Dear Rye Brook Residents,
2010 is quickly coming to a close and before we become immersed in all the wonderful holiday festivities, I want to bring you up to date on certain issues that kept the Village Board and staff engaged during the past three months:
1. Hotel Tax. It is official. On September 28, 2010 the Board of Trustees adopted a local law to impose a 3% occupancy tax on the approximately 820 hotel rooms within Rye Brook. The occupancy tax became effective on November 1, 2010 and we expect to receive the first payment for the month of November in the next few weeks. As I stated in my previous column, it is anticipated that the imposition of the occupancy tax will result in a minimum of $400,000 of additional annual revenue to the Village. As all municipalities are experiencing increases in health insurance premiums and contributions to the various retirement systems, this new added source of non-property revenue will help us to maintain essential services and programs, and necessary capital projects.
2. Affordable Housing. In 2009 Westchester County and the federal government entered into a settlement agreement relating to an affordable housing lawsuit. As a result of that settlement, a minimum of 750 units of fair and affordable housing are required to be built over a seven year period in the 31 municipalities that are subject to the settlement. Rye Brook is one of those municipalities. Affordable housing is not new to Rye Brook and there are currently 44 existing units which are located on Grant Street, Bowman Avenue and at BelleFair. Under the settlement agreement there are guidelines as to the maximum income level in order to purchase or rent an affordable housing unit. For a family of four to purchase a unit the maximum income level is approximately $84,000 and to rent a unit the maximum income level is approximately $63,000.
Rye Brook has been proactive on the affordable housing issue. At the request of the Board of Trustees, a discussion paper was prepared by the Village’s planning consultant to research potential locations for affordable housing. A draft of the report was presented to the Board in November. The draft paper outlines 19 possible sites throughout the Village, consisting of both privately owned and Village owned properties. A further discussion of that paper will take place at the Board’s meeting on January 11, 2011. The draft can be viewed on the Village’s website at www.ryebrook.org. Any affordable housing in Rye Brook will be constructed by independent developers on property acquired by them. A developer recently appeared before the Board of Trustees with a sketch plan to build 16 units of affordable housing on property owned by it on Barber Place and Bowman Ave. It is expected that a formal application will be submitted to the Village in the near future.
As part of the lawsuit settlement, Westchester County was required to produce a model zoning ordinance for the 31 municipalities impacted by such settlement. The model ordinance has been prepared and contains recommended subject areas for the municipalities to consider in reviewing their zoning codes on matters affecting affordable housing. A committee has been formed consisting of members of the Board of Trustees and the Planning Board, as well as Village staff members and the Village’s planning consultant. It is expected that the committee will make recommendations to the Board of Trustees in the next few months.
3. Leaf Program. In my almost seven years on the Village Board, I consider this year’s leaf removal program to be the best. Leaves came down on a steady basis, the weather was cooperative, and our highway and parks staff worked efficiently to remove the leaves. In fact, this is the first year that I personally received only one slightly negative comment about the leaf program. As I was speaking to a resident (who happens to be a friend of mine) who claimed that the leaves were piling up in front of her home, she told me to hold on because she heard a truck pulling up, and indeed, it was the village truck to pick up the leaves from her street. Timing is everything! In a recent edition of the Westmore News, a resident who was too timid to pen his or her name to a letter criticized the Village program and concluded that weekly leaf collection should occur. I cannot justify additional costs to a program that is already working well and efficiently.
Rye Brook has approximately 29 miles of roads. The Village uses 3 crews of 2 full time employees and one part time seasonal worker to drive the leaf vacuums and assist with leaf removal. Around the Thanksgiving holiday additional equipment is used to supplement the vacuums. The Village’s goal is that there will be a maximum three week collection interval, although in fact leaves are picked up more often if the weather is not inclement and there is no breakdown of equipment. As of December 10th the leaves in Rye Brook have been picked up and the roads are clear! Residents have noted this and have stated how well the Village looks as compared to other municipalities.
4. Grant to Study the Dissolution of the Town of Rye. Last spring the Town of Rye and the Villages of Rye Brook, Port Chester and Mamaroneck jointly applied to New York State for a $50,000 efficiency grant to study, among other things, the feasibility of the dissolution of the Town of Rye and Port Chester and Rye Brook becoming separate coterminous town/villages. We have been successful in obtaining the grant and in early 2011 we expect to hire a consultant to conduct such study. I personally want to thank Supervisor Carvin, Mayor Pilla and Mayor Rosenblum for their cooperation to date in this endeavor.
5. Coyote Trapping. The Board has decided that the trapping program that was started in August will continue until February 15, 2011, which is the last day that trapping can take place without a license. In late July the Village obtained a trapping license from the York State Department of Environmental Conservation but that license was not renewed by the DEC when it expired at the end of September. The Village resumed trapping again in November since no permit is required during the trapping season which extends from late October until February 15th.
We continue to monitor the sightings of coyotes throughout the village and I once again encourage our residents to call the police when they see a coyote.
2010 was an active year for the Board of Trustees and the Village staff. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I wish each resident a happy and peaceful holiday season and a healthy and happy 2011.
Joan L. Feinstein