YORKTOWN, N.Y. – The Town Board has adopted the framework for new overlay zones, which would afford the town flexibility in reviewing proposals in designated areas and intended to stimulate growth and spur economic development. These areas have yet to be fully defined, but Shrub Oak, Lake Osceola and the Bear Mountain Triangle have been identified as areas of interest.

The law will allow the town and its Planning Board to review proposals in these and other areas “without the rigid framework of the underlying zoning,” said John Tegeder, the town’s planning director, “so that they can accept, review, modify and approve developments that actually make more sense for the times that we’re in, for the town, and for the commercial areas.”

Applications for new developments cannot be processed until the areas are defined. Separate laws that would map the areas and set forth specific parameters for each one would be done at a later date. In a letter to the town, Westchester County called this approach “segmented,” but the planning director defended the timeline at the public hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 20.

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“I think this is a more manageable way to do it,” rather than having to map and set parameters “in one fell swoop,” Tegeder said.

The Town Board unanimously approved the new law at its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Despite her support of the overlay zone concept, former Town Supervisor Susan Siegel said the law, without defined boundaries for the zones, is mostly meaningless.

“What you have is just a first step,” Siegel said. “It’s just a concept and intent. Legislation has to be more than that. There has to be some meat on the bones.”

Other speakers, including a few from the Yorktown business community, wholeheartedly supported the law.

“It’s really a shot across the bow,” said Sergio Esposito, president of the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a flare letting all people know out in public and developers that we’re ready, we’re here and we’re looking to make a move.”

Matt Crossett, who runs Yorktown Grille in the Yorktown Green Shopping Center, said this could benefit his business, which neighbors perhaps the town’s two largest commercial vacancies: the Food Emporium and Kmart buildings.

“It’s something that can really jump-start the town. I see how Yorktown can be that perfect type of hub,” Crossett said. “The big eyesores that are next to us right now, if they can somehow be rezoned to have some sort of residential people, residential places with retail, and this and that, it could really do a lot of good for us.”

Councilwoman Alice Roker said she did not have issues with the law, which would create a new article in the town code.

“This is really just the backbone of the law,” Roker said. “Now we’ve got to begin to look at putting information in about the different districts. And I think you’ve got to start somewhere.”

Town Supervisor Matt Slater said Yorktown must be proactive or face losing out to other Northern Westchester communities.

“You look at other surrounding communities. New Castle is doing this, Mount Kisco is doing this,” Slater said. “So, if we want to compete regionally, we’ve got to keep up.”

The business community, Slater said, is watching Yorktown.

“They’re waiting to see what we do as a board and what we do as a community, and what direction we go in,” Slater said. “Are we going to try and press the pedal and try to really jump-start a revitalization of our hamlets? Or are we going to keep pitter-pattering along the same way that we’ve always been, or are we going to try something new? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying something new, getting a little creative, and being a little bold about it.”

Despite the flexibility being offered, applications would still need to comply with environmental and other regulations, the supervisor said.

“We’re not looking to change the character and integrity of our town,” Slater told Yorktown News.

At the board meeting, Slater said the overlay zones have already generated “a lot of interest.” The town may begin reviewing two districts in the coming months, he said. He declined to reveal what areas of town will be included in the review.