Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Harmon Economic Development Committee (HEDC) was charged with studying how to make Harmon economically viable again. It is a committee of local citizen volunteers with an impressive range of professional skills. It worked for over a year with property owners and a professional consultant to make carefully crafted recommendations that would preserve the character of Harmon while providing enough new zoning flexibility to encourage the reinvestment that is not taking place. This flexibility would allow property owners to build up to three stories, with mixed commercial, professional and market-rate apartments for young couples and empty-nest seniors.
The prospect of new apartments has raised serious questions, especially about impact on our schools. According to the HEDC recommendations the absolute maximum number of students that could come from bulldozing all of Harmon and redeveloping it is 44. This is absurd of course, as the many individual property owners are not all going to build, and build now). But even if it happened, the increase in NET school tax revenue would pay 100%+ of the cost of these students. And what you mustn’t forget is, this does not even take into account the children who currently live in the 36 apartments in Harmon who already attend our schools. These apartments might be improved, but the total number of kids simply won’t jump to intolerable numbers.
We are justifiably concerned that Croton schools are continuing to fill, despite past predictions to the contrary. We are worried that Croton kids currently enrolled in private schools will be enrolled here in the fall. We are worried that illegal apartments are being carved out of pre-existing ones. And we are worried that with inevitable cuts from the state in funding, we will be left with an even higher school tax burden than we have now.
There are two schools of thought on these issues:
The first group is scared of higher taxes and thinks that any zoning change, which allows for housing of any kind, is a danger to our schools and therefore our pocketbooks. They are against changing the zoning in Harmon and believe that the commercial zone there is fine the way it is.
The second group is also scared of higher taxes. They agree with the HEDC that the proposed zoning change in Harmon will relieve our homeowner tax burden by increasing Croton’s NET tax revenue derived from businesses. Remember how much your taxes went up when you improved your home? When commercial properties, like an empty lot or a small 1-story edifice, are improved, their taxes go up too. And that is good news for Croton.
The two groups have more in common than not: we all share a desire to continue to afford to live in this community, to keep its small village feel, to enjoy the amenities we have here including two rivers, proximity to the train, parks, historic Hudson sites, Great Schools, etc.
But what about the schools?! Please consider the following:
Over time, HEDC calculations show the Harmon Business District’s NET tax revenue to the schools will increase significantly even after paying for the costs of educating hypothetically added children. And the Harmon Business District’s NET tax revenue to the village will increase by as much as $150,000 per year. This is good news for all homeowners in Croton and great news for the schools! Added benefits that will keep money in our pockets in a more subtle way include being able to shop and work locally, downsize and stay near our family and friends and enjoy an eventual rise in our home value since an attractive shopping and dining district will make our village even more attractive to live in and visit.
Finally, please consider what our real concern possibly should be:
Half of our school district is outside of the Village of Croton and under the auspices of the Town of Cortlandt zoning. They currently do not have a plan to place a moratorium on building single family or high density housing in that part of our school district. The half of the school district outside the village has significant amounts of vacant land in residential districts and empty commercial buildings, which could become high density housing. The Town of Cortlandt could approve more building to increase their tax base and we would be responsible for footing the bill for those potential students with ZERO (0) village tax benefit for us.
Now before the above paragraph gets spun out of control, remember, this is a possibility that hopefully will never come to fruition. And if it does, we as Cortlandt taxpayers would have a legitimate anti-development fight on our hands. But fighting the HEDC recommendations to change zoning to allow Croton Property Owners to pay more taxes is the wrong fight!
Croton needs the facts on Harmon rezoning. Leo Wiegman, Ian Murtaugh and I are hosting a forum this Saturday at the library. We have asked the Chairman of HEDC, Kieran Murray to present the HEDC recommendations and take questions. Please try to come! It’s critical that we decide based on fact, not fear!