The question of how the Village of Briarcliff Manor will proceed with the development of its vacant business zone (B Zone) properties for now depends on the outcome of a 12-month ban on commercial property development. Instituted in mid-June, the time-out creates the space for dialogue and an invention of outcomes where business interests and protections for residents can both be met.
Choreographing this delicate balancing act is the newly-elected Mayor Steve Vescio, who is thoroughly versed with the issue. Prior to his election to office, he sat on the B Zone advisory committee under former Mayor Lori Sullivan.
The advisory committee was taxed with studying how best to develop three corporate campuses: The former home to Phillips Research North America at 345 Scarborough Road, which was bought for $12.25 million by New Jersey-based developer Ridgewood Real Estate Partners in 2017; the former Sony facility at 600 Albany Post Road; and the former Mearl Corp at 320 Old Briarcliff Road. The properties are privately-owned and have been vacant for some years now.
The committee made their study and came back with a series of recommendations and an emphasis on protecting the Village’s commercial tax base.
“That was the main point of our B Zone report…to grow our commercial tax base with appropriate commercial use,” said Vescio. “We need a good mix—a healthy mix of commercial taxpayers to residential taxpayers, and we’re already pretty light on commercial taxpayers.”
“If we convert everything to residential and we don’t have a large commercial tax base, all the taxes will go up,” Vescio continued.
So, like something out of a Greek tragedy, two years after the People’s Caucus nominated Ms. Sullivan for Mayor, the People’s Caucus accepted a new slate of candidates who support the B Zone report’s recommendations.
More village residents are comfortable with going the commercial development way, and there’s little political mandate to wield in Briarcliff Manor without backing from the People’s Caucus. The moratorium also frees up the Board from staying enmeshed with the unpopular residential housing type of proposals.
“We can hear people talk about what they want to do with the property. It keeps people focused on the issue, and it’s a structural way of looking at the capacity of the Village,” Town Manager Phil Zegarelli said about the moratorium.
For Mayor Vescio, the moratorium is mainly to protect the residents.
“Before any use is considered, which is the point of the moratorium, we need to protect the residents. We need to do a good analysis of our infrastructure to make sure that we can accommodate what can be built whatever it may be…and whatever issues may arise we can address them. We’re finding the direction of what the Village is going to look like in the next 30, 50, 80 to 100 years,” Vescio said.
But Jonathan Grebow, founder and chief executive of Ridgewood Real Estate Partners, owner of the former Philips property, told the trustees, “Our feeling is you’ve studied it—let’s get down to what development you may or may not want to see there. And that’s all we are asking: for a conversation, no different than any other developer or property owner would want.”
The public is encouraged to attend Trustees’ meetings, voice concerns, and give ideas. Board of Trustees meetings are held bi-weekly (unless otherwise noted) at the William J. Vescio Community Center, 1 Library Road. Board of Trustees meetings are taped and available to the public at the Village of Briarcliff Manor’s website: https://www.briarcliffmanor.org/.