Meeting with the New Castle Town Board for the first time, officials from a developer asked for a quick reply on whether doing so would be fine.
“So it’s really important for us to at least have a sense of what the community would like, whether or not they’d like this project," said Carl Meinhardt, a vice president for Mountco Construction and Development, Corp.
The Eastchester-based firm is seeking to build a 4-story, 40-unit housing complex at 495 King Street, next to the Chappaqua firehouse, and had to chance to discuss the project with the board at its Tuesday work session.
The site is where is located, but Mountco officials explained that they have an agreement with the owner, Dr. Martin Horowitz, to buy the property, which consists of two lots. The purchase is conditioned upon getting government funding and zoning approval, explained John Madeo, an executive vice president with Mountco.
“That agreement allows us time to do that," he said in an interview.
Attempts to get comment from Horowitz were unsucessful. However, a woman at the receptionist desk said that "nothing's happened," but declined to say more. She also stated that Horowitz has no comment. Mountco was asked about the woman's assertion but reiterated what they said about a deal's existence.
Mountco officials want to know from the town in time for applying to a federal low-income housing tax credit program, which is backed by the state. There are fall funding deadlines, Madeo told the board, and the money allows for Mountco to keep the units affordable.
The proposal will have 39, 1-bedroom units for seniors, with one 2-bedroom unit for a full-time super. Rents would be at 30-60 percent of Westchester County's annual median income.
Madeo told the board that it needs to indicate interest in order to proceed.
“Again, the sooner the better.”
He also told the board, bluntly, to tell them up front if its doesn't like it. This would give Mountco a chance to go elsewhere.
Mountco Touts Site as Being Integrated
Executives spent a considerable amount of time portraying the site as one that fits in.
“We’re always looking for sites and we were frankly very interested and very pleased to look at this site as a potential for development because we think it’s a, kind of a perfect site for the kind of thing we like to do," Meinhardt said.
Meinhardt described the property as one in transition, given its proximity to the firehouse and retail to the west, and to single-family homes to the east. To the north, there is a carwash, daycare and retail space, which is separated by Memorial Drive.
The site will have 40 parking spots, to be accessed through Memorial Drive, with no curb cuts on King Street. Mountco proposes adding sidewalk space in the front of the property, and would like to see the northern side of the street get a longer extension in addition.
Meinhardt touted the building's scale. While it is comparable to the firehouse - that structure is two stories but is tall because of the first floor accomodating vehicles - the building is on a lower elevation than surrounding properties. In addition, the fourth floor is integrated into a mansard roof design, rather than being part of the structure's main bulk.
“So, it doesn’t read as a full 4-story building. It reads more like a 3-story building with a mansard roof," Meinhardt said.
One unknown, however, is the zoning process. The site has what is called B-R zoning, or retail business, but Mountco was not sure whether an all-residential multi-family building would be allowed. The matter would need to be addressed in the future, should the town board express interest in the proposal.
Affordability & County Settlement
While the units will be geared towards seniors, officials told the board that they could also count towards Westchester County's affordable housing settlement, which requires that 750 units be built by 2016 in predominately white communities. Mountco would apply through the county - it was explained that a certain portion of the settlement housing can also count for senior usage - but if they do not get accepted they will still proceed with the project. It is also possible that some, but not all, of the units could be designated.
Mountco also plans to apply for county funding.
As part of state funding, Mountco would agree to limit the rental cost of the units for 30 years, along with making sure that the age limit is for 55 and older, according to Joel Mounty, the company's president.
Mounty, before anyone asked, also explained that the 40-unit number is for economic reasons, as a break-even point in operation of the building. Having the number also affords the chance for having a full-time super, which Mounty feels would be helpful for seniors.
Board, Conifer Opponents, Appear Open
The work session with Mountco was a contrast to That proposal, for Hunts Place, has been criticized by residents who feel that its site, on 0.38 acres between train tracks and ramps for the Saw Mill River Parkway, is unsafe. They also feel that does not fit, in terms of scale, with the downtown, and that the quality of life would not be good for residents.
Conifer is currently seeking a special permit from the town board in order for the building to move forward. The proposal is currently under review.
Several of the same people who spoke out at the hearing stayed for Mountco's presentation. None of them offered objections to it.
Will Wedge, who was at the hearing and has spoken out against Conifer, told Mountco executives that the way they approached the board and brought information “is sort of a breath of fresh air.”
Ed Frank, also an opponent of Conifer's plan, asked about how many of the 750 units under the settlement could be allocated for senior purposes. There was no response available at the moment.
The town board only had three members present to listen - Supervisor Susan Carpenter and Councilman Jason Chapin were absent - and none of whom offered any skepticism. Deputy Supervisor Elise Kessler Mottel, who helmed the board in Carpenter's absence, told Mountco's officials that they will be discussing the project.
This story has been updated to include feedback from the animal hospital.