No. Castle Weighs Reducing Affordable Housing for Lumberyard Plan

North Castle is considering reducing the number of affordable residences for a developer’s yet-to-be-built project at the old lumberyard on Bedford Road in Armonk in exchange for scaling back the number of units at the site.

The Town Board is entertaining lowering the percentage of affordable housing units for the stalled project from 20 percent to 10 percent if developer Michael Fareri cuts back from 36 to 22 units. Fareri received approval for 36 condominium units at 162 Bedford Rd. about five years ago, but has since balked at building with the six affordable unit requirement because it would not be financially feasible.

Officials imposed a 20 percent threshold, rather than the 10 percent outlined in the town’s affordable housing ordinance, in large part because of allowing extra density at the site. Fareri had also asked the town to transfer the affordable units to another project of his at 470 Main St. in Armonk, but was unsuccessful.

Under a revised plan, Fareri would need to supply two affordable residences along with 20 market-rate units.

Any agreement to make the change would occur only if Fareri builds the project by June 30, 2022, and receives the necessary town and county approvals, said Town Attorney Roland Baroni. The matter has been referred to the county Planning Board, and it would need Board of Legislators approval because of the reduction in the number of affordable units, he said.

“The initial reaction of the county is that there should not be a problem approving that amended declaration because the six units were never counted toward the 750-unit (affordable housing) quota, which was news to me, but that seems to be the reality,” Baroni said.

Westchester County exceeded having 750 units of new affordable housing built in mostly white communities by the end of 2016 to comply with the housing settlement with the federal government.

Fareri said he is optimistic that he will be able to receive the necessary approvals by the end of the winter and begin construction in the spring. There shouldn’t be major obstacles to receiving Planning Board approval because traffic, water consumption and sewer capacity will be reduced, he said.

Instead of a building with common hallways and an elevator, the project will a townhouse style.

“I think the town s come to the conclusion that it’s better to see that job get built than not, and I agree,” Fareri said.

If the board elects to move forward, there is a relatively tight timeframe for Fareri to comply with the June 30, 2022, deadline. In addition to the action by the county, which would come first, he would have to request a zoning text amendment to reduce the affordable housing percentage in the R-MF-SS zone, Baroni said. That would require inclusion of a short-form Environmental Assessment Form, which would then allow the Town Board to declare its intent to be lead agency, he said.

A public hearing would be required, and if the zoning text change is approved, Fareri would have to return to the town Planning Board to re-subdivide the parcel from one lot into two.

“There’s a process here, but it can all happen, we think, by early next March, which would then allow the applicant to break ground on the project,” Baroni said.

The majority of the Town Board recently agreed to receive the request for consideration. Councilman Barry Reiter said he’d like to see the property developed so the town has more housing stock within walking distance of downtown.

“I think he’s done a nice job on a previous project,” Reiter said of Fareri, “and I’m excited to see some movement here.”

Supervisor Michael Schiliro said he also would like to see Fareri build the project and would “strongly consider” the change.

“But there’s a lot more work before we get to that point,” Schiliro said. “The piece that I do like, the zoning is the same. The only change that comes into play is if the building is built and the CO’s (Certificate of Occupancy) are issued and there’s two (units), or 10 percent, affordable in the building.”

The dissenting view on the board on accepting the request was Councilman Jose Berra. Berra said that Fareri has failed to follow through on plans to build in recent years after a series of disputes between the developer and the town. He was hesitant to move ahead with the request.

“I don’t know that this is something that is the appropriate incentive to provide him with,” he said. “It might just line his pockets more, either because the economics are so good from recent changes due to COVID in the (housing) market, or related to that he might just go ahead and sell the property.”