Responsible Governing in Planning the Village’s Future

It’s time to open up the Comprehensive Plan. That’s a collaborative process involving the whole community—residents, volunteer members of boards and committees, and our partners in the Schools and Town government. It means learning from experts in our community and our region. Now is the time for Ossining to work together to determine the blueprint for the next decade and beyond. Advocating for a short-sighted strategy that pits one group against another, is divisive.

During election season it may be tempting to make political statements to pander to a particular group of voters. But regardless of campaign rhetoric, as elected officials, we must exhibit the maturity needed to act responsibly on behalf of the people we serve.

“Moratorium” is a dramatic term that elicits strong reactions. To prospective developers, it can send a clear message that they should look to invest elsewhere. To residents concerned about school funding, it may be perceived as a welcome solution to overcrowded classrooms.

A municipality’s ability to temporarily suspend a property owner’s right to build or obtain development approvals is understandably limited. In reality, it is one strategy that may be beneficial as part of a well-conceived approach to planning and zoning updates.

Zoning MapIronically, in recent years, the Town of Ossining did implement a moratorium. Yet since that ended, Town developments have moved forward that have drawn significant concern from local residents particularly regarding the additional burden on our school district. Most folks aren’t aware of whether a given development is happening in the Village, or across an invisible border in the Unincorporated Town of Ossining.

My opponent’s claim that we “seem to be moving forward at a reckless pace to approve new projects” is either intended to perpetuate misinformation, or demonstrates a lack of knowledge about the Village planning approval process. There are a number of proposals in various stages of the planning process, and most of them have been in the pipeline for years. In fact, if you ask most commercial or residential investors about their experience, they are likely to site frustration over delays and bureaucracy. A number of these delays are unavoidable and essential parts of the process to protect the community.

The statement that surprised me most from my opponent was this thinly veiled reference to a potential zoning text amendment that could open the door to a proposal for a development known as Snowden Woods, “we risk spoiling not only one of the largest undeveloped natural landscapes on the Eastern shore of the Hudson River, but we also risk adding further stress to our already over-burdened school system.” There is only one large plot of land in the Village that fits this description.

If my opponent were merely a resident, this would be a perfectly fine, if somewhat inaccurate, opinion to express. However, as a member of the Village Board, he will be called upon to determine whether or not to approve a zoning text amendment that will directly impact this plot of land. My opponent taking a public position on a SEQRA matter that the Village Board will be required to vote on is, at best, political gamesmanship, and, at worst, undermining the integrity of the legal process.

Unlike large developments that we have seen proposed in nearby communities where officials have decided to skip over the environmental review process, in Ossining we go by the book to ensure we are making well informed decisions. On a parallel path, I have advocated for the Village Environmental Advisory Council to undertake an Open Space Inventory which will provide the Trustees and me with a clearer picture of the role that this area of land plays in our Village-wide landscape.

Being mayor is a job that requires dedication to learning about Village government, a commitment to honesty and accuracy, and the maturity to exhibit a level of restraint in casually expressing opinions of ongoing legal matters.

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