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Legionaries Developer Changes Plan; Town Receptive

Stephen Oder, the developer who is seeking to overhaul the Legionaries of Christ site in New Castle, has unveiled a third iteration, which restores hotel and spa spaces that were originally proposed.

The proposed redevelopment of the Legionaries of Christ site has been altered again, this time with a version that adds back elements that were in a previous version but then removed.

The newest plan for the Armonk Road property was unveiled at Tuesday's New Castle Town Board work session by developer Stephen Oder. He called it a "lifestyle community" that would have 54 condominium units, 30 hotel rooms, a spa and a restaurant.

The iteration is the third of its kind since Oder first came to the town board in September, and it shares similarities to the first in terms of mixed usage. The original version called for 66 condo units, 30 hotel rooms and a spa. The second plan, disclosed to the town in October, was solely residential with 80 housing units.

“The project to date essentially has been a result of an evolution of sorts," David Steinmetz, the developer's attorney, told the town board.

Unlike the previous two versions, the proposed site plan is now very different because no new housing would be built on the northern side of the land. In his first proposal, Oder sought to build three buildings to the north of the mansion, which would have had three residential stories and one below-grade story for parking. The second iteration would have had eight, 3-story residential buildings.

The new plan calls for tearing down two 1950s-era west and east wings that are connected with the mansion, which was built in the 1920s. The wings would be replaced with two new ones of three stories each, which Oder said would "extend slightly beyond" the footprint. A southern wing would exist for the hotels, while the mansion could contain either four condos or four of the hotel rooms.

The condo units will each have two bedrooms and range from 2,200 to 2,500 square feet. The housing will not be age restricted, but Oder intends for it to be for active adults. He also does not believe that the project will generate many new school kids - the land is in the Bedford Central School District - but Steinmetz said that related information would be forthcoming.

The footprint change was done in response to concerns from town officials and neighbors, when visual impact of the newer buildings, possible tree removal and lighting were raised. In contrast, the only removal of trees proposed now is for a section on the northwestern side near Armonk Road (Route 128), which would involve getting rid of trees damaged by Hurricane Sandy. 

The mansion itself would serve largely as a public space, not only for people living on the property but for the general public, who could use the spa and restaurant, which would be set facing a terrace on the building's northern edge that would face out into an open field. The terrace would include an outdoor infinity pool, along with an indoor pool facing out.

“So it's basically a wedding cake design that will be really for the outside space," Oder said.

The site's open space would have room for walking trails, which space immediately south of the housing would include parking and deck over it that would include tennis and basketball courts.

Oder's firm, Soder Real Estate Equities has an option to buy the roughly 97-acre site from the religious order if the town approves an overhaul. The property, located at 773 Armonk Road, was put up for sale by the Legionaries of Christ in 2011. The religious order had been dealing with the aftermath of a sex scandal involving its founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado. Earlier owners of the site included Broadway producer Billy Rose and Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.

In order for the proposal to work, a zoning change would be needed, Steinmetz said; a zone that allows both residential and hotel usage would have to be created. The site currently has 2-acre, single-family home zoning. Whether such a zone for the property could be created as an overlay to the existing zoning has not been determined yet.

Board Members Open to the Idea; Application May Come Soon

Making his case for the development, Steinmetz urged the town board to consider the project and cited what he described as its uniqueness. 

“Now is the time I'd like you to jump out of your seats and applaud because that's really what we're here for," the jocular attorney said.

Initial feedback from New Castle Town Board members suggests an interest in the concept, in contrast to concerns raised about the prior two proposals.

Councilman Jason Chapin said the new version "seems more much logical,” and added that it is “a much better concept” than the initial version.

Deputy Supervisor Elise Kessler Mottel said that she agreed with Chapin, adding that she is “definitely interested” in learning more about the project.

Councilman Robin Stout felt that the hotel and spa concept "is marketable in northern Westchester.” He also felt that the Legionaries site would be more ideal for one than Chappaqua Crossing, which he explained had been suggested locally as an idea.

Supervisor Susan Carpenter appeared to support keeping the property as one large parcel and liked the idea having an adaptive reuse of the mansion. However, she brought up whether or not the proposal can work with the septic and stormwater needs of the site. The proposal calls for 138 bedrooms, two short of the 140 maximum that Oder said could be had with the project's concept before such a problem would arise. Steinmetz also noted that septic and stormwater issues had already been analyzed by Woodard & Curran, an engineering firm, and that they "signed off" on the viability of a septic system and a proposed expansion area.

Another point raised is how review of such a project could work when the town is preparing to update its master plan. Steinmetz told the board that the two items could be double tracked, but hoped that delays with the update process would not undermine the plan.

Going forward, Steinmetz said that a formal petition and an environmental assessment form could be submitted in the next few weeks, which would kick off a rezoning review process.

Betsey Metz January 16, 2013 at 08:10 PM
I don't think they are Legionaries ( a mythical flock of birds?) but Legionaires. Check that spelling. . . .
Tom Auchterlonie (Editor) January 16, 2013 at 08:27 PM
Hi Betsey, The version I used is how the organization's name is spelled: http://www.legionariesofchrist.org

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