Join the Online Conversation about the Future of North CastleNorth 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
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.