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Public Hearing for Conifer Plan Continues Tonight

New Castle's Town Board is keeping the hearing open for Conifer Realty's Chappaqua Station affordable housing proposal.

At tonight's New Castle Town Board meeting, the public hearing in connection with Conifer Realty's Chappaqua Station affordable housing plan will be continued.

The hearing, which is for a special permit that Conifer needs from the town board, was first convened in August and has been continued multiple times since then. The most recent occasion for the hearing was on Dec. 11, when Conifer attorney Alfred DelBello requested closing it, which the board denied because a town planning memo on the project had only recently been submitted.

Since then, Town Planner Sabrina Charney Hull has put together a newer memo that takes a look at environmental issues surrounding the 36-unit apartment building for downtown Chappaqua.

In a memo dated Jan. 18, Hull laid out a series of outstanding issues and concerns regarding the proposal. They include skepticism over the developer's request to use town-owned parking by the Chappaqua train station for overflow space, asking whether the Chappaqua school district would support a bus stop recommended by Chappaqua Transportation President Joan Corwin, calling for the elimination of three on-site parking spaces to improve vehicle turning room and having the town board weigh in on the developer's request to have the right of way for the end of Hunts Place added to its parcel.

Hull's memo is included in the town board's meeting packet - it starts on page 3 -which can be found here.

The right of way, plus the parcel, add up to roughly 0.38 acres, sitting between Metro-North train tracks to the right and the Saw Mill River Parkway's exit ramp to the left. The building has points of height ranging from three to five stories and would have a pedestrian walkway to the Quaker Street (Route 120) bridge. 

The proposal has garned opposition among residents who feel that the site is not safe for residential usage and have concerns that the structure is not of place, aesthetically speaking, with the downtown.

The property is in a General Industrial (I-G) zone, but housing proposals of an affordable nature can be allowed if the town board grants a special permit. In addition, town officials have stated that Conifer will need zoning variances for the structure. According to Hull's memo, the proposal does not zoning requirements for aspects such as height, maximum building coverage, and minimum front and side yard spaces. Conifer has already applied to the town's Zoning Board of Appeals, Hull wrote, which would decide whether to grant variances for the building.

Meanwhile, it was explained at the last meeting that the town board is coming close to a major procedural step: an environmental significance determination. If it gives a "negative" declaration, then Conifer will have a relatively clear path for the town's environmental review. If the board gives a "positive" declaration, then the review would require an environmental impact statement (EIS), in both draft and final forms, which would make the process more detailed and lengthy. It is not clear when the board will make its determination.

Conifer's proposal is also meant to count towards Westchester County's 2009 federal affordable housing settlement, which requires the construction and marketing of 750 "fair and affordable housing" units over a 7-year period. The units must be constructed in communities that are predominently white, although municipalities do not have to build specific unit amounts to contribute to the total. Conifer's apartments would be rentals; under the county's settlement, people making up to 60 percent of the area median income (AMI) qualify for renting.

The hearing will be continued at the board's meeting, which starts tonight at 8 p.m., at New Castle Town Hall in Chappaqua.

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