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Planning Board, ARB, Hit Conifer in Memos

Design, parking and safety among concerns.

On the heels of their joint work session last week, New Castle's Planning and Architectural Review boards have come out with memos on Conifer's affordable housing plan that range from critical to scathing.

"While affordable housing is a laudable building type, the current proposal is unacceptable and would be a scar on the landscap," the ARB wrote in a memo dated Sept. 18. "As representatives and stewards of the Community, we would not be doing our jobs if we permitted a building such as this, to be constructed at the most visible location in the Town of New Castle. There will be a huge uproar from the citizenry, justifiably, if the Town Board permits this project to advance."

Both boards have been asked by the Town Board to give their advisory opinions on the project. The affordable houisng building, which would be located on more than .3 acres off of Hunts Place, requires the Town Board to approve a special permit for it, along with variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

In the memo, the ARB felt that the latest proposal, which includes more use of stone, green stucco and a sliding mass scale of 3-5 stories, as being an improvement from its earlier version. However, it deemed the building as "still an architectural failure." The board argued that the building, with its density, is too big for the site and cannot blend into the area. It noted that a scaled-downed version of the building, which has 36 units, could fit better, but added that the site in general is not appropriate for residential use. 

The latest Conifer plan involved breaking up the building's mass - it was previously a 4-story, boxy structure - after the ARB blasted the proposal at an Aug. 15 meeting.

The Planning Board was more diplomatic in its language, but critical nevertheless.

"The Board liked the stone façade and the varying roof lines, as well as the green roof and proposed trash management," the memo read. "However, the Planning Board believes the building still has too much bulk for a site this small, which is bounded by the railroad and a major highway."

In the memo, the Planning Board felt that the structure's scale would be out of place in downtown Chappaqua, that Conifer needs to provide viewshed renderings near the Saw Mill River Parkway, and meet sooner with town emergeny response officials to discuss the plan. The board also feels that off-site parking, which would involve using public spots near the train station, is inadequate, and that Conifer's use of Yonkers as a comparison place is not useful because Chappaqua lacks as many amenities.

Alfred DelBello, Conifer's attorney, said at a Wednesday public hearing that he was "familiar" with the boards' reports. He then gave a reminder of the Town Board and Planning Board meeting in December 2010 to see the plan unveiled, and of then-Supervisor Barbara Gerrard writing a favorable letter soon after to help Conifer get state funding.

“Based on that, Conifer has spent a great deal of money in pursuit of perfecting the development for that site," he said.

The Town Board is keeping the public hearing open, having adjourned it to Oct. 23. An environmental review, which could potentially be lengthy, will need to be done before the board votes on whether to grant the permit.

Copies of the boards' memos are attached here as PDF files and can be found on the town's website.

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