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WCA Calls for New York State Land Use Reforms in Effort to Spur Economic Development

By WCA May 14, 2018

Lisa Serbaniewicz Marino
(212) 402-3496

Business Advocates Propose Needed Changes to Decades-Old Regulations

White Plains, NY – May 14, 2018 – The Westchester County Association (WCA) today issued a call for much- needed reforms to New York State’s outdated land use regulations: a move intended to bolster smart growth across the county.

First adopted in 1975 under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR), the regulations were devised to guide economic development in New York State, but were last updated more than two decades ago and have stifled growth in recent years. The WCA, Westchester’s leading economic development entity, today issued a series of recommendations it says will reduce uncertainty and streamline an overly burdensome review process.

Key reforms the WCA is proposing include:

  • Mandatory Enforcement of Timeframes: Current regulations do not require municipalities to takecertain key actions within designated timeframes, allowing the process to continue indefinitely at the discretion of the municipality. Municipalities should be required to take certain actions (acceptance of the draft environmental impact statement as complete and final decision following the submission of the final environmental impact statement) within designated timeframes. Failure to act in the required timeframe would automatically advance the proposed zoning actions or projects.
  • Prohibition of FEIS Public Hearings: While current regulations do not call for public hearings on final environmental impact statements (FEIS), many municipalities require such hearings. These should be prohibited as they are superfluous – as the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) would already have undergone an extensive public hearing process – and lengthen an already lengthy process.
  • Expansion of Actions Exempt from Review: Current regulations exempt from review a broad range of actions known as Type II actions. This list should be expanded to include a number of actions, including any redevelopment of abandoned or demolished sites in Transit Oriented Development (TOD) districts that conforms to existing zoning.“New York State’s archaic and convoluted land use regulations have long stifled economic growth in Westchester by overcomplicating and dragging out the public review process,” said William M. Mooney, Jr., president and CEO of the Westchester County Association. “These much-needed land use reforms will streamline development and create certainty that is critical to attracting the kind of investment and smart growth the Westchester County Association and its members are working to encourage.”The WCA’s call for changes to the state regulations is part of its broader effort to reform the land use process in Westchester County. In February, the organization announced it was developing a Land Use Policy Playbook in partnership with Pace University’s Land Use Law Center. The Playbook – the first chapter of which will be unveiled at the Westchester County Association’s 2nd Annual Real Estate Summit on May 22 – will include a set of resources, best practices and process/policy recommendations intended to assist municipalities in preparing for and navigating the land use process.

The WCA issued its full set of recommendations to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on May 11, 2018, which was the deadline for comments on changes the agency is considering.

In 2017, the DEC announced it would update its SEQR regulations and issued a draft of proposed updates for public comment. The WCA issued initial recommendations in May 2017. This new set of recommendations is a response to the revised draft amendments, which the DEC issued in April 2018.

About The Westchester County Association

The Westchester County Association is the leading economic development and business advocacy organization serving Westchester County and the region. The Association is committed to Smart Growth, business advocacy and economic vitality, and to providing a strong and clear voice for the interests of business. Its key objectives are to promote positive economic development in the region; foster business development; and provide its members with access to and interaction with key public and private sector individuals, agencies and organizations.

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