Letter to planning board critiquing Conifer’s “Chappaqua Station” at Hunts Place
March 23, 2012
Editor’s Note: Bill Spade and nine other residents submitted a letter to the planning board listing their objections to the Hunts Lane proposal for an rental apartment building of 36 “fair and affordable” units. The text of their letter follows.
March 20, 2012
Mr. Richard Brownell, Chairman
Town of New Castle Planning Board
200 South Greeley Avenue
Chappaqua, NY 10514
Re: Hunts Lane Affordable Housing Development Proposal
Dear Chairman Brownell and Planning Board Members:
In our continuing effort to try to clarify the confusing circumstances surrounding this proposal and the review process for this special permit application, we have several questions about this proposal that we believe should be answered by the Planning Board, or the developer, before you respond back to the Town Board. Our questions are as follows:
1. We understand that the developer has met with the Fire Department regarding access to the building during a fire emergency. Are you aware of any formal or informal communication back from the FD? Does the Planning Board believe that emergency access to this site for fire-fighting purposes is acceptable?
2. Has the Federal Monitor approved this project? We thought that we understood the developer to indicate that the project has received all of its other approvals, including approval by the Monitor, except the local land-use approvals.
3. The Town Board has referred this application to the Planning Board for review and response back to them, and we understand put a 45-day time frame on your response period. As the SEQR review process has not yet started (the Town Board has yet to declare itself Lead Agency for SEQR purposes), what is the legal basis for the Town Board’s referral to your Board, and the 45-day response period limit?
4. As we all know, the developer has proposed a 5-story / 54-foot structure, and a full development of the site, where the existing I-G zoning of this property has a height limit of 2 stories / 30 feet, with setback requirements. In its application, including the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF), as well as in its public presentations on this project, the developer has represented that the proposed project complies with the existing zoning. This is presumably a reference to the Special Permit provisions of the Workforce Housing ordinance, and indicating that no variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals are necessary to enable this project. Has this Board and its counsel reviewed the relevant provisions of the Town Code to be in agreement with the developer’s interpretation? We believe that the relevant section of the Town Code, 60-431, regarding Special Permits, indicates that special uses are additional standards to all of the other requirements of this chapter:
60-431. General provisions. The special uses for which conformance with
additional standards is required by this chapter (see schedules of regulations, §§35 60-411 and 60-412 ) may be considered to be permitted uses in their respective districts, subject to the satisfaction of the requirements and standards set forth in this section in addition to all other requirements of this chapter. All such uses are declared to possess characteristics of such unique and special forms that each speciﬁc use shall be considered as an individual case.
We believe, therefore, that the variances required by this proposal must be referred to the Zoning Board, and cannot be waived over by the Special Permit process.
5. With your review of the application, along with the Architectural Review Board and the Fire Department reviews, and the Town’s adoption in 2010 of the enabling zoning for this use on this property, all done in advance of , and outside of, a SEQR review of this project, does your Board have any misgivings about a possible segmented review being conducted at present, outside of the controls mandated by SEQR?
6. The developer has included portions of a Town road in its property area. What is your understanding of the status of this - has the Town Board already green-lighted this for the developer? Does your Board have a role in reviewing the public impacts of this part of the proposal?
As the developer’s responses on the EAF are used to determine whether additional environmental reviews are possible, it is necessary that the developer complete the EAF questionnaire in an accurate manner. However, some of the developers responses on the EAF are inaccurate, as follows:
7. EAF questions A.3 & B.15: the developer indicates that the property is moderately well-drained and is not in the 100-year flood plain. Given the location of this property, and the flooding that has happened in downtown Chappaqua over the last few years, has the Board asked for confirmation of this, as well as any type of soils documentation?
8. EAF question A.20: the developer fails to accurately answer the question about whether the site has ever been used for the disposal of solid or hazardous wastes, instead responding unclearly by saying “spills”. In question B.3, the developer acknowledges that there is contaminated soil on the site. Has the Planning Board asked for, or received, any information on the status and extent of these subsurface contamination conditions?
9. EAF question C.3: as stated above, the developer indicates that the proposed development is permitted by the present zoning. This is not correct. The present zoning is I-G, which limits building heights to 2 stories and 30 feet, plus other setback limitations. The proposed development does not conform to the present zoning.
10. EAF Question C.11: the developer has indicated that the existing capacity of community services, including the fire department, is sufficient to handle the projected demand. In fact, the developer does not know yet whether this is the case, and was meeting with the Fire Department to determine their perspective. What is the correct answer?
11. As we have recounted in our prior correspondence to the Planning Board, we believe that the proposed development does not conform to the standards of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan, as related in the introduction to the Town’s Zoning Code. We would still appreciate a response from the Planning Board as to its view of these issues:
“§ 60-100. Purposes of chapter:
A. This chapter has been prepared and enacted for the purpose of promoting the health, safety, morals and the general welfare of the Town of New of Castle and is in accordance with a carefully studied and considered Comprehensive Plan intended to guide the future growth and development of the Town of New Castle in such a way as to encourage the most beneﬁcial and appropriate relationships among land uses and, more particularly, to accomplish the following speciﬁc purposes:
(1) To lessen congestion in the streets.
(2) To secure safety from ﬁre, ﬂood, panic and other dangers.
(3) To promote health and the general welfare.
(4) To provide adequate light and air.
(5) To provide for the use of solar energy.
(6) To prevent the overcrowding of land.
(7) To avoid undue concentration of population.
(8) To facilitate the adequate provision of transportation, water, sewerage, schools, parks and other public requirements.
B. In preparing and enacting this chapter, reasonable consideration has been given to the character of each district and its peculiar suitability for particular uses, with a view to conserving the value of buildings and encouraging the most appropriate use of land throughout the Town of New Castle.”
It is our strong belief that the proposed project contradicts most of these purposes, rendering it inappropriate according to these standards.
12. Lastly, we have read the most recent Biennial Review Letter by the Federal Monitor, James Johnson, regarding the County’s compliance with the terms of the Settlement. On page 37 of Mr. Johnson’s letter, he addresses concerns regarding Siting and Configuration of specific proposed projects and their conformance with the Settlement’s goal of promoting inclusive communities. Consultants to the Monitor have prepared a set of best-practices criteria for evaluating potential development sites. These include:
Sites located in an eligible census block but isolated from non-minority residential neighborhood by visual or other barriers – such as a highway, railroad or commercial strip – or unusual points of entry are undesirable unless significant mitigation measures are taken to provide visual and physical access across these barriers.
The configuration of the site or the design of the buildings should not inherently stigmatize or isolate residents as low income.
Large development sites should seamlessly integrate with adjoining residential areas and/or be of a size and design that reinforces positive neighborhood qualities (such as social connection, sense of place, pedestrian amenities, and usable open space).
Sites should exhibit no obvious negative environmental influences that cannot be corrected or acceptably mitigated. Environmental impacts include but are not limited to: deteriorating or blighted residential uses; massive parking lots or storage yards; unsightly loading zones at retail facilities; heavy industrial uses; excessive noise or physical hazard from railroad, vehicular, or air traffic; dumps, sanitary landfills, or salvage yards; sewage treatment plants; stored hazardous materials; buried or spilled hazardous wastes; operating oil wells; mine shafts; and gravel pits.
We believe that this proposal fails on these very important criteria as developed by the Federal Monitor, and these conditions cannot be mitigated. This site should therefore no longer be considered for this use, and we request that the Planning Board communicate to the Town Board that this effort should be abandoned, so that time and energy could be focused on appropriate Affordable Housing solutions that meet the Town’s goals and the Settlement goals.
We look forward to following up with you on these issues. Thank you very much.
William R. Spade, Architect Matt Eagan
C. Keiko Sasaki-Spade, Architect John Sabalja
Wallace Toscano, Architect Joan Corwin
Peter Davidson, Esq. Ted Anderson
Shaun Gotterbarn, Architect Peter Davidson, Jr.