The Examiner

Brynwood Made $78G Contribution in No. Castle GOP Primary

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An artist's rendition of a portion of the Brynwood Golf & Country Club project.
An artist’s rendition of a portion of the Brynwood Golf & Country Club project.

The developers of the Brynwood Golf & Country Club’s luxury condominium and golf course redesign proposal contributed $78,000 to the re-election efforts of North Castle council members Diane DiDonato-Roth and John Cronin.

Financial disclosure filings available through the board of elections revealed that a political action committee formed by Brynwood Partners, LLC made three contributions to the incumbents’ campaigns in late August and early September, prior to their matchup in the Republican primary against challenger Barbara DiGiacinto. DiGiacinto finished first in the three-way battle for two available spots on the general election ballot, with Cronin finishing second.

Contributions of $10,000 each were made on Aug. 23 and Sept. 5 followed by a $58,000 donation on Sept. 6.

News of the contributions and the ramifications for the application rocked the town late last week with charges that Brynwood Partners had attempted to buy a local election in order to have a better chance at getting the hotly debated plan approved. The proposal calls for 88 luxury condo units targeting older adults along with a redesign of the golf course. However, Brynwood would need a crucial rezoning from the town board to move forward.

DiGiacinto, the primary target of a series of mailers that were sent out by Committee for a Better North Castle, the name of the partners’ political action committee, said that she counted seven mailers, all fraught with misinformation about her.

“On one hand, could you say they tried to buy an election?” DiGiacinto asked. “Yeah. If you really look at this, a lot of the information that was put out was definitely false. I think it was done in an attempt to damage my credibility and reputation.”

DiGiacinto added that she believes Brynwood Partners opposed her candidacy because in statements made to Windmill Farm residents, a community near the Brynwood site on Bedford Road in Armonk, she said she was against the application based on information available to her. DiGiacinto also said DiDonato-Roth and Supervisor Howard Arden appeared to be in favor of the proposal, although Cronin seemed to be more hesitant.

While Cronin and Arden have both said they are not necessarily in favor of the proposal, in September 2012, the majority faction approved the start of the environmental review. Councilmen Michael Schiliro and Stephen D’Angelo were in opposition.

When reached on Sunday and Monday, respectively, DiDonato-Roth and Cronin said they had no knowledge that Brynwood Partners had made the contributions. Cronin, who said he had “a hunch” that the Brynwood developers may have been involved, called the applicant’s decision “incredibly stupid,” particularly with the town board previously having been on schedule to vote on the rezoning before the end of the year.

Cronin didn’t speculate how the sudden turn of events might impact board action on the project and added that Brynwood used unauthorized images of himself and Arden in one mailer.

“They spent a lot of money to try and re-elect someone who was basically unelectable,” Cronin said referring to DiDonato-Roth.

Although Cronin described the tone of the mailers as harsh, he disputed DiGiacinto’s claims that they were inaccurate. He has stated that DiGiacinto has multiple conflicts of interest stemming from her or her family’s real estate interests in town. DiGiacinto, who is now separated from her husband, has denied Cronin’s allegations saying her husband’s relatives own the property.

DiDonato-Roth said at no time was she told that a committee created by Brynwood Partners was going to be sending out political flyers.

“It was their idea,” she said. “I couldn’t understand what they were trying to do.”

A statement released late Friday afternoon from Brynwood’s publicist Thompson & Bender acknowledged the partners had formed an “independent expenditure committee” to support DiDonato-Roth and Cronin in the Sept. 10 primary. The statement defended the legality of their actions and that there was no coordination with the candidates.

“As permitted by law, Brynwood Partners, LLC contributed funds to support the efforts of the Committee,” the statement read. “As part of that effort, the Committee supported the Republican primary re-elections of Diane DiDonato-Roth and John Cronin for Town Council. At no time during the Committee’s activities was there any coordination with the campaigns of anyone involved in the primary election.”

Dean Bender, who issued the statement of Brynwood’s behalf, declined to answer further questions surrounding the financial disclosures.

On Sunday, Arden fired off his own town-wide statement also stating that he wasn’t privy to their actions and chastised Brynwood for muddying the process.

“Any attempt to link me to this group is a blatant attempt to tarnish my reputation for political gain,” his email stated.

Arden also said he found it “inappropriate” for such large expenditures to be made in a local election and felt saddened that a project officials had spent hundreds of hours on could be jeopardized.

He said he is referring the matter to the town’s Board of Ethics and special counsel for review and demanded all political action committees be disbanded for the general election. He also called on all the candidates to sign a pledge to reject third party contributions.

However, Schiliro, a Democrat who is opposing Arden in the supervisor’s race, said that his opponent’s outrage over the contributions was absent when the mailers were being circulated and could have been to his benefit had DiDonato-Roth won a spot on the ballot.

“This type of influence on a local election and influence on a town board of a developer’s application has no place in any town, especially North Castle,” Schiliro said.

On Monday, Brynwood publicized added benefits the project would provide the town should it be approved. The information had been submitted to the town board on Sept. 30.

In a separate release on Monday that did not mention the contribution controversy, the applicant has committed to provide the town the following benefits should the project be approved.

–$500,000 a year in property taxes to the town on the golf course and clubhouse for 10 years after renovation;

–Contribute $1 million to Water District No. 2, which includes Windmill Farm, toward the district’s rebuilding of the pipe system saving Windmill residents $3 million over 25 years;

–Agree to a permanent conservation easement limiting the future use of the property to either a golf course or open space;

–Maintain all private roads, sewage, plowing, ground maintenance and garbage removal at no cost to the town;

–Withdraw a pending $1 million tax certiorari;

–Contribute $150,000 for a right turn lane on Tripp Lane, $250,000 for construction of a new bike path and $25,000 toward the relocation of Miller House;

–Implement “green” best practices for the golf course and;

–Set back all structures at least 100 feet with a landscaped buffer.





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