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New Castle's ARB Blasts Conifer Plan

Members criticize aesthetics, appropriateness of the site.

Members of New Castle's Architectural Review Board did not have many kind words for Conifer Realty's Chappaqua Station affordable housing proposal.

Board member Terrence Dunn was blunt, telling Conifer officials that it "just is such a poor site.”

Dunn also noted the building's close physicial proximity to Metro-North train tracks to the east, as a quality of life concern.

Board member Lonnie Goodman said it's “a horrible site.”

The board members sounded off at their Wednesday meeting, when Conifer officials came to present their proposal and give a general status update.

The ARB is serving in an advisory role, along with the Planning Board, for the Town Board's review of Conifer's application for a special permit that is necessary for construct the 36-unit, 4-story building, on 0.38 acres off of Hunts Place.

Board member Robert Schenkel was not sympathetic to Conifer's attempt, so far, to make it more residential looking; a presentation was made of its 4-story update, which was changed to it current form in the spring.

"It’s very commercial looking, it’s very low-end hotely looking,” he said.

Conifer's original proposal for the 36-unit structure was five stories, which was met with hostility from the ARB earlier in the year.

Talk turned to whether it's possible to break up the building's mass.

Dunn took issue with issue of the looks saying “Those are a little bit disturbing to me."

“It can’t look like a hotel," said board member Anne Hasegawa. She added that the building "has to have some more personality.”

Hasegawa also described the building as looking “institutional.”

Schenkel did not shut the door entirely on the aesthetics, suggesting that large buildings, such as old inns, have nice quirks.

“This looks like a road-side hotel," he said.

Town Planner Sabrina Charney Hull told the board that their review process is different because of a 45-day window to give comments to the town board for its special permit review.

Dunn replied that's “another 45 days to move my family out of town when it’s up.”

There was talk about looking at large buildings in southern Westchester communities, such as Bronxville and Scarsdale, as best practices.

“It’s been done before and it doesn’t look this institutional," Schenkel said.

Conifer's team was deferential, and explained that feedback from the ARB and elsewhere will be incorporated into revising the plan.

Steve Schoch, one of the architects, noted the challenge in working with an apartment, in terms of residential aesthetics.

“It’s an apartment building. It’s not a house. So trying to apply a residential language to do something that is larger is a difficult thing to do,” he said.

“We’re appreciate everyone’s time here tonight and thoughts,” Conifer executive Andrew Bodewes said of the feedback.

He added, "those are all good, good things."

The ARB and Planning Board will have a joint work session on Sept. 10 to discuss the proposal again; Conifer will have updates then on its intent to change the building.

Nora Mackenzie August 17, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Why hasn't someone just said NO. YOU CANNOT USE THIS SITE BECAUSE IT IS TOO DANGEROUS. We will not build on this site period. Find somewhere else and make your building less ugly.
Tom Auchterlonie (Editor) August 17, 2012 at 05:26 PM
The ARB members didn't specifically raise safety, but on multiple points they agreed with opponents of the plan.
Tom Auchterlonie (Editor) August 17, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Also: The ARB is tasked with focusing on aesthetics. It's the town board, through the special permit review process, that is tasked with deciding whether or not the site is viable. At the meeting, Bodewes did not that the town voted in 2010 to rezone it to allow for workforce housing.
Ed Frank August 17, 2012 at 10:29 PM
The following is quoted from an April 3, 2012 article written by a New York Times editor. "The proposal for Chappaqua, home of the Clintons, calls for what would be the tallest building in the town, dropped into a no-man’s land between railroad tracks, a highway and a bridge". Chappaqua is being publicly criticized for an affordable housing project "dropped into a no-man's land" when in fact, the project has not been constructed nor has a special permit been granted to Conifer by the Town for the construction of this ill advised project. Conifer Realty, LLC is seeking financial gain at the expense of Chappaqua residents, the preponderance of whom are opposed to this stigmatized ill advised project that fails to conform to HUD Monitor Mr. Johnson's criteria for affordable housing. The time has come for Conifer to pull the plug on this debacle and the time has come for the Town of New Castle to move on to sites for affordable housing that will not bring shame and criticism upon the Town.

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