This week the Village of Rye Brook made its first stab at involving the public in its comprehensive planning process which began in the fall of 2012. About 32 people, ranging in age from 17 to 90, turned out on a rainy night Monday to provide input into the master planning document that will determine the future of the village.
The comprehensive plan is supposed to include the whole community, according to Frank Fish, principal in BFJ Planning, which was hired to lead the village through the process. BFJ has
recently finished plans for the Village of Port Chester, Village of Mamaroneck and is just finishing up one for the Town/Village of Harrison. "It is aimed at setting forth goals and recommended actions for the future."
Although the entire community will have input into the plan, which will take about a year to complete, the village board will ultimately adopt it.
"The zoning code is supposed to be based on a well-reasoned plan, so the comprehensive plan underlies the zoning code," Fish said. The village may see some changes to its zoning code in 2014 or 2015 once the plan is completed, he said. In addition, the plan normally televises the capital budget.
Fish added that once you have an adopted plan, all state agencies are supposed to comply with it and if they don't are supposed to state the reasons why.
"For us this is a good turnout given your population," said Fish about Monday's workshop.
Three additional roundtable discussions are expected to take place in late September, late October and early December.
"We would like to provide as much opportunity to participate as possible," said Fish. "When you go to adopt the plan, you don't want people to say they've never heard about it."
Over the summer residents and other stakeholders can take an online survey with the results to be available in the fall. Although it will not be scientific, "we find them very helpful," said Fish, noting that his company has just finished one in Cos Cob.
Former Rye Brook Trustee Carol Goodman is chairing the 12-member Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee which represents different boards and segments of the community. Over the summer that group will be working with BFJ to develop some of the 14 chapters identified for Rye Brook's master plan. That work will lead up to the second public session in September.
Broken into four groups, attendees at Monday's session were asked to speak out about land use and zoning, the commercial center, open space and their overall vision and goals for the master plan.
Amy Schoen reported for her group about key issues they identified in the next 10 to 20 years: the traffic situation north to south and south to north, working on planning issues regionally and with the State of Connecticut, protecting open space, defining the downtown, "giving an identity to Rye Brook so when people come here they know they are entering Rye Brook," housing for seniors to allow them to be able to say in the village, and maintaining diversity through affordable housing.
Nick Lyras, president of the Doral Greens Homeowners Association, spoke for his group, which had the largest contingent of residents from the southern end of the village, on the issue of land use and zoning.
Flooding they identified as a problem, saw the Byram Ridge and Ridge Street areas and the soccer fields on King Street as best identifying the village, said Rye Brook needed a town center, the village is not bicycle or pedestrian friendly, worried about the impact of a megarink in the middle of the village and said Rye Brook should consider acquiring property from Village Hall north to the Hutch to protect itself for the future.
John Grieco said Westchester Avenue is owned by the state and the state should start maintaining it from the Hilton up to Ridge Street on the left hand side or figure out a way for the village to do it.
Grieco also said the village should consider relocating the DPW to the compost center on Lincoln Avenue and selling off the current space on Ellendale Avenue as well as acquiring additional property adjacent to Posillipo Center for parking.
On the topic of the commercial center, Steve Schoen said "it was not planned, it just sort of happened." Nonetheless, it is a lot more attractive now than it used to be and the composition in the Rye Ridge Shopping Center has changed quite a bit, with a lot more kids spending time there.
His group was concerned that Washington Park Plaza wasn't included in the drawings they were provided.
Because there are no sidewalks, he said,
access to the shopping center is dangerous.
"The Ridge and Bowman intersection is not very functional" was another of his group's concerns.
They also wondered if there was a potential reuse for the 900 King St. office space and all the underutilized parking there.
They felt that D'Agostino was not a shopping destination, there is really no destination restaurant in Rye Brook and the village could use a saloon or bar where people could meet.
Lastly, Dan Tartaglia argued that the required setbacks for the TD Bank coming where the Mobil station was on South Ridge Street would detract from the aesthetics of the area.
On the issue of open space, Arbors Homeowners Association board member Hillary Silver reported that most of the comments coming from her group were about Garibaldi Park being in terrible shape and needing improvement.
Some of the playing fields in the village are maxed out, they said, while the Ridge Street School field isn't used.
"Rye Brook does not have a community pool" was another issue raised by her group. They, too, spoke about the flooding of
Blind Brook and the lack of pedestrian access to shopping. "You can't go from Lenny's Bagels down to the Rye Ridge Shopping Center," Silver said.
The congestion of school traffic at the end of the day was another concern.
One member of Silver's group said a crosswalk should be painted to allow people to get into Crawford Park from the opposite side of North Ridge Street. "It's so dangerous for these kids struggling to get over," she said.
Silver herself would like to see the streetlights changed to LED.
"We talked about whether we should be talking about a community center directed more toward kids," chimed in Carol Goodman.
"You should be aware of the plans at SUNY Purchase for about 250 apartments for seniors to be built on the campus which is in the works," said Lyras as the concluding remark of the evening.
Comprehensive plan developments will be posted on the website planryebrook.org which is also accessible through the village's ryebrook.org website.