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Public Hearing is Platform for Conifer Opponents

Town Board opens public hearing for Conifer's Chappaqua Station affordable housing plan.

The start of a Tuesday public hearing on became an opportunity for opponents to blast the proposal again.

Turnout for the meeting, which appeared to be more than a dozen, was primarily made up of folks who have gone on record before as having concerns with the plan, which involves a 36-unit, four-story apartment building on a .38-acre site off of Hunts Place in Chappaqua. , which is near the Saw Mill River Parkway, businesses on Hunts Lane and train tracks, as being unsafe.

Joan Corwin, head of , reitered her concern about safety for the building, noting that Hunts Lane has several businesses, including her buses and , along with the New Castle's recycling facility.

"They have a lot of traffic there," she said.

Corwin, who said she has been in the bus business since 1963, noted her background in safety, including being a licensed school bus driving instructor, and having served as president for a bus association.

The New Castle Town Board had to open the hearing, according to Deputy Supervisor Elise Kessler Mottel, because the town's code requires that it be done within 62 days of an application being submitted. It is tied into a special permit application that the town board would need to approve in order for the structure to be built. The most recent iteration of Conifer's proposal - it was donwgraded from five stories to four in the spring - was submitted on June 7.

Mottel ran the hearing for the board because Supervisor Susan Carpenter was absent. Three members in total were present, with Councilman Jason Chapin also absent.

Ronald Schweizer, who lives near by on Douglas Road, felt that the building is out of place for the site. He likened it to fitting a “square peg in a round hole.”

Peter Davidson felt that the board should consider the very appropriateness of the site for housing, rather than just focusing on aspects of the proposal.

“The real issue here is this an appropriate site for this kind of housing?”

Ellen Schlossberg, who was once involved with the Chappaqua Drama Group - it used to be located on the present Conifer site - called for there to be a vibration study, given the land's proximity to train tracks.

For some, Conifer, which is based in Rochester, should have its history taken into account when judging its Chappaqua proposal.

Ed Frank, who has spoken before against the plan, brought up a Rochester development of Conifer's that is called Erie Harbor, and noted opposition to that project. It has since been approved and Conifer lists it on its website as being under construction.

Mottel replied to Frank by telling him that the focus of the public hearing is the specific proposal being discussed, not others.

“If you could limit your comments to this project, that would be very helpful," she said.

Bill Spade, a local architect and opponent to plan, told Mottel that looking elsewhere is relevant.

“I think that is exactly germane to what we’re considering here," he said.

In reply, Mottel reiterated what she told Frank.

Spade, meanwhile, argued that Conifer has not disclosed, in its forms for the project, that zoning variances will be needed in addition to the special permit.

At the end of the meeting, the town board voted to adjourn the public hearing until Sept. 10, a date that Town Attorney Clinton Smith described as being a "place holder," in case a more ideal occasion comes up. The board was originally going to hold it again on Sept. 24, but Councilman Robin Stout noted that it would coincide with another public hearing:

Alfred DelBello, Conifer's attorney, described the comments as "bascially the same" as the ones heard.

“It’s what you would expect," he said.

Going forward, the town board is undertaking an environmental review of the proposal, which a visual impact analysis to be prepared. Conifer, meanwhile, will be consulting with James Johnson, the federal monitor overseeing Westchester County's affordable housing settlement; the units would count towards a requirement to build 750 by 2016 in predominently white areas.

Other boards will get chances to weigh in with advisory opinions. The Architectural Review Board will do just that at an Aug. 15 meeting. Both it and the Planning Board will also have a joint meeting on Sept. 10 for the project.

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