GovernmentThe Examiner

Armonk Restaurant Owner Calls Town CBA Proposal ‘Unreasonable’

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The structure at 12 Maple Ave. in Armonk where a new farm-to-table American restaurant was recently approved and is planned to be renovated and expanded.

The applicant who was approved by the North Castle Planning Board to open a restaurant in downtown Armonk said the town has countered with an exorbitantly high demand in the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).

Stefan Martinovic, who received site plan approval from the Planning Board on Apr. 8, said he initially offered $51,000 to the town as part of the conditions of approval for Wren of the Woods, a farm-to-table American restaurant for 12 Maple Ave.

However, Martinovic told The Examiner late last week that the town has sought $176,000.

“The (town’s) numbers are totally unreasonable,” Martinovic said. “We’re talking about a significant portion of this restaurant’s profits in the first year, if not all of the profits, depending on the numbers.”

Debate over the project had exclusively revolved around whether there is adequate parking for the 144-seat restaurant that would seat 90 patrons inside and have another 54 seats outside on a seasonal basis. With valet parking, there would be 21 spaces at 12 Maple Ave. while Martinovic has reached an agreement with the owner of 20 Maple Ave. to provide 32 additional spaces.

Furthermore, he has also secured up to nine employee parking spaces at the American Legion on Bedford Road.

As part of its approval last month, the Planning Board also required signage and valet parking in addition to the CBA that would be a payment to the town from the owner. The CBA would have to be completed before Martinovic can begin work to renovate and expand the 1,700-square-foot structure to 3,600 square feet.

Martinovic said there was no explanation from the town regarding how officials decided on $176,000. Martinovic said the $51,000 he initially offered represented about 12 percent of the current market value, in line with the 8 to 14 percent of market value of other CBAs that are in effect in North Castle, including Eagle Ridge, the Summit Club and The Gateway on Bedford Road.

He said he has since bumped up his offer another 40 percent to $71,000. Martinovic also indicated he has contacted the state Restaurant Association and the Hospitality & Tourism Association as well as other elected officials because he does not see the issue as a development issue, but a small business issue.

“There was no notice of any justification, no presentation of alternatives, nothing that could allow us to arrive at that,” Martinovic said. “We did that work, and yes, we have an interest in keeping that number affordable. But the reality is the reality. The math is pretty clear.”

A message left for Town Attorney Roland Baroni late last week was not returned. Supervisor Joe Rende said it was his understanding that negotiations would continue this week between Baroni and Martinovic’s attorney Anthony Veneziano.

“I’m sure there’s going to be somewhat of a negotiation in terms of a back and forth on it,” Rende said.

The matter does not appear on this week’s Town Board meeting agenda and won’t be addressed until at least the May 22 meeting, he said.

At its last meeting on Apr. 24, the board put off the issue until the CBA can be negotiated between the parties.

However, Martinovic said he believed the timing of the town’s counterproposal was curious given that outspoken Armonk developer Michael Fareri had sent an e-mail to the town the day before the last meeting arguing that the project could cause a hazard because of the parking.

In his Apr. 23 message, Fareri stated “there is no amount of money that could offset the potential safety hazards for our residents, our children, and our community.”

He cited an early March correspondence from the North Castle Police Department voicing concerns about the parking arrangement at 12 and 20 Maple Ave.

But the town’s traffic consultant returned with a report the night of site plan approval, stating that if signage and valet service were used, the parking would be workable.

Martinovic said it’s possible that town officials are trying to find a way to make the CBA so unreasonable to sink the project even though it has received support.

“This is not like it’s controversial at this point,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of public support.”



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