At tonight’s Board of Trustees’ meeting (September 19th, 2016), the Board will be setting public hearings for 17 proposed local laws. These are the result of a land use review conducted over the past several months. Below is an FAQ about the process. Subsequent FAQs will be forthcoming on some of the more substantive proposed laws.
QUESTION: What was the Board’s objective in setting a Temporary Moratorium?
ANSWER: Our objective was to provide time to study current development trends, identify those situations which seemed the most likely to happen and would have the greatest impact on Larchmont village-wide, and begin crafting legislation to address those concerns.
It’s important to note that the Board can and will continue to review land use laws and consider amendments, where necessary, after the expiration of the Temporary Moratorium.
QUESTION: What has the Board done?
ANSWER: We began by hiring a professional planning consultant, Richard Preiss of Phillips, Preiss, and Grygiel, to conduct a review of our existing zoning code and the building activity in Larchmont over the past several years.
Based on Mr. Preiss’ preliminary results, we decided to focus initially on issues which were already affecting many residents and had the potential, if left unchanged, to allow for development which might alter the character of Larchmont’s neighborhoods. Many of these issues came to light through building projects on Vanderburgh, Bronson and Palmer Avenues, among others. Some of these issues are:
- Maximum house size
- Setbacks from property lines
- Lot coverage
- Stormwater control
- Changing the natural contours of a property
- Height of retaining walls
- Limiting removal of trees during development
Through an open process of collaborative public meetings, the Board, Mr. Preiss, Village Counsel, Village land use board members and members of the community worked to develop draft revisions of Village code.
The result is the issuance by the Board of 17 draft local laws which, if enacted, will effectuate the most comprehensive overhaul of our residential zoning regulations in over forty years. The drafts can be viewed by clicking here. Village of Larchmont property owners are urged to read through these draft laws, as they can and will have a strong impact on the ways in which your property can be developed and altered.
QUESTION: Why didn’t you change the zoning to reduce the possibility of subdivisions?
ANSWER: Downzoning individual properties (increasing the minimum lot size required), without applying the same downzoning requirements to all lots in the surrounding zoning district, is generally considered invalid “spot zoning”.
Our consultant, with advice from our legal counsel, has reviewed the Village’s residential Zoning Districts to determine the effects of increasing minimum required lot sizes. He has advised us that increasing required minimum lot sizes in our zoning districts is unwarranted from a sound planning standpoint. Chief among his reasons for reaching this conclusion is that increasing required lot sizes would render a large percentage of properties in our zoning districts “non-conforming”, as the majority of our properties are of a size commensurate with their existing zoning regulations.
QUESTION: Why haven’t you created Historic Preservation?
ANSWER: The Board does not dispute that there may be some homes in Larchmont which might be considered historic using the National Register criteria for evaluation. However, nearly all of the tear-downs of the past several years would have fallen short of those standards and their demolition would not have been prevented. Therefore, it was clear that prioritizing revisions which would affect building applications would have a far greater impact on protecting Larchmont’s unique character.
At the same time, we have studied the legislation of various surrounding communities, particularly with respect to its effectiveness in protecting historic buildings and in standing up to legal challenges. Some of the legislation in place around Westchester County has been shown to do neither.
The board’s preliminary view is that the most effective and defensible methodology would commit the Village to conduct a survey of all properties in the Village for the purpose of designating historic areas, districts and/or sites, and create an historic commission which would provide special review and approval prior to demolition of buildings on the survey list.
Historic Preservation has ramifications not only for the Village, but for the property owners whose homes are designated by the survey. Therefore, it seems appropriate that a further understanding of the survey process is necessary and a town hall-type meeting be held to involve all Village residents in a discussion of this issue and receive their input.
QUESTION: What about protecting trees?
ANSWER: Trees can be separated into 3 distinct categories for discussion during land use reviews:
- Street and Park Trees (Public Trees)
- Private trees on property undergoing building activity
- Private trees on property not undergoing building activity
The Board did make substantial revisions and additions to our code on the first 2 categories. Click here to read the proposed laws.
The third category was not prioritized, as it would not affect building applications. It is also a more contentious issue on which there may not be public consensus. A private tree ordinance may require permission to remove a tree from your property for any reason. For example, if you wanted to remove a tree to get more sunshine, have room to play games with your children, or install solar panels on your roof, you may need to get permission from a Village Board or Official. Some people believe this is an over-extension of government. Others feel that trees, especially large trees, contribute to the common good and therefore their removal should be subject to some level of community review. Clearly this topic would require open dialogue with the entire community before deciding to move ahead with drafting legislation.