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No. Castle, Townhouse Developer Resolve Issues; Site Plan Review Next

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One of North Castle’s major development proposals advanced last week after the applicant and Town Board came to terms on a Community Benefits Agreement and a covenant ensuring a certain percentage of units would contain first-floor primary bedrooms.

During a sometimes-contentious two-hour session last Wednesday evening between the development team of Eagle Ridge applicant Maddd Madonna Armonk LLC and the board, the parties agreed on how $2,248,000 from the developer would be earmarked and that at least 60 percent of the market-rate units must have the largest bedroom on the first floor.

If Eagle Ridge, proposed on about 32 acres on North Castle Drive, receives site plan approval, there would be 88 three-bedroom townhouses, 80 of which would be marketed as age-targeted units. The required eight affordable residences would not be subject to the restriction.

A previous iteration of the application called for 72 townhouses and a hotel, but Maddd Madonna scrapped the hotel to go with an all-residential project because the developer argued the former plan was not economically feasible.

By a 3-1 vote, the Town Board agreed that the Community Benefits Agreement money would be divided with $500,000 set aside for Sewer District #4 improvements, another $500,000 for parking improvements in downtown Armonk and $498,000 toward recreation-related purposes. The remaining $750,000 would be used for improvements to infrastructure or facilities that could best help the community, including potentially additional recreation projects.

In a separate 3-1 vote, the parties agreed to the covenant after the developer balked at guaranteeing all of the 80 market-rate units have the main bedroom on the first floor even though the residences are intended to be geared toward older adults. On both resolutions, Councilman Jose Berra was the dissenting vote.

The Town Board also unanimously approved a negative declaration under the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) as lead agency, meaning there would be no significant adverse environmental impact.

“This is a good project for the town and we thank the applicant for investing in the town,” Supervisor Michael Schiliro said immediately following the conclusion of the extended discussion.

Town officials had difficulty understanding the developer’s reluctance to sign a covenant mandating that the 80 townhouses have the first-floor bedrooms, especially after concerns were raised by Byram Hills Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jen Lamia about potential impact on the district.

“It seems to me that the way to ensure that they’re all first-floor master bedroom suites is to put a covenant in place, and if that’s what you’re proposing to do, to have first-floor bedroom suites, I don’t see a problem,” Town Attorney Roland Baroni said.

Attorney Kory Salomone, representing the developer, said all the units would be marketed as age-targeted, but Toll Brothers, which will be building the townhomes, wanted to have wiggle room in case some prospective buyers wanted to put the main bedroom upstairs.

“I think the first-floor primary bedroom and bathroom is part of the idea of being age-targeted, and as you understand, that was a comment made by Dr. Jen Lamia, the superintendent of schools,” Councilwoman Barbara DiGiacinto remarked shortly afterward.

But Joshua Weissman, one of the Maddd Madonna partners, said having an ironclad restriction would handcuff the developers.

“We have a contract with a national homebuilder who has said to you on numerous occasions that this is an age-targeted development with primaries on the first floor, but to put a covenant on it, which then if markets change or what have you, they have to go through this whole thing again,” Weissman said. “It’s going to affect the whole business model that we’ve been working on for five years. We’ve been dealing with highs and lows in real estate. We’re this close. There’s no intention to change the townhouse component.”

After haggling over up to how many units must have downstairs primary bedrooms, ranging from 40 to 60 during the discussion, the board and the applicant agreed to 60 percent, which would be 48 units under the 88-unit proposal, excluding the affordable residences.

Officials decided to go with a percentage of units rather than a fixed unit count in case the final number changes slightly during the Planning Board’s site plan review.

Earlier in the discussion, the board debated amongst itself how the Community Benefits Agreement money should be used. Principal partner Frank Madonna, who grew up in town, had proposed that $1 million be used for recreation. While Scihiliro and DiGiacinto wondered whether the town should use that money for sewer improvements, Councilman Matt Milim argued that the money should benefit the entire town because only a portion of North Castle belongs to Sewer District #4.

Berra said the impact of the development on Community Park alone should warrant using that money for parks and recreation.

After the votes, Berra said he continues to have concerns about density and the town’s desire to keep on adding new development.

“I think we really need to be careful about adding assessables without making sure it clearly benefits the town, and I think there are clear negatives to this,” he said.

The key hurdle remaining for the developer is to now obtain site plan approval from the Planning Board, Salomone said.

Correction: In the original posting of this article, it was incorrectly reported that the Community Benefits Agreement and covenant were approved 4-1 by the North Castle Town Board. The votes were actually 3-1. Councilman Saleem Hussain has recused himself from this matter. The Examiner regrets the error.

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