PB views “Rosehill” as new—rather than amended— plan, nearly as impactful as Spa

Special meeting of Planning Board at 7:00 p.m. on June 9 will discuss Rosehill scope further
Saturday, June 7, 2014
by Christine Yeres

At the beginning of May developer Steve Oder submitted a revised proposal for the Legionaries property at 773 Armonk Road.  Commercial elements of the last plan—spa, restaurant and hotel—are gone.  Instead, Oder is proposing 60 condos and a new zoning he calls UPP, or “unique property preservation.” The Town Board decided to remain lead agency for the application and conducted a scoping session (a list of what environmental impacts must be studied through the SEQR process) for the environmental review which closed on May 27.  The scoping document was passed to the Planning Board for comment.

Planning Board members made it clear that in their opinion the developer’s latest iteration of the project is “a whole new plan.”  However, since the Town Board passed it to the PB as an “amended” document, that is how the PB must treat it.

The latest application is, according to Chairman Bob Kirkwood, “inconsistent with the current zoning”—which is two-acre residential—saying he “didn’t feel anything persuasive was argued on the part of the applicant to make us ignore what we do in the two-acre zoning.”

At the start of the document, PB member Richard Brownell felt, the developer “should tell us why we should even consider changing the zoning.”  In addition, he pointed out, “we have an overlay to protect the fragility of the area.”

“Further,” said Brownell, “we have a Town Development Plan [TDP] that has a lot of good things in it—and one of those things it says is that the east end of town is rural.  This scoping document shows me nothing of substance as to why this should be changed.”

Chairman Bob Kirkwood agreed, noting that the applicant should justify, in the beginning of the document, “why there’s a need [to change the zoning] and why we’re leaping-frogging over our zoning.”

Since the Town Board is lead agency, the Planning Board’s job is to comment on the scoping document. “The purpose of the scoping,” the PB’s counsel, Jennifer Gray, reminded PB members, “is to identify the issues that need to be further studied.  It’s not necessary to say whether the project as it is proposed now is good or bad.”

“Defining in this document what we care about and what we expect to see,” said Curley, “if we don’t get a hold of it now, we’ll be in trouble downstream.”

PB member Sheila Crespi asked whether the “unique property preservation” zoning Oder was proposing that the town create existed in any other municipality.

Town Planner Sabrina Charney suggested that perhaps large historic homes in the Berkshires might have such a special zoning category.

PB members decided that they needed more time in which to review the application.  “We have considerable experience in this area,” said Kirkwood. “We know what these environmental impact statements are about.  This is what we do.  It takes time.  The message needs to be made clear to the Town Board that we need more time.”

“This is a huge change to the uses going on on this property,” noted Brownell.”

Developer pitched condo proposal as less impactful

“The Town Board was advised that the change in the scope was less impactful than what was previously proposed,” said Charney.  “The Town Board was led to believe that this was a less intense use [than the spa-hotel proposal].”

Yet, in terms of the density of coverage, noted Crespi, the spa had 246,000 square feet of space, and the current condo proposal was 228,905 square feet of space. “It’s a different configuration, but a comparably sized proposal.”

“No offense to the Town Board,” said Brownell, “but that [difference in square footage] doesn’t constitute a substantive change.”

“The use of residential rather than spa-restaurant has been pared down,” observed Charney.

“The numbers are easy to figure out,” said PB member Tom Curley, “but there are many quality of life and community character issues that go along with these.  We need to be sure those are addressed in the environmental impact statement.  It seems to me there needs to be a much stronger look at the use proposed.”

Public comment

A resident of Tripp Street took issue with the statement in Charney’s summary of the project to the Planning Board that “neighbors were on board with this.”

“We are not on board with this,” she said.

Another resident of Tripp Street, Sharon Greene, asked for an explanation of the relationship between the Planning Board and the Town Board on the Rosehill application.

The Town Board has made itself lead agency “and will decide what to do,” said counsel Jennifer Gray.  “The Planning Board is an ‘involved agency’ and they have approval over the ultimate site plan, but they’re not the ones to determine whether to adopt the rezoning legislation.  The Planning Board has the opportunity to provide comments for the Town Board’s consideration during the environmental review.”

“As an ‘involved agency’,” Curley explained, “we make comments to the Town Board and they either adopt them or do whatever they want to do.  But when the project comes back to us as a site plan application, we then have not just the authority but the responsibility to then do our own ‘Findings’ and we could have a negative Finding which would essentially stop the project. We could decide that there is significant impact that has not been mitigated by the proposals.”

Gray confirmed that “the two Findings statements would need to be reconciled in some way.”

“The Town Board members have little experience [in these matters],” said Greene, “and one wonders why this is not sitting in your [Planning Board] lap and not theirs.”

“It was the Town Board’s determination,” said Charney.

Related: Keeping lead agency status, TB sets May 27 scoping session for Rosehill condo proposal, NCNOW.org 5/15/14

Rosehill discussion by Planning Board:

From: 1-hour, 55-minute mark
To: 2-hour, 32-minute mark

Town of New Castle Planning Board Meeting 6/3/14 from New Castle Media Center on Vimeo.


We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

so long as the density remains at 1 @2 acres, isn’t that it?

By dont change the density on 06/07/2014 at 8:08 am

It was another of supervisor rob’s lies that the residents are all on board with another of his back room deals with developer oder.  I believe that I heard another resident say that 3 members of the town board have never even visited the site.  That says that rob, is making deals on a parcel that he has never seen.  My guess is that the other 2 absent members are Katz and our real estate genius brodsky.  Please tell me if I misheard what that resident said.
It is astonishing that the town board has insisted on keeping the lead agency role, after oder said that he would be fine with the planning board acting as lead agency.  Why would anyone think that is the right decision ?  The planning board is composed of experts and their members do the work.  The town board is composed of lawyers who clearly do not do their work.

By resident on 06/07/2014 at 12:12 pm

Who is this troll???

By Tired of negativity in these blogs... on 06/07/2014 at 2:56 pm

The town board is the elected body that is responsible for all legal items. The have advisors which includes the planning board. Sheesh

By Sheesh on 06/07/2014 at 4:15 pm

Unfortunately some of the town board’s “experts” have their own agenda that it does not necessarily reflect the best interests of the town’s residents.  The town planner has been gung ho for this so its no wonder she says the neighbors are on board when they clearly are not. The town board can say they don’t care what the planning board says, what it does to the neighborhood, and what the town development plan says- in many details- about zoning in that part of town.  But they should be honest and admit that’s what they are saying, not obfuscate.  On the other hand- lawyers are taught that when the facts and the law go against them- that’s their only recourse- obfuscate.

By to sheesh on 06/08/2014 at 10:26 am

True, the town board are our elected officials. But now that they WE have put them on office based on their intent to fight for us and correct all that is wrong - they have ignored needs of the town or residents and focus only on trying to keep developers happy. Greenstein has stated publically many times how important it is to make sure the developer makes money on this deal. Not once has he said anything about preserving the character of that part of town or any concern over the numerous impacts it will cause. As long as the developer makes money. Greenstein and fellow board members have raised no concern that this all comes at a direct expense to residents, our town and, in particular, those who live nearby the site who will see decreased property values. What about them? Whose representatives are these prople? Whose interests are they actually interested in fighting for? Ours? Or is our town board now representing developer interests only? How did this happen? How did residents and our town get pushed so far down the town board’s list of priorities that they are now practically absent?

By Developers InTheir Pocket on 06/08/2014 at 10:34 am

Does anyone know who the town board members are who did visit the site ?

Editor’s Note: Jason Chapin and Elise Mottel.

By ????? on 06/08/2014 at 4:23 pm

Is this normal for the town board to be lead agency?  Seems that is why the planning board was created?  I watched the video and it seems that planning board was confused by many of the TB decisions.  This smells fishy to me.

By Fishy on 06/08/2014 at 10:37 pm

Rob Greenstein has decided that he wants development at any cost, so he decided to keep the lead agency in the hands of the town board.  He believes that that gives him the control that he needs to proceed with his development mania.  Of course it belongs with the planning board.  They do the work.  Rob has been dealing with Oder and neither he Katz or Brodsky has visited the Legionaries property.  Why should or would anyone trust them ?

By anonymous on 06/15/2014 at 2:32 pm

How do you know they have not visited? Who told you that?

Editor’s Note:  The three newest Board members may have made a visit to the site since they stated in a public meeting within the last month that they had not.  But they had not then.

By bob on 06/15/2014 at 7:54 pm

Dear Editor,

Thank you for the information on who actually visited the site.  I too heard Jason and Elise say publicly that they did visit.

bob as usual deliberately attempts to misinform.

By anonymous on 06/16/2014 at 11:42 am

What !!!!!  There is something that bob does not know ????  How can that be !?!

By hey bob on 06/16/2014 at 1:14 pm

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