Letter to the Editor: Is New Castle ready for apartment buildings?
Monday, February 7, 2011
by Rob Greenstein
The town board is proposing a change in local law that seems designed specifically to shove aside planning board concerns about the Chappaqua Crossing project and, beyond that, pave the way in general to high-density apartment buildings of three or more stories in New Castle.
In last Friday’s edition of NewCastleNOW.org, an article appeared titled “At town board’s urging, planning board agrees to cut back on oversight authority.” This article reported that the New Castle Town Board had initiated discussion about changing town law to remove the authority the planning board now has to decide whether to allow multifamily dwelling units in buildings taller than two stories to share common hallways, stairs, elevators and exits-entrances to the outside.
Current laws and impact of proposed change to the law
As the law stands now, every multifamily housing unit in New Castle has its own entrance/exit to the outdoors. In order to do otherwise, the New Castle Planning Board, a volunteer advisory committee to the town board, must on a case-by-case basis grant a waiver to allow a developer to construct a multifamily building with shared exits/entrances.
If the town board votes to adopt the new law, the planning board will be left with authority only over one- and two-story buildings. Any future apartment buildings greater than two stories – such as the three-story apartment buildings proposed for the East Village of Chappaqua Crossing and the two four-story (five, with underground parking) buildings of 44 units each proposed for the North Village of Chappaqua Crossing would no longer require this special waiver from the planning board.
The New Castle Planning Board has been critical of Chappaqua Crossing
The planning board has been critical of Chappaqua Crossing, raising many concerns about the proposed residential development there. The planning board has questioned whether the site meets the criteria for creating a multifamily planned development (MFPD) zone; it has found the developer’s parking and traffic management plans deficient; and it has questioned the appropriateness of apartment buildings in a single family area, as well as the overall intensity of use of the Chappaqua Crossing site.
In planning board discussions of the Chappaqua Crossing draft environmental impact statement in October 2010, Planning Board Chair Susan Carpenter said, “I don’t know if the town can accommodate five stories.” She cited Old Farm Lake and Stone Creek as examples of dwellings that have a preferable “townhouse look more than an apartment-building look.” During that same discussion, planning board member Sheila Crespi characterized the apartment buildings of Chappaqua Crossing as “an urban concept but not an urban area,” adding, “Something needs to be done about the design to make it fit more into the neighborhood, whether it’s courtyards or something, but not big, rectangular apartment buildings.”
In the planning board’s discussion one week ago of the change in law that would curtail its authority, Sheila Crespi characterized the amendment to the law as “something that changes the texture of multifamily housing going forward.” Richard Brownell, acting as chairman, added, “It’s a good point.” But the planning board’s counsel, Les Steinman, and its planning consultant, Joanne Meder, continued to steer the planning board toward agreement with the town board, telling the planning board that their waiver authority over individual-access could be viewed as an impediment to high-density multifamily housing.
The public hearing on this proposed change continues tomorrow, Tuesday, February 8, at the town board meeting that starts at town hall at 8:30 p.m. The hearing is the first item on the agenda following the supervisor’s and administrator’s reports.
Robert J. Greenstein
To view NCNOW’s archived articles and letters—in chronological order, newest to oldest—on Chappaqua Crossing and Summit Greenfield’s application for a zoning change, click HERE.