Relations between the owners of the proposed Little Garden Childcare Center and Mount Kisco Planning Board members showed improvement at Tuesday's meeting.
The most notable change came regarding for the center. After having vehemently opposed a request by some board members to submit details for an alternative scenario that would place it in the rear of the property, owners Mark and Beatrice Santora changed their minds and had information on hand for the meeting.
The Santoras feel that having the playground in the front makes it easier for support staff to supervise younger children, provides for better safety while walking over and will help with persuading people to enroll their children better than locating it in the back would. At the previous board meeting, held earlier this month, it was felt by the applicant to study a playground version that they have no intention of supporting.
The center, located at 27 Radio Circle, will have about 112 children from pre school to middle school levels, along with 22 staffers. It will take up about 10,800 square feet.
One reason for change in submission was procedural.
"We want things to proceed, so that's the reason for doing it," Mark Santora told Patch.
Another reason for doing so was to convey to the planning board why the applicant feels the rear is not a good site.
Bill Spade, the architect for the project, told the board that that the rear plan was presented “as a way to demonstrate the issues that come out of that.”
Along with its alternative submission, Spade submitted a memo detailing the objections to the rear version. While the rear playground would be the same size as the front, at 3,200 square feet, it would result in a net loss of 12 parking spaces at the property, due to 18 rear spots being removed to accomodate the playground and with six being added in the front. Spade also noted that the location would make for a tougher time in providing direct access from the building to the site, with kids going from a rear door, across a parking lot and past another tenant's section of the edifice.
Spade also noted that while a nearby dumpster could be moved, it would still be too close.
In general, having the constraints, Spade argued, hinders the ability to interest people in the service.
“Ultimately it is a marketing problem," he said.
The Santoras and their representatives reiterated and elaborated on safety as being a big concern for avoiding the rear.
Spade noted that the lack of direct access would pose a supervisory problem for the kids, with another tenant's front door being between the Little Garden's rear door and and entrance to the playground.
Steven Corrigan, an official with the Princeton Realty Group who is helping the applicant, explained that having the playground in the front makes sense because administrative staff will be located near their entrance.
“I think the front solves the interior flow of the space and it works as far as how the kids are coming in and out of that building.”
In contrast, placing the plaground in the back would mean that staff would have to go through several hundred feet to get there from where they work, versus about 10 feet for the front scenario.
Planning Board member Doug Hertz asked whether administrative staff could be located in the back instead. Spade replied that they would be in the front because that's where the building's entrance is, and that the intent is to control the area when kids are being dropped off. Mark Santora explained that kids coming in would have to be signed in, while Corrigan also noted that preschool classes would be in the front area.
There was also talk about whether a rear playground could be accessed from a side door instead of a back one, something that Hertz brought up. However, the applicant's side maintained that the side wasn't good, either.
In his memo, Spade noted that the side would be a problem because it is not suited for kids who are handicapped for walking (non-ambulatory). There was dialogue about whether a ramp could be added in. Corrigan noted that there is existing utlity usages near the door, which would pose a problem with doing so. Concern about the drainage was raised by spade, who described the section near the building as “kind of a gully.”
Hertz also suggested that a rear playground could be slightly pulled back. Corrigan replied that runoff from near by would become a problem for it, along with a possible conflict with where to dispose of snow during the winter.
Submission of the alternative meant for less skepticism from members who were previously uncomfortable with the front, although some concern remains.
Later on in the meeting, Planning Board Chairman Joseph Cosentino conducted a "straw poll" to test his colleague's preference for the front or rear. Overall, sentiment shifted from 4-3 in favor of the front to at least five supporting it.
The shift came from Vice Chairman Anthony Sturniolo, who was previously among the skeptics, described himself now as being “marginally supportive of having it in the front.” He praised the daycare officials for submitting an alternative to help with the process as a way of providing more information.
Hertz appreciated the submission. He also felt that the rear should still be considered and still state he has reservations with the front. However, he declined to say where he stands.
“I don’t think that they’re insurmountable," he said of the problems. "I realize that they’re real.”
Colleague Ralph Vigliotti remained skeptical of the front and felt that it does not work as well from a planning and zoning perspective.
“I expressed my concerns about the safety in the front, and they listened carefully about the safety issue," he said.
Cosentino was strongly in favor of the front, agreeing with the case laid out for safety.
Board member Stanley Bernstein felt the back would be a bad choice, saying is area is "disgusting.” He also felt described side access to the back as a "drainage disaster.”
A public hearing, along with a draft resolution of approval - it would be procedural, rather than a vote happening - is scheduled for the board's July 10 meeting. Also coming up is a property-wide traffic study that landlord J.R. Martabano is having done, which is something that was requested from the applicant.
Meanwhile, it is possible that the Santoras may need to appear before the Zoning Board of Appeals to seek a variance for the site's development area. It appears, according to Building Insepctor Austin Cassidy, that the proposal may be slightly over the zoning limit. However, he suggested that slight modifications involving removal of impervious surface and swapping it with green space could bring the count under, thus avoiding the need for a variance. Spade was open to Cassidy's suggestion.