The Examiner

No. Castle Rezones Armonk Parcel to Advance Lumberyard Project

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The North Castle Town Board last week approved rezoning a nearly half-acre parcel adjacent to the old lumberyard in Armonk that moves forward revised plans for market-rate condominiums and affordable housing units at the site.

Developer Michael Fareri was granted his request by the town board, which passed a local law by a 4-1 margin last Wednesday night to expand the Residential Multifamily-Single Structure (RMF-SS) zone to include the Green property on Bedford Road. His .8-acre parcel that was the former lumberyard borders the Green property and had already been rezoned RMF-SS.

The board also voted by the same count to amend the town’s Comprehensive Plan to accommodate the project. Fareri will now head to the planning board in hopes of gaining site plan approval so the project can be built.

Supervisor Michael Schiliro said while there were some drawbacks to the proposal, the positives that the development would provide the town outweigh the flaws. During a public hearing that preceded the vote, the issues of density, traffic generation and whether the market-rate units should have condo taxation rates or be fee simple were raised.

“In the end, I think this project is good enough to move it forward and get that part of that street developed and we accomplish a bunch of things, including developing some affordable housing in town,” Schiliro said.

Fareri hopes to build two structures on the properties–a three-story, 20-unit building on the Green property that will feature only market-rate condominiums and a two-story, 14-unit structure on the larger parcel that will have eight market-rate condos and six affordable units. The smaller structure will contain 10 two-bedroom units and four three-bedroom units.

He said there is the possibility that the eight market-rate residences could eventually be transferred to other developers who receive project approvals in town to satisfy their affordable housing requirements. Under the town’s model ordinance approved earlier this year, developers must set aside 10 percent of their project’s units as affordable; however, for the RMF-SS zone 20 percent is required.

In May, Fareri had been approved for a building containing 24 units for the old lumberyard, which would have included 19 market-rate condos and five affordable units. However, by summer, the developer had said the mixture of the two types of units in the same building would make financing challenging and could jeopardize the project.

Fareri said the plan would bring badly needed alternative housing to North Castle, particularly for young adults and seniors.

“Both of these projects provide another method of housing that our town doesn’t have,” Fareri said.

If the project is built, it would provide North Castle with its first-ever affordable housing units, which would count toward the county’s requirement of building 750 new units by the close of 2016 under the guidelines of its affordable housing settlement.

About 25 years ago, the town introduced its middle income housing program which has a higher income threshold. The 34 middle income units will continue to exist but affordable units will be built for all future developments after the town adopted a version of the county’s model ordinance in the spring.

Although the board agreed to expand the multifamily zoning, there were some reservations expressed. Councilman Jose Berra, who cast the dissenting vote, said his primary objection was that the eight market-rate units in the smaller building would receive the much lower condo tax rate, while Fareri is allowed greater density than anyone else in town.

“You’re getting a great density bonus and it’s costing the town an awful lot of money because it’s going to be condo taxation,” Berra explained.

“I think it’s too big of an expense for the town,” he added. “I could probably come around to supporting it if we had an assurance that this would all be affordable housing.”

Berra also was against the town lowering the number of affordable units from seven to six in this instance. In July, Fareri said the formula of affordable units should be based on a percentage of the market units not the total number of units. As a result, since there are 28 market-rate residences, he is only required to build six.

The town agreed to a tradeoff  greater density was granted in exchange for more affordable units, Fareri said.

Councilwoman Barbara DiGiacinto said the board needed to honor the density bonus agreement. She said she would have preferred officials require the seventh unit but wasn’t going to quibble over one residence. She also had concerns over traffic.

“But I feel very strongly that we need to embrace our need for affordable housing,” DiGiacinto said.







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