GovernmentThe Examiner

No. Castle Gives Cold Shoulder to Latest Plan for Mariani Gardens Site

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The owners of Armonk’s former Mariani Gardens site must reconfigure their latest housing proposal for the property after officials cited various problems, including excessive density and aesthetic incompatibility with the adjacent Bedford Road Historic District.

Representatives for NCD Acquisitions, the entity that currently controls the property, reappeared before the North Castle Town Board last month with a 34-unit all-rental housing proposal for the 4.1-acre parcel at 45 Bedford Rd. The proposal had nine fewer units and 68 bedrooms, eight fewer than what the board had approved for the 2019 rezone and ensuing special use permit.

Attorney Anthony Veneziano touted the greater spacing between the structure, elimination of the four-story building that had been proposed for the rear of the property and setting back the structures 70 feet instead of the previously proposed 50 feet. The entire proposal would be compliant with the current zoning, he said.

“This actually could be nice to live in because of that area in the center,” Veneziano said of the open space pitched for the middle of the property.

In a Jan. 19 letter to the board, Veneziano contended that the use of wood and “simple clean lines developed by the board and pattern siding along with the simple color scheme and window design will be punctuated by decorative planting,” placing it in character with a small community with a modern farmhouse feel.

However, each board member had issues with some aspects of the redesigned plan. Supervisor Michael Schiliro indicated he didn’t have problems with the three-story buildings at the site, since the height adheres to the town code, or the density because it is what the board approved previously when granting the rezone and special permit.

Schiliro, though, said he didn’t understand the appearance of the buildings.

“I don’t get the architecture at all,” he said. “It looks like an office building on Mamaroneck Avenue. I don’t get it at all. The old project you had four units in the front and I had no issue with the height. I can’t begin to understand how this fits with downtown, especially the historic district. We’re not asking you to build historic buildings. I don’t get it.”

Councilman Matt Milim said he was under the impression the units would be condominiums, not rental apartments, which makes it a much different project.

“It might be assessed the same way, but there are different implications in terms of the way it might impact the community,” Milim said. “I’m also concerned about the density, still, and the visual impact of the density close to the historic district and I’m still concerned about traffic.”

Veneziano said with a reduction of nine units the traffic should be reduced. The slightly smaller proposal would also use less water and generate less sewage.

Councilwoman Barbara DiGiacinto said the density and the height of the structures is unreasonable given its proximity to the historic district. While the four-story building was eliminated from the plan, three-story structures appear to be out of place as well.

“Frankly, I do not care for the three stories, I do not care for the garage under the first floor. I do not see it being compatible to the historic district, not the church, the park,” DiGiacinto said. “This is one of our gateways and I would like to see a project that is subtle in terms of when I’m driving by or driving into town.”

North Castle Historic Society President Ed Woodyard said when Armonk Square was developed just over a decade ago across the street from this site, that was new construction that fit in with the history district. The applicant should strive for something similar.

“I’m offended by this. I’m offended by what you people are thinking,” Woodyard said.

Listening to the criticisms, Veneziano said NCD Acquisitions will revise the plans while saying that they will not start from scratch.

“The client is open to refining this but we want to keep it within bounds,” he said. “This is not the beginning of a whole thing.”

During the discussion, Veneziano also asked the board for relief from the deed restriction, which prohibited construction in about one acre of the property on the Maple Avenue side.

The applicant is still committed to paying a total of $1.25 million as part of a Community Benefits Agreement, he said.

Redevelopment of the site has run into a host of problems since the previous proposal was introduced in 2018. Although the special use permit was granted in October 2019, the previous three-member partnership was dissolved after one of the partners, Mark Mariani, had his 50 percent share acquired after he went through a bankruptcy court proceeding. NCD Acquisitions obtained Mariani’s portion more than a year ago.

However, early last year, the Town Board declined to continue extending the permit, citing changes in local traffic patterns and commercial and office vacancies due to the pandemic. NCD Acquisitions filed an Article 78 last year, a proceeding that has been adjourned until later this year.

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