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Lawsuit Filed to Nix Conifer Special Permit

A screen shot of a rendering of Conifer Realty's Chappaqua Station.
A screen shot of a rendering of Conifer Realty's Chappaqua Station.

A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of several individuals and a group opposed to Conifer Realty's Chappaqua Station affordable housing plan. It seeks to have a special permit for the project - it was granted by the New Castle Town Board in September - be overturned.

The suit is called an Article 78 proceeding and was filed with the state Supreme Court in White Plains on Dec. 31. It also calls for nixing the permit's accompanying resolution, and makes several arguments for its case. Named as defendants are the Town of New Castle, the town board and then-Supervisor Susan Carpenter. 

The group involved is called Chappaqua for Responsible Affordable Housing (CFRAH). Fellow plaintiffs include folks who have publicly spoken out against the proposal, such as local architect William Spade, Chappaqua Transportation's Joan Corwin and World Cup Gymnastics owner John Sabalja. The filing was announced by Peter Davidson, who is one of the plaintiffs.

One of the arguments in the lawsuit is that the resolution for the permit, which was ultimately filed with the town clerk on Sept. 20, was amended from what the board approved on Sept. 10, that the second version did not have a vote and that the filing was late.

The special permit was approved with a 3-2 decision by the town board.

The lawsuit also argues that the town board, which gave itself the ability to waive zoning requirements for the site when it approved legislation to do so last July, cannot grant waivers.

That same July legislation also allowed for the application of the town's Business Retail (B-R) zone's lot, bulk and dimensional requirements, regardless of the underlying zone. In the case of the Conifer site, which is less than an acre and located off of Hunts Place, the underlying zoning is for General Industrial (I-G), but the town board is allowed to approve affordable housing, officially called workforce housing, on the property.

The lawsuit also contends that the B-R zoning matter was done for the town board to keep control and for approval for Conifer.

The suit gives a scathing opinion about how the matter was handled, contending it was inevitable. 

The petition claims: “It was already being described off the record as a “done deal” by staff and at least one elected official of the Town."

Carpenter is accused of being motivated by the coming expiration of her term, which ended on Dec. 31. The lawsuit also alleges that she engaged in public misrepresentation by saying that she was not shown other sites. The petition claims that Spade showed Carpenter numerous locations.

The suit states, “Suffice it to say, Mrs. Carpenter was determined at all costs to have this projected permitted.”

Carpenter was asked about the lawsuit and whether she has seen the petition.

"I have not seen it and have no more information than you just gave me", she replied.

Additionally, the petition criticizes how the process was handled, which included the issuance of a conditioned negative declaration for the environmental review. That document meant that no environmental impact statement (EIS) was required for the project. The lawsuit also is critical of the fact that a number of conditions were needed for the special permit.

“The resolution has not demonstrated any actual basis for its approval because of the extensive number of conditions set forth in lieu of getting the facts first. The 'hurry up' procedure is arbitrary and capricious.”

The petition reiterates safety concerns brought up by the opposition in the past. The site' location between a Saw Mill River Parkway exit ramp and Metro-North train tracks is the basis of those concerns. Additionally, the suit notes concern from the town's building inspector over a request for variances from a state board that handles code for fire safety. The petition also references the Westchester County Board of Legislators' vote last month to reject financing for the project, with cost and safety cited as concerns before the 8-9 vote was taken.

The litigation puts the new supervisor, Rob Greenstein, in an awkward position. While he has been against the proposal, he is now linked to the defense in his capacity as an elected official.

Reached for comment about the lawsuit, Greenstein replied was not surprised. The supervisor, who had not read through the petition as of the interview, declined to comment in detail about the lawsuit.

Alfred DelBello, who is Conifer's attorney and had not seen the petition when he was contacted on Tuesday, was asked about the lawsuit. He felt that the procedure is not uncommon.


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