City to move on new master plan after 30-plus years

Rye is preparing to update its master plan for the first time in more than 30 years, and has created a committee to discuss the issues currently facing the city. Although a revised plan has been talked about by multiple city administrations, Rye seems finally ready to initiate the process. The genesis of this new push traces back to Mayor Joe Sack’s 2015 State of the City address. But the issue was pushed off because money wasn’t allocated in the city budget, according to Laura Brett, a former councilwoman and current member of the mayor’s Master Plan Committee. This year, the city will look to hire a consultant to help with the process. Although one has not been hired yet, the city has reserved roughly $150,000 in its 2016 budget for the position. “As a result, we’re making [the master plan] a priority,” Brett said. The master plan is intended to be a wide-ranging document, directing planning policy for the city of Rye over the course of 15 or 20 years. It covers multiple topics, including goals and projections for business and residential development, the central business district, historic preservation, flood control, parks and recreation, public transit and community facilities. The city’s last master plan was created in 1985, and the document covered projected planning goals and policies until the year 2000, leaving the city long overdue for an update, based on common municipal practices. Brett sees the role of the committee, which consists of five members, as that of a facilitator. “What we’re trying to do is start a process,” she said, adding that the committee has only met once so far. Brett, who left elected office at the end of 2015, said the committee has agreed that it doesn’t want the master plan to be based on the group’s collective agenda. What the committee has already done is look at the 1985 plan, and the group has found that some parts of the document are still relevant today. According to Sack, a Republican, the redrafting of the master plan is still in its early stages, and the city is mostly interested in public feedback at this point. “We don’t need a complete overhaul, but we do need to update it, and review it. I think that community dialogue is essential to the process,” Sack said. However, there does seem to be some apparent differences to the landscape of Rye between now and then. For instance, the 1985 City of Rye Development Plan describes Rye residences as consisting on six units per acre to one unit per acre. Councilman Richard Mecca, a Republican, and the only member of the current Rye City Council who lived in Rye when the last master plan was drafted, said that he has noticed that the biggest change in the city has been the shift from smaller bungalows to much larger, more elaborate houses. Between 2013 and 2015 alone, the city of Rye has seen 130 new homes constructed. The topic of residential development has been a contentious one in lower Westchester County that has seemed to boil over recently. In the village of Larchmont and town of Mamaroneck, temporary residential building moratoriums have been passed in an effort for communities to undertake extensive reviews of their zoning codes. Brett believes the master plan in Rye would only address future development in terms of a framework. “If the community wants to see changes to zoning and planning... regulations,” she said, “then those have to be adopted separately but based on priorities set forth in the master plan.” There is no timeline for the city to finish the project, according to the former councilwoman. “We assume the process will take at least a year and potentially longer,” Brett said. “We don’t have an outside date of when we mwant the master plan adopted.” A public hearing with the master plan committee will take place on March 29 in Rye City Hall. CONTACT:;

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