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Letter: Conifer Plan is Called 'Obscene Addition'

Neighbor for proposed site blasts Conifer's Chappaqua Station proposal.

(Editor's Note: Below is a letter from Lori Morton, who lives near the site for Conifer Realty's Chappaqua Station affordable housing proposal, off of Hunts Place)

The proposed Conifer housing project is almost in our back yard, and would, literally, cast a shadow on our home.   I attended the Planning Board/Architectural Review board meeting last week and witnessed the unveiling of the most recent revision of the design plan.  There was actually an illustration of the proposed building taken from the Horace Greeley statue.  In that projection, my home and my neighbors homes were literally dwarfed by the massive structure.  I am filled with serious dismay, bordering on panic, that our town government could seriously consider this project and support its construction.  

I have no objection to the integration of affordable housing in Chappaqua, I have no "not in my backyard" snootiness.  I can prove it, as I live next door to affordable housing.  When we bought our home, the house next door was vacant and condemned, missing doors and windows.  The A-Home organization renovated it and has made it a lovely home for three elderly adults, providing them affordable housing close to town and train.  This project is an example of an approach for providing affordable housing, while improving the landscape, and allowing for the full integration of the residents into the Chappaqua and Newcastle community.  The project only increased our home's value by improving the nearby dilapidated structure and added appeal to one of the gateways of our town.

We are also no strangers to major construction projects near our home.  The Rt. 120 bridge has its base adjacent to our property.  In 2010, with a newborn baby and a toddler in the house, we endured steel beams jackhammered into granite bedrock shaking our whole house from 1 am to 4:30 am every night for weeks, and construction lights illuminating our bedrooms, trucks, machinery and yelling workers at all hours of the day and night for over 2 years.  We endured it with the belief that the project had an end...and the final product would be a necessary improvement to our critical transportation infrastructure.  The resulting bridge is as attractive as it is functional, again..adding appeal to a gateway to our hamlet.  

In contrast, the proposed Conifer project is not a temporary inconvenience that will give way to an improvement.  Once it's there, we're stuck with it.  It is not an integrating housing solution, it is instead an exile.  How could we in good conscience house our lower income residents on a polluted island between the train tracks and the highway?  Because it's better than nothing?  There have been other, more integrative and less disruptive proposals submitted to the town board, so its clear that we have the power to select a solution that best meets the needs of our town's residents and businesspeople, has a positive impact on the aesthetics of the hamlet, and allows us to contribute to the County's obligations for affordable housing.  

I remain shocked, honestly, that anyone could consider this project reasonable or appropriate, Conifer representatives included. The logistical and aesthetic incongruities of the project are nearly irrelevant given the grossly inappropriate scale and location of the project, but I list some of my major concerns anyway:

-insufficient parking to support residents' needs for access to AFFORDABLE grocery shopping, doctors, local employment-awkward, delayed access for emergency services.  

-proposed for a predominantly pedestrian population-but in a location dangerous to pedestrians on every side.  (train/highway exit and on ramp/Rt.120)

-aggravating an already overburdened and dangerous intersection of Saw Mill exit/on ramps and Hunts Place (There are already dangerous traffic back-ups onto the Saw Mill Parkway from the off ramp at peak times)-stigmatizing for ALL residents.  One can only imagine the nicknames that could be given to this monstrous "PROJECT".

-insufficient open space to foster any sense of community within the building, minimal green space for the general well being of all residents.

-Complete failure to integrate into the landscape of the hamlet center.  

-Inflated scale of construction, dwarfing surrounding homes and town structures.

We love our home, we have fully intended to make this the place where we will raise our girls and spend our lives.  However, my first reaction upon seeing the Chappaqua Station proposal was "Oh My God…we have to move."  The approval of this project will be a massive disruption to our home, lives and happiness.  I believe my surrounding neighbors agree. This project would be an obscene addition to downtown Chappaqua, ultimately disrupting the "home, lives and happiness" of our town and its residents.  We can do better. We are obligated to do better. 

Millwood resident September 20, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Beautifully written. I totally agree with every word. I can only hope that the Town Board can do the same.
HJ Watkins September 20, 2012 at 01:43 PM
She is absolutely right. The location, dangerous on all counts –I believe even the Chappaqua Bus Company has raised objections - would not be a positive place for any housing affordable all not. Let's not color this anything but an agressive plan by an aggressive developer cloaking it in the mantel of affordable housing to make it seem more palatable and hard for the community to say no, too. The property is not zoned residential and rightly so. The Town should just say No!
Mike Smith September 20, 2012 at 02:35 PM
The author is spot-on! The Town Baord needs to consider other proposals such as the one submitted that would locate the project adjacent to the undeveloped parcel of land located near the commuter parking lot.
sarah Hodder September 20, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Thank you Lori Morton for this thorough, well-reasoned, articulate letter. It is so refreshing to read heart-felt yet informative accounts that identify real issues and offer thoughtful solutions. It is a welcome relief to the knee-jerk, anonymous spews of vitriol I so often read. It would behoove our town to pay attention, both to the way in which this letter is presented, and to the specific issues the author examines.
Diane D September 20, 2012 at 03:22 PM
This reading of the edited version of this letter at last night's town hall meeting was followed by applause. The writer captures many of the most important elements of the argument against building a massive building in a horrible location. Like MIke Smith posted above, other locations, including behind Town Hall in the commuter parking lot, need to be seriously considered.
Ed Frank September 20, 2012 at 05:09 PM
I agree with what has been written by Lori Morton. The Town of New Castle has existing affordable housing and also has enacted provisions to provide for additional affordable housing. In order for persons living in affordable housing to be integrated into our community, the housing must be of a design, scale and density that blends seamlessly into the adjacent community. The overly dense over sized Conifer project is located in a segregated stigmatized 0.38 acre industrial site that is not suitable for residential usage. Any reasonable person would agree that aside from the well documented drawbacks of the 54 Hunts Place site, the density and scale of the project proposed by Conifer is untenable.
Matt Egan September 20, 2012 at 07:30 PM
If you are reading this, and you haven't yet signed our petition to stop this development, please go to iPetitions and sign today: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/cfrah/signatures Town Supervisor Susan Carpenter expressed interest in our petition at last night's board meeting. We will be combining our internet and paper signatures into a single petition submission before the close of public commentary in October. Thank you.

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