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North Castle Daily News

Join the Online Conversation about the Future of North Castle
North Castle Forward

May 28, 2015
The North Castle Town Board has initiated an innovative online program under the guidance of Adam Kaufman, Director of Planning. Discussing the program, Kaufman said that the Town Board sought a tool by which to engage North Castle residents, at home on their computers or on their smartphones, in a dialogue to improve the town. Since there’s a good portion of the population who can’t attend town board meetings at night, northcastleforward.com is a place where people can become engaged and provide feedback in ways other than the traditional public meetings.
 
Kaufman said that the topics discussed on northcastleforward.com will tie into the town’s Comprehensive Plan. All of the comments made on the website will be used by the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee (CPSC) to update the Town’s Comprehensive Plan, which will be prepared by the Committee and by a special planning consultant to be hired by the town board. The new plan will provide a vision of the town’s future development and will be utilized in all future development proposals.  
 
Comprehensive Plan Update
 
Kaufman said that he anticipates the update of the 1996 Comprehensive Plan to focus on North Castle’s three hamlet areas of Banksville, Armonk and North White Plains. Given that a significant amount of time was spent in 2006 on residential rezoning and additional environmental protection, he remarked, “There’s not much more to do with respect to additional environmental regulations and residential rezonings.”  
 
However, the key to a successful comprehensive plan is to obtain feedback from the public, stated Kaufman, and to hear their most significant concerns.   
 
Some of the questions that will pertain to the comprehensive plan on northcastleforward.com are “What is great about our hamlets? What town services should be provided?  What is not working in our downtown areas? How can we make our hamlets even better?” and “What’s one thing North Castle does well?”
 
Every comment received will be reviewed by the CPSC to see if it can be incorporated into the comprehensive plan.
 
The lengthy process to update the comprehensive plan has begun. Further steps include:

1. Updating the basic studies, which represent a snapshot of where the town is in terms of existing land use, demographics, future development potential, etc. Westchester County is conducting these basic studies which provide a significant savings in consultant fees for the town. North Castle is the third community in Westchester to receive this service, in addition to New Castle and Rye Brook.
2. Preparing an RFP to hire a consultant to draft the comprehensive plan.
3. Selecting a consultant by the town board.
4. Drafting a new comprehensive plan by Kaufman, the CPSC and the chosen consultant, with input from residents.
5. Holding a series of meetings by the town board to discuss and approve a new comprehensive plan.
 
Kaufman noted that one component of the comprehensive plan that is often overlooked is the implementation section.  He said that it is critical for the town to implement the policies of the comprehensive plan, and then to follow up on how the planned implementation is moving forward.
 
“A good amount of the 1996 Comprehensive Plan is still relevant,” said Kaufman. "It would be surprising to find that the public is looking to radically change how the community looks and feels."

Kaufman believes that many of the public's comments will represent more modern thinking about how people live and interact with the community, with updates and modernization of the 1996 document. Kaufman summed up the 1996 Comprehensive Plan, “North Castle is a residential community that wants superb schools, local and vibrant shopping for its residents, and protection of the town’s environment.”
 
North Castle Forward

The northcastleforward.com program cost about $8,000. A grant provided by the Hudson River Valley Greenway will cover the five-year cost for the online software. Kaufman said that the town was able to get the grant that covers the expenses for northcastleforward.com because the application was tied to work to be done on the comprehensive plan.
 
"There’s a lot of work to do in all three hamlets," said Kaufman. Some of the issues that residents of Armonk, Banksville and North White Plains may wish to focus on are:
 
• Ways in which to provide additional off-street parking in the Armonk hamlet
• Ways to become green via solar power, green building standards, and water conservation
• Traffic safety, especially in North White Plains   
• Beautification of community streetscapes in residential neighborhoods and in North White Plains, Banksville and Armonk
• Encouraging the further development of the town's blossoming arts community
 
Of the 400 public comments made on northcastleforward.com so far, Kaufman said that people discuss a variety of different issues including high taxes, the manner in which Armonk is developing; and the efforts to make North Castle a green community.
 
"The goal is to get everyone to be engaged, participate, respond, and interact with each other. The town wants to know what is important to the public," said Kaufman. “If people like the idea of restaurants in Armonk, we want to know that. If people think there is a parking problem, we want to know that, too.”

He further stated that the town board is seeking out all of this feedback in an effort to create a vibrant community that meets the future needs of its citizens.
 
In addition to northcastleforward.com, the CPSC plans to hold public meetings where questions will be presented to solicit community feedback. Everyone is welcome to share his or her comments.
 
Commenting on northcastleforward.com requires the creation of an account and confirmation from one's e-mail address. "It’s simple," said Kaufman. "There should be no fear of any repercussions from any of the comments made. Although no new topics can be added to the online forum, comments are not limited to online. Any new topic or comments can be submitted in conversations, letters, e-mails, and phone calls."

All the comments will be brought up with the CPSC which will group the information, looking for trends. The trends will then turn into visions. And these visions will then be laid out as specific policies in the revised comprehensive plan.
 
Hamlet Issues
 
“We want to hear from everyone,” said Kaufman, “Banksville, North White Plains and Armonk, regarding their concerns, whatever they may be.”
 
Specific concerns about Banksville are the revitalization of the hamlet, given the limits of the infrastructure, combined with the hamlet’s environmental sensitivity. Kaufman said that he would like to hear the public’s opinion as to what type of businesses would be successful there, given the limits of the infrastructure.
 
In Armonk, Kaufman said that he envisions some discussion regarding the revitalization and permission of alternative uses in Armonk’s Business Park.
 
Regarding North White Plains, Kaufman noted that he thinks there will be lively discussions regarding how to make the hamlet a more pedestrian friendly as well as how to calm traffic on North Broadway.

Installed Guide Rail Upsets Long Pond Residents

April 27, 2014
The North Castle Town Board invited residents of Long Pond Road, in Windmill Farm, to the Board’s April 22 work session to discuss the procedures and safety requirements of a newly-installed 736 foot long guide rail by the roadside near Long Pond. Supervisor Michael Schiliro says North Castle’s policy has always been that when a dangerous roadside issue is identified, the Town will follow the guidelines for installing guide rails of the New York State Department of Transportation’s (NYS DOT) in Chapter 10 of its Highway Design Manual.

North Castle’s Town Engineer, Joe Cermele, says that first an engineer studies the topography of a road side, such as a steep embankment, to determine if a guide rail is required. NYS DOT allows only three types of guide rails. Other types of rails around town would not comply with the state’s regulations for installation today.

Cermele says there was a protective measure already in place along this stretch of Long Pond Road. But the wood posts have deteriorated, and to meet today’s DOT standards, the North Castle Highway Department installed a galvanized box-beam metal guide rail.

Town Administrator Joan Goldberg says guide rails improve safety by guiding vehicles back onto the road. There are two reasons guide rails are necessary. First, safety, and second, reducing the Town’s potential liability. The need for increased safety prompts the installation of  guide rails under three circumstances:
  • An existing guide rail has been damaged or deteriorated,
  • A resident has a reasonable complaint about a safety issue, or
  • Accidents with vehicles going off the road are reported by the Police Department
North Castle’s Highway Department chose to install the box-beam guide rail on the Town’s right of way property along Long Pond Road. The box-beam rail is a square steel tube of six inch sides. At the work session, several Long Pond Road residents questioned the need for a guide rail and said installing the box-beam guide rail was a poor decision. “Isn’t there an obligation for the Town to communicate with the residents: ‘we need to do this and here are your options?’” asked one resident. The home owners nearby consider the box-beam guide rail an eyesore that also blocks their right as property owners to access to the pond. The residents said the guard rail depreciates the value of their homes. The rail interferes with the view the home owners have of the pond.

“It would have been just if there was proper communication from the town, at least with the people that are facing [the pond] were asked, ‘We need to do this based upon DOT state regulations. These are your options, and do you want to pay extra for the more aesthetically pleasing timber rail?’”  (A timber guard rail is covered with rounded or boxed wood with supportive steel backing, as seen along the Meritt Parkway, but it is more than triple the price of the box-beam metal rails.)

The Long Pond Road residents want the Town Board to remove, replace, or retrofit the box rail with the more aesthetically pleasing timber-faced option. The Town will have to determine how much the steel-timber rail would cost. The cost was estimated above $65,000, versus a cost of about $20,000 spent on the box-beam option. It has to be determined who will pay for the more aesthetically expensive option of timber. The possibilities mentioned by one resident were for the expense to be covered by the neighboring residents, by the Town, or by Residents of Windmill (ROWI) organization.

Town Administration Goldberg says, the Town Board has drafted a notification letter that will be distributed to neighboring mailboxes when guard rails are installed in the future.

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