MAMARONECK, N.Y. – After two hours of listening to public comments and deliberation in a packed courtroom, the Village of Mamaroneck Harbor Coastal Zone Management Commission (HCZM) decided not to vote on whether or not the terminology of “cumulative substantial improvement” was consistent with the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP).
By not voting on the resolution, the terminology of Chapter 186-2 of the Code of the Village of Mamaroneck is automatically deemed consistent and sent to the village Board of Trustees to hold a public hearing on Sept. 4 and then ultimately vote on whether or not to remove the terminology from the existing laws.
About an hour and a half of Wednesday’s meeting was spent explaining the code and its controversy to village residents and commission members who attended the meeting.
Last month, the Board of Trustees gave the HCZM 30 days to determine if the terminology was specifically consistent or inconsistent with the LWRP before it would hold a public hearing and vote. The commission needed to decide by meeting time Wednesday.
“I have an idea, that just listening to all the public comments out there, and this is just beginning to scratch the surface of it, that there is a tremendous overall lack of information out there,” commission member Clark Neuringer said. “I really, really wish that this commission would not have to come to a conclusion this evening.”
After heavy flooding in 2007, the village formed a Flood Mitigation Committee to work on improving the flooding areas of Mamaroneck and protect residents from further flooding destruction. The group created the LWRP, which has 44 policies local municipalities should comply with when creating new laws and regulations. Policy 11 details specifications about buildings and structures in flood zones.
The village code was adopted shortly after the 2007 flooding and includes, but is not limited to, preventing new buildings from being built in flood zones without being above base flood level and current structures from adding or rebuilding without being above base flood level.
However, according to village code, which includes the terminology “cumulative substantial improvement,” residents and businesses must raise their structures above base flood level in two instances:
- If a structure is damaged more than 50 percent by a single storm or 25 percent two or more times over a 10-year period.
- If the home or business owner wants to make improvements, whether it be building an addition or installing a new water heater, totaling more than 50 percent of the total value of the structure over a 10-year period.
“This is such a major change and possibly such a great hardship not only to myself, but to these folks sitting here,” Martin Spatz, a business owner in the flood zone, said to the commission.
If the “cumulative substantial improvement” wording were removed from the village code, owners would only be responsible if 50 percent or more of the structure was damaged or improved at one time, rather than adding separate incidents over a 10-year period.
In March, the Flood Mitigation Committee looked further into the way the law was written, with the concern that making improvements and damages cumulative would put home and business owners in a dangerous position if they hit the 50 percent threshold within a 10-year period.
The questions surrounding the village code were recommended to the village Board of Trustees for discussion. Trustees then referred the code to the HCZM to determine whether or not it felt removing the terminology would be consistent with policies 11 and 12 of the LWRP.
Despite no determination from the HCZM, the Board of Trustees can now hold a public hearing and vote on removing the words “cumulative substantial improvement” from the code.