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Opposition Grows Against Chappaqua Affordable Housing Plan

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Drawing of the proposed Chappaqua Station Development
Drawing of the proposed Chappaqua Station Development

Opposition continues to mount against the proposed 36-unit affordable housing complex on Hunts Place in Chappaqua as critics have highlighted how the building would be out of character with the area and could overburden surrounding infrastructure.

Speakers at the March 14 New Castle Town Board meeting lined up to lodge their objections against Chappaqua Station while a new group, Chappaqua for Responsible Affordable Housing, established a Facebook page last week to help mobilize the public against the plan.

The application is scheduled to be heard before the New Castle Planning Board tonight (Tuesday) at town hall. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Chappaqua architect Bill Spade, one of the proposal’s opponents, stressed that the reaction isn’t an anti-affordable housing stance but because the project has been proposed for the wrong location. Many residents are worried that town officials have been unnecessarily secretive with the public and have failed to explore alternative sites, he said.

Spade said to wedge a five-story building with 36 apartments into about a one-third of an acre parcel on Hunts Place between the Saw Mill Parkway, the Metro-North train tracks and the Route 120 bridge is an inappropriate location.

“To me, it’s unreasonable to consider this a solution,” Spade said. “Our primary goal is to make the community aware of the proposal.”

Many of the opponents have said they would like to see affordable housing opportunities scattered throughout the hamlet so the units are better integrated within the community.

Rochester-based Conifer Realty LLC submitted plans for Chappaqua Station early last month. As currently proposed, there would be 24 one-bedroom units and 12 two-bedroom apartments in the building at 54 Hunts Place. All would be rental units. A special permit is needed from the town board while site plan approval is needed from the planning board. The Architectural Review Board must also grant approval.

In less than a week, the Facebook thread had included 170 people and by late Sunday night there were 37 signatures on an online petition.

“The founders of this group passionately believe that the proposed Chappaqua Station affordable housing development is way out of scale with our small village, and the location will needlessly isolate and stigmatize its residents,” wrote Matt Egan, one of the group’s organizers. “Chappaqua Station does not represent an integrated or progressive approach to affordable housing. We can do better!”

New Castle Supervisor Susan Carpenter denied insinuations that the town has been keeping quiet about the plans in an attempt to fast-track the project. A formal application was submitted just over a month ago and public meetings are just now commencing on the issue. It will be subject to the full state environmental review, she said.

“All of the issues will be addressed through the formal review process and that process is just getting started,” Carpenter said.

She said she fears there could be misinformation being spread by some members of the public. For example, comments have been made that the Chappaqua Fire Department is against the plan but if that’s the case then the town board hasn’t see any correspondence yet from the department, Carpenter said last Friday.

Alfred DelBello, the attorney representing Conifer Realty, said he’s not surprised by the sudden arguments against the project. Many communities with affordable housing proposals see an upswing in opposition when the details of a plan are made public.

“Everybody says they’re in favor of affordable housing,” DelBello said. “They also recognize the county’s settlement with the federal government is something to be dealt with but the only time when people tend to support it is when it’s not in their community.”

He declined to characterize the opposition’s motives but did note that the property has been zoned by the town for an affordable housing proposal.

Spade said the opponents to the plan don’t believe town officials did their homework before making the zoning change.

Joan Corwin, owner of Chappaqua Transportation on Hunts Place, said traffic during rush hour in the area is already a problem and will only be made worse by this project. During a recent weekday morning, she counted 487 vehicles coming off the Saw Mill Parkway in a 31-minute period making for long waits to get into downtown Chappaqua.

Furthermore, the site isn’t appropriate for a residential complex, she said.

“Thirty-six apartments in a building with no grass, no lawn, no benches isn’t right,” Corwin said.

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