Revised Zoning is Proposed for the Gray Areas, But Setbacks Would Greatly Limit the Practical Effect of the Change.

Revised zoning is proposed for the gray areas, but setbacks would greatly limit development potential.

Davenport Neck on New Rochelle’s waterfront contains several of our city’s most attractive neighborhoods, one of our most beautiful parks, and – at the various beach clubs – some of our most heavily-used recreational facilities and event venues.

With all these different (and often conflicting) land uses coming together in a small area with only limited access, it is no wonder that zoning decisions for the Neck are always difficult and sometimes controversial.  So when our City’s planning staff received a proposal for a condominium development at the site of Beckwith Pointe, they knew they had their work cut out for them.

Wisely, our staff decided not to consider the Beckwith site in isolation, but, instead, to create a zoning framework that made sense for Davenport Neck as a whole and that was also consistent with the City’s overall objectives for the shoreline.

The result is a proposed R-WF zone (residence-waterfront) that seeks to balance these considerations:

•  Protection for the quality of life in nearby neighborhoods by providing large setbacks from homes, parks, and roads.

•  Concern for the environment by requiring the preservation of open space.

•  Enhancement of public access to the waterfront by requiring developers to reserve at least 50% of their shoreline for public use or, alternatively, pay generously into a City fund dedicated to waterfront improvements.

And here’s an important point to keep in mind.  As a result of the open space and setback provisions mentioned above, the total number of housing units that could be constructed on Davenport Neck would actually be lower under the proposed zoning than under the current zoning.  Furthermore, housing density would be concentrated toward the southwest end of the Neck, where it is farthest from existing neighborhoods.

Finally, in contrast to an event at a beach club which generates a large amount of traffic in a concentrated time period, the traffic from housing is likely to be distributed more evenly across a typical day with a lesser impact on surroundings.

You can see all the details here in the draft zoning.

I can’t say that I am all that enthusiastic about replacing Beckwith Pointe with condos.  In truth, my feelings are quite mixed – the club has value to our community and especially its members.  But the  City can’t force a private business to stay open, and it would be unwise to ignore economic trends that put the continued operation of some beach clubs in doubt.   The key question is whether this proposed zoning is better or worse than the realistic alternatives.  By that standard, I think our staff struck a good balance, but I’ll withhold final judgment until there’s been a more complete discussion in the community.