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Iona College and City of New Rochelle on the Road Again!

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Iona College and City of New Rochelle on the Road Again!

July 01, 2012 - 17:40

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends,

New Rochelle City Council prepares to vote on yet another site specific zoning amendment for Iona College with no Master Plan in place. There has got to be some kind of plan. They just don’t acknowledge it like the City Council does not acknowledge the City Charter. That way there is more flexibility especially if no one challenges their decisions.

Let me start by saying that this is not an Anti-Iona campaign. We want to see Iona College succeed. Iona College is part of this city and can be a part of the fix for the North Avenue corridor with proper planning and management. The concerns are the continual problem of poor planning; procedures, policies and past bad planning decisions on the part of Iona College, The City Council, City Management and City Staff of New Rochelle. They all have a bad habit of letting history repeat itself when it comes to planning and development. We need to get it right this time.

Iona College Requests a Waiver Extension to the amendment made in September and runs a Full Page ad. Iona College begins yet another salvo of plotting and planning with no Master Plan. In the Journal News Iona College ran the full page ad where "Iona applauds New Rochelle and the Joint Planning Committee". It does not mention that they are already trying to change the first agreement deadlines. More promises and commitments not kept. Having some operational experience, I realize they can’t complete the entire task involved for all of the student housing needs overnight. But, where is the plan or the framework of a plan that they promised back in September of 2011. They were given a free ride on their overpopulation issue with regard to their own personal CR1 Zoning. Iona College crafted the deals and agreed to the terms. Live up to those site specific zoning amendments. That is how you show you care and are willing to work with the community.

The neighbors would like to give the Joint Planning Committee a lot of credit for the hard work and time they invested in the process. The sole commitment is not the committee’s. It is Iona College’s. Again, KUDO’s to the members and neighbors on the committee and Thank You for your time and input it is greatly appreciated.

I was watching the Planning Board Meeting Tuesday night June 26th. I was told that an item on the agenda was for the property on the West Campus of Iona College. I didn’t think so because I had looked at the agenda and I didn’t see anything about Iona College. The agenda which I get e-mailed a few days before the Planning Board meeting had referred to development on Block 1556; Lot 158, no owner's name was given. When I looked the lot site up, it’s the West campus site on North Avenue and Mayflower Avenue. Iona College is looking to revise the site specific controls in the current language of Ordinance#81 of 2002 which was revised and adopted back in September of 2011. Was that just an error and an innocent screw-up? It was about the Waiver Extension for referral to Council for the Public Hearing scheduled for July 10, 2012. It reads as follows:

ITEM # 5 — CITY COUNCIL AND BAZ REFERRALS / DISCUSSION ITEMS / OTHER BUSINESS (NOT FOR PUBLIC COMMENT)
5.2 Ordinance Amending Ordinance #81 of 2002 revising the site specific controls previously adopted by City Council which will now govern all development on Block 1556, Lot 158.

Apparently it was a discussion item requested by The City Council for The Planning Board’s recommendations regarding Iona College’s request for a Five Year extension on the Waiver passed last year when the College and the City of New Rochelle formed The Iona/City Community Planning Committee. Under the current extension they have until the end of the 2012-2013 school year.

The Iona/City Community Planning Committee had originally scheduled to complete its work last month. The committee chose to take another six months “contingent upon” the council’s approval of the extension. Iona College has formally made a request to City Council to continue housing the 150 extra students on its west campus for an additional five years. The City Council has now set a public hearing date of July 10th.

The discussion at the Planning Board meeting on June 26th was very interesting because many of the Planning Board members voiced the same questions and concerns as many of the neighbors. One question raised was how Iona College cannot already have a Master Plan for future growth and needs? It was said to be unacceptable and the onus should be on Iona College to have a plan on the table for the next five years. No school operates that way. Most any college or institution would need to have a Master Plan or at least a basic framework of a plan to work from for the exact purpose of planning for potential growth and needs. It seemed like they really weren’t very supportive of the idea. Iona College apparently said they would withdraw any proposals of building on Mayflower Avenue and Presidents Street for those five years.

In closing the Planning Board seemed to want at least a five year plan with any approval. They mentioned giving another year extension based on Iona College producing a Master Plan. The board was not approving anything at this point. They were just being asked for information and a referral by City Council from what I understand they said. At that the Planning Board would only give a Position Referral if Iona College provides a Master Plan in one years’ time.

It seems Iona College is still thinking about Mayflower Avenue which we have said before. I saw surveyors around the property the other day. We need to be aware of everything that goes on moving forward. Any extension of the "Waiver" should not be considered until; Iona College has proposed a final plan for all of their housing needs/wants which does not negatively impact any surrounding residential neighborhoods. That was the purpose of the committee and nothing should be done unless all alternatives have been explored. Under the current extension they have until the end of the 2012-2013 school year. Work with-in the established time frame first then see what they need once we see a plan period.

Your feedback is encouraged and appreciated. You need to make your own evaluation and decision on the process. I have learned to be very careful when Iona starts their PR Advertising. They are trying to change a negative view by saying how much they bring to New Rochelle. We cannot let Iona College and The City Council pull another fast one on the neighbors and the Citizens of New Rochelle.

Look at some of the recent issues we have seen on RFPS, site or zoning plans where the language gets tailored to suite the builder or developer. If something is wrong, set it right. Use due diligence on such matters and don’t rush for change if it wasn’t correct in the first place. Look at the troubles and errors in decision making the residents near the Pepe’ Mercedes Benz dealership are going through. I would love to know, when was the last time a City Council Member attended a Planning Board Meeting to see and hear firsthand what is going on?

New Rochelle, you need to put the July 10th date in your planner to attend the Public Hearing followed by Citizens to be Heard. You can speak twice that night if you choose to speak about the Waiver Extension and CTBH. Get your thoughts together and send an e-mail to The City Council and let them know how you feel as well. It is our city, our homes and our lives these people are dealing with. Stand up and speak to protect your investment. It is only three minutes but it could be a lifetime investment and a well spent three minutes.

“Common Sense for the Common Good”