For the first time in more than three years, members of Mount Kisco's Planning Board are discussing the future of the former Swiss Benevolent Society property, in the form of an altered plan that calls for a smaller building.
“We've been away for a long time," said Mark Miller, an attorney for the applicant who spoke to the board at its Tuesday meeting, when a presentation of the new plan was made.
The project involves a 129-unit senior housing complex on about 17.7 acres of a steep site west of Kisco Avenue, with a planned roadway to be opposite of Holiday Inn Drive. It also has a new name and developer. Formerly called Westchester Residence & Club, the plan is now The Hearth at Mount Kisco. A new development joint venture, Hearth Management and The Fortus Group, has taken a majority stake in the project. Developer Robert Mishkin, who pushed through the original plan, is now a minority stakeholder.
“We're very hands on," said Daniel J. Suits, chief operating officer for Hearth Management, in describing his company's approach. The company is based in Syracuse, operates 12 buildings, and has been a joint venture partner with Fortus for several years.
Christian Sexton, a vice president at Fortus, described the proposal as “an interesting development that stalled.”
The old proposal was last visited by the planning board in April 2009, when it finished a two and a half-year environmental review. Shortly after that, the village board of trustees voted to rezone the site to allow for the project. It stalled for several years because of the bad economy, Miller told the board.
The original proposal was created in the mid 2000s in connection to a settlement of a lawsuit between Mishkin and the village over its lack of approval of a previous plan to expand his Town & Country senior housing facility by 46 residents, in addition to 44 already allowed. The Town & Country complex, located on Mountain Avenue in the Captain Merrit's Hill neighborhood, is slated to be demolished and Miller told the board it would be complex by the end of November. The village board voted on Monday to give a Dec. 7 deadline for the tear down, an extension from Oct. 30, after learning from the developer that asbestos removal is delaying the process.
Both the Town & Country site and the village-owned property were once owned by the Swiss society. Mishkin took over his section, about four acres, in the early 1990s. The part owned by Mount Kisco, which is in the 50-acre range, was acquired in 2000 to settle litigation with the society over zoning on it, according to current and former village officials. The village and developer are set to swap ownership of the Hearth and Town & Country properties as part of their deal.
The next step in the process is for planning board approval of a site plan and special permit. The developer, which leases the site from the village with an option to buy it, is required under its lease to make a formal submission of the plan by Friday, a deadline that was established by the village board in an August vote.
The building, which has two wings, is partially shorter, with an eastern wing at one and a half stories tall and a western wing at three and a half. The old proposal had a three-and-a-half-story height for both wings. Additionally, the overall structure is smaller, at 179,445 square feet versus 291,000 in the old version.
Martin Siefering, the architect for the project who made the presentation, argued that the visbility through the trees will be reduced as a result.
“So it [the building] fits sort of neatly into the site," he said.
The new plan still serves the same purpose of providing independent and assisted living to people 55 and older. However, its business model has changed. Instead of a relying on a one-time entry fee, plus charges for services, the proposal relies on a monthly rental structure, which Miller justified by noting economic change in recent years.
The two wings will have different purposes. The eastern one will serve people who need more care, have smaller units and with an assumption of more singles than couples living in them. The western wing would have larger living spaces and anticipate a more independent lifestyle. The total number of occupants would drop, from 163 to 152.
The business model shift, which takes into account older residents who may rely less on cars, comes with a drop in parking spaces, from 197 to 116 on site and land banking for 65 more.
Planning Board members expressed concern over how to approach the project given the time that has passed.
“There are some changes that do need to be reflected,” said board member Douglas Hertz.
Nanette Bourne, Mount Kisco's planning consultant, proposed that the developer put together a technical memo, which would include updates on environmental issues and the applicant's reduction of the plan. She also expressed concern that the 2009 findings statement was vague on several issues, including stormwater, grading and a retaining wall.
The developer agreed to comply with creating the memo; Miller replied that they think the idea of one works "very well."
Both sides were interested in having the technical memo reviewed before the board goes into details of the site plan submission itself. Based on comments from Bourne, it appears that the board may take up the proposal again at a December meeting.