Mariani Gardens Owner Faces Deed Restriction on Residential Development

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Representatives from Mariani Gardens appeared before the North Castle Planning Board last week in their next step to seeking a zoning amendment to transform the Armonk nursey into a 43-unit residential development.

Mark Mariani, owner of Mariani Gardens at 45 Bedford Rd., has several hurdles to jump before he discontinues operation of his nursery to build high-end housing units. With developers currently facing a significant deed restriction that prohibits development of buildings on about one-third of the nursery’s four-acre site, Chairman Christopher Carthy questioned the likelihood of the proposed development moving forward.

“Until the deed restriction is resolved, this project as we see it now is not feasible,” Carthy said at the July 30 meeting. “So, the deed restriction is obviously the key to moving forward.”

The restriction was reached in 1979 when the town deeded land in its right of way to a previous owner of the property. The apparent purpose of the deed restriction was to protect Wampus Brook Park, the area around the nearby Town Hall and the sightlines for the historic St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

As currently proposed, eight of the higher-end units and a portion of a ninth would be in the restricted area, which is closest to Maple Avenue.

Representatives said they have had preliminary discussions with Town Supervisor Michael Schiliro and are currently looking into mitigating the issue.

The proposal calls for the existing structures on the property to be demolished and redeveloped for residential use. Mariani is looking for a zoning change from the Nursery Business zone to a multifamily designation.

Currently, the proposal includes 16 one-bedroom units averaging about 900 square feet each; six two-bedroom units with an average size of 1,430 square feet; the 16 three-bedroom units will be about 3,000 square feet; and there will be five four-bedroom units at about 3,920 square feet.

The largest townhouse-style units would be situated closest to Bedford Road while the three-bedroom units would be built around the center of the property with an area of open space. The largest structure rising to 40 feet to the midline of the roof and housing the one- and two-bedroom units would be built closest to Route 22.

“Our goal here is to create a beautiful residential environment that’s both of our time yet respectful of the past,” project architect John Helpern said. “In our mind, what we’re trying to do is the architecture being a modern extension of the nearby historic fabric and hopefully build on the tradition and the familiar.”

There will also be five affordable units to comply with the town’s affordable housing ordinance. It requires that at least 10 percent of new developments include lower-prices units.

At a work session in June, the applicant’s representatives said projected rents would range from $3,500 to $5,000 for the smaller units and about $7,500 and $10,000 a month for the three- and four-bedroom units, respectively.

There would be 132 parking spaces on the property, more than the required 109, said project planner Rob Aiello. The project would generate up to an extra 30 cars per hour during the morning and afternoon peak hours and during the Saturday peak hour, he said.

Board member Gideon Hirschman questioned the amount of congestion the excess vehicles will cause during the morning and afternoon peak hours. He said the location is heavy with school traffic which would lead to a “complete standstill.”

Aiello said a traffic study is underway that will examine the level of service. He insisted there wouldn’t be a change in traffic and the proposed project would enhance what currently exists. There would be a reduction in trips generated as of right, he said.

“I would be hard-pressed for you to convince me that a business that currently runs everyday will generate more traffic than a residential neighborhood at the peak hours,” Hirschman said. “The school itself generates hundreds of cars.”

Along with a traffic study, the applicant still must complete a full environmental review, produce evidence regarding the tax benefits, school-age children and obtain a wetlands permit. Another potential stumbling block is its proximity to the Bedford Road Historic District and density.

Representatives said they plan to meet with members of the historic society later this month.

“There’s a lot of steps they have to get past and they’ve identified them, and this could be subject to a lot of change, potentially,” board member Michael Pollack said. “To drill down on details right now is premature.”

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