Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak wants the school district to give Larchmont a $38,000 a year tax exemption on property that makes up most of the Sheldrake Nature Preserve. Giving Larchmont a tax exemption on the property is a pure giveaway with no identified benefit to New Rochelle. The only justification offered by Mr. Organisciak is that, years ago, the City and Library, gave a similar tax exemption to Larchmont.
The actual value of $38,000 a year, every year, in perpetuity, is over a million dollars, not just $38,000. And the value of the tax exemption will go up every year, reaching over $65,000 a year in 30 years. This is a major transaction and ought to be more carefully considered.
It seems like maybe there is a deal to be made here, akin to a three-team trade in baseball.
The preserve is almost entirely in New Rochelle but owned by Larchmont. New Rochelle residents have restricted access to the preserve. There is a summer camp held there but New Rochelle residents are charged extra and can only attend if there are no applicants from Larchmont/Mamaroneck.
The land in question is Parcel 6-2310-001 or 46.85 acres of "water supply" property and a smaller adjacent property.
Larchmont also owns a third parcel in New Rochelle, on Pinebrook near the Hutch ramp (Parcel 7-3097-001).
Parcel 7-3097-001 would be the swing man in a "three-team deal".
Parcel 7-3097-001 is 1.46 acres along Pinebrook near the Fire House on Stratton.
It is not clear why Larchmont would own a piece of property off the Hutch that is in New Rochelle and closer to Scarsdale than Larchmont. That interesting story is yet to be told but we will set that aside for now.
If we are going to give Larchmont $38,000 a year in perpetuity maybe a better deal for New Rochelleans is to swap the tax exemption for the parcel near the Hutch, Parcel 7-3097-001.
The Republicans on City Council have been, for years, pushing the idea of having a leaf transfer station and salt storage facility in the North End of New Rochelle. The Democrats on City Council have always opposed putting anything in the North End except the fire house. The topic is up for discussion today.
Parcel 7-3097-001 is long and narrow but could perhaps be assigned to DPW to build a salt dome and leaf transfer station as part of the planning of a move of the City Yard to Beechmont Avenue. There is always an issue that the property at Beechmont is too small and is at the far end of New Rochelle with no direct access to the North End except through crowded neighborhood streets.
More efficient road salting and snow removal directly benefits the school district as the winter roads are cleared better and faster so school buses can get around safely. Parents and children benefit as well, especially parents who live within 1.5 miles of their children's school and must drive their children to school each day. As the Superintendent is willing to give away the money for nothing, any benefit is better than no benefit.
The City and Library can remove the tax exemption at any time.
So, here's the idea for a deal.
What if New Rochelle governments, as a whole, stepped back from what the City and Library already did to date and offer Larchmont a package deal: in exchange for a permanent tax exemption on the two Sheldrake properties, Larchmont transfers Parcel 7-3097-001 to New Rochelle.
In effect we are buying from a Larchmont a piece of land that is utterly useless to Larchmont, they get free rent on their nature center, no money changes hands and DPW has a place to put a Salt Dome and Leaf Transfer station for free.
The location seems ideal if it is not too narrow -- it is on a primary/snow emergency road, near the fire house, partially under the Hutch and would have minimal impact on the few homeowners in the immediate area. There are only a few houses there some of which are blocked by a screen of trees, the homes are already at a section of Pinebrook between two busy roads (Stratton as the way to Scarsdale and the Hutch). A leaf transfer station is mostly used during the fall leaf pick up and the salt dome only used during winter storms.
A satellite leaf transfer station and salt dome on Pinebrook near Stratton road but tucked around and under the Hutch on-ramp would be unobtrusive and reduce the 10 mile round-trips for snow and leaf removal. This would cut down on fuel and equipment costs in the fall and winter. It would cut down on labor costs. It would reduce CO2 emissions. The salt dome would also partially reduce the annual 35% loss of salt that occur each year. It also lessens the burden on the proposed DPW yard on Beechwood Avenue and reduces street traffic in area of New Rochelle that is, according to traffic studies of the area, already graded "unacceptable" by traffic engineers.
This idea will allow New Rochelle to benefit in many ways: we realize an actual value for the tax exemption granted to Larchmont for Sheldrake, the City saves money, winter roads are cleared faster, and the entire idea is the very definition of being "green" (helping the nature preserve, reducing carbon emissions, etc.)
The question boils down to whether Noam wants to put his money where his mouth is on "green" or whether "green" mean keeping the North End "green" by keeping all services and equipment south of Eastchester Road?
This "three-man trade" with Larchmont might then set the stage for a compromise on the proposed Beechmont Yard and, in turn, pave them way for a deal on Echo Bay and the Armory. The North End is going to have to have some skin in the game if they are going to ask the South End to support a Beechwood Avenue site for the City Yard. This deal may just provide a path towards that?
Or am I wrong? Tell me what I missed.