The County weighs in on draft scope for Spa at New Castle

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Editor’s Note: In a February 10, 2014 letter from Edward Buroughs, Commissioner of the County’s Planning Department, the County provided its comments on the draft scoping document—the list of potential environmental impacts—for the proposed Spa at New Castle, suggesting that the scope require further detail on affordable housing, public transportation, recycling, stormwater management and green building technology.

The draft scope, Buroughs writes, should include more information on:

• how the affordable AFFH housing requirement for at least five AFFH units will fit into the development;

• how public transportation might serve a workforce for the resort complex, perhaps by providing bus shuttle service to bus and train;

• how a resort complex will comply with County recycling regulations, perhaps to include on-site food composting facilities;

• the potential for pervious walkways, drives or parking areas, rain gardens and green roofing to treat and retain as much stormwater on-site as possible; and

• incorporation of green building technology into the development. 

Excerpts from Buroughs’ letter:

“The proposal involved a petition to amend the Town Zoning Ordinance to create a new floating district to permit a “Resort Lifestyle Complex” to include a hotel with 34 suites and 50 condominium units along with spa amenities including and indoor/outdoor pool, spa, 4,500 square-foot restaurant, gym and other recreational amenities and public spaces.  The applicant is also petitioning to map this new floating district to a 96-acre property located at 773 Armonk Road, commonly known as the “Legionaries” property.”

1. Affordable affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH)

“It is our understanding that the Town has adopted zoning regulations that are generally consistent with “Model Zoning Ordinance Provisions for Affordable Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Units” as included in the Westchester County Fair and Affordable Housing Implementation Plan (dated August 9, 2010).  These regulations would require the provision of at least five affordable AFFH units in a development site of 50 condominium units (10%).  The scope should specify that the draft EIS shall discuss how this requirement will be accommodated into the development.”

2. Transit access to site

“The draft scoping document briefly notes that public transportation will be discussed in the EIS with respect to: 1) identifying the availability for public transportation services in the vicinity of the site; 2) discussion and evaluation of potential impacts on public transportation; and 3) discussion of measure designed to facilitate and encourage use of public transportation services.

This proposal to rezone a large former religious property to a new floating zone for a “Resort Lifestyle Complex” appears to be part of a trend in Westchester County whereby large, usually single-tenant properties are being repurposed for entirely new uses.  The Chappaqua Crossing proposal is another example.  Such developments have the potential to change commuter patterns in areas not currently served by bus or rail transit.  This may be significant as some of the new land uses, presumably including a resort complex, require an employment force that in this region typically utilizes transit for work travel.

We recommend the scope be expanded to require more detailed discussion of the anticipate work force and commutation including: the size of the proposed workforce on the site, work hours and expected means of travel.  The scope should also require a discussion of whether it is feasible for the site operator to establish an employee bus shuttle that could connect to the nearest Metro-North station and/or to downtown Armonk where connections can be made to the Bee-Line Route 12 bus.  This bus travels between Armonk and White Plains and makes timed transfers with Metro-North trains.”

3. Recycling

Section H. Utilities contains a reference to recycling, namely to “discuss and evaluate recycling if applicable.”  We recommend that the scope be revised to require a comprehensive discussion on recycling and how the proposed development will comply with the County recycling program which has been expanded to include plastics numbered 1 through 7.

We also suggest that the scope require a discussion of the feasibility to add food composting facilities to process food waste from the proposed on-site restaurant.  Food composting would be sensible way to both reduce the amount of waste that must be processed in the waste stream, while providing a resource for landscaping and plantings on the site.”

4. Stormwater management

“We recommend that Section F. Stormwater Management be expanded to include a discussion of the potential for pervious walkways, drives or parking areas and the potential to incorporate other techniques such as rain gardens and green roofing that would seek to treat and retain as much stormwater on-site as possible.”

5. Green building technology

“We suggest that the scope be expanded to include a discussion of green building technology that will be, or could be, incorporated into the proposed development.”

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

As a Community we need to STOP trying to force AFFH down the throats of people desiring to invest in our Municipality. I ask that Team Green pass laws stopping the AFFH requirement. Instead, lets meet this demand by allowing Single Family properties the ability to finish off their attic or basement, or build a studio apartment on their property that gets placed under a license that runs with the current owner of the property and is only transferable at closing if a new license fee is paid to Town Hall before closing. The SPA should not have to be mandated to build any AFFH Units – PERIOD!

By NCGPS on 02/15/2014 at 9:55 am

The Westchester County Planning Department publishes another gem. After their wrong planning analysis and presentations on the ridiculous Conifer Realty Hunts Place giant building, they now publish their planning analysis for the Spa at New Castle. Here’s one idea they did not think of. No need for Spa workforce transportation to and from public transportation since there is a need for at least five AFFH condos at the Spa. The developer simply needs to pay the workforce a salary of no more than the Westchester County AMI so that they can qualify for the AFFH housing. What if the workforce people do not have the down payment to qualify for the mortgage to purchase the condos, no problem, the developer can hold the mortgages with no money down with a 40 year mortgage. You say the Spa needs more of a workforce than five condos can accommodate, no problem, make as many of the condos AFFH units as needed. Solves several problems, the developer can pay the workforce no more than the Westchester AMI, there is no need for workforce transportation, it addresses the Planning Board’s green development concerns because people in the workforce who have vehicles will not have to drive to work and emit carbons into the atmosphere, and it adds to the town’s affordable housing needs. Now why didn’t Boroughs and his staff think of this? Is the developer willing to give up profit to have more AFFH housing units on the site and lose profit, or how much can the developer raise the price of the market rate condos in order to subsidize the price of the AFFH units and still make the market rate units economically attractive to buyers?

By Another Boroughs and staff gem on 02/15/2014 at 11:43 am

How about getting the AFFH units with an apartment building next to the fire station – that lot is still available and could be developed as a high rise- at least 6 stories, and then a developer could financially develop it.  Then you could stop worrying about having AFFH housing be required by developers.  Since we are just dumping our existing zoning and ignoring the town development plan- there are lots of sites with access to sewers and transportation that could be used for apartment buildings. Just get rid of height limits and setback requirements.

By another idea on 02/16/2014 at 12:20 pm

@Another idea,

AFFH should go next the the fire house just as you propose. But the fire commissioners (not the fire fighters) are trying to grab that spot for expansion that is not needed and will cost taxpayers a great deal of money. That’s why there is a push to move Conifer to Washington Ave.

By tax relief on 02/17/2014 at 8:54 am

Here’s a big idea, demolish town hall, move it to CC, and sell off the property to a REIT such as Host Hotels and Resorts who can construct a six to eight story hotel-condo with 10% affordable housing. The building could have a spa, a fitness center, a highly rated restaurant such as Jean-Georges, etc. This could serve as the impetus for the construction of four to six story buildings on Greeley Avenue and King Street. In part, got this idea from former Supervisor Susan Carpenter who once said she would like to see taller buildings in the hamlet (and even voted in favor of a taller building at the railroad tracks). Of course, traffic lights would be required.

By A big idea on 02/17/2014 at 4:27 pm

Traffic lights!!! Horrors.

By duh on 02/17/2014 at 7:42 pm

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We encourage civil, civic discourse. In other words, be pithy and polite. All comments will be reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.