Breaking down the Town of North Salem’s proposed Croton Falls Plan
After three years of research and planning, the Town of North Salem’s Planning Board has released a “Croton Falls Plan,” a proposal for Croton Falls that largely calls for protecting and maintaining the hamlet’s current status.
The document, posted on the Town website, provides extensive background on the history of the hamlet as well as the 2011 Comprehensive Plan that has guided decision making about the hamlet for the past 12 years.
Today’s Croton Falls Plan states that the vision for Croton Falls is to “improve the quality of life for the Croton Falls residential community and business district by improving its infrastructure, public spaces and connections between businesses, residences, and the larger community, while enhancing community spaces offering cultural and recreational activities.”
In order to achieve the vision, the Planning Board has set forth recommendations around five main categories: zoning and land use; natural environment; visual and historic character; transportation; and infrastructure. Broadly, the recommendations advocate for preserving many existing laws and policies that govern how the hamlet currently operates. The word ‘protect’ appears 25 times within the document. ‘Maintain’ appears 46 times.
The Planning Board noted that the Croton Falls Plan reflects the community’s vision for the future of Croton Falls, and that community input–solicited through public meetings and town-wide surveys–factored significantly in their final recommendation. The Board said that Town officials, residents and business owners “were very clear about their vision for the hamlet” and noted that “they were collective in their resolute that the integrity of the hamlet’s cultural history and small, home-town character continue well into the future.”
While there are a limited number of recommendations within the Plan that differ from how the hamlet currently functions, the proposal to invest in water and sewer improvements is significant. New business development in the hamlet is currently limited due to a lack of central water or sewer facilities. Even this recommendation, though, includes a note of caution.
“The introduction of infrastructure such as a sewer district, which likely would inevitably raise the values of hamlet homes, would need to be done with forethought and understanding of the resulting allowable changes to existing houses and businesses regarding the amount of sewer capacity introduced to the hamlet,” the Planning Board wrote. “If such is done disproportionately to the rest of the town, then all taxes would likely rise, in addition to the introduction of a sewer district tax.”
Sidewalks are another area of interest in the Plan, though it's unclear what specific actions the Board recommends taking. The Plan states a goal of increasing accessibility and walkability within the hamlet and providing a pedestrian connection between residents and businesses. “Introducing additional sidewalks provided they include safe crossing of NYS Route 22 to connect hamlet residential neighborhoods to the central business area is a goal of this Plan,” the Board wrote. However, they note the numerous challenges of bisecting Route 22, with its narrow, winding roads, lack of sight lines, high congestion, and lack of traffic control signals.
Read on for the Planning Board’s recommendations by category.
Zoning and Land Use recommendations:
- Maintain existing zoning land uses and densities.
- Eliminate antiquated zoning uses and re-tool with focused updating supportive of current land use circumstances, trends and enhancements that will help achieve Plan’s vision.
- Implement currently drafted and proposed Zoning amendments (signs, lighting, and landscaping) and consider hamlet design guidelines / standards as supportive enhancements to preserving hamlet image and appearance.
- Collaborate with the hamlet business community to help promote the hamlet, its businesses and to ensure the Town is responsive to its needs.
Natural environment recommendation:
- Protect environmental resources (surface and ground water, wetlands, floodplain, steep slopes and hillsides), water quality and rural setting.
Visual and historic character recommendations:
- Preserve historical, visual (scenic) and cultural resources, and strengthen the historic identity of the hamlet.
- Maintain and enhance rural character by protecting hamlet image and appearance.
- Proactively maintain and support transportation (state and local) improvements that benefit the hamlet by slowing traffic speeds, providing safe pedestrian crossings, and improving traffic flow movements through the hamlet.
- Coordinate with the New York State Department of Transportation to improve the management of traffic conditions resulting from the hamlet’s connection with I-684 via NYS Route 22.
- Address and reconcile identified road related concerns and conflicts within the hamlet.
- Enhance existing and create new non-commuter parking opportunities directly within the central business district to help attract and increase access for hamlet business employees and patrons, particularly on property owned by the Town (assess commuter parking needs once the new Metropolitan Transportation Authority parking facility in Somers is operational).
- Provide for up-to-date infrastructure (water, sewer, electric, telecommunications, internet/broadband, lighting, stormwater management, and similar) that supports the needs of existing residential, commercial and community facilities, particularly nonconforming and ailing systems, before consideration of new or substantively expanded facilities.
- Invest in sound water supply and sewer improvements addressing the needs and densities of existing uses, which is shown to be feasible and supportive, and can be accomplished in an environmentally and fiscally responsible manner
- Identify and support energy efficiency and sustainable design principles and building practices.