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I’d like to highlight a few of items that have moved forward during the first quarter of 2018. Some of the progress thus far was orchestrated in response to our big picture goals identified in January, and set forth for implementation. Some of them are in response to events and concerns brought to us as the first quarter unfolded. Next week, Village Manager McDonnell will provide us with a report on how she and her staff are progressing with the ambitious list of 2018 Strategic Initiatives.
This season was notable for the plowing and managing at least a half dozen winter storms, including significant tree removals and power-outages. Village staff, particularly our police, fire and public works departments, served the community admirably during challenging circumstances. And we continue to partner with officials in State and County government regarding investigations of the effectiveness and accountability of ConEd in response to the storms.
Expanding and improving how Village government communicates with residents is a top priority of mine, and all the Trustees I've served with. Some folks who now speak during Visitor Recognition, may not realize that for several years, the cameras were turned off before the public was invited to the mic. We changed that policy during my first public meeting as Mayor. And we been introducing more avenues for connectivity ever since.
In February, I completed my goal of walking all 44 miles of Village roadways with a Weekly Walk. Getting to know each neighborhood, each block, on foot was a great way to better understand the experiences and perspectives of the residents we serve. Special thanks to folks who joined me on this journey, sharing your ideas, concerns, and stories about your neighborhoods.
The Monday Mayor's Message is a weekly email designed to keep residents informed about happenings in Village government. It is now in its second year. If you are not yet receiving this email, you can sign up on the new, and vastly improved, Village website. We were pleased to launch our new Village website this winter. We also continue to post updates on social media. Open Office Hours happen every Tuesday, from 10am-12noon in the Board of Trustees office at Village Hall. No appointment is necessary, and all are welcome to discuss any topic, concern or idea of interest to you.
This winter NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office completed their audit of overdue parking tickets. Updating our towing policy and ordinances is the first tangible step in moving forward recommendations from the State Comptroller’s office. That process is now underway.
The Village Board is moving forward with recommendations from the Housing Needs Assessment that was completed last year. One of the top recommendations was to strengthen our Code Enforcement regarding unsafe and overcrowded housing. Efforts on that front began last year with an updating of Village code, expanding the tools our staff has available to enforce NYS codes. One very frustrating delay in the implementation of that initiative has been hiring adequate staff in the Building Department. This winter the County finally had a new list of qualified applicants to draw from. And I am very excited to report that just this week we have filled the position of the third Code Enforcement officer.
We have engaged in substantial discussion on a proposed Affordable Housing Policy that would incorporate some of the recommendations from the Housing Needs Assessment. The current proposal is now being reviewed by the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals.
Last week an RFP was issued seeking a consultant to perform a Vacancy Study which would be a first step in potentially enabling the NYS rent stabilization program known as ETPA. A majority of the Board of Trustees would like to move forward with this program as soon as possible. I encourage anyone who cares about housing conditions in Ossining to read the Policy Framework of the Housing Needs Assessment which is available on the Village website. It offers extensive analysis on the pros and cons of ETPA. ETPA is a policy that has attracted the attention of many individuals and interest groups. Our in-boxes are overflowing with supporters and detractors of this program. Each member of the Village Board has publicly stated our position on whether it is best for the Village to enable ETPA at this time. The process of evaluating the potential for us to vote on whether or not to implement ETPA is underway.
So far this year we have passed two laws. The first is a zoning text amendment allowing private schools in the T-Zone to provide for up to 25 residents on site. The second law is a continuation of a tax exemption for Cold War Veterans.
The Village received a request for consideration of a text amendment to the zoning code related to the Conservation Development District. That request prompted a full SEQRA process to begin. Last week the Board of Trustees approved the Final Scoping Document. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement is now underway, which we anticipate it will take several months to complete. At which time there will be public hearings prior to any Final Environmental Impact Statement coming to the Board of Trustees for a vote. If we were to amend the zoning code to increase the density, then the Snowden Woods development could be proposed and considered.
A recent discussion about regulating businesses to prevent illegitimate massage parlors from opening here, led to consideration of a Certificate of Compliance which could have a much broader impact. If we do introduce a Certificate of Compliance, it would provide notification to the Building Department of any change of occupancy in a commercial space. It would also help new businesses be familiar with all that is permitted and required in their location right from the start. I anticipate that this spring the Board will renew discussion of this potential tool for improving enforcement, being mindful that we do not want to create an onerous burden on new businesses.
We are pleased to be able to support the excellent work of Village first-responders. This winter we welcomed Engine 101 to its new home at Independent Hose. Last month the entire Ossining police department participated in Implicit Bias training led by Dr. Bryant Marx. The Village Trustees and I were pleased to be able to support this program which exemplifies Ossining’s commitment to community policing.
Last year the Village Board focused significant time and attention on improving the effectiveness of our volunteer boards and committees. I am very pleased that this year the expanded and strengthened Landlord Tenant Relations Council has been fully appointed and has begun meeting. And for the first time in years, the Environmental Advisory Council is fully constituted and is now meeting monthly to discuss a broader range of topics related to Village environmental policy than it has in a very long time. We are grateful to the volunteers who serve on all of these boards and committees, and look forward to further engagement with them.
Great things are happening here in the Village. Occasionally we even get noticed by outside entities. Ossining was recently identified as one of the Top Ten Most Affordable Places to Live in Westchester. The Westchester Magazine article that highlighted us in this manner took note of the historic architecture of our downtown, reminded folks that last year they had identified us as One of the Best Places to Live, and referred to us as “insanely affordable as Westchester goes.” We were also recognized as one of safest places to live in America, among communities with populations of at least 25,000. We were, in fact, ranked 29th. Safe and affordable, those are a couple of nice reasons to be recognized as a great place to live. And we all look forward to building on that reputation as we implement more of our goals and initiatives this year.