AREA NEWSThe Examiner

No. Castle Town Board Delays Vote on Seminary Permit

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Armenian Seminary
St. Nersess Seminary is looking to move to North Castle. The North Castle Town Board delayed a vote onthe issue

The North Castle Town Board postponed a vote last week on whether to approve a special use permit for a proposed Armenian seminary to move its operations into a 5.5-acre site in Armonk.

Officials opted to hold off on the vote at the town board’s June 13 meeting after Councilman John Cronin said he wasn’t prepared to make a decision following several comments questioning the impact the St. Nersess Armenian Seminary’s operation could have on the area and the town’s services. Board members indicated they may be ready to vote on the permit application at their next meeting on June 27.

The proposal calls for St. Nersess, which is looking to relocate from New Rochelle, to renovate the existing buildings at 486 Bedford Rd., and to build a new 8,400-square-foot theological center on the grounds.

At the continuation of the public hearing for the permit last week, concerns were raised by a few residents that there would be at least 30 people living regularly on the campus, far in excess of the 10 to 12 people that the applicant initially estimated.

Seth Mandelbaum, the seminary’s attorney, said that for nearly 300 days a year from late August through May when adult students will be studying to become priests, there would be no more than 20 people living on site. In all likelihood, attendance would be limited to about 12 seminarians, he said.

Although the numbers living on the campus would likely be greater for summer conferences than during the regular school year, it would not exceed the 30-person limit, he said. The daily maximum attendance on the site will be capped at 50 people.

Since the seminary is a religious organization, the property would not be on the tax rolls but could sap the town of resources, a couple of residents stated. Resident Lydia Ripstein pressed the applicant’s representatives on how many school-age children might live on the campus. Children who would live at the site would attend the Byram Hills School District.

Father Daniel Findikyan, the current seminary dean, said there have been few instances of seminarians having school-age children, although the incoming dean has one.

However, between the potential for increased enrollment, more traffic on busy Route 22 and a possible strain on police and fire personnel, officials should carefully consider the drawbacks, one resident warned.

“Bottom line is between what may happen with the schools and what may happen with the other services in town, this is kind of a losing proposition for the Town of North Castle,” said Armonk resident Pete Wyler.

Mandelbaum said the seminary has reached an agreement with Congregation B’Nai Yisrael, owners of the property, to use the synagogue’s lot for overflow parking when it is needed for special events.

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