Westchester County has six cities, 16 towns and 23 villages. Each of these municipalities has home rule authority on all matters relating to planning and zoning. They each adopt zoning ordinances, establish their own rules for processing subdivision and site plans and enact their own unique environmental regulations. Although the ground rules for this authority are set under New York State law, this situation makes regional planning no small challenge.

As fragmented as land use authority may be, Westchester has a very long tradition of using all of the tools of planning. Most municipalities in Westchester first adopted zoning ordinances in the 1920s. Three local planning boards date back to 1917. Every municipality in Westchester has prepared a comprehensive plan.

The County Planning Department and the Westchester County Planning Board respond to the challenge of working within this multi-jurisdictional and sophisticated environment by promoting intergovernmental cooperation and urging participation of the municipalities in regional and subregional planning efforts. Initiatives of the Department include:

  • Providing a regional perspective and offering critical guidance on land use, development and zoning actions being considered by local governments.
  • Promoting appropriate and sustainable development of land in coordination with transportation and infrastructure, guided by the goals, policies and strategies of Westchester 2025
  • Conducting studies on intermunicipal topics that assist local land use and zoning decision-making by municipalities.
  • Providing essential technical assistance on planning and zoning actions to municipal officials and County departments.

The Department of Planning maintains a “Local Planning Law Resource Guide” that provides examples of already in-place local land use ordinances that address a wide variety of subjects including sustainable development, environmental protection, historic preservation, tourism promotion, signage and parking and design review. The goals of the compilation are to allow local officials to see the vast range of land use tools already in place in nearby communities and to make research and enactment easier.

The main blueprint that guides our county-wide planning approach is “Westchester 2025: Planning Together.” The 1996 "Patterns for Westchester" document is still an adopted plan of the County Planning Board. Only the “Assumptions” and “Policies” sections of "Patterns" have been replaced by the Westchester 2025’s "Context for County and Municipal Planning and Polices to Guide County Planning."

The main blueprint that guides our county-wide planning approach is Westchester 2025, the county’s long-range planning policy.

Westchester 2025 and Patterns also provide the basis for the county planning board’s review of local municipal land use, development and zoning actions. With the assistance of the planning department staff, the planning board submits hundreds of comment letters each year to the local municipalities on everything from zoning amendments to large housing and commercial developments. Each referred item is reviewed not only with regard to impacts on each specific site but also from a regional, intermunicipal perspective.

The Westchester County Department of Planning released Land Use in Westchester, a report with detailed information and maps on land use in the county, including a review of important development trends that have taken place in the past decade. The preparation of the report was the result of close cooperation between the County and Westchester’s 45 municipalities. Municipal assessors provided basic information on all 234,132 tax parcels in the county and the Planning Department then worked with municipalities to refine the data in terms of use of land. Over 50 tables highlight important facts about the county’s land use and the report identifies eight major trends that have shaped the county's growth and development over the past decade. Link to report sections below: