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Facts Here. Get Your Fact Here.

February 27, 2009

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!

Sincerely,

Demetra Restuccia

On March 4, 2009 1:10 PM, townie said:

I pulled the following statement from the other blog from Mr. Murray. “Yes lets finally stick to the truth. I proved out with SOLID math that the HEDC recommendations would create a NET POSITIVE INCREASE IN SCHOOL TAX REVENUE even in the worst case scenario of 44 students. This has been proven out mathematically for 6 months, yet all of you AND THE MAYOR still continue to claim it will inundate the schools and cause school taxes to go up.”

Mr. Murray, in a perfect world this may be true. However we don’t live in one. We have a wonderful special education program here in Croton. 15% of our total enrollment of students fall under this designation. This can mean a very moderate disability to a severe one where the student may be placed outside the district. Renting can be an easier way to move into a good school district. It would only take a couple students depending on their disability and the severity of the disability to put what figures you site above into a net loss.

In addition Gov. Patterson is now going to require that all school districts pay 15% of the cost of pre school special education. Previously this entire cost was picked up by the state/county. The Croton-Harmon school budget shows this cost for 2009/2010 to be $135,000.
I just want to inform the readers of this.

On March 4, 2009 2:01 PM, Kieran Murray said:

Townie:

You raise a very good and valid point. This type of in-depth analysis is exactly why the HEDC advocates for the SEQRA process to flush out all issues and concerns from all stakeholders (schools included) in a transparent and public forum.

I believe it is fair to factor in the average additional costs of a special education student and apply it to 15% of the 44 children maximum. In addition I believe it would also be fair to take a fair estimate of pre-school aged children and associated per-school costs into account. We could certainly do that with help from the school district, which is exactly what the SEQRA process is designed to do.

Thank you for your well thought out question Townie! I hope I have answered what I could for you.

On March 1, 2009 10:33 PM, Kieran Murray said:

Posted: Sun Mar 01, 2009 10:29 pm Post subject: Thank You!

I just wanted to take a minute to thank all who attended the HEDC Presentation yesterday at the library. Attendance was beyond expectations and I received overwhelmingly positive feedback while out and about at different events all day today. On behalf of the entire HEDC I also have to thank all those who phoned in and emailed us your kind words and positive reinforcement. It is refreshing, energizing and truly appreciated!

And thanks to the Croton Democratic Party for giving the HEDC a forum to finally be able to present our work to the public in adequate detail!

On March 1, 2009 7:44 PM, Kieran Murray said:

Townie:

First thank you for coming yesterday. I appreciate all those who came out to hear the presentation.

You are correct in that the minimum commercial required on the first floor was reduced from 75% to 50% for the draft recommendations to the final recommendations. This was done because of the limited demand identified by the Danth Study AND the small spaced required for the types of businesses in demand. The 50% commercial is by no means mandatory. As a matter of fact, an owner could choose to have no residential on the first and second floor at all.

Again we are trying to provide as much flexibility as possible so things will happen. With that said, if it made residents more comfortable, I think the committee would be more than willing to run the number again.

As I said yesterday, we feel the recommendations are a good FOUNDATION to begin working with and hope the public gets as many public input sessions as needed to make them as acceptible as possible to as many people as possible.

On March 1, 2009 7:52 PM, Kevin Davis said:

Kieran,

Could the side that faces the street from the 1st story have residential?

On March 1, 2009 7:30 PM, townie said:

I am a Harmon resident who attended the forum at the library. I had hoped to ask a question but was not called on so I hope it can be answered here. In the original recommendation commercial space was at 75% of the 1st floor. The 2nd floor was office/residential and the 3rd residential. The final draft showed the 1st floor commercial usage could be as little as 50%. In the current economic climate doesn’t that really make this a 2 1/2 story apartment building. This is what is really bothering the residents of the Harmon area.

On March 1, 2009 8:25 AM, Harmonize said:

I went into the Croton Library yesterday, a little skeptical myself, but after listening to the entire presentation, I left a believer. I have to say Mr Murray and the Harmon Development Committee did a fantastic job. Bravo to all of you. They were great. To me it makes perfect sense now. I was blasted by all of this misinformation previosly. I am glad I went. I would take my children to the park, and hear other parents talking about this, immediatly I was believing them. But… They were all misinformed as well. I was on the phone with parents that were not there last night and They were happily surprised as I reiterated the information that I had learned. As for the unessesary talk about people not getting called on, I find that just childish. How old are we. That was all of 5 min in the whole 2 hours that he spoke. Is that all you got out of it. We are supposed to all be working together for our community not the oppposite. Again Bravo Bravo Bravo to the HEDC.

On February 27, 2009 9:38 AM, Kevin Davis said:

The forum will take place in the Ottinger Room from 2pm-4pm. Make sure to come with great questions

On March 1, 2009 8:02 AM, Andy said:

Nice work on the forum yesterday folks.

But I hate to tell you that I’d estimate that 8 out of 10 residents think that your plan will bring lot’s of low-income housing to the village…and the propect of that is going scare them into voting for Schmidt.

On March 1, 2009 1:18 PM, Georgianna Grant said:

Andy, how do you arrive at 8 of 10 people think ….. ?



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