The North Castle Town Board appeared hesitant to allow a developer to pursue an all-residential proposal for a key 32-acre parcel in Armonk that officials hope will be the site of a new hotel.
Earlier this month, the board told the applicant, MADD Madonna LLC, that it could add its 94-townhome plan in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Eagle Ridge project, but members weren’t prepared to relinquish the idea that the North Castle Drive property should include a lodging facility.
“I’m okay with adding a residential-only proposal to the FEIS, but I want to make it clear because I’m okay with considering it and having it added doesn’t mean I’m okay with that’s where I want to go and that’s what we’re going to approve for you,” said Supervisor Michael Schiliro.
Last month developer Frank Madonna and his representatives informed the board that they wanted to abandon the hotel and residential plan because they would be unable to obtain financing for the project as the hospitality industry has been among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have asked the board to rezone the property from Office Business Hotel, which the land was rezoned to about 10 years ago, to a Residential Multifamily Senior Citizen Housing floating zone.
Madonna said that with increasing demand from people looking to downsize along with others wanting to move out of New York City since the onset of the pandemic, the 55-and-up, age-restricted housing market is soaring.
The townhomes would contain between 2,500 and 2,900 square feet of living space with two bedrooms, he said. Tax revenue generated from the project when built would jump from its current $250,000 to an estimated $2.4 million.
“We think it’s a very strong product,” Madonna said. “We think it’ll do very well.”
Madonna told officials earlier this month that he would also be willing to have fee-simple taxation for the townhomes rather than the lower condo tax rate, which would provide the taxing entities with more revenue.
Councilman Barry Reiter said while the hotel industry is struggling today, it is likely to rebound at some point. He liked the idea of having some residential units at the site but said he didn’t want to give up on the possibility of a hotel.
“I don’t know that the pandemic is going to last forever,” Reiter said. “I’m optimistic, maybe not realistic, but I’m optimistic (that) six months or a year from now things will get better. I think the economy will get better, hopefully.”
Madonna had hoped to be referred to the Planning Board earlier this month to receive feedback from the townhome proposal but was rebuffed.
Councilwoman Barbara DiGiacinto said the decision whether to rezone belongs with the Town Board.
“It’s in downtown Armonk,” DiGiacinto said. “There are many very, very important concerns to this zoning request on the part of the applicant, and as a Town Board member we are under no obligation to rezone this property unless we feel confident that it’s the right thing to do, that we really have studied and investigated on our own with our consultants, with our experts, and so I would really hope you did not go before the Planning Board at this time.”
Madonna said that he understood the town’s position but he and his team cannot sit with a prime parcel that is empty indefinitely waiting for a particular industry to bounce back. He asked to be allowed to pursue the residential plan and keep open the possibility that at some point in the future, a hotel could be developed on a portion of the property.
“If it’s viable to build (a hotel) down the line then we’ll build it,” Madonna said. “We’re not going to get rid of it completely and we’ll wait. We’ll wait but we have to move ahead with something new.”
Since the closure of the La Quinta Inn on Business Park Drive at the end of June, North Castle is without a lodging facility and is no longer collecting the 3 percent hotel occupancy tax.