The Examiner

No. Castle Rebuffs Developer’s Request to Move Affordable Units

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The North Castle Town Board informed Armonk developer Michael Fareri last week it is against relocating the six affordable units from his already approved project at the old lumberyard to a property on Main Street.

The announcement came during the Mar. 22 town board meeting where the board was considering a vote on two special use permits, a negative declaration and a resolution to move the residences to a 16-unit project Fareri has proposed for 470 Main St.

Votes on the permits and negative declaration were postponed until the Apr. 5 meeting because language needed to be revised.

Fareri, whose 36-unit project at the former lumberyard property on Bedford Road was approved last year, has said he does not want to build that project if he must include the affordable units on site. He has cited potential disputes over common charges and other maintenance expenses between the future owners of the 30 planned market-rate condominiums who would have greater financial wherewithal than the affordable residents.

The developer has also cited the Brynwood Golf & Country Club project, which has been given the option of building affordable units off site.

Supervisor Michael Schiliro said the town’s ordinance regulating affordable housing in North Castle that was approved about three years ago seeks to intersperse the affordable units within a market-rate development whenever practical.

The former lumberyard property on Bedford Road is in close proximity to bus stops and within reasonable walking distance of downtown shopping, he said.

Council members unanimously agreed with Schiliro, saying they didn’t see impediments to moving the affordable units.

“I find the lumberyard to be a very practical place to have the affordable housing, and I can’t violate the law that we passed three, four years ago (by) looking at this and moving them over,” said Councilman Stephen D’Angelo.

Schiliro, who mentioned North Castle’s affordable housing ordinance goes farther than Westchester’s model ordinance, said he reached out to county planning officials the past few weeks regarding Fareri’s economic concern. The town has learned that under the affordable housing program, a formula determines common charges based on the value of the units, he said. Each affordable unit owner is also strenuously vetted to make sure of their ability to pay.

“On the economic side, it should be great news for you,” Schiliro told Fareri. “It’s nothing you have to worry about because it’s taken care of in the whole formula.”

Last Friday, Fareri blasted the town board for intending to deny his request to move the affordable units to Main Street. He said officials are punishing him for being a frequent outspoken critic of the board on various town issues.

“(Main Street) is a practical place for people to be able to walk into the community,” Fareri said. “Not that the lumberyard isn’t. I think this is all a personal issue with the town board and they’re retaliating against me, in my estimation, on this because of other issues.”

Fareri plans to move ahead with the 16 units at 470 Main St., consisting of 14 market-rate apartments and two affordable units, although he may choose to build only affordable units at the site.

He said he was uncertain what he might do at the lumberyard, adding that an all-affordable project or a sale of the property remain possibilities. At last week’s meeting, Fareri’s attorney, Darius Chafizadeh, was rebuffed when he pressed the board to have more discussions on the relocation issue.

Fareri cited a letter last week from county Deputy Commissioner of Planning Norma Drummond, something that he said the town made sure to omit from its explanations last week. Drummond stated that “the County is ok with the transfer of the AFFH units from 162 Bedford Road to 470 Main Street.” However, she explained that the transfer must be done when Fareri receives his building permit for construction at 470 Main St.

If the units would be transferred, those would also have to be “like units” with the same number of bedrooms as originally planned.

Town Attorney Roland Baroni explained the county already included Fareri’s six units toward the 2016 end-of-year count of affordable units in the housing settlement case because a building permit had been issued for the lumberyard. Westchester does not want to run into trouble with the federal judge overseeing the settlement, he said.

When told of Fareri’s comments last weekend, Schiliro brushed them aside saying the town has supported or looked favorably on each one of his eight iterations of the lumberyard project over nearly a decade.

“The only thing that’s stopping Mike Fareri from building is Mike Fareri,” Schiliro said.

Furthermore, he mentioned that Drummond stated in her correspondence that only one unit under the county’s affordable housing settlement to date has been moved off site. That is connected to the Greystone project in Tarrytown because the planned market-rate units are at least 10,000 square feet each, requiring the affordable unit to be at least 8,000 square feet if it remains on site.

Town officials said they weren’t concerned about Fareri’s comments threatening to pull the plug on the lumberyard project or turning it into all affordable housing.

“It meets the criteria,” Councilman Barry Reiter said of the decision against relocating. “I’d love to see the 30 units put up there. I think it’s something that we need, something that would really be nice to have. Again, the practical part of it, convince me otherwise.”


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