Airport Campus Armonk Development Draws Criticism

By Abby Luby and Bailey Hosfelt

Higher taxes, increased school enrollment, and an expanded police force were among the many scrutinizing comments made by North Castle Town Board members on the proposed housing and hotel plan at 113 King Street in Armonk.  

Airport Campus, the applicant to develop the property, purchased the 38-acre former MBIA property in 2015 for $23 million. They submitted their Draft Environmental Impact Statement (“DEIS”) to the town in Oct. 2020. The hefty 400-page DEIS presents a myriad of projected impacts 170 housing units, a 125-room hotel and about 100,000 square feet of existing office space would have on the town.

 The public hearing for the project last Thursday heard comments by town board members and two local residents. Another public hearing on the Airport Campus proposal is slated to held at the next town board meeting on Sept. 22.

Representing Airport Campus and responding to comments was the applicant’s attorney Anthony Veneziano.

Since the proposed project is in the Byram Hills School District, Councilman José Berra responded to a July 2021 letter from Byram Hills School District Superintendent Jen Lamia. Lamia’s primary concern was the project’s projected school enrollment of an additional 27 school-aged children, a cost to be offset by about $291,870 in new tax revenue.

Berra said the projected enrollment figures may not be accurate and he requested a new analysis. “There could be a lot more students coming out of this, you can have more kids of a certain age group and you could be hiring extra teachers. There could be other costs related to it,” he said.

Berra did acknowledge his support for the project and thought it was in a good location, but he was concerned with the density and the height of the five-story multifamily building at 78 feet.

Holding the floor for a good 20 minutes was Councilperson Barbara DiGiacinto,

who read from a copious list of comments and requests. She reiterated Lamia’s concerns that the applicant used enrollment case studies from schools in lower Westchester County.

 “These districts are not similar to the Byram Hills School District,” DiGiacinto said. “The data is from 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019. We need complete enrollment data from September 2015 up to and including to September 2021 from school districts that are similar.”

 DiGiacinto said lessening the impacts on the school district would be single-story houses for independent living seniors set on a single parcel. “That would have zero impact on our schools,” she said. “We don’t have anything like that in our area for seniors who today are very young for their age.”

 A senior living zone would include swimming pools, yoga studios and putting greens. DiGiacinto also wanted the applicant to include a sports complex ‘unlike any in the region.’

 “It would include an indoor ice rink, indoor pool, indoor and outdoor fields and tennis courts. Parents understand that sports as a very important part of life to their children,” she said.

More residents could mean more local police and firefighters. Councilman Barry Reiter suggested inviting the North Castle chief of police to comment on a projected need for the proposed development.

“I also spoke to the fire department,” Reiter said. “They have some concerns. Volunteers are absolutely impossible to get now. In fact, we are losing some.”

Councilman Saleem Hussain asked for a new market assessment projecting the demand for multi-family homes and hotels. “I expect it to be very different now,” said Hussain. “I’d like to see current information, to see what’s relevant for the town today.”

Hussain also addressed the plan for trees on the property. “For the trees that have been there longer, it would be good to understand what it would take for you to protect those trees.”

The plan is to remove 368 trees from a total of 799 existing trees and plant approximately 451 new trees (deciduous and evergreen). The town conservation board is expected to weigh in on the issue.

Town Supervisor Michael Schiliro said his overall concerns had already been addressed but wanted to know the impacts on neighboring properties and how more residents might impact additional first responders and add to town expenses.

Public comments were made by Armonk residents Ed Woodyard and Matthew Milim. Woodyard agreed with DiGiacinto on rethinking the residential part of the plan to consider a sports facility. “We’re a great, terrific town. Having more people, more buildings and more problems does not make the town greater,” Woodyard said.

Woodyark also commented on higher school enrollment. “Jen Lamia’s letter shook me to the quick,” Woodyard said. “Think about the [current] traffic going to the schools—it’s unbelievable in morning and afternoons. With more kids coming in I can see another school bond being floated and that’s going to drive people out of here.”  

Milim said he was concerned with the impact on the town budget and on the quality of life. “The idea of a recreation facility and has been the hope of a number of us in town and what we have been pushing for years.”  

Veneziano credited the board’s diligence in examining the details of the plan and said issues raised would be looked into. But he expressed some frustration with how slow the process was moving.

“We’ve got to move this forward. We need to come to some commonality here as to what can work. You are piece by piece ripping at this site and if you add it all together, we’re going to be pinned down to the ground.”

Veneziano said he and the development team will come back with some answers on Sept. 22. “And we will hear the rest of the comments.”

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