A vote to authorize county funds for the stalled Chappaqua affordable housing project is likely before the end of the year in hopes that Westchester will comply with the 2014 benchmark outlined in the housing settlement with the federal government.
Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers) announced on Thursday that he will back a resolution that has been drawn up for the county to enter into an intermunicipal agreement with the Town of New Castle to provide up to $1.65 million in funding toward Conifer Realty’s proposed 28-unit project at 54 Hunts Place.
Kaplowitz, who made his announcement in an empty lot adjacent the roughly one-third of an acre parcel, said unless the funding is approved by Dec. 31, Westchester will fall short in reaching its required milestone of having approved funds for at least 450 units since the settlement was signed in 2009. Currently, funding is in place for 426 units, but no other projects are in line for approval in the coming weeks.
“By putting in this language, I am now in support of, as the representative for this district, and I’m going to urge my colleagues on the Board of Legislators to do what I can to support this legislation and to move it through before the year ends,” Kaplowitz said. “It is important, and I have spent a lot of time and capital and many resources to bring the county into conformity with the 2009 housing settlement and have been critical of some of the negative efforts that have been expended thus far.”
No date has been scheduled for the vote, although the Board of Legislators has two regularly scheduled meetings remaining this year, he said.
The controversial project, which has been met with intense local opposition because many residents have argued the site is inappropriate for housing, was approved by the previous town board in 2013. However, in July, the Department of State’s Hudson Valley Regional Board of Review denied seven of the eight fire code variances requested by Conifer Realty.
The Board of Review’s decision came after town Building Inspector William Maskiell had contended that the project failed to meet necessary requirements for fire safety and firefighter access to the site.
Kaplowitz was quick to point out that any expenditure of county funds is contingent upon Conifer receiving all necessary approvals, including compliance with the codes or obtaining the variances that were denied by the state Board of Review.
He said it was his understanding that Conifer was looking to modify its proposal, but that the health and safety concerns raised by the town must be addressed.
“It would be inappropriate and irresponsible not to take the action to hit the benchmark that’s necessary, but at the same time, to ignore the health and safety concerns that are real, that have been documented, and have been put down as conditions of the state, would also be irresponsible,” Kaplowitz said.
Randolph McLaughlin, the attorney representing Conifer Realty, said the latest development is a positive step and that the Rochester-based company remains committed to building its affordable housing project at the site.
“We think this is a significant step forward toward the development of this project,” McLauglin said.
He said he was not aware of what modifications may be made to the plans or of any timetable for Conifer to return with its proposal.
New Castle Supervisor Robert Greenstein, who as a candidate last year opposed the project, said it is his understanding that state approval is still required regardless of what the county decides to do.
“Although I haven’t seen the legislation yet, from what I gather, the county’s position hasn’t changed,” Greenstein said. “Everyone agrees that the project must satisfy New York state fire and building codes or obtain variances in order to move forward at the current site, including Conifer.”
Last year, the Board of Legislators failed to fund the project following the New Castle Town Board’s approval because of the safety concerns that had been raised by the town.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/