Some people recently received an anonymous, unsigned mailer titled “Protect Nyack’s Waterfront.”
It is important to understand that we on the Village Board take our responsibility to steward this Village toward appropriate and fiscally responsible decisions very seriously. We live here, we pay taxes here, we have raised our families here and we love it here. The Village faces big challenges, and we face each challenge with a clear-eyed, common sense approach with the best interests of all in mind, not just those fortunate enough to live right on the waterfront. The anonymous mailer was a passionate bit of “creative writing,” but it was not factual.
We feel that it is important, in the name of genuine and straightforward discussion of the proposed Waterfront (WF) Text Amendment, to address each fiction contained in the mailer:
Fiction: The WF Text Amendment is being drafted to benefit a developer.
Fact: The WF Text Amendment proposed by the developer was unanimously voted down by the Village Board last fall. With the assistance of Village Planners, expert planning consultants hired by the Village, and the Village Land Use Boards (Planning and Architectural Review), the Village Board drafted a WF Text Amendment to improve the zoning in our Waterfront Zone.
Fiction: Under the current code any developer in the Waterfront Zone will be required to provide underground parking, dedicated parkland along the entire waterfront, a restaurant and or more waterfront amenities. The Village Board can negotiate to achieve these things.
Fact: The current “incentive” provision in the Waterfront Zoning does not provide clarity on what can be negotiated for public amenities. The proposed amendment clarifies the code in order to increase the public amenities required, and as much as possible avoid costly, unnecessary litigation. The new text expands on the givebacks, specifies them, and makes the increase in FAR directly contingent on providing the specific givebacks.
Under the current code, there are no requirements for any design guidelines or any other specifically delineated public amenity. Sadly, under the current code, any “set back” of the buildings from the water would provide only 12 feet of public access controlled by the private owner. This has not worked in the past.
The absence of any specific language in the current code puts the Village at a significant disadvantage in negotiating with any potential developer. The concrete requirements contained in the proposed text amendment are essential to maximizing the benefits to the Village.
Fiction: The text amendment is being written to benefit a specific project.
Fact: The text amendment is not being written to benefit a specific project, but rather to provide clear direction for public access and amenities on the waterfront, as stated in our comprehensive plan. The current text amendment discussion and revamp originated because a developer asked for a zoning code text amendment. The Village Board rejected the developers proposed text amendment, including a request for a height of 62 feet.
The Village Board held numerous public meetings, received public comments, and crafted a text amendment that would reflect the community’s desire for tight lot, size, bulk and design guidelines appropriate to other village architecture, meaningful public waterfront access, and requiring various Village amenities like a waterfront restaurant, water related recreational activities and Hudson River access. The Village Board and the community also strongly believe that the cleanup of a “brownfield” site and required underground parking for any development in the WF district are highly desirable from an environmental standpoint. They do not exist under the current code.
Any new development in the WF zone will be bound by the proposed new requirements and all future development will follow the traditional process of any land use application in our Village. The proposed text amendment places more stringent conditions on future development in the WF zone than does the current WF zoning, to the benefit of our community.
Fiction: The Village Board decided not to study traffic, parking and other environmental impacts while considering the text amendment.
Fact: The Village has undertaken a process known as an expanded Environmental Assessment analysis in relation to the proposed text amendment and how it differs from the current zoning. This environmental study reviews the impact on various aspects of village life, including, among others, traffic, water, sewer and school district, etc. The Village consultants will discuss this EAF at the Village Board meeting on April 14th and the assessment will be available on line after that meeting.
Fiction: The Village is ignoring and not working with the Nyack Boat Club.
Fact: The Village Board has met with the Nyack Boat Club multiple times and is working with them to help solve their concerns. The Village has engaged its own traffic consultant to find parking solutions to problems with Boat Club members parking. The proposed text amendment requires any potential developer to provide a defined number of new, off site parking spaces in addition to the on site underground parking.
The Boat Club parking problem has existed for many years, regardless of proposed development and we believe it is important to solve the problem. The Village has offered some ideas for making the Boat Club a healthier more viable part of our community.
Fiction: The process is proceeding ahead of the Comprehensive Master Plan update.
Fact: The final public intake meeting for the Comprehensive Master Plan update will happen on April 26th at the Nyack Center at 7 pm. The focus of this meeting will be economic development. The Waterfront meeting was held last month on March 30th and focused largely on waterfront commercial uses, the parks and the possibility of a ferry. A separate meeting to discuss specifically the text amendment in the context of the Comprehensive Master Plan update was held on January 26th. In response to the comments and concerns received, the Village Board incorporated various upgraded “design guidelines” regarding plate glass, bird migration, upgrades to Gedney Street and others in the proposed text amendment.
A draft of the Comprehensive Master Plan update will be available in mid-May. Under the current WF zoning there are no design guidelines and a developer can submit a design without any guidance from our code, with little regard for community character or meaningful access to the waterfront. We addressed this by having Nyack’s Architectural Review Board submit comments on the design guidelines in the proposed text amendment and we modified the text to reflect their comments. Our attorney and our outside consultants feel very strongly that the inclusion of specific guidelines in the text amendment for the entire WF zone are essential to a firm legal basis to exercise any degree of control over the design of any future development on the riverfront. These design guidelines are an excellent way to preserve the integrity of the village architecture.
Fiction: The proposed text amendment increases building density by 66% and height by 16%.
Fact: The proposed text amendment increases the maximum height in the current code to the maximum height in the amended text by a total of seven feet (45 feet to 52 feet) in exchange for a decrease in width and breakup of the facades of any new building. The “density,” or number of residential housing units that can be built, is increased by only two (2) units per acre or a total of six units over three acres in exchange for requiring design guidelines discussed above. In addition, the new text amendment requires the creation and dedication of parkland to the Village, which will likely be a walkway along the Hudson River, rather than just a private setback from the riverfront. The new amendment requires space for a waterfront restaurant or café, a small boat or kayak launch and other specifically delineated public waterfront amenities relating to the extent of the public walkway across and through the development every two hundred feet.
If a developer chooses to comply with the more stringent requirements of the text amendment, that developer will be permitted six additional, luxury size units and an additional seven feet of building height (from 45 feet to 52 feet) in exchange for narrower buildings which enhance view corridors, and dedicated parkland which would be controlled by the Village (not the property owners), together with public access through the development every two hundred feet. The current code has none of these provisions.
The bottom line is that we live in this wonderful Village too and we are your neighbors, not some faceless (or anonymous) bureaucracy. We believe this text amendment is one more step in ensuring that our waterfront is protected from adverse effects of thoughtless development, avoids mistakes of the past and works to make sure that we do not lose any more access to our most precious asset, the Hudson River.
We are sure residents have many more questions and we are happy to answer them, by email phone or in person. You have always had our emails and cell phones, we are more than open and willing to talk about any concerns you might have and we appreciate how involved our community has been in making sure that good things happen in our village.