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Governor Seeks More, Dense Housing in Train Towns; Patterson Irked at Zoning Proposal

By Holly Crocco

The Patterson Town Board will be sending a letter to Albany to express its concerns about an inclusion in this year’s state budget proposal that has to do with transit-oriented development, which, if approved, could require the town to adopt zoning changes that would encourage at least a 3 percent growth rate in accessory dwelling units within three years.

“Gov. (Kathy) Hochul is looking to change the state laws and strip municipalities who have a Metro-North train station or a commuter train station in their community of their rights to zoning and self-determination of how their land-use polices are going to be structured,” said Supervisor Richard Williams at the March 8 town board meeting.

Currently, all development approvals at the local level are subject to environmental review, including impacts to water, air, traffic and other areas of concern. However, Hochul is looking to require that the town adopt zoning to allow an average lot density of 20 dwelling units per acre within a half-mile of the train station and Metro-North parking areas – without considering the environmental impacts, according to Williams.

“So, instead of having what you’re typically going to have in a half-mile radius of about 520, 530 acres, we’re looking at a land area of almost 1,300 acres” before removing the wetlands, he said.

According to Williams, Hochul is proposing that municipalities be mandated to make these zoning changes within three years, and in the meantime, any proposals brought before the town have to use that criteria.

“This is going to generate 17,000 dwelling units in the hamlet of Patterson,” he said, noting that, in reality, not all of that will be built out. “But we will have to adopt zoning to allow that kind of density… It’s going to affect everything we do here. It’s going to affect fire services.”

Councilman Shawn Rogan asked what would happen if a developer wanted to build a multi-story apartment building, but the volunteer fire department doesn’t have the means to protect such a structure.

Williams said, under the governor’s proposal, the town can only look at sewer, water and architectural design when making approvals.

“We can’t look at fire, we can’t look at stormwater runoff, we can’t look at building setbacks… we can’t look at building coverage,” he said. “She’s exempted all of those things. She’s exempted any environmental review. This is the most insane proposal I’ve ever seen.”

Rogan surmised that the New York City Department of Environmental Conservation must not be too keen on the proposal, seeing as it may put the city’s drinking water in jeopardy.

“The environmental reviews are designed, in part, to protect our watershed, and this would fly in the face of that,” he said.

The town board voted unanimously to join the East of Hudson Watershed Corporation, as well as other municipalities that will be impacted by this proposal, in sending a letter to Albany to express the town’s outrage.

While the East of Hudson letter focuses on the environmental concerns, Williams’ letter details the impact the proposal would have on the community and its character, and “the fact that now somebody is going to be buying a house in the hamlet of Patterson with the intent of tearing down that old historic structure because the lot is worth more” if they can erect an apartment building with 20 dwelling units, he said.

Williams noted that, if 25 percent of that potential housing gets built out over time in Patterson, and if each one of those units has a child, it will double the student enrollment in the Carmel Central School District.

“This all falls in line with what the state’s been doing the last 10 years or so, with all these mandates they are imposing on us and taking more and more control away from the local towns and counties,” said Councilman Peter Dandreano.

Williams said it’s essential that the towns let lawmakers know this is a serious area of concern. “When it gets to voting on the budget, we want to make sure this gets taken out,” he said.

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