Even as Starwood abandoned its plans to develop the United Hospital site, the SPCA continued its organizing efforts, finding common cause between progressive members of the Port Chester community and the coalition of building trade representatives.
The Stay & Thrive Campaign, articulated by Ben Bennett of Locker Associates, was an effort by the SPCA to state the SPCA’s position with respect to local development. It argued that people who worked in Port Chester should be able to afford to live in the Village and, rather than encouraging the construction of more luxury apartment buildings, the Village should strive to build more affordable housing. It also proposed that local laws should be enacted to help small businesses negotiate long-term leases at fair and reasonable rents so that businesses which had helped attract visitors to the downtown would be rewarded with an ability to profit and thrive as the Village rebounded and prospered after the lean years when the downtown was unsafe after dark.
The Stay & Thrive Campaign armed the Alliance’s affordable housing advocacy with the innovative concepts of municipal land banks and community land trusts. Land banks are government bodies that are empowered to convert vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties to productive use, taking advantage of state legislation that allows them to do this more efficiently and effectively than other public entities. Community land trusts (CLTs) are nonprofit corporations that steward and develop land on behalf of a community. CLTs remove land from the speculative market and give over control of the land to a community-controlled nonprofit corporation. Typically, a CLT acquires the land in perpetuity and leases property to individual homeowners on a long-term, renewable basis.
The S&T Campaign also promoted: commercial lease renewal reform (to protect small business owners from rapacious landlords); apprenticeships (to provide a pipeline for local residents into productive, well-paid careers in the building trades); and impact fees (to mitigate over-crowding in the public schools when families move into the Village to occupy newly built housing units). Fair-share mitigation fees were indeed written into the new Form-Based Zoning Code, which was passed and enacted in May 2020. [As an example: upon filing for a building permit, developers must make a one-time payment to the Village of $27,000 per projected school-aged child that will reside in the building.]