At long last, Larchmont is moving ahead on a renovation of Palmer Avenue. At its August 10 meeting, the Larchmont Village Board reviewed preliminary plans for Palmer; approved a resolution to dissolve the Human Rights Commission; continued discussions of revisions to the Village Code; and approved funding for tree removal in Constitution Park.
Palmer Avenue Redo
Larchmont’s engineering and landscape consultants have produced plans for renovating the Palmer Avenue streetscape. A $680K grant awarded by the NY State Department of Transportation in 2006 and matched by at least $170K of Larchmont’s own funding will pay for upgrades to sidewalks, curbs, trees and other amenities along a stretch of Palmer Avenue from West Avenue to Depot Way.
“A million bucks doesn’t buy you that much these days,” quipped Mayor Liz Feld.
The board may opt to spend up to $2 million to extend improvements further along Palmer Avenue and to upgrade the two municipal parking lots off of Wendt Avenue. “It’s a good time to borrow money,” the mayor said.
Working on the project are John Imbiano of IQ Architects and Anthony Catalano of Woodard and Curran, who said preliminary plans will be submitted by the end of the month and are on track to get approval from the state by November 30, a deadline required by the grant. At that point, detailed construction documents will be created to allow Larchmont to go out for bids.
Mr. Catalano estimated the project could be phased in over 6 to 8 months, to minimize disruptions.
Mr. Imbiano, who was involved with recent Flint Park renovations, took an inventory of existing conditions on Palmer Avenue. He noted:
- Curbs and sidewalks are in disrepair and some intersections lack handicap ramps.
- “Cobra” lights over the roadways may not shed enough light on sidewalks for pedestrians.
- Benches and trash receptacles lack a consistent style.
- Numerous trees are in poor conditions and/or in conflict with overhead utility wires.
After meeting with a number of business owners and the Parks and Trees Committee, he recommended:
- Installing stamped asphalt that would look like paved brick plazas in the Palmer Avenue intersections at Chatsworth and Larchmont avenues. The intent is both to “tame traffic” and to create attractive gateways into the business district. Mr. Imbiano said New Rochelle used a similar treatment in front of Iona College on North Street.
- Replacing all the sidewalks and adding ramps; replacing concrete curbs with durable granite.
- Removing some street trees (approximately 20%) and adding others in drought resistant species that won’t interfere with wires or have roots that disturb the sidewalks.
Mr. Imbiano will be conducting light studies to determine if more fixtures are advisable. He suggested a style that casts light downward (to avoid “light pollution” of the night skies) and is in keeping with Larchmont’s history.
Final decisions are not required at this phase and have not been made on tree species, tree protection (wicket or cobblestones) or style of lights, benches and trash cans.
The project has been a long time coming: it was under Mayor Cheryl Lewy that Larchmont first proposed the upgrade and applied for federal funding. Resubmitted under Mayor Feld, the grant won approval in 2006. (See: Larchmont to Get $683K for Palmer Avenue Renovations.) Since then, the slow approval process at the state level has been further delayed because Larchmont lacks a village engineer, explained Larchmont Trustee Anne McAndrews, the board’s “point person” on the grant.
Relaxation of Site Plan Rules?
Ms. McAndrews has also been the point person on a proposed revision to the zoning code that would ease requirements for site plan review by the Planning Board of small additions that do not need a zoning variance.
As she explained, the rule applying to projects that add more than “125 square feet of coverage” was developed in 2005 but was never codified. It is particularly confusing because it appears as an exemption to a different part of the code, rather than as a separate regulation. (See: Pros Oppose New Larchmont Building Rules.)
The Planning Board has recommended lifting the threshold to 250 square feet of coverage for larger properties. The more restrictive limit should remain for those in areas with smaller lots (the RC, R.5 or R7.5 zones ).
Ms. McAndrews recommends the 125 square foot limit also apply to small lots (less than 7,500 square feet) in other zoning areas. At a minimum, she said, the law should be properly codified.
Trustee Marlene Kolbert concurred with the recommendations, but Mayor Feld said “I completely disagree. ” Larchmont’s building inspector should be able to handle these sorts of projects without requiring residents to go through the Planning Board, she argued.
No decision was made, and the public hearing was adjourned.
Human Rights Commission Dissolved
The Tri-Municipal Human Rights Commission is being downgraded to a committee. The Larchmont Village board unanimously passed a resolution dissolving the commission; the boards in Mamaroneck Village and Mamaroneck Town took similar action.
Human rights complaints will continue to be heard by Westchester County’s commission, which unlike the local organization has legal authority to issue subpoenas, compel people to attend hearing and impose remedies. The local committee will continue hosting an annual celebration to honor the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., however the format of the event may also undergo changes.
Constitution Park Makeover
A new gazebo has been (mostly) installed, thanks to funds raised by the Beautification Committee and the efforts of the Larchmont Department of Public Works. However, nearby trees are in immediate need of attention, reported Jan Feinman, chair of the Parks and Trees Committee. The board approved spending $3500 for tree removal and pruning to increase safety and encourage growth of grass needed to curtail soil erosion. Ms. Feinman would also like to see further improvements, beginning with the installation of perimeter plantings to give the park better definition.
Also at the Board:Kudos and Cash
Police Chief John Poleway reported that Officers Rocco A. Greco and Michael Walsh received Certificates of Exceptional Valor from Governor David Paterson this July for their role in apprehending the armed robber of the Boston Post Road branch of Chase Bank on July 30, 2007.
On the recommendation of Village Treasurer Denis Brucciani, the board approved resolutions to borrow as much as $500,000 for repairs at the Larchmont Reservoir. The damage was caused by the April 2007 floods and the board expects to be repaid with FEMA funds. This month, Larchmont will be borrowing $2.96 million for capital improvements, and the board authorized the following expenditures: $118K for engineering services from Woodard & Curran (repairs at the Reservoir); $43K for a hydraulic tool (“jaws of life”); $18K for sidewalk replacement; $77K for street paving.