The town of Mamaroneck, New York recently took steps to protect its character and environment from large-scale developments that abut, adjoin, or are adjacent to its borders. Under a zoning ordinance enacted in April, the town now requires these developments to undergo a comprehensive review and obtain a permit from the Mamaroneck Town Board.
The purpose of the law is to ensure that the town has the right to reject or alter developments that would have a substantial adverse impact on the community.
The law covers residential projects of 250 or more homes, facilities of more than 100,000 square feet, and projects involving parking for more than 1,000 vehicles. In granting a permit, the town will consider the impact on natural resources, noise, traffic, cultural or aesthetic resources, and community or neighborhood character.
The town adopted the law in response to a 270,000 square foot Ikea furniture superstore proposed in the neighboring town of New Rochelle. The store would be situated along a narrow residential road that is within Mamaroneck’s borders. The road would serve as the primary access for delivery trucks. The store would include 1,300 parking spaces and is expected to generate up to 600 vehicle trips hourly.
The Ikea store has generated heated opposition in both neighboring communities and within New Rochelle. To make way for the 16 acre project, the city plans to use eminent domain to condemn 26 businesses employing 400 people, two churches, and the homes of 160 residents. Ikea tried to buy the properties, but few in this working class (or “blighted” according to the city) neighborhood were willing to sell.
“What IKEA could not buy on the private market, it wants city government to steal in public,” declared Al Norman of Sprawl-Busters at a rally organized by Westchester Residents Against Ikea Now (WRAIN). The rally drew more than 400 people. Sprawl-Busters helps communities nationwide fight corporate retailers.
New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act requires major developments to obtain approval from state authorities, who consider the project’s impact on surrounding municipalities. Impacted communities may submit comments, but they do not have the power to approve or reject the proposal. Mamaroneck officials petitioned the state to grant neighboring communities a greater say in the process, but the state refused.
The city of New Rochelle contends that Mamaroneck’s law violates state law and the interstate commerce and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. It has challenged the law in court. Mamaroneck officials insist that the law is well within the authority of a local government to protect its citizens. That authority, they say, must on occasion extend beyond the town limits to address external problems with internal impacts.