The federal monitor in charge of overseeing Westchester County's compliance with its affordable housing settlement is concerned that Conifer Realty's Chappaqua Station proposal could lead to its residents being isolated and stigmatized.
In a letter dated July 12, James E. Johnson - about concerns in an April letter - acknowledged getting feedback from Conifer to his spring correspondance.
"This letter sets forth my concern that this project, as currently designed, will not further the goals of the consent decree [the housing settlement] and raises the risk of significant stigmatization and isolation of residents," he said. "As a result, this project also raises the risk of having a negative impact on the community."
The site, located at the end of Hunts Place and making up 0.38 acres, is believed by the monitor to be isolated because it is bound by train tracks, the Saw Mill River Parkway and the Route 120 bridge.
Johnson wrote that a member of his team has reviewed Conifer's previous developments and that he review its properties portfolio online. From his findings, Johnson praised Conifer, writing that it "has a recording which should give many comfort with its ability to develop attractive and successful affordable housing. He cited a nearby foot bridge being used for leaving the site as an isolating example. Having the site separated from its surroundings, Johnson believes, can enable stigma.
However, Johnson believes that Conifer's plan can be improved, based on feedback from architects that he consulted.
Johnson also felt that the building's exterior deisng is one that could give a mark for its residents being separated from the rest of Chappaqua.
Going forward, Johnson explained that the monitoring team will meet with architects to work on potential measures to make the proposal in line with the goals of the settlement. The settlement, agreed to in 2009, requires that 750 units of what is deemed to be "fair and affordable housing" be built over a 7-year period in any predominently white communities, which New Castle falls under demographically.
Johnson's concerns about stigma and isolation by local opposition to the proposal.
Meanwhile, the New Castle Town Board will be undertaking an environmental review of the plan. Last week, the town board voted to refer the project to the Planning Board and Architectural Review Board for advisory feedback. Conifer needs approval of a special permit from the town board in order to move forward with the proposal.
A copy of Johnson's full letter is attached as a PDF file. The letter was posted on New Castle's town website.