Sunday, January 14, 2007


The Town Board unanimously voted to schedule a hearing on the proposed moratorium on residential development on Central Ave for Wednesday, January 24th at 7:15 PM at Town Hall. The moratorium will not be approved on the 24th --the proposal first has to be discussed by the town's Planning Board. I anticipate that a moratorium will be approved in the near future. Edgemont leaders have expressed concern about the impact additional residential development on Central Ave will have on the Edgemont school district. Commercial development generates more revenue for the school district and no additional school children.


hal samis said...

Much of this issue is not just about real estate, housing versus commercial, or even capacity of school systems. It really has to do with how the Town Board picks and chooses which issues it will act sanctimoniouly about and which issues it will follow its conscience and the US Consitution's rules about fair and equal treatment under the law.

When it comes down to winning votes from Edgemont in an election year, the Town Board has no qualms about abandoning any semblance of fair play and protecting the rights of all citizens, past, present and future, choosing instead to pander to where today's votes reside. And because it occurs this time in their own backyard, the liberal Democrats of Edgemont are not so troubled about chucking their own vaunted but disposable principles (I can't say values because this is concerns the word's other meaning) either.

I hope that the Town Board is not really considering a moratorium and a zoning change on the basis that commercial property generates more revenue than residential. That would be a truly, dangerous Town wide precedent.

What it suggests, as a sidebar, is that the assessments for multi-family rental projects and/or condominiums or single family homes are too low and should be raised in recognition of newer market conditions. If commercial assessment acknowledges income as a changing measure, then reassessment on sale for residential would be the fairer method to equalize the revenue shortfall and one which might reduce the decision of a property developer to choose, or not choose, residential as the intended use. This would be more in keeping with safeguarding property rights than a blanket ban against building residential units.

Note too that even single family homes can and have been rented, for rates of return on the assessment that can only be dreamed about by the commercial property owners or even multifamily rental owners.

And, what if a developer of residential units was contemplating more than the minimum or even just complying with the required 10% affordable housing component of a proposed multi-family rental project? The Town Board, in choosing moratorium, has just closed the door to affordable housing, this time in a DESIREABLE location, or conveying that if any affordable housing is to occur, it should exist only in poorer neighborhoods. That Edgemont doesn't want the homeless has already been noted elsewhere while I'm suggesting here that they also don't want to allow in the second cousin to homeless: they don't want lower income families either.

Think "Town Board opposes affordable housing". If there can be NO PLANS FILED FOR ANY RESIDENTIAL, then there can also be NO PLANS FILED FOR ANY AFFORDABLE, while also true is that if NO ONE yet made a complete application, why is Edgemont so concerned and in such a snit that they insist on an immediate moratorium -- knowing that filing and starting construction is a arduous and lengthy project. The bigger the project, the longer the process. Surely this stink is not over a handful of units that there is no reason to assume will be 100% sold or rented to those with children

Let Edgemont recognize that this is the new millennium and it cannot continue to blame its continuing problems on constrtuction which essentially happened over 20 years ago, WELL MORE THAN THE 12 YEARS OF PUBLIC SCHOOL OCCUPANCY FOR EACH CHILD. Given this observation, there can be no other conclusion that growth has not been ADEQUATELY addressed by the School District which likely made the decision to direct the bulk of tax revenues to salaries and athletic uniforms rather than expanding the physical plant, while onsite land for such has not been the problem. Building less than needed by ribbon cutting is not by itself proof of unancitipated school age arrivals (if they produced studies and experts, then clearly those studies and experts were inaccurate or meant only to be the due diligence sign-off to justify a reduced constuction expense and therefore more taxpayer sustainable)

Of course school taxes could have been raised even higher, but that is not a sellable proposition to those who want to sell their homes when their kids are done with the schools. It is much more palatable to find a patsy to blame and what better than to point to the consequences of Central Avenue condo development. The alleged "culprit", the developer is long gone so there is no one to defend against the attack, what's left (holding the bag) is a bunch of diverse, unrelated individuals with no common interest or need to defend themselves from the charge: that their units have pushed Edgemont taxpayers and parents to the wall.

I think that Edgemont, instead of being so quick to point the finger at Central Avenue, just because there are a lot of undistinguished and non-prestigious residential units in a mixed zoning corridor, would do well to establish just how many school age children actually reside there. Isn't it possible that even though there are a lot of apartments in a contained area, that these apartments aren't actually the problem?

Furthermore, as I attended Friday's Special Town Board Meeting which was scheduled to approve a Hearing for the hasty Moratorium, I observed that the Town Board will be pressuring the Planning Board to take in, discuss and vote on this matter at their Wednesday meeting. This is a major violation of the widely held understanding that both the Planning and the Zoning Boards are INDEPENDENT BOARDS and not under the control of the Town Board, even though the Town Board appoints their membership. This pressure also comes at a time when there is a vacancy on the Planning Board and it is chilling to think that the Town Board would have the effrontery to be pressuring the Planning Board to rush this matter, even without minimal Public participation (a Public Hearing is not required but there is not sufficient time for noticing even a Public Discussion) of a serious matter for Townwide: a moratorium in a spot specific area, on only one class of development which could, as in the past, be ongoing through renewal for years ahead.

I would hope the Planning Board will resist the temptation to succomb; to be just another pawn of the Town Board whose members seek to pander to Edgemont, especially this being an election year for three of the five.

In addition, Council member Eddie Mae Barnes, not only a resident of Edgemont and affected by rising school district taxes, voted in favor of this matter even knowing her vote was unnecessary. She has an economic self-interest in blocking new condominium development, not only regarding taxes but also because she is one of the existing condomimium owners,
a quarter mile from a proposed new development during a "stagnant" residential sales market; that having having more and newer units for sale will have an adverse impact upon the value of the pool of existing units, her unit and her neighbors (voters). Ms Barnes is up for re-election this fall.
And, Ms Barnes, like many of her neighbors, even though she lives in one of those condo units, does not have school age children.

I have brought this to the Town Board's attention over a week ago and apparently they and Ms Barnes have chosen to ignore this knowledge.

After all, without finding time or need to revisit the problems at the so-called Ethics Board, the Town Board knows that they can continue to flaunt any issues of ethical behavior, impropriety or even those courting the appearance of impropiety.

But, when you are serving Edgemont, any issues which trouble even Edgemont leaders in the past, are no so troubling today if the Town Board has shown a willingness to jump through hoops for Edgemont

Anonymous said...

Should the Town Board contact all school districts within unincorporated Greenburgh and ask if they want a residential moratorium too? Is it possible that the other school districts are experiencing budget problems too?

Anonymous said...

Most School Districts are within Villages (like Ardsley, where Feiner's kids attend) and they control their own zoning.

Reason number two million and one why Edgemont should become a village.

hal samis said...

Hurry, don't let another minute pass. With so many reasons, how dumb can Edgemont be? Do you need any help passing out referendum initiatives?

Anonymous said...

should the moratorium also include future 7-11s in edgemont. How come the ECC neglected to speak up on having a 7-11 on Central Ave? Bob-where have you been?

hal samis said...

This is extensively covered in my emails to the Town Board and Planning Board and will be blogged if no response is forthcoming.

Short Version

Eddie Mae Barnes should recuse herself from the Town Board during any Moratorium discussions and votes.
She is an Edgemont resident, owns a condo on Central Avenue, is running for reelection this Fall and is forcing herself upon the Town Board to vote on this issue (she has already voted once in favor) even though she will personally benefit in more ways than one: from keeping school taxes low and her wallet fuller, her personal residence will be worth more if no newer, state-of-the-art condos can be built nearby and by voting for this issue she will be providing these same benefits for her neighbors who can be expected to show their gratitude at the ballot box.

Also Hugh Schwartz on the Planning Board. He will achieve the same immediate benefits of keeping his school taxes low while his civic associations sponsor this Resolution which will increase resale values of existing homes if the assumed threat of the lurking low cost entree to the school system is removed, for once and for all. Furthermore, people who live in apartments on Central Avenue are really not cut from the same cloth as the great dynasties of Old Edgemont.

And if the moratorium by-products can demonstrably enrich Ms. Barnes' and Mr. Schwartz's retirement plan, should the moratorium extend to include Hartsdale, (they've got a School District too) then I'll be back confronting Steve Bass and Stephanie Kavourias as people who will keep more of their Town salaries if school taxes stay down and Mr. Bass can grab some votes along the way.

But there are innocent victims who will suffer to provide these Town officials with their enrichment. There is never free lunch and if someone gains, someone loses. The losers are people who own property along the moratorium inflicted corridor who will find that their investments will be worth less when the coup de grace (down zoning) is handed out. By ultimately eliminating a profitable and desireable use for their property (residential) the Town has removed a slice of the pie and saying be happy that we still let you build stores or offices. And while we tie your property up during the moratorium so we can perfect the killing stroke, we want you to continue to pay real estate, school and all other taxes for the privilege of being tied up while you wait for out new laws.

Should anyone want to sell during the moratorium, the value during this uncertain period is in free-fall because its use is uncertain. If anyone paid for plans, paid for financing commitments, paid for legal services etc. and can't build, then they must kiss those costs goodbye if the zoning changes.
What if the Greenburgh Library was a privately owned business and along the road to being built, a very long road for Libraries in Greenburgh, a civic association found a way to block forever the project because they had friends at Town Hall who changed the zoning laws as a special favor.
I imagine this would not be viewed as favorably but it is no different than what Edgemont seeks. And the friends in high places have good reasons to make Edgemont happy. After all, how many Town Meetings a year go by without at least one interruption from Edgemont telling everyone how important they are.

So when I shock readers and say those voting do have an economic and political incentive to voting in favor of the moratorium, don't think that this is just a victimless crime. Property owners have rights and they may also be human beings, neighbors, residents and fellow congregants at churches and synagogues. Just less equal then their friends around them.

And depending on the issue in front of them, Edgemont civic leaders have a very loose and fuzzy commitment to the concept of "appearance of impropriety". Sometimes they are offended when it is discussed, like now, and sometimes they are shocked and lambaste those whom they feel it applies to.

The reality of the current political climate should assure the Edgemont mafia that the desired vote is in the bag. That it is true even without the votes of Barnes, Bass, Schwartz and Kavourias. So they can recuse themselves without blowing the outcome.

My job, as a collector of unpopular causes, is to alter the assumed inevitable outcome. So I understand if no one believes me when I say those votes aren't needed. On the other voting hand, what is needed is people on Town Boards who have integrity and even the vision to understand the phrase, "the appearance of..."
In its non-legal version, it is most often written as: "appearances can be deceiving". One thing for sure that will remove all doubt, sit it out!

Frustrated ECC director said...

The 7-11 on Central Avenue has become a 24 hour late night hangout. Its opening last month was an affront to every Edgemont resident, and especially to those who live in the immediate vicinity.

The 7-11 was discussed at length at the last ECC meeting two weeks ago and town officials were told in no uncertain terms by the ECC's president that a 24-hour fast food/convenience store was an unwanted use that should not have been approved as of right.

The 7-11 was given permission to open in November by the building inspector. No Edgemont civic leaders were notified.

Ordinarily, the distinctive 7-11 storefront would require site plan approval by the town's planning board. Had such review taken place, the public would have been informed and a hearing would have been held on whether site plan approval should be given.

That didn't happen here because the owner was told no such approval was required if no changes were made to the storefront. So, to avoid review by the community, no changes were made to the facade. The building inspector went along with this, never told anyone from Edgemont about it and essentially thumbed his nose at our community.

Unfortunately, Greenburgh's outdated zoning code allows the town's building inspector to give Edgemont the shaft like this.

The town has approved a study to revise the town's zoning code. Hopefully, zoning code changes can be made in time to prevent future abuses like the one that led to the 7-11 being opened. But there's no guarantee that will happen.

The 7-11 story illustrates why it is so important for Edgemont to assume control over zoning and planning and why our community is so vulnerable when such decisions are left to elected and unelected town officials who don't have to answer to anyone in Edgemont.

hal samis said...

So what you think is that every part of Town should have its own Zoning Authority.

Ok. Please remind the ECC to abandon their demands for a new Townwide Comprehensive Plan.

And since Greenburgh went to Court over Yonker's Ridge Hill development, how long before Hartsdale sues Edgemont or Fairview sues Broadview?

Narrowmindedness is symptomatic of an environment which is nurtured by
special interests claiming to speak for the "good" of the greater community.

I was good news that last Sunday's NT Times entertainment section did a feature article on the new interest in filming Ayn Rand's, "Atlas Shrugged". Then, people like the many current Edgemont residents who grew up without the benefit of an Edgemont education and haven't learned how to read long books, will be able to absorb some philosophy and economics in tolerable doses through entertainment.