The Examiner

Excavation Key Hurdle for Chap Crossing Town Home Basements

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A revised plan that would include basements in the 91 town homes proposed for Chappaqua Crossing is one of the key issues New Castle town officials must resolve before agreeing to an updated site plan.

During a joint work session involving the town and planning boards last Tuesday, there didn’t appear to be objections to the concept of basements but concern was raised about the excavation that would be required. Members of both boards expressed reservations that the volume of dirt that would have to be stored on site or trucked off site could create an untenable situation.

Since Toll Brothers, the luxury home building company retained by developer Summit/Greenfield, plans to build the 91 units in stages dictated by market conditions, there were worries voiced last week that the site could be a construction zone for years.

“It seems to me, anyway, that the conversations have evolved and we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve gotten a certain level of comfort (about the basements),” said Planning Board Chairman Robert Kirkwood. “We’re not there yet because we still have to get this information about how it’s going to work with the cut and fill and the construction and the sequencing, but it seems to me that somehow, some way, that we can deal with that issue.”

Planning Board member Thomas Curley said a workable sequencing plan is critical since 91 1,000-square-foot basements with excavation reaching 10 feet would yield more than 900,000 cubic feet of dirt.

“It’s the equivalent of taking two acres of land and digging down 10 feet and that’s just a lot of dirt,” Curley said. “If you add up the number of trucks that’s a problem. That’s like a thousand trucks that are going to have to move off this property.”

Representatives for Toll Brothers said much of the dirt would be reused on the site, including for construction of the loop road.

The joint meeting was held to discuss the changes a week before the opening of Tuesday evening’s Town Board public hearing on whether to revise the Multi-Family Planned Development Preliminary Development Concept Plan (MFPD PDCP) that it passed in 2015. The Town Board is considering a series of requested changes in Summit/Greenfield’s petition that was submitted to the town earlier this fall.

Several of the eight other changes outlined in the petition, including the reduction in the length of the driveways, an increase in the square footage of each unit, the increase in footprint and floor area and increasing the area of disturbance from 19 to 21 acres, did not appear to be problematic to the two boards. If the Town Board agrees to adding the basements, the changes to the driveways, average unit size, footprint and floor area and disturbance would automatically be created.

Supervisor Robert Greenstein said he understands Toll Brothers’ insistence on the basements because it makes the units far more attractive.

“Basically, I think the basements are fine and if we can limit them to no bedrooms that’s what we’ll do,” Greenstein said. “The fact that empty-nesters are going to live there, they’re either going to want the space for recreation or storage or both, I think basements are very important.”

There had been previous concerns from members of both boards that adding basements could lead to some residents converting the space to a living area. Last week, the attorney for the Planning Board, Les Steinman, recommended that a prohibition against using the basements as living space should be written into the deed restriction and also be required by the Homeowners Association.

It also is expected that Chappaqua School District representatives will attend this week’s public hearing to address the expected bump in schoolchildren generated by the town homes.

Another issue that needs to be resolved is preservation of the Thomas V. Wright House, the 1850s farmhouse used by Reader’s Digest that is deteriorating. Members of both boards have reached consensus to see the structure preserved.

James Fitzpatrick, Toll Brothers’ division president in New York, said that his company is committed to preserving the exterior of the house but the interior would have to be re purposed in order to make the structure usable.

Greenstein said that Town Historian Gray Williams has objected to that plan because the interior is of far greater historic significance.

Tuesday’s public hearing is during the New Castle Town Board’s regularly scheduled meeting at Town Hall that is set to begin at 7 p.m.

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