Why Hampshire Rezoning Matters to All Village Residents
By Cindy Goldstein -
The Mamaroneck School District will continue the discussion about a possible agreement with the Hampshire developers to receive land for school use (to create playing fields and buildings) in exchange for a zoning change by the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees (BOT). Hampshire wants this zoning change in order to build 120 condominiums in what is now a Marine Recreation Zone where residential units are currently prohibited.
Why Zoning Matters
So, what is zoning and why does it matter to a community? Zoning laws outline the legal requirements about how land may be used. It establishes an orderly pattern of development across neighborhoods by identifying what may (and may not) be built on a piece of property.
Zoning laws are enacted by local legislators. In the Village of Mamaroneck, it is the Board of Trustees who determine zoning law and subsequent changes. It is completely within their power to enact laws and change zoning Village-wide. They may not, however, undertake “spot zoning” – the process of singling out a parcel of land for a use classification for the benefit of the owner and to the detriment of other owners.
What is the LWRP?
In the mid-1980’s a group of environmentally concerned residents worked with NYS to develop and enact the first Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP) recognized in NYS. An LWRP is a land and water use program that expresses a vision for the community’s waterfront and a road map to achieve that vision. Guiding principles of our LWRP are to address local (coastal or inland) waterway issues, improve water quality and natural areas, guide development to areas with adequate infrastructure and services and away from sensitive resources, promote public waterfront access, and provide for redevelopment of underutilized waterfronts.
Access to the waterfront
The availability of access to the waterfront by the public is at the heart of the LWRP. The Marine Recreation Zone includes all of the recreation/beach/waterfront clubs (Hampshire, Beach Point, Orienta, Shore Acres and Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht). If not for our LWRP these valuable pieces of property would have been lost to developers looking to make a profit by developing them for housing with spectacular water views. The other zone – the Marine Commercial Zone – supports local boat yards and related maritime industries. The Village’s Comprehensive Plan includes increasing public access to the waterfront as a goal.
Because of the LWRP and these two Marine Zones our Village has retained its coastal character and, more importantly, we have retained public (and quasi-public) access to the waterfront of Long Island Sound.
Loss of our Coastal Community Character
Hampshire’s pressure on the School Board to convince the current Board of Trustees to change the zoning to allow for their condo development would most likely result in ALL properties in the Marine Recreation Zone to be treated the same. (A prior BOT turned down Hampshire’s request for a re-zoning that was affirmed by a judge in a lawsuit brought by Hampshire.) If the BOT acquiesces to Hampshire’s request now then all of the clubs could potentially sell or develop their properties for private housing – cutting off recreation and access to the water for the community-at-large. And if the BOT tried to change the zoning just for Hampshire and not the other clubs the law would probably fail in court as it could be considered “spot-zoning.”
Re-zoning the Marine Recreation Zone could also be the first step to losing our harbor and boat yards. If allowed, why wouldn’t those property owners ask for a re-zoning and cash in on their opportunity to sell and have their newly valuable residential real estate developed?
Divide and Conquer?
Residents of the Village of Mamaroneck in neighborhoods outside Orienta (where Hampshire is located) all have an interest here. Only time will tell if Hampshire will successfully drive a wedge between Mamaroneck Villagers as well as with the Town of Mamaroneck and Village of Larchmont residents who have children in the Mamaroneck School District.
The next Mamaroneck School Board meeting to continue the discussion is scheduled for 8:00 am on Wednesday, July 26th in the Tiered Classroom at Mamaroneck High School.
Editor’s Note: Author Cindy Goldstein is currently a member of the Village of Mamaroneck Planning Board and served as Chair of the Harbor Coastal Zone Management Commission which is responsible for evaluating land use applications for consistency with the LWRP.