New Rochelle’s master development team at RDRXR has just presented their Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) to the New Rochelle City Council.  It’s now online and will be the subject of a formal public hearing on October 13th.

Based on the zoning and urban design principles presented several weeks ago in the Recommended Action Plan (RAP) for the downtown, the DGEIS is a comprehensive look at the effect of our ambitious development initiative on everything from traffic patterns, to economic activity, to student enrollment, to job creation, to utility demands.  It also includes a preliminary framework for ensuring that developers contribute fairly to the infrastructure and service costs associated with growth.  That’s critical, because development only makes sense if residents and taxpayers come out ahead.

The word “Draft” should be emphasized.  By accepting this document, the City Council has not yet signaled approval of or satisfaction with all of its content.  Instead, we have deemed it sufficiently complete for the purpose of receiving feedback from the community and from other public agencies.  An updated “Final” version of the document (an “FGEIS”), that includes responses to any comments received, is scheduled to be presented later this year.

Then there’s the word “Generic.”  What does that mean?  Instead of focusing on a single project, as in most prior environmental reviews undertaken in New Rochelle, this EIS evaluates the effect of build-out targets and proposed zoning for the entire downtown area.  In this sense, it provides a much more holistic view of how development could reshape New Rochelle and of what measures would be necessary to ensure that our community receives both planning and fiscal benefits.

Once the environmental review process concludes, specific projects that fall within the development parameters of the GEIS will no longer be required to conduct their own full-scale environmental analysis (some lesser form of review may still be necessary.)  By providing this kind of pre-approval, New Rochelle can knock down a major financial and procedural impediment to investment and help transform our entire downtown into a more attractive business proposition.  Indeed, this is one of the major objectives of the master development process; by paying for the comprehensive GEIS, RDRXR is, in effect, subsidizing development by other teams that may now view New Rochelle as ripe with opportunity.

I look forward to examining the DGEIS closely in the weeks ahead, asking my own questions, and receiving constructive comments from our community.

We’re making great progress . . . more acronyms to follow!