An article in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, November 27th stated that "retailers have closed hundreds of stores across the country amid increasing competition from online shopping, leaving mall owners to grapple with declining foot traffic and rising vacancies." Locally, this is a trend that has been seen in many Westchester communities. In Greenburgh, businesses located along Central Park Ave, Route 119 and on Saw Mill River Road have also seen vacancies. Some vacancies are a result of the rents stores are being charged by landlords. A unique challenge, at “Four Corners” for example is a lack of parking. While these challenges exist, the Town is proactively working to ensure that policies are in place to improve quality of life for our residents and businesses.
At a Town Board-Planning Board joint meeting on November 29th, recommendations were made to take action to minimize vacancies in the Town. Some policy suggestions involved Comprehensive Plan implementation such as updating zoning along the Rt. 119 corridor with a uniform District (comparable to Central Park Avenue). Viable uses that are presently prohibited such as car sales uses would become a part of such zoning district. For the Central Park Avenue, Rt. 119 and mixed-use portions of Saw Mill River Road, other concepts such as removing the special permit requirement for indoor health and gym clubs was discussed. This action would save time and expense for businesses that want to be a part of Greenburgh. With respect to off-street parking requirements for the Town’s mixed-use corridors, updating parking standards in a manner that does not require excessive parking was discussed. Updates that incentivize structured or underground parking could also be a consideration. The services of a transportation consultant will be sought to assist the Town in preparation of updated parking standards.
The Town Board and Planning Board, with the assistance of Town staff, have carefully reviewed and approved several recent projects, and conditioned those approvals with aspects that will hopefully improve our mixed-use corridors. For example, the Town Board and Planning Board recently approved a new restaurant and commercial building at Dalewood Shopping Center. When constructed, the approval includes pedestrian upgrades such as a sidewalk that will connect from Central Park Avenue to the former Best Market. The new building, related landscaping and circulation updates to the shopping center will likely enhance the probability for a new tenant at the former Best Market. The Glasshouse 250 multi-family apartment building in Hartsdale nearing completion and the Hyundai dealership were both approved with requirements for a new sidewalk. Additionally, the Town of Greenburgh was awarded a major sidewalk grant for a new sidewalk from Four Corners to Marion Avenue. Pedestrian connectivity throughout theses corridors and connecting into our corridors is important for safety and increased activity.
The new Tappan Zee/Cuomo Bridge has and will continue to impact the Town. The bridge’s pedestrian/cycling component, coupled with the recently completed North/South County Trailway provide residents with unprecedented recreational opportunities for the area, and will continue to draw in visitors for the same purpose. The Town of Greenburgh, working with the Village of Tarrytown, Village of Elmsford and City of White Plains recently received a $250,000 grant focusing on the Rt. 119 corridor (“the Rt. 119 Complete Street Study”) which will provide policy recommendations to complement our transportation network.
The Town of Greenburgh has made infrastructure improvements a priority, a majority of which are significantly tied to economic development opportunities. The Town has worked closely with the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to ensure that transportation improvements (Old Saw Mill River Road/Rt. 9A Bridge Replacement and roundabout project 2018/2019) will facilitate planned growth in the north part of the Town, identified in the Comprehensive Plan as the Research & Development Cluster North. These NYSDOT projects were coordinated with the recent Town Board approved 1,000,000 sq. ft. expansion for Loop Road Holdings, LLC, and the 607 Saw Mill River Road redevelopment project (presently under review). The Town of Greenburgh was the recipient of an approximately $5,000,000 grant for water infrastructure improvement projects which will enhance service in the R&D Cluster.
Four Corners, which was briefly mentioned above, has been the subject of important consideration by the Hartsdale Neighbors Association and a local group of residents. This civic association has taken a close look at the challenges faced in the area and are envisioning redevelopment potential with several goals: creating a safe/inviting space, facilitating transportation improvements, significant parking upgrades, mixed use development, etc. The town will consider a zone change to implement the recommendations next year.
Another suggestion made at the work session was the prospect of hiring an economic development coordinator. The Board agreed to issue a request for qualifications early in 2018. This process will provide the Board with valuable input from economic development professionals. If such a service was utilized, coordination with and input from residents, civic associations and businesses would be a priority.
What are your thoughts? If the Board chooses to hire an economic development coordinator what qualities should we be looking for? What are the challenges we face that have to be addressed?
The agenda that was discussed at the work session November 29th was as follows:
- Planning Board preference to act as approval authority over all special permit uses in the HC – Hartsdale Center District, pursuant to Section 285-29.2B(2) of the Town of Greenburgh Zoning Ordinance.
- Planning Board request to amend Section 285-58D(3) and Section 285-64B(3) of the Town of Greenburgh Zoning Ordinance, in order to increase the amount of time allowed to render a recommendation and report to the Town Board on referrals [preference for 60 days beginning on the next following regularly scheduled meeting of the Planning Board];
- Potential for requiring signage related to public hearings to be placed on a property which is the subject of an application [Planning Board to request that Town Board direct staff to draft a zoning text amendment];
- Potential for updating off-street parking requirements in the commercial corridors and mixed-use areas of the Town, where the off-street parking requirements are antiquated;
- Timeline for rezoning lands currently zoned UR – Urban Renewal (Policy 126.96.36.199 of the Comprehensive Plan);
- Potential for eliminating the requirement of a special permit for fully enclosed commercial recreation facilities of less than 5,000 sq. ft. in size;
- Review of the definition of “Impervious Surfaces, Gross Coverage,” within the Town of Greenburgh Zoning Ordinance, as it relates to 100% inclusion of areas paved with gravel, crushed stone and other materials (such as pervious pavers) within the calculation;
- The possibility of an Economic Development Director position; and
- Inter-municipal planning update/discussion (referrals received from and sent to adjacent Cities, Towns and Villages)