[Ed. Note — This letter was sent to the Tarrytown Board of Trustees by the writer. Ms. Phillips-Staley is one of the trustees. A response to the letter was received by River Journal. You can see it HERE.]
I wanted to provide my observations and thoughts on the recent 1/13/23 BOT working session in regard to a particular statement you made which I think crystallizes the debacle the Board is now facing. You were commenting on the process, as if that’s the only problem with the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) legislation (it is a problem, but not the biggest problem), and you said that the Board needed to work on a way to “Allow people to be sufficiently informed so that by the time we go to vote it’s not like “wait, they’re trying to pull one over on us.”” I believe I correctly interpreted this to mean that, in your opinion, the Board was not trying to “pull one over” on the residents in the case of ADUs, but that because of poor communication, residents felt that you were. You stated that you knew some people that you “respect” who felt that way about the ADU legislation, in a way that suggested they were misguided or wrong.
Allow me to remind you of some highlights of the ADU process and discussion thus far, which may help you to understand why these people feel the way they do:
- The Board admitted that it was fully aware that the Housing Affordability Task Force (HATF) figuratively locked itself in a room for 2 years and did not seek any public input. The public was explicitly excluded from participating in any HATF meetings despite requests to be involved and the Comp Plan’s recommendation for more public input through quarterly symposia.
- The Board admitted that it knew the HATF had meticulously analyzed other municipalities’ ADU laws and then purposefully did not include in Tarrytown’s proposal the control mechanisms other towns put in place to protect neighborhoods and prevent over proliferation of ADUs.
- Remarkably, the HATF and the Board then touted the low adoption rates of these municipalities as “Exhibit 1” for why Tarrytown would not have many ADUs knowing full well that the very reason for low adoption rates was because of the controls that these municipalities had wisely put in place and that the HATF had purposefully excluded from their draft proposal.
- Members of the HATF and the BOT tried to bully residents into supporting the ADU proposal using scare tactics, invoking an imaginary impending NYS mandate for ADUs despite knowing that the Governor had been forced to back off of such a mandate in 2022 because there was no support for it and it was highly unlikely to reappear in 2023’s budget for the same reason. As expected, there is no mention of an ADU mandate in NYS’s 2023 budget.
What I describe above is the very definition of “trying to pull one over” on the residents, but it gets worse:
- An individual spoke in favor of ADUs at the 1/3/23 public hearing but failed to identify herself as the daughter of the HATF Chair and a former Village Intern, and nobody on the Board or from the Administration chose to provide that context.
- Another individual, the Democratic Committee Co-Chair for Tarrytown, also spoke in favor of ADUs but failed to highlight this strong connection to the Mayor and Trustees. While any resident is rightfully allowed to speak at a public hearing, transparency requires that this person’s position of unconditional suport for the Village leadership be disclosed. Once again, the Board and Administration disappointingly chose not to provide this context.
Perhaps some reflection by you, the rest of the Board, and the HATF, on your actions, inactions, and subversive tactics, is in order. An apology to the residents for your failures and an honest conversation about why you want ADUs (Hint: we know it’s not about financially strapped seniors) would go a long way towards repairing your collective lack of credibility on the ADU issue and restoring some sense of trust that residents might have towards this administration when it comes to protecting their town and neighborhoods.
The big problem is not the “process” or “communication” as you and many on the Board seem to think it is. Rather, it’s that this Board and Task Force did, quite apparently, do everything they could to try to “pull one over” on the residents.