The short answer to why I’m running is for my family and my community.
I’m running for Port Chester Village Trustee in order to preserve the community’s character that my family fell in love with six and a half years ago when we moved to Port Chester. Port Chester has a unique and vibrant community character, rich in cultural diversity, vibrant arts and a lively downtown business district. Since moving here, my second daughter was born and both my kids are thriving in the Port Chester Public Schools, Girl Scouts, soccer and the myriad other activities and experiences available to the families of Port Chester. The people of Port Chester want to maintain the friendly, small-town character of Port Chester, even as our downtown is revitalized with new development. As a Trustee, I would work with the Village Board and the various boards and committees to ensure that downtown development is done in a responsible and sustainable manner, benefitting our tax base, while maintaining the general character and diversity that make Port Chester unique.
Having sat on the Zoning Board of Appeals for the past four and a half years, I have had a front-row seat to many of the development plans for our downtown, as well as a view of the community’s opinions of development plans around the Village. From the community input at ZBA meetings, the conversations on social media, and conversations in the park, at the school and around the Village, it has become clear that the people and businesses in Port Chester are unhappy with the recently passed Zoning Code. We need to revisit the Zoning Code with an eye to meeting the needs of existing residents and businesses, while improving the Village’s tax base and revitalizing our Main Street.
To objectively assess the needs of the Village, the Board of Trustees should reconstitute the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee and revisit the Comprehensive Plan, last ratified in 2012. As part of the revision of the Plan, a new housing inventory and assessment should be conducted to better understand the affordable housing needs of the community, as well as conditions of overcrowding in existing housing.
The Village Industrial Development Agency (IDA) needs greater oversight and direction from the Board of Trustees. The IDA should not be giving decades-long tax abatements to real estate developers simply to sweeten the pot and entice them to build in Port Chester, but instead offer benefits to developers in exchange for meeting the needs of the community.
When the IDA grants tax abatements to new developments, it adversely affects the tax generating potential of the new development during the period of the abatement. In exchange, developers should demonstrate tangible benefits to the community, such as improvements to sewage, drainage and other infrastructure needs, and allocations of residential and commercial properties at previous rates to people and businesses displaced by development.
We should not let redevelopment displace residents and businesses of the Village, only to see our Main Street populated by national chain stores and restaurants. It’s our mom-and-pop businesses that truly give Port Chester the character and flair that attracts people from around the region to visit our shopping and entertainment.
Port Chester has infinite potential for growth and improvement, but it should not be at the expense of the small community character that we know and love.
John J. Allen
Letter to the Westmore News, 2/2/22