GovernmentThe Examiner

No. Castle Re-issues Special Permit for Former Mariani Site in Split Vote

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The North Castle Town Board narrowly granted a special use permit last week to the developer of a proposed residential development at the former Mariani Gardens site 17 months after an extension for the permit was denied.

As a result of the board’s 3-2 vote at its June 28 meeting, the project that is now called The Gateway will be permitted to move on to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance for being slightly over the maximum building coverage and the Planning Board for site plan review. Councilmembers Jose Berra and Barbara DiGiacinto were the dissenting votes.

Before the close vote was taken, Supervisor Michael Schiliro said he was comfortable with the project and the efforts made by the developer to address the town’s concerns, including having the buildings that face Bedford Road appear more in character with the adjacent Bedford Road Historic District.

“I think one of the big improvements was making the frontage (of the) buildings look like the historic district and that was a big challenge on the old application,” Schiliro said.

Councilman Matt Milim said while he still had reservations about the project’s density, the changes in both the appearance and the layout of its latest iteration made for a markedly superior proposal.

“I really appreciate the approach you took here,” Milim told JD Summa, the principal for co-applicants NCD Acquisitions, LLC and 45 Bedford Road LLC. “In my opinion it differentiated it in a really positive way” to try to find a project that worked for most of the community.

However, DiGiacinto said that with the site being one of the most important pieces of property in town she could not be assured that the height and appearance of the structures wouldn’t impede the view of the more than 175-year-old St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church from Route 22 and be out of character with the remainder of the historic district.

Previously, she had requested the development team provide a simulation video, something that other developers had done, which helped her visualize how the project would fit in with the neighborhood and surrounding properties.

“I’m just very concerned that this proposed plan is going to obliterate and change that view, and again, I asked for a video and all of you reacted like I had asked for a million dollars,” DiGiacinto said.

While Berra agreed there were many improvements that had been made to the property, he was still troubled by the density of the project.

“One of the difficulties that I have here is for this very special spot in town,” he said. “We’re giving it a very high density, .4 (Floor Area Ratio).”

“I really don’t think it fits as well as it should,” he later added.

The split vote came two nights after the town’s Planning Board issued a recommendation in favor of the permit based on a series of conditions, including the enclosing the open-air parking that is underneath some of the structures; eliminating the bathrooms and closest for the upstairs den or office space and place an easement along the Maple Avenue side of the property to enable future construction of a right-turn lane. It also called for crosswalk and sidewalk to Armonk Square.

The vote also came after more than two hours of discussion, which largely focused on whether the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) between the town and the applicant should be amended to force the accelerated payment of the remaining $1 million owed to the town if a certain percentage of the ownership partnership changes. The CBA stipulates that $1.25 million be paid by the developer to the town to offset potential infrastructure impacts caused by the project and that there would be accelerated payments if more than 50 percent of ownership changes hands.

The issue was a sticking point for Berra, who lobbied for the change because 50 percent of the ownership changed when former partner Mark Mariani had to unload his stake in the project after he went into bankruptcy in 2020. The rest of the board opposed delaying a vote to rework the language pertaining to accelerated payments.

An agreement that was reached last week between the town and Summa was for the applicant to pay an additional $250,000 to the town for sidewalks and crosswalks to Armonk Square across the street to make the area more inviting for residents at the 34-unit condominium development to walk in the downtown. It is unclear whether two Bedford Road property owners will grant easements for that to happen; however, Summa said if those easements aren’t obtained, he and his partners would be willing to pay $250,000 extra to the town.

Since the special use permit extension was denied in January 2022, the applicant reduced the project from 43 to 34 units and eliminated a four-story structure in the rear of the 4.1-acre property at 45 Bedford Rd.

Other changes included moving the structures facing Bedford Road closer to the street, reducing all buildings to two stories and making the height of those structures comply with the district’s 30-foot maximum.



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