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"Westchester County Business Journal" featured Pace University's Haub School of Law Jessica Bacher and John Nolon's piece "Governments must focus on sustainable development, fair housing"

11/27/2018

"Westchester County Business Journal" featured Pace University's Haub School of Law Jessica Bacher and John Nolon's piece "Governments must focus on sustainable development, fair housing"

Jessica A. Bacher is the executive director, Land Use Law Center, Elisabeth Haub School of Law, at Pace University. John R. Nolon is the distinguished professor of law, Elisabeth Haub School of Law, and counsel, Land Use Law Center, at Pace University.

When we started the Land Use Law Center at Pace Law School 25 years ago, we dedicated our efforts to promote sustainable development. We quickly learned that this meant working at the local level and reviewing comprehensive land use plans, zoning and other land use regulations.
New York, like all states, has delegated the power to control land use and land development to its municipal governments, including its cities, villages and towns. A quarter of a century ago, the challenges were fewer, if no less complex, than the development issues we face today. 

In 1993, Westchester had an affordable housing problem, which was a crisis for the homeless and a critical problem for localities whose seniors, young couples and workers could no longer afford to live locally. Lewisboro paved the way for responding, through zoning, to this problem. It was the first municipality in New York to award developers extra density in exchange for housing affordable to local workers and others with comparable incomes. Bonus density was popular with other communities. This approach and mandatory inclusionary zoning regulations were adopted by many communities.
Today, the problem has become fair housing. How do communities with largely white demographics use their land use regulation to increase diversity in their populations by removing barriers to affirmatively further fair housing? This is a problem that has defied solution at the national level for decades, but is now very much on the local doorstep.

Twenty-five years ago, green development was in its infancy. Greenburgh was the innovator here. It amended its zoning to require single-family homes to comply with the federal Energy Star rating system, guaranteeing less energy consumption, less fossil fuel generation for heating and cooling and, thereby, lower costs and less contribution to global warming. Communities are revising land use regulations to ensure low carbon land use. Yonkers followed Greenburgh by using the LEED ND rating system as a guide to amending its land use regulations.
The state of New York amended its building code array to add an energy code, requiring all buildings to be more energy efficient. Localities began to think about the thermal values of the buildings they permitted and how to reduce vehicle miles traveled through walkability and mixed-use development, which reduces car dependency and carbon dioxide emissions from tailpipes.

Transit oriented development (TOD) came on the scene in 1998 with the groundbreaking at the Hudson Park development on the waterfront in downtown Yonkers. That development was immediately adjacent to and directly connected to the Yonkers Metro-North train station in a mixed-use neighborhood, near restaurants and recreational fields with attractive art, and served with half the parking otherwise required by the Institute of Traffic Engineers at that time. Today, all of our urban villages and cities with transit are amending zoning to promote TOD. 
Local planners are gauging the advent of ride-hailing autonomous vehicles that will reduce parking needs to a fraction of what they were and free up hundreds of acres of parking lots to new and complementary development. The Regional Plan Association has quantified this future asset and recommended zoning reforms to use it sustainably.

A quarter of a century ago, a few isolated communities permitted solar panels in their zoning because of the energy crisis of the 1970s. They stopped when that crisis ebbed so that when the urgent need for the use of renewable solar energy emerged a few years ago, a regulatory barrier existed to its use. The cost of gaining local approvals through special use permits, variances or other exceptions to zoning became a significant cost of developing solar energy and the only component of that cost that was not declining as technology improved. Sustainable Westchester has involved all Westchester communities in promoting solar energy and permitting it through land use regulations and incentives.  

When we began, we had a national flood insurance program that was solvent and localities were required to rezone floodplains modestly to require buildings to be elevated. Today, with fiercer storms, constant rainfalls and sea level rise, the challenges could not be more severe.
The federal budgets for flood insurance and disaster recovery, particularly from coastal storms, have ballooned and local governments are reviewing inundation maps that expose the vulnerability of buildings built anywhere close to coastal waters.
Resilience is being built into local zoning ordinances where the concern is that allowing infrastructure and buildings in vulnerable coastal zones is putting lives, property and taxpayer dollars directly in harm’s way. 

These issues challenge local officials and those who elect them to carefully track the many changes in weather, technology and markets. Over the last 25 years, we have learned that amending comprehensive plans and adjusting zoning standards are critical tools to preserve natural resources and promote sustainable development.

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Jessica Bacher, executive director of Pace University’s Land Use Law Center featured in "Westchester Business Journal" talking about the new “Land Use Development Playbook”

02/21/2018

Jessica Bacher, executive director of Pace University’s Land Use Law Center featured in "Westchester Business Journal" talking about the new “Land Use Development Playbook”

Westchester Business: "Westchester County Association, Pace team up for land use ‘playbook"

By Ryan Deffenbaugh

As real estate developers eye projects such as mixed-use apartment buildings across Westchester County, it’s important that municipal zoning keeps up.

That’s at least part of the thinking behind the new “Land Use Development Playbook,” a collaboration between the Westchester County Association and Pace University’s Land Use Law Center. The book is expected to be published this spring. The idea is to help Westchester’s local governments improve the rules and systems that guide their zoning and land use approval processes.

“There’s a lot of disconnect currently between planning and zoning and the market,” said Jessica A. Bacher, executive director of the Pace Land Use Law Center. “This is to bring those closer together and take the time to evaluate those trends in conjunction with planning and zoning.”

Bacher said those trends include “interest in mixed-use development, opportunities near transit, opportunities for live-work space, the need for affordable housing in our region and the reuse of office parks.”

The playbook would offer strategies that could adjust to those trends in the market, while also considering community feedback, helping the municipal tax base and promoting employment and affordability.

Municipalities throughout the county have already rethought planning and zoning in some cases to attract development. New Rochelle has a number of large-scale apartment and retail projects under construction in its downtown as part of a master plan that calls for attracting $4 billion in investments around the city’s downtown Transit Center.

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Economic development and business advocacy group Westchester County Association has teamed with Pace University's Land Use Law Center to put together the Land Use Development Playbook featured in "Bisnow"

02/16/2018

Economic development and business advocacy group Westchester County Association has teamed with Pace University's Land Use Law Center to put together the Land Use Development Playbook featured in "Bisnow"

Bisnow: "Westchester Officials Hope To Boost Development With New Zoning Playbook"

Featured in the photo: Pace University Land Use Law Center Executive Director Jessica Bacher and CBRE Senior Vice President and Westchester County Association Smart Growth Initiative Chair William Cuddy

From: "Bisnow"

With demand for larger-scale development in Westchester County at high levels, one of the biggest restricting factors for developers is municipalities and their zoning and land use procedures. But a new initiative is hoping to change that.

Economic development and business advocacy group Westchester County Association has teamed with Pace University's Land Use Law Center to put together the Land Use Development Playbook, a set of resources, policy suggestions and process outlines to assist the county's towns and cities in updating their procedures.

“Communities often have out-of-date land use documents and zoning or inconsistencies between the two," Pace University Land Use Law Center Executive Director Jessica Bacher told Bisnow. "The lack of updated zoning results in a disconnect with the communities’ view of development and developers’ plans, and developers are often left guessing with what they should propose.” The drive for baby boomers to downsize and stop owning homes, and some millennials' desire to start families in more affordable neighborhoods with better public schools, has Westchester well-positioned to capitalize on New York City's softening multifamily market — but only with the right development. “We believe we’re at an inflection point where our municipalities have an opportunity to really grow and prosper and take advantage of the economic conditions and the impact of New York City,” CBRE Senior Vice President and WCA Smart Growth Initiative Chair William Cuddy said.

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