North Salem Town Board prepared to fight proposed NY State housing mandate
North Salem and Westchester County leaders are bracing for a battle with state legislators over proposed legislation that would mandate an increase in housing development around North Salem transit centers, including Croton Falls and Purdys.
Earlier this month, during New York’s State of the State address, Gov. Hochul previewed policies and programs that her administration intends to incorporate into the 2023-2024 state budget. The preview was a primary topic of discussion at last week’s North Salem Town Board meeting. Assemblymember Chris Burdick, who represents North Salem as part of District 93 and attended the meeting, told North Salem town council members that he was specifically committed to pushing back on the Governor’s Housing Compact. The Compact would compel municipalities with a train station to rezone the area within a half-mile of the station to allow for the creation of new housing--an increase of 3%-- within the next three years.
Burdick said the Compact would “completely supersede” Home Rule, New York state law which grants authority to local governments to self-govern. “My approach to this is the carrot, not the stick,” Burdick said. “I am here to work for you folks. To push back on those provisions in the state budget that are going to be deleterious to North Salem.”
North Salem Town Supervisor Warren Lucas added that he and state legislators have been going back and forth on the Housing Compact for the past year. Indeed, Lucas has been consistently vocal about this issue in public meetings. At a recent public meeting hosted by Lucas, Burdick, New York State Senator Pete Harckham and Westchester County Legislator Erika Pierce at the Ruth Keeler Memorial Library in North Salem, Lucas spoke out in opposition to the Compact during his opening remarks. “I’m very opposed from a state point of view for them to come down and override local zoning,” he said. “The problem I have is the state saying, ‘this is how you will zone.’”
At last week’s Town Board meeting, Both Burdick and Lucas addressed the challenges of mandating an increase in population density within an area lacking sufficient sewer and water infrastructure, as is the case in the hamlet of Croton Falls and in Purdys.
“It really lacks an understanding of some of the really daunting issues that northern Westchester municipalities face. People are on wells and septic systems,” Burdick said. “We’re within the New York City watershed. The regulations that are there and have been there for decades, for good reason, to protect drinking water. You’re going to be on a collision course between what you want to do with respect to development of housing, and regulations that have been in place for decades to protect the watershed and water quality.”
North Salem Deputy Town Supervisor Peter Kamenstein also weighed in, saying that transit-oriented development would “absolutely ruin” the character of Purdys and Croton Falls. “If we were required to build 25 units on a quarter of an acre or an acre, it would just devastate the special character of both of these hamlets and the special character of North Salem.”