It was adopted in 2009, the year after markets collapsed and the year when construction stalled at sites across the country. Ossining’s comprehensive plan is a project meant to improve life in the village; it has already furthered development during such a financially unstable time and continues to do so.
“At the southern end of State St., that whole street was torn up for a year and a half,” said Mayor Bill Hanauer of Ossining. “When it was done, they had clear water, they have better sewers, streetscape and lighting. That’s the sort of thing we’re trying to do despite the economy.”
Last week, there was an impasse between the federal government and Westchester County, which cut off some of the funding for similar construction work. Ossining’s Board of Trustees will meet tonight to determine its implications for future growth.
“Having the federal government cut off the funding for our projects is absolutely outrageous,” Hanauer said. “We’re talking about millions of dollars.”
The comprehensive plan is just that—extremely comprehensive. Thousands of people were involved in the process through seven public meetings, five focus group sessions, a village-wide survey and more. Since the idea’s conception in 2005, 17 people on the plan’s now-dissolved committee regularly met to compile the 112-page document that you can view here.
Waterfront and economic development, traffic and infrastructure, affordable housing and quality of life are four of the plan’s main focuses. Before the objectives could be advanced, the village had to alter zoning codes, which dictated the types of tenants in a particular area. The Board of Trustees changed them in 2009 to move forward with the plan.
As a result, construction by the waterfront is allowed and encouraged as long as viewsheds (areas by the water) are preserved. Areas of the village have also been magnets for new residents. On the west side of State St. downtown, a single developer has purchased two tracts of land.
“Under the old zoning, they couldn’t have built much,” Hanauer said. “Now, they have the ability to put in a significant number of units, which will bring people downtown, which means more commerce will come downtown.”
The mayor calls the zoning process “organic.”
“If we discover in the community any element in the zoning that doesn’t work, we’d try to amend it to make it work,” he said.
Most recently, the Board of Trustees has, for the third time, sent out requests for proposals for properties that the village owns. Three properties, such as the old vacant bank building on the corner of Highland Ave. and Main St., are available for future housing or commercial tenants. For the bank, the mayor says he envisions a restaurant.
A project further into the future is to turn the current Market Square downtown into a development including outdoor cafes. Across the street, a slightly raised area would be built above the post office parking lot to make room for a market and village green.
Deciding how to move ahead, given the current economic landscape, is not only up to the mayor.
“The most crucial of the projects will happen, and the others will be postponed I think,” he said. “It’s up to the board. I’m only one of five votes in this circumstance.”