Time to Start Counting Basements as Living Space

When it comes to handouts, Rye basement-builder welfare runs deep. The City’s basement FAR (floor area ratio) loophole amounts to a government subsidy that distorts the housing market and creates artificial incentives to hammer, chip, and blast rock.

The loophole exists because our zoning laws are not keeping up with technology. Under the Rye City Code, basements are still treated as a place for spiders and rusty water heaters, rather than the modern climate-controlled entertainment space that exists under most new homes.

Does this mean we should outlaw basements? Of course not, but there are good reasons to count basements as livable space like other rooms in the house. While homebuilders routinely balance the size of kitchens, family rooms, and bedrooms based on lot size and FAR, there is no opportunity cost of adding a basketball court-sized basement. Because of the basement FAR loophole, basements are protected from the free market process that governs the size of other rooms.

New basements and healthy real estate margins are natural and, in many ways, desirable features of Rye’s robust real estate market. In a well-planned and well-balanced community, economic incentives help keep the system rolling. But loopholes in our zoning distort the market and create unintended consequences like monster basements and rock hammering that impact landowner rights to quiet enjoyment.

As our community continues to debate the need for a stricter noise ordinance, it would help to close the loophole and treat all livable space evenly. Rock hammering is a symptom of our outdated zoning and Master Plan. Looking forward, a master plan and improved land-use regulations will not only help preserve landowner rights, but also ensure long-term economic benefits for our community.

— John Mayo-Smith

Proposed Project on United Hospital Site Needs More Council’s Oversight

We are concerned about the project that Starwood Capital Management is planning to build on the old United Hospital site in Port Chester. A massive development near Rye’s border could cause problems, including but not limited to heavy traffic, for our community.

The City could and should have been engaged for the last five years, when project planning got underway: studying its impacts, setting goals, exploring aspects of road use that require Rye’s approval, and forming alliances and exercising what leverage we have with the people and organizations involved. Our elected officials should have been reaching out to Port Chester officials in a positive way, as many of the issues that are of concern to Rye residents are also of concern to Port Chester residents. Failing that, the City certainly should have been engaged for the past year, when a group of concerned citizens first began requesting its help.

By failing to act in a timely fashion, our City Council may have forfeited our chance for effective action. We need a more proactive and responsive approach by the Council.

— Emily Hurd, Danielle Tagger-Epstein, and Jeff Taylor, candidates for Rye City Council


Blasting Is No Blast for Neighbors

I've read the Record’s coverage regarding rock chipping. Now, there is dynamite blasting. I live in the Rye Castle complex on Manursing Avenue, and about every 30 minutes there is an explosion that rattles the windows and shakes the building. I left messages with the Building Department, which referred me to the City Clerk, who referred me to the City Engineer, who has not returned the call.  

Folks are very upset about what the blasting is doing to their home/building's structure, as well as the utility system (sewer lines, etc.). The blasts are extremely powerful, and may be the new alternative to rock chipping, but with graver consequences than incessant noise.  

— Tim Clark


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