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Conifer Needs 10 Variances: Building Inspector

New Castle Building Inspector determines that 10 zoning variances are needs for Conifer's affordable housing, which the developer disputes.

New Castle Building Inspector Bill Maskiell has determined that 10 zoning variances are needed for Conifer Realty's Chappaqua Station affordable housing plan, a finding that the developer disputes.

Conifer is set to appeal the decision before the town's Zoning Board of Appeals; the matter is listed on the agenda for the board's Feb. 27 meeting.

The variances in contention have to do with bulk, lot and dimensional requirements for the zoning. The property in which the project would be built is 0.38 acres, including the right of way for the end of Hunts Place in downtown Chappaqua. The site is zoned as General Industrial (I-G), but the town board has the authority to grant a special permit to allow for affordable housing to be built there.

Conifer has a pending application with the town board for a special permit, and a public hearing for the request remains open and will be re-convened at the town board's March 12 meeting.

At the same time, Conifer is also requesting the 10 variances, which would be tied to whether or not the ZBA sides with Maskiell. If the board sides with Conifer, then the variances would not be needed, according to New Castle Town Planner Sabrina Charney Hull.

Hull explained that given a lack of zoning related conditions as part of the special permit, the finding from the inspector is that the underlying zone, I-G, prevails. However, she noted that Conifer feels because there is an absence of conditions, then there is no need for what Maskiell has determined.

Alfred DelBello, Conifer's attorney, could not be reached for comment.

The proposal, a 36-unit apartment building that would reach as high as five stories, is controversial among residents. Concerns cited include safety - the property is between railroad tracks to the east and the Saw Mill River Parkway's exit ramp to the west, building density, and whether the site would serve to isolate and stigmatize residents who live in the structure.

The units would all count towards Westchester County's 2009 federal affordable housing settlement, which calls for the construction of 750 affordable units by 2016 in predominently white communities.

More recently, tensions have escalated between Conifer and the town board.

Among the concerns cited by board members have to do with the developer's request to use municipal parking spaces near the Chappaqua train station for overflow parking, along with traffic safety along the Route 120 bridge, which would be connected to the building with a walkway. Some board members have suggested that they are open to wanting Conifer to conduct and environmental impact statement, which would mean a more lengthy review. Also, at a board work session earlier this month, Supervisor Susan Carpenter said that Conifer had threatened to sue over the process.

Interested Bystander February 22, 2013 at 05:20 PM
I don't understand why the 10 variances relating to the 'underlying zone' matter, other than it is a potential source to block the project. When the Town Board specifically designated the site as suitable for this amount of affordable housing, that becomes the new rule...you can't have it both ways - that doesn't make any sense. Looks to me like a classic case of the Town trying to 'look' like it wanted to do it's share in meeting the County settlement, but now have a case of Buyer's Remorse when someone finds a way to call their bluff. Regardless of whether you like it or hate it, this whole mess was handled terribly.
Michele February 23, 2013 at 01:51 AM
How much longer can the board keep this going. Now 10 zoning variances are needed? Wasn't this know earlier?

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