Local architect returns with affordable housing plan for land behind town hall

September 26, 2014

Editor’s Note: Local architects Wallace Toscano and Bill Spade paid a visit to the Town Board work session of September 16 with plans Toscano developed in Spring of 2012 for 36 units of affordable housing on 1.3 acres of town-owned property behind town hall.  He presented the plans as a better alternative to the one-third acre Hunts Place property that Conifer, a Rochester-based affordable housing developer, was proposing.  At the time, then-Supervisor Susan Carpenter and former-Supervisor Barbara Gerrard stated that wetlands issues would prove a deal-breaker.  But recently Toscano and Spade have run the plans past the town’s Environmental Coordinator, Steve Coleman, who believes that existing wetlands shouldn’t make for an automatic “No.” 

Spade further estimated that county funds for the purchase of land for the creation of “fair and affordable” housing to be in place by the end of 2016 are still available. Purchase price is calculated based on the number of units approved—at $50,000 per unit.  On that basis, the county was prepared to pay in excess of $1 million for the tiny Hunts Place property.  Town Board members weren’t sure how a transaction in which town-owned land is sold would be worked out.  They heard Toscano’s proposal with interest.

Reprinted from original April 27, 2012 article in NCNOW

Local architect shows town board affordable housing plans for two sites behind town hall

April 27, 2012
by Christine Yeres

Last Tuesday, Wallace Toscano, a local architect who has been critical of the Conifer proposal for 36 units of affordable rental apartments at Hunts Place in downtown Chappaqua, appealed to town board members to reject Conifer’s plan.  He urged board members to instead consider two sites substantially bigger than the 0.36-acre Hunts Place lot, both behind town hall, both owned by the town.

“We agree on the need for affordable housing,” Toscano told board members, but called the five-story building proposed “excessively out of scale” for the town and, looks-wise, “a budget hotel on a busy interstate.”  Setting up a tripod with for his drawings, Toscano showed the placement of a single 36-unit residential building on the 1.5 acre wooded strip between town hall and the slightly lower commuter parking lot roadway.  A small playground and climbing equipment now sits there.

The second site is the 1.3-acre wooded strip that sits at the far south end of the commuter parking lot, running along Washington Avenue.  [Photos of both plans on both sites appear at the end of this article.]

The open green space in each, Toscano argued, would make for a far more “humane” environment for housing than the Hunts Place lot, which would taken up edge to edge by the Conifer building.  He pointed to plenty of parking at the two town hall sites and a play area for children in each of his scenarios.  In addition, Toscano told board members, the sites have ready access to the library and to public transportation. 

Both plans sketched out by Toscano include the necessary parking within their lot lines, he emphasized later this week in speaking with NCNOW, and “could be built without stealing from existing parking either at town hall or the commuter lot.”  [*See correction/explanation below.]

Even accounting for on-site parking on each property, he said, “there’s still green space,” since each lot is larger than Hunts Place by about one acre.

Toscano informed board members that the County had recently paid $1.5 million to acquire a three-quarters-of-an-acre lot in Briarcliff Manor for affordable housing, and plans show that it includes two new two-story buildings, each with seven two-bedroom apartments, and two commercial office spaces.  A bond for the $1.5 million will cover the purchase of the property, while federal HOME funds and a grant from the New York State Affordable Housing Corporation will go toward construction expenses.

Toscano’s two scenarios (photos below) include:

• One 36-unit building of four stories

• Three 12-unit buildings of two stories each

Toscano’s drawings showed both scenarios on both sites [see below].  [Toscano designed the six-unit Spaccarelli apartments on Saw Mill River Road in Millwood, below:]

This photo was taken during construction; the units are now completed.

“I urge you to reject the Conifer request for a special permit. The proposal is overly dense and in the worst possible location.  The planning board previously found it [in an application several years earlier for market rate condos] to be unsuitable for residential usage.  Are [prospective tenants of the Hunts Place affordable housing] less human than those who would have resided [in the market rate units]?”

Toscano offered to speak with Conifer’s architect for Hunts Lane, Gary Warshauer, and show Warshauer his alternative plans.  However, NCNOW reached Andy Bodewes, the manager of the Conifer project at Hunts Lane, yesterday to learn whether the New York State funding approval which Conifer has received is tied exclusively to the Hunts Lane project.  Bodewes responded that the funding may be used only for Hunts Place.

Board members listened attentively to Toscano, but asked no questions.*  The Conifer application has yet to be reviewed by the New Castle Zoning Board of Appeals. 

[*Editor’s Note: CORRECTION—One question was asked:  Elise Mottel asked Toscano whether, in his plan for Site A, the skate part would be affected. He responded that his Site A plan does, in fact, include the unstriped overflow—or what he calls “reserve” parking lot—used as a skate park in summer (not yet set up), and currently used as staging ground for Conti Construction supplies in their wrap-up of the bridge and roadways in the center of town. 

Toscano suggested that very little use was made of the skate park, that it was a sport possibly out of fashion, and that the town might want to consider discontinuing it.  A visit to the skate park lot in late morning on Thursday, April 26 showed the skate park lot [which Toscano calls a reserve lot] empty of cars and the adjacent commuter parking lot with empty spaces.]

Far end of the commuter parking lot along Washington Avenue:

Single 36-unit building, some parking under building, playground area at far right

Single 36-unit building, parking surrounding; playground area at far right

Three two-story buildings of 12 units each, with parking; playground area at far right

Behind town hall, on the town hall side of the commuter parking lot:

Three two-story buildings of 12 units each, with parking; playground area at far right

Single 36-unit, four-story building, 27 cars parked under; playground area at far right

Overview of the two locations:

overview of both sites
Site A (curved plot bordered in red at top of photo) directly behind town hall; Site B (triangular plot bordered in red, running down right side of photo) fronting on Washington Avenue, at the far end of the commuter lot

For background on the Conifer Hunts Place project, click HERE.


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