Town Board Hits Conifer Plan in Resolution

In resolution, the New Castle Town Board calls for limiting height, massing of the affordable housing plan for downtown Chappaqua.

In a sudden resolution that was passed Thursday morning at a special meeting, the New Castle Town Board came out swinging with a list of major concerns about Conifer Realty's affordable housing proposal.

In the 12-page resolution, a document described as giving a "sense of the board," town board members gave a series of problems it had with the plan, which is 36 units and ranges in height from three to five stories. 

The town board would need to approve a special permit for the housing proposal, which would be in a zone that otherwise allows for industrial usage, in order for it to be built.

The resolution states that the board "does not favor" a structure that is more than three stories tall, although left open the option of having part of the structure exceed the amount if its massing is reduce and if more open space on the site is provided.

The town states that the building's massing, which has been criticized by a number of residents, appears "excessive" in provided renderings, and that it is "excessively dissimilar or inappropriate in relation to existing buildings in the vicinity of the property."

The board also wants for Conifer to provide more open space on the site, which has been another point of criticism locally for the proposal. 

The town board also acknowledges "incongruencies" between the site's General Industrial (I-G) zone and the special permit process for requesting to building affordable housing - officially called "workforce housing" - on the site. However, the resolution notes that, through the related site development approval process, the town board argues that it can impose "conditions and safeguards" for an approved use. The resolution also notes that the board does not intend to change the site's connection to the workforce housing special permit provision.

At a work session earlier this month, board members discussed, in general, inconsistences between the zoning and the special permit process. At one point, a zoning change for the site, which would have given it a the Retail Business (B-R) zone as nearby sites have, was discussed as a possibility. The resolution does not raise that option, however.

The property, including the right of way for the adjacent Hunts Place, is 0.38 acres and is bounded by Metro-North train tracks to the east and the Saw Mill River Parkway's northbound exit ramp to the west. It would also count toward's Westchester County's 2009 federal housing settlement, in which it is obligated to get 750 affordable housing units built by 2016 in predominantly white communities.

The resolution also touches upon Conifer's building size relative to the lot's size, calling for more separation between the structure and the property lines, as a way to provide more room between residents and the train tracks and to mitigate visual impact from the Saw Mill's ramp.

The board opposes Conifer's proposed pedestrian walkway that would connect its building to the Route 120 bridge, citing safety for pedestrians and vehicles. As an alternative, it suggests a bridge connection similar to the existing stairways attached to other parts of it. There is also opposition to using municipal parking spots by the Chappaqua train station for overflow parking. Conifer, which proposes 40 parking spaces on site, wants a waiver from the town because it would mean fewer on-site spaces than the town code requires.

Finally, the resolution states that if a portion of Hunts Place - the end bumps up to the property - is conveyed to the developer, then it must remain open.

Alfred DelBello, Conifer's attorney, declined to comment on the resolution because he has not seen it yet. He was also unaware of the board's vote.

The resolution comes after Conifer's scheduled appearance before the town's zoning board of appeals was suddenly canceled. The appearance was originally scheduled for Wednesday night, in response to a determination from town Building Inspector Bill Maskiell that Conifer needs 10 variances, which would cover items such as building height and building coverage on the site. Conifer argues that the variances are not needed, but also submitted an application for them, in the event that the zoning board chooses to uphold Maskiell's determination.

Asked why Conifer did not appear before the zoning board, DelBello said, that "we put it over," adding that "we didn't think we had to move last night." Conifer will appear before the zoning board at its March meeting, he said.

The town board also has an open public hearing for the special permit. The next meeting as part of the hearing will be on March 12.

A copy of the resolution is attached to this story as a PDF file. It is also available on the town's website.

B February 28, 2013 at 05:36 PM
A well-deserved thank you to the New Castle Town Board for doing the right thing! A five story apartment building in downtown Chappaqua is severely out of place - and the location of the proposed building is without question not fit for human habitation. Conifer seems like a good developer that has the best intentions - but the scrap of land they want to build on is simply inappropriate. Why doesn't the New Castle Town Board work with Conifer to find a suitable location to build Affordable Housing? I once again have hope for the future of New Castle!
Tom Auchterlonie (Editor) February 28, 2013 at 05:46 PM
It should be noted that the 3-story limit request is not iron clad. This is because the board is willing to consider a taller building, but only if it would mean reducing the massing/bulk of the structure, while affording more open space on the site.
Tom Auchterlonie (Editor) February 28, 2013 at 07:17 PM
Folks, the town has posted a copy of the resolution on its website. I have attached a copy to the story.
Nora Mackenzie February 28, 2013 at 07:32 PM
I'm with "B". Find another site!!!
wallace j Toscano February 28, 2013 at 10:07 PM
The interesting part for me, in reading the article in THE PATCH is that all of the issues that a group of residents have been hammering away at meeting after meeting finally began to sink in and the town board ultimately agreed with each and every one of the points that we have been trying to make all along. I
wallace j Toscano February 28, 2013 at 10:11 PM
For my part I plan to rally behind the town board and devote my energies to trying to help them find a place for affordable housing in our town. It's a good thing. It's time has come.


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