For further inquiries about the plan please contact:
Sabrina D. Charney Hull, AICP Director of Planning.
P. (914) 238-4723
Allow up to 48 hours for a reply Monday - Friday.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is a form-based code?
A form-based code is a means of regulating land development to achieve a specific urban form. It is a way to regulate development that controls building form first and building use second, with the purpose of achieving a particular type of “place” or built environment based on the vision of a community.
Q. What is the purpose of Chappaqua’s comprehensive plan?
The New Castle Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2017 sets forth policy statements, goals and actions that will enable New Castle to navigate shifts in the world today and continue to thrive as a desirable place to live, work and play for generations to come. Generally, comprehensive plans should be updated every ten (10) years to account for any changes in community policies and goals over that period of time. Under New York State Law, a comprehensive plan serves as the foundational document for zoning legislation within the municipality. Zoning laws are required to be in accordance with the municipality’s comprehensive plan.
Q. What is the goal of rezoning the Chappaqua Hamlet?
The goal is to ensure that all elements of the built environment, including land use, transportation, housing, energy, and infrastructure, work together to provide sustainable, green places for living, working, and recreation, with a high quality of life. Specifically, the Form Based Code will create the structure to diversify the town's housing stock (both housing type and price point) and revitalize the existing business area which is and has been plagued with vacant storefronts.
Q. Will the rezoning change the history of Chappaqua?
No. All development should complement and maintain the historic character that exists today. The proposed legislation protects the historic buildings and landmarks that exist within the hamlet today.
Q. Is the Chappaqua form-based code a construction project?
This legislation is not a construction project. This form-based code offers opportunities for property owners to reinvest and redevelop their properties in the hamlet to help meet the goals of the community as outlined in the Comprehensive Plan.
Q. What is GEIS?
“GEIS” refers to a Generic Environmental Impact Statement. Upon review of the proposed Form Based Code the Town Board determined that the adoption and implementation of the Form Based Code may result in one or more significant adverse environmental impacts. Therefore, the Town Board adopted a “positive declaration” pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) which triggers a requirement to prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). In this instance, because the action being studied is the adoption of legislation rather than a defined development project with specific impacts the Town Board decided to use a “Generic” EIS, or GEIS. A GEIS is a useful tool for studying the impacts of multiple actions within a geographic area. Once a Draft GEIS (DGEIS) is accepted as complete (meaning, it contains all information outlined in the Scoping Document) the Town Board will hold a public hearing on the DGEIS. All substantive public comments received during this period, both written and verbal, will be responded to in writing through the preparation of a Final GEIS (FGEIS). After the FGEIS is accepted by the Town Board as complete (meaning, all substantive comments have been responded to accurately and adequately) the Town Board will prepare an Environmental Findings Statement. The Findings Statement is a document in which the Town Board will evaluate all information in the GEIS (draft and final) to determine whether the proposed Form Based Code, or one of the alternatives studied in the GEIS, avoids, minimizes or mitigates all potentially significant adverse environmental impacts to the maximum extent practicable. Following the Findings Statement, the Town Board can make a decision on whether or not to adopt the Form Based Code.
Q. Why does the DGEIS study a "full build out" or "buildout scenario" of the Chappaqua Hamlet under the Form Based Code?
The “full build out” or “buildout scenario” studied in the DGEIS for the Form Based Code represents the maximum amount of development that could reasonably be expected to occur in the hamlet under the proposed legislation. In order for the “full build out” to be realized many factors must align. Some of these assumptions include the assemblage of many small parcels of land for redevelopment, the provision of adequate on-site parking and retention of some lots in their existing condition due to physical or other limitations on redevelopment such as the post office, fire house, Verizon communications building, Greeley House, school, and town recreation fields. Parking demand was also a factor in determining the buildout scenario. Pages 2-22 through 2-24 of the DGEIS provide additional information on the scope of the buildout scenario. The reason a “full build out” of the Form Based Code is studied, even though that full scope of development may never occur, is that under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) the Town Board is obligated to analyze the environmental impacts that may result from the adoption of the Form Based Code. Since the Form Based Code is legislation and not a development project, the DGEIS includes a conceptual study of what could occur if all the assumptions, some of which are listed above, were to come to fruition in order to study the environmental impacts of the proposed Code.
Q. Does the Form Based Code allow the entire Chappaqua Hamlet to be 5 stories in height?
No. The draft of the Form Based Code included in the DGEIS allows up to 5 stories in only a few strategically selected areas of the Chappaqua Hamlet. Building height is one of the areas under review, and the proposed building heights in the Form Based Code are subject to change during the review process.
Q. Does the FBC mean development on Town-owned land?
No. The Form Based Code proposes to rezone Town-owned land from an “industrial” zoning designation to a zoning designation that provides an opportunity for the Town Board to consider the sale or lease of Town-owned land for future development. No development of Town-owned land is currently proposed.
Q. If the Town Board determines in the future to sell or lease Town-owned land for a development project, will I have and opportunity to vote on whether or not that should occur? Will there be a referendum?
The current Town Board has no intention of selling or leasing Town-owned land without considering public opinion. New York State Town Law §64 provides that the decision of a Town Board to sell or lease Town-owned land is subject to a permissive referendum. A permissive referendum is a process by which members of the public may petition the Town Board to require the matter be submitted to a public vote. In the event a valid petition is timely submitted, the decision of the Town Board does not take effect unless and until it is approved by a majority of the qualified voters. New York State Town Law §94 provides that where a Town Board decision is subject to a permissive referendum, the Town Board has the authority to submit the matter to a referendum on its own motion, without waiting for a petition to be filed seeking a referendum. Therefore, in the event the Town Board decides to sell or lease Town-owned land the public will have an opportunity to petition the Town Board to hold a referendum, or the Town Board can decide on its own motion to submit the matter for a referendum.
Q. Has the Town been in contact with other public entities on this proposal (e.g. the school board)?
Yes, the Town has been in ongoing discussions with the Chappaqua Central School District, including the Superintendent, and staff in regards to the Form Based Code – specifically in terms of projecting potential changes in the number of pupils attending Chappaqua schools. The school district was also involved with the 2017 Comprehensive Plan.
Q. Once the Form Based Code is in place, what are the next steps for the Town to attract interest in potential opportunities for development?
Market conditions will dictate potential opportunities for smart development within the hamlet. The Form Based Code, however, provides a critical step to allow for the Town to create opportunities for smart development and, maximize potential use consistent with the goals of the community as set forth in the Comprehensive Plan.
Q. Does the Town plan to use eminent domain to buy and consolidate privately owned, small contiguous parcels?
No. The power of eminent domain is a seldom used tool of government. Eminent domain refers to the right bestowed upon the government by the Fifth Amendment to take private land for a public purpose with the payment of just compensation. The Town Board has no intention of using eminent domain in the Chappaqua Hamlet. Instead, private market forces will dictate whether smaller contiguous parcels are assembled and consolidated to allow for redevelopment at the maximum potential permitted under the Form Based Code.
Q. How does the public notification of a proposed development project change with the Form Based Code?
There is a neighbor notification provision within the Form Based Code. The Form Based Code requires notification to be given to owners of property abutting the proposed location of a development project. All abutting property owners will be notified of the proposed project and invited to come in and speak to the Development Department about the project. The notification must include a project description, the project’s location on the subject lot, and elevations. The intent is for the Development Department to engage with the abutting property owners and serve as a conduit through which project changes may be discussed with the applicant to effectuate reasonable modifications to the project to address neighbor concerns. Members of the public who are not abutting property owners may also submit comment to the Development Department for consideration.
Under today’s existing Town Code, projects which are subject to a building permit or other purely administrative review are not subject to public comment. If notification occurs as a result of the permit process, there is no formal means by which public comment is considered in the review of the permit application. For example, unless a property is located within a conservation subdivision or is subject to some other restriction, a residential property may be improved with a swimming pool without opportunity for neighbors – near or far – to comment on that permit application. When the scope of the development triggers a requirement for site plan, special permit, subdivision, wetland permit, steep slopes, or variance approvals from the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals, there is a formal public hearing process by which members of the public may submit written or verbal comment to the appropriate land use board for consideration. These comments inform the board’s review of the application but, by law, the board’s decision cannot rely solely on generalized community support or opposition to a project. Instead, the board must review the information, studies, comments and professional reports submitted in favor of and in opposition to the project and apply that information to the standard of review set forth in the Town Code. The Form Based Code maintains opportunity for public comment and maintains the purpose for which public comment is used in the application review process, but it changes the forum for providing comment. The project review and approval process is one of the areas under review, and is subject to change
Q. Why is this the appropriate time to adopt a Form Based Code for Chappaqua?
Vacant storefronts exist throughout the hamlet. While vacancies may have increased due to the pandemic, the vacancy rate prior to the pandemic was unacceptably high in part due to the popularity of online shopping. The 2017 Comprehensive Plan recognized this and called for a revitalization of the Chappaqua Hamlet. That Plan also identified the need for the community to diversify its housing type from a single-family community to one that offers more options for our younger and older residents. The Comprehensive Plan also called for protecting our single family neighborhoods and targeted new development to locations where we had the infrastructure to support it. The Chappaqua Hamlet has a commuter train station within walking distance to the entire hamlet and it contains sewer and water infrastructure. It is the perfect place to meet the goals of the Comprehensive Plan. Re-writing our zoning code allows us the ability to consider the form of future development- something that we can’t do in the same way under the existing zoning code. Form is an essential component of keeping our community character. Combining the form with a use based code enables us to embrace elements of regulation that are not currently contained in our existing zoning code along with typical controls regarding uses we want to see in our hamlet. The Form Based Code will allow residential uses on the first floor of buildings within certain areas of the hamlet. This will help put more feet on the street, which will create more people living and walking around our downtown area to sustain the businesses that are shuttering today. A form-based code provides an opportunity for us to shape the future of the Chappaqua Hamlet.
Q. Does Chappaqua have the water and sewer infrastructure to handle future development?
The DGEIS included an analysis of water supply and wastewater treatment. As analyzed in the DGEIS, the existing infrastructure for both water supply and wastewater is adequate in that it could handle the demand generated under the build-out scenario.
Q. What assumptions were the foundation of the Form Based Code?
The Chappaqua Hamlet is an existing built environment. As such special considerations formed the basis of the proposed Form Based Code (FBC). These considerations included a policy directive that all new development under the proposed FBC must provide for parking. It is important to the Town Board that the FBC result in no net loss of existing municipal parking. It is also important to note that the proposed FBC includes revised parking standards based on updated industry standards, which is different than what is in the existing zoning code. Another consideration in forming the standards of the proposed FBC was consideration of the high groundwater table in the Chappaqua Hamlet. This means that there is an understanding that new development will not be able to utilize underground parking areas.
Q. Can the public vote on the Form Based Code?
No. Residents have suggested the Town of New Castle’s proposed local law to adopt the Chappaqua Hamlet Form-Based Code be subject to a referendum of the voters. As confirmed by the Town Attorney, the local law adopting the Chappaqua Hamlet Form-Based Code cannot be adopted subject to a referendum. The general rule in New York State is that there can be no referendum in the absence of constitutional or statutory authority. In this case, there is no statutory authority that would allow the Town Board to call a referendum regarding the proposed local law, nor is there any provision in the law (Municipal Home Rule Law §§ 23 and 24) that would allow a group of voters to petition that the issue be put up for a vote.
In response to certain comments received during the Town Board’s public hearing, New York State Municipal Home Rule Law § 24(2)(a) does not authorize a permissive referendum on the FBC. That provision states that “a local law shall be subject to a referendum on petition if it…[d]ispenses with a provision of law requiring public notice or hearing as a condition precedent to official action.” Here, the FBC does not dispense with existing requirements in the Town Code for public hearings associated with site plan or special permit applications under Sections 60-440(C) and 60-430(B) of the Town Code, respectively. Those requirements will remain, but most applications processed under the FBC will not be subject to site plan or special permit review under Sections 60-440(C) and 60-430(B). A separate review procedure is proposed to be established for development applications in the hamlet which allows for public comment, but does not require a public hearing. For further detail, please find the Town Attorney’s memorandum here.
Q: Can the Town conduct a "public opinion poll" or an advisory (non-binding) referendum of the electorate with respect to the proposed Form-Based Code?
A: No. The Town Attorney advises that, as a rule, a municipality may not conduct a referendum, advisory or otherwise, in the absence of constitutional or statutory authority. Further, according to the New York State Comptroller’s Office, use of taxpayer monies to conduct an advisory referendum is impermissible. See, NYCPTR Opn. No. 88-70. Conducting or relying upon an informal survey or poll to gauge public support for the proposed legislation would be legally impermissible. In addition, the SEQRA process has been implemented to gather meaningful public input through a structured process -- and this is the best way to gauge public opinion and to generate actionable feedback. For further detail, please find the Town Attorney’s memorandum here.