In my Supervisor’s Report last week I discussed the Town’s project to create a Form Based Code for the Chappaqua Hamlet. A traditional zoning code regulates land use by dictating where certain uses (ie: business, residential, industrial, etc.) can occur. By comparison, a form based code attempts to look holistically at how zoning relates to infrastructure, parking, open space, design/architecture, etc., and focuses more on the “form” of the building, as opposed to mandating its use. This is a truly exciting way to plan for the future of our beloved downtown. Working with the members of the Downtown Working Group, the Town Board is charged with creating a form based code that reflects the goals of the Town’s 2017 Comprehensive Plan: “to preserve the Town’s bucolic, residential character and its historic resources, while promoting new mixed-use development in the hamlets to meet the community’s housing needs and fostering thriving commercial and civic spaces.”
Last night the Downtown Working Group convened to discuss the most recent draft of the code. You can find the draft of the Form Based Code, as well as other project documents and videos from all our public meetings at: http://www.plannewcastle.us/rezoning. As a result of this meeting the draft will be updated to reflect feedback on the regulating plan and review process.
Following the Downtown Working Group meeting, at our Town Board Meeting the Town Board approved a resolution to take the following next steps:
- The Town Board declared itself to be the lead agency with regard to the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR),
- Upon review of the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) prepared by our consultants, Kimley Horn, the Town Board issued a “positive declaration,” finding that there are potentially significant environmental impacts resulting from this project which warrant an Environmental Impact Assessment, and
- We set the date for the public scoping session for the EIS, which will be during our Town Board meeting on January 28th.
I want to stress that we are at the beginning of the public engagement process that is required in the SEQR process. We have taken steps to move forward with the Environmental analysis that will answer some of the questions that have been raised to date – how will increased density impact traffic and parking? How will the building heights proposed in the draft code impact the character of the hamlet? Ultimately, the EIS will give the Town Board, acting as Lead Agency, the information we need to determine the merits of the project.
Frequently Asked Questions
To help residents understand where we are in the process and how you can get involved, here is a list of helpful Frequently Asked Questions about the Public Role in State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) and the “Scoping” Process:
What is SEQR?
In New York, SEQR requires all state, regional and local government agencies to determine, at the earliest possible time, whether “actions” (projects or activities they undertake or fund directly, or that require their approval), may have a significant impact on the environment. If the proposed action is seen to have at least one environmental impact, then agencies must issue a “positive declaration of significance” (pos dec) and require the preparation of an environmental impact assessment (EIS). An important aspect of SEQR is the public’s ability to participate in the environmental assessment process. You will have several opportunities to provide feedback, beginning with public input on the preparation of a “scope,” which will guide and direct the preparation of the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS).
What is a DEIS and why is it important?
It is the primary source of environmental information to help involved agencies consider environmental concerns in making decisions about a proposed action. The DEIS examines the nature and extent of an action’s identified potential environmental impacts, as well as steps that could be taken to avoid or minimize these impacts.
What is scoping?
Scoping is a process to identify the topics and analyses of an action’s potential environmental impacts that will be addressed in a DEIS. The scoping process is intended to:
- Focus the EIS on potentially significant adverse impacts and eliminate considerations of those impacts that are irrelevant or nonsignificant;
- ensure public participation in the EIS development process;
- allow open discussion of issues of public concern; and
- permit inclusion of relevant, substantive public issues in the final written scope.
Who prepares the scope?
Town Hall staff and our consultants will prepare and submit a draft scope to the Town Board. Once formal scoping has started, the lead agency directs the process and preparation of the final written scope.
What is the lead agency’s role in the scoping process?
The Town Board must provide the draft scope to all involved agencies and any that express interest in writing, ensuring an opportunity for them and the public to offer input. Under SEQR, this opportunity is required. The lead agency may provide it by circulating the draft scope and providing time for the public to submit written comments, holding one or more public meetings, or a combination of these.
Why is public participation in developing the scope important?
Public involvement reduces the likelihood that unaddressed issues will arise during public review of the DEIS. From the public’s perspective, scoping is important because it offers an opportunity to ensure the DEIS is as comprehensive as possible to minimize the project’s environmental impact on the community. It also increases the likelihood the project will be consistent with community values.
What is considered “the environment” in this environmental review?
The definition is very comprehensive and includes impacts relating to: • Land use, zoning and public policy • Vegetation and wildlife • Geology, soils and topography • Storm water, waste water • Water Supply, surface water, ground water • Wetlands • Cultural resources • Solid waste • Air quality • Noise • Community character, community services • Socioeconomic, fiscal
How can I writing effective scoping comments that will assist the Town Board?
Scoping comments from the public and other agencies provide the environmental review process with a broader perspective. Your comments will help ensure that the DEIS prepared by the project sponsor is relevant, comprehensive and addresses stakeholders’ concerns. Consider:
IMPACT—Introduce yourself, your purpose for writing and potential impacts of concern—e.g., water/air quality, open space, recreational resources, climate change, culture, economics, health. State direct, indirect or cumulative impacts you want studied.
SIGNIFICANCE—Describe the significance of the impact(s). Define the breadth of study necessary to address adequately the impact’s significance in terms of time, geography and populations affected.
FORESEEABLE—Provide support as to why impact(s) is/are foreseeable. If available, offer supporting information or research regarding potential harms.
ALTERNATIVES—Identify alternative(s) you want the DEIS to consider, including potential mitigations and other courses of action.