At the January 11 meeting of the Larchmont Village Board, there was some disagreement over plans for renovating the Palmer Avenue streetscape.
Other topics on the docket were:
- Back to the Drawing Board for Revisions to Site Plan Approval Law
- VOL Seeking Fed Funds for Local Projects
- Swearing in Deputy Fire Chief; Filling Last PO Slot
Also, Police Chief John Poleway reported on a dramatic rescue of a choking baby on Christmas Day, less than a week after another infant’s death. (See: Police Save Boy Days After Baby Girl Dies: Consolidation Raised)
By a vote of 4-1, the board approved paying $72,000 to IQ Landscape Architects for preliminary plans and $42,741 to Woodard and Curran for project management and engineering services. The plans have been approved by the NY State Department of Transportation, which administers the $680,000 grant Larchmont received in 2006 from the Federal Highway Trust Fund. (See: Plans Unveiled for Palmer Avenue Upgrade.)
But a dissenting vote on the payments came from Trustee Richard Ward, who questioned why the plans were not more innovative. “There was no vision to rethink and consider other options,” he said.
Mayor Liz Feld replied, “We didn’t give them a lot of room to maneuver. We didn’t ask for thinking beyond a narrow parameter.”
Asked later for explanation, Mr. Ward said “it’s a huge lost opportunity” and allowing the designer more latitude need not have have raised costs. For example, he said, the sidewalks could be widened if Palmer was narrowed to one lane in each direction plus a turning lane.
Trustee Ann McAndrews, the board member overseeing the project, explained that the plans responded to very specific requirements of the grant to enhance a transportation hub.
Work in the area of Palmer and Chatsworth near the railroad station and the bus stops qualifies for that grant. It is aimed at improving sidewalks, trees, benches, lighting and general aesthetics in the area, but is not intended for general, urban renewal.
However, the board has decided to use other funds to extend improvements further along Palmer Avenue, stretching as far as the block with the movie theatre. They are also looking into the cost of burying the overhead electrical wires.
Trustee Josh Mandell commented, “This project is one of the few things we can really do to try help out our business district.”
Citing current low interest rates, the board is considering borrowing funds for the expanded project. Since residents will be enjoying the improvements in the future, board members argue that paying for them into the future is appropriate.
Ms. McAndrews is also working with Con Edison to find energy efficient street lights and pursuing funding through a state grant program to support that effort. She is hoping to find fixtures that minimize light pollution, in deference to the community’s many amateur astronomers who need dark skies to pursue their hobby.
The board voted to close public hearings on revisions to the Site Plan Approval Law, a process that has stretched out over months.
According to Ms. McAndrews, liaison to the land use boards, “There were a lot of problems.”
Currently, there is no consensus among members of the Planning Board, residents, and practicing architects on what – if anything – should be changed. The Board of Trustees is going to get together with the Planning Board separately to work on this.
Ms. McAndrews hopes they will be ready in February or March to present a clear statute for deliberation at a re-opened public hearing.
Responding to Congresswoman Nita Lowey’s call for a “wish list” for federal funding of local projects, the board requested $300,000 for renovations at the Village Center as part of the Larchmont Library renovation project. Since the board was turned down last year for the Pinebrook flood relief project, they did not resubmit that request this year.
The Fire Department asked for funds to repaint the interior of the firehouse, something that has not been done in 20 years. The Police Department sought a video camera for every patrol car.
Effective January 20, Richard O’Connell, 25, formerly with the NY State Park Police, will join the Larchmont Police Department, bringing the force to 25 officers, plus the chief.
Mayor Feld noted the appointment had been approved at the board’s recent work session. And she reminded Chief Poleway that this was the last addition to the force he will be able to make.
Party Caucuses January 26: The Democrats and Republicans will both hold caucuses at 8 pm on separate floors at Village Hall. The parties will be endorsing candidates for mayor and/or trustees.
CO Detectors Recommended for Each Floor: The Larchmont Fire Department responded over the holidays to several emergency calls of dangerous carbon monoxide build-up.
Request a Tree: Residents should contact the Village Clerk to request the planting of a street tree in the spring. Residents are also being asked to plant large shade trees on their own properties near enough to the edge to form a canopy over the street.