Dear Rye Brook Residents,
2011 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 few months:
1. Mother Nature Events: Flooding and Power Outages. In 2011 Rye Brook experienced numerous weather related events from blizzards to hurricanes and tropical storms. Since August we had two major flooding events as well as a snowstorm the weekend before Halloween that toppled trees and left many homes without power. Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee left many residences with flooded basements and homes without power. Although power was out for many days in certain locations, Con Edison did work closely with Village staff to restore power as quickly as possible. I know those residents in the dark were frustrated since many of them called me, but I can assure you that Village staff was in constant contact with the utility company to ensure that all was being done on our part to have power restored.
Village staff worked tirelessly during these storms to remove fallen trees, limbs and debris, as well as assist with roads that were blocked. The October snowstorm also hit at a time when our Department of Public Works was working diligently to pick up fallen leaves. As of December 15th the leaves in Rye Brook have been picked up and the roads are clear! I continue to get compliments from residents who have noted how well the Village looks as compared to other municipalities. A big thank you to the highway and parks personnel for making this happen.
2. Rye Town Dissolution Feasibility Study. The Town of Rye and the Villages of Rye Brook, Port Chester and Mamaroneck jointly applied for and received a $50,000 efficiency grant from New York State 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. In the summer of 2011 the nonprofit organization, Center for Government Research (“CGR”), was hired to act as the consultant to conduct such study. A kickoff public forum held in September was attended by approximately 80 residents from the Town.
The second public forum will take place on Thursday, January 12, 2011 at 7:00 PM at Mamaroneck Village Hall, 169 Mount Pleasant Ave. The forum will include an update on the study and a review of the Baseline Report on Town and Village services and finances. The Baseline Report may be viewed at the project website at www.cgr.org/ryetown. The Baseline Report creates a basic understanding of the workings of the various municipalities and serves as a foundation for considering the various possibilities of dissolution and/or shared services.
It is anticipated that the suggested options will be finalized in late winter/early spring and public forums will be held to discuss those options. I extend my thanks to Supervisor Carvin, Mayor Pilla , Mayor Rosenblum and the Village and Town Administrators from the four entities for their cooperation to date in this endeavor.
3. Affordable Housing. I have previously informed Rye Brook residents as to the 2009 settlement agreement between Westchester County and the federal government relating to an affordable housing lawsuit. That settlement requires a minimum of 750 units of fair and affordable housing to be built over a seven year period in the 31 municipalities, which includes Rye Brook, that are subject to the settlement. Rye Brook currently has 44 units of affordable housing and continues to be proactive on the affordable housing issue. There are currently two proposed affordable housing developments before the Planning Board for consideration: a 4 unit project on Ellendale Ave., each of which contains only one bedroom, and a 16 unit project on the corner of Bowman Ave. and Barber Place, which consists of 8 one bedroom units and 8 two bedroom units.
As part of the settlement, Westchester County was required to produce a model zoning ordinance for the 31 municipalities impacted by such settlement. The model ordinance contains recommended subject areas for the municipalities to consider in reviewing their zoning codes on matters affecting affordable housing. I chaired a Model Ordinance Task Force consisting of members of the Board of Trustees and the Planning Board, as well as our Village Administrator, planning consultant, legal counsel and Building Inspector. The Task Force met eight times over a six month and proposed legislation creating an ordinance that would result in a streamlined and flexible approach to the land use review process regarding any affordable housing application. That proposed legislation was reviewed and commented on by the Planning Board and was adopted on December 12th by the Board of Trustees after three public hearings on the subject.
4. 2% Tax Levy Cap. With the enactment of the 2% tax levy cap, Rye Brook, like other municipalities, will be faced with tough decisions as we enter the public budget process in March. At this time of year, Village department heads are being asked to put together budgets that have no net increase in operating budgets, exclusive of personnel. I am personally opposed to the tax cap because it does not come with relief from state mandates that drive up local costs. Also, the 2% tax cap is a misnomer because it is possible to stay within the cap and yet taxpayers may see more than a 2% increase in their property taxes. That is because certain expenses are excluded from the calculation. My goal is to keep the tax levy under 2% but to do so the Board of Trustees will be faced with difficult policy decisions. For example, the Village’s sanitation contract will expire in May and it will be necessary to bid out the contract in 2012. Once again we will be faced with the decision whether to keep rear yard pickup or move to curbside pickup in an effort to save money. The input from residents will be crucial as we start to discuss the budget.
5 Coyote Trapping. The Board resumed trapping in November since no permit is required during the trapping season which extends from late October until February 15th. As has been past practice, 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.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees and Village staff, I wish each resident a happy and peaceful holiday season and a healthy and happy 2012.
Joan L. Feinstein,