Our Plan to Create Thriving Hamlets

One of the top selling points for Westchester communities is the presence of a charming, walkable downtown hamlet. Here in New Castle, we have two hamlets – Chappaqua and Millwood – each with unique strengths, challenges and opportunities. New Castle Democrats 2019 is committed to creating thriving downtown hamlets, which will spur economic development, improve property values, and enhance the quality of life for all residents.  Our plan to create thriving downtown hamlets includes the following initiatives: 

  • Create an Infrastructure and Streetscape Complaint Tracking System
  • Pass the Chappaqua Hamlet Investment Act
  • Create a Form Based Code for the Chappaqua Hamlet
  • Hire a Director of Economic Development
  • Explore Building a New Community Center
  • Move Forward with Sewer Access in the Millwood Hamlet
  • Extend Millwood Sidewalks
  • Increase Programming and Events Offered in Millwood
  • Enhance Millwood Park
  • Partner with Ossining on the "MOGO" bike path

We have a vision for the future, informed by the 2017 Comprehensive Plan and community outreach, and we have the skills and experience to make it happen.   See below for more details about our plans. 

Close Out the Chappaqua Infrastructure/Streetscape Project

Before we talk about the future, we need to acknowledge and solve the immediate issues that face our beloved downtown. As we write this, the downtown infrastructure and streetscape project is nearing completion, but there still work to be done to ensure that what we are left with, when the cones are finally removed and the trucks roll out of town, matches the plans and is built to last. Already residents and merchants alike have emailed the Town, talked to us in person, or posted on Facebook about punch-list items that need to be addressed. We have recommended creating an Infrastructure and Streetscape Complaint Tracking System, with a simple online form and a backend database that will allow the town to track complaints, prioritize health and safety issues, and provide you with an estimated date of completion. It’s a simple solution that can make a big different as we close out this project. 

Chappaqua Hamlet Investment Act

We have introduced the Chappaqua Hamlet Investment Act; four policy proposals aimed at helping businesses to address the impact of the ongoing construction work. While there is broad recognition that the infrastructure work was critically necessary, and that the end result will look great, the construction work and project delays have been challenging for local businesses and residents alike. To help downtown merchants survive and thrive, we have proposed the following initiatives:

  1. Establish a Façade Improvement Grant Program: A grant program to support and encourage property owners and businesses to improve the exterior appearance of their buildings and storefronts.
  2. Create a Vacant Storefront Registry: Property owners in the commercial business district with vacant storefronts would be required to register with the town, which would create and maintain an online, searchable database of vacant properties.
  3. Pass a Local Preference Law: Amending the Town Code to allow the Town to award a contract to a locally-owned business, if the bid is no more than 5% higher than the lowest responsible bidder.
  4. Expand “Discover Chappaqua”: Creating a Town committee charged with developing proposals and establishing a budget for projects to market and promote the Chappaqua Hamlet.

We believe the Town should play a more proactive role in helping our business community to bounce back from the impact of the construction and to survive and thrive into the future. Funding for this program would come from the $1.5m settlement from Summit Greenfield, which was earmarked for projects that would improve the Chappaqua hamlet and support existing downtown businesses. Learn more about the Chappaqua Hamlet Investment Act

Creating a Plan for Chappaqua’s Future

As current members of the Town Board, Ivy and Jeremy have been active participants in and proponents of the project to create a Form Based Code for the Chappaqua hamlet. A traditional zoning code regulates land use by dictating where a certain use (ie: business, residential, industrial, etc.) can occur. By comparison a form based code attempts to look holistically at how zoning relates to infrastructure, parking, open space, design/architecture, etc., and focuses more on the “form” of the building, as opposed to mandating its use. We think this is a truly exciting way to plan for the future of our beloved downtown. This rezoning project seeks to solve current problems – for example, the ability to change land use and to re-develop vacant lots like the former Rite Aid property, allowing for a mix of uses (residential above commercial), and enabling developers to combine smaller retail spaces to create larger square footages.

With nine (9) acres of town-owned land surrounding the train station, the Town can rezone the current parking lots to enable future development, should the community choose to pursue this path, pursuant to a public referendum. Development might include creating housing for empty nesters and young professionals and families, and building an “anchor” – such as a food hall, an art gallery, or a similar attraction -- that would draw residents and people from the surrounding communities to the hamlet. We support exploring transit oriented development, but with the understanding that scale and density matter, as does preserving open space and expanding park land. We will ensure that any future development reflects the goals of the community as stated in the 2017 Comprehensive Plan: “to preserve the Town’s bucolic, residential character and its historic resources, while promoting new mixed-use development in the hamlets to meet the community’s housing needs and fostering thriving commercial and civic spaces.” We will balance development with the needs of the community and the amount of change that our town can bear.

Once adopted, the Form Based Code will result in expedited approval requirements for the Town’s planning and permitting processes. This will make it easier for businesses to open and to make improvements to existing spaces. We propose that the Town hire a Director of Economic Development, within the Development Office, to attract businesses and to assist them with the approval processes. Particular emphasis should be on local, small businesses, and on minority and women-owned enterprises. The Director of Economic Development would also serve as a liaison to the existing business community to assist them with special events and promotions, as well as accessing financing for improvements (for example, through the Façade Grant Improvement Program).

During the community meetings for the Form Based Code, as well as the planning sessions for the 2017 Comprehensive Plan, we heard from many residents that the New Castle Community Center does not meet the needs of the current programming. We propose to build a new community center in Chappaqua, funding for which might come from the sale of Town-owned property. A true community center, with ample meeting space, recreation facilities, and space to comfortably house the Senior Center and a Teen Center, would be a destination for the community.

Follow Me to Millwood

We love Millwood, it’s a great place to live, shop and (best of all!) play. We believe that Millwood deserves its own set of strategies and proposals. No one knows this better than Jason – he is a proud Millwood resident of 15 years!

We like to think of Millwood as a “sleeping giant” – it is a well-laid out hamlet with an “anchor” store (DeCicco’s), ample access to nature and outdoor activities, and varied housing stock within walking distance of downtown. What is missing, though, is infrastructure, without which development will always be modest.

In 2017, Councilman Saland and Councilwoman Hala Makowska pushed for funding to study the feasibility of providing sewer access to the Millwood hamlet.  Sewer access is essential to further development, and would increase property values and provide modern infrastructure for homeowners near the hamlet. The feasibility of sewering Millwood is linked to the plans to connect Random Farms to the county trunk line, a project that requires tenacious leadership from local and county leaders, and a willingness to make this a top priority. We pledge to get this done!

In addition to sewers, the other infrastructure need is sidewalks. The Town Board has pursued the Millwood Sidewalk Improvement Project, which is awaiting NYSDOT Approval. We are also working on a Comprehensive Sidewalk Plan, which includes a proposed “high priority” project to extend Millwood sidewalks up Rt. 100 and to provide pedestrian access to Gedney Park.

Sidewalks and sewers are a critical piece of the puzzle for Millwood. By building this infrastructure the Town can create the conditions for development in the hamlet that meets the goals of the 2017 Comprehensive Plan -- creating a more vibrant hamlet that adds to the commercial tax base.

Council Members Saland and Makowska were pivotal in plans for the Millwood 200 celebration, which culminated in a day-long celebration in Gedney Park. This is an important community event and a tradition we will continue. We would increase the programming and events offered in Millwood, for example, we propose a 5K Turkey Trot.

Working alongside the Recreation and Parks Commission, Council Members Pool and Saland have advocated for the enhancement of Millwood Park, which upgrading the lights, fields, tennis courts, and playground. Plans for this project are in development, and we anticipate receiving a $250k grant from New York State Senator Peter Harckham’s Office to cover a significant portion of the work.

We support expanding our partnership with Ossining on “Millwood Ossining Go,” aka “MOGO,” which is a proposed bike path to connect Ossining and Millwood. In August 2018, Council Members Pool and Saland pushed for the adoption of the MOGO plan, a commitment we would honor, and strengthen.

In addition, in 2018, Council Member Pool, with support from Council Member Saland, brokered a legal agreement between the Town and Intergenerate that finally enabled the Millwood Community Garden to launch after months of stagnation. This included getting the Town to agree to supply water and to fence the property.

For us, Millwood isn’t just a place we talk about during the campaign season. Millwood is a critical part of our vision for the future of New Castle, and, in Jason’s case, it’s the place he’s proud to call home!

The Bottom Line

Thriving hamlets are essential to spurring economic development, improving property values, and enhancing the quality of life for all residents. We have a vision for the future, and we have the skills and experience to make it happen.