The owners of the proposed have secured a July 10 public hearing for their project, coming after heated exchanges with Mount Kisco Planning Board members over their refusal to study an alternative site for its playground.
In a dialogue that lasted more than an hour at Tuesday's board meeting, owners Mark and Beatrice Santora criticized a request to have an alternative drawing for the play space. The playground is proposed for a front area of the property, a rental commercial space at 27 Radio Circle. However, some planning board members would like to see details of what the site would look like if the playground were moved to the back, as a way to help them better inform their decision making.
“I personally need to be absolutely convinced that what you’re saying is the best safety approach to putting a child daycare center facility this close to traffic," Planning Board Vice Chairman Anthony Sturniolo said.
“I am not convinced that the back will not work," said board member Ralph Vigioltti, who wanted more details.
The Santoras are opposed to a rear playground scenario because they believe it will create safety problems for the kids, whether because they would need to cross a parking lot with traffic, to proximity to waste.
Bill Spade, the architect who is handling the project, told the board that moving the playground to the rear would cause a "substantial loss of parking," referencing a change to the site. He also noted that a front location would be closer to the section of the building where Little Garden would operate.
Spade stressed that approval for the project is needed soon, because missing a September opening would mean losing the start of the school year.
“There is timing that’s very critical to this application to have any prayer that they could open for this fall," Spade said. "If they can’t open by September, they’re done for the year.”
Sturniolo was not sympathetic. He responded that it sounded like the planning board was being forced to adopt to their schedule based on their financial needs, as opposed to their schedule that would involve analysis of health and safety.
Beatrice Santora described September as being when they would ideally open.
“Then maybe you should have come to the planning board in January," Sturniolo replied.
Fellow board member Doug Hertz, who also wants to see a rear playground alternative to better inform his judgment, expressed similar frustrations.
“You’re asking us to rush through something that could stay here for 20 or 30 years if you’re successful,” he said.
The Santoras were adament about their refusal to consider the rear of the property, feeling that to spend more money on another rendering in response to members' requests would be a waste of time.
“I can’t, in good conscience, put it back there," Beatrice Santora said, noting that it is a safety issue.
Having to relocate the playground in the back would lead to abandoning the proposal for the site and to look for another place, Mark Santora explained.
“If we’re forced to put it back here we have to walk away,” he said.
At one point, tension crossed over from professional to personal, when Spade criticised the board's handling of the application.
“I don’t believe this board has done the job it needs to do for this application," he said, adding that some members did not go on a site visit.
“I take umbrage to that," Planning Board Chairman Joseph Cosentino, who was sympathetic to the Santoras, replied.
Cosentino felt insulted by Spade's comment - he apologized - and noted the work that the board, made up of volunteers, put in to reviewing applications. A few board members said that they made their own trips to the site.
Vigliotti shot back, saying, “You’re not being fair to this board. You want us to be fair to you.”
Even with the public hearing, however, board members explained that a variance from the zoning board of appeals would still be needed because of the proposal's coverage area. The extent of it was disputed, with Spade arguing that the playground's surface area should not count as developmental coverage.
Other proposal changes submitted on Tuesday include 10 designated parking spots proposed, along with two handicapped spots. It also included submission of traffic data, based on state information for a previous look at nearby Lexington Avenue, showinga 21-vehicle peak traffic count from 8:16-8:30 a.m. on a weekday. Sturniolo did not feel the findings were enough, and wanted a detailed traffic analysis.
The majority of the board, however, was sympathetic regarding the playground. In total, four members expressed preferences for the front, while three were either skeptical or wanted more information.
Board member Stanley Bernstein likened the back area to a dump.
“It’s so uninviting," he said. Bernstein also noted that having the playground in the rear could allow for more parking to be added to the property because it would make it possible for a green space on the site to be used as such.
At one point in the meeting, Cosentino likened walking in the back as like walking through the South Bronx.
“The front is my choice," he said.
The meeting ended with agreement on the July 10 hearing, although the Santoras made no guarantee to produce an alternative drawing.