder engagement, members of village boards and committees, and the public, it was clear that there was a need to address the issue of homes being torn down with larger homes, sometimes out of context with the neighborhood, being built on-site.

Local Law 1-2019 places additional constraints on demolitions as a “circuit breaker” that provides the village with tools to encourage construction that is historically contextual and proportional to lot size. 

After our comprehensive plan review, it is now clear that the definition of floor area ratio (FAR) components needs to be examined. These include how basements and attics are included in FAR calculation. In the same vein, our zoning code could enact new provisions to better maintain the proportionate ratio between homes and lot sizes without infringing on residents’ ability to make reasonable modifications. In addition, home renovations projects are now lasting for long stretches, negatively impacting the quality of life in neighborhoods. Rules on the length of permits, contractor parking, and road damage will need to be considered.

The comprehensive plan not only serves as an aspirational document but as a working template to jumpstart changes in policies and procedures in order to maintain the character of the village for future generations.

Pictured here: Mayor Mary Marvin.

Photo by N. Bower

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff