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North Castle Grants Conditional Approval for New Armonk Restaurant

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The 1820s structure at 12 Maple Ave. in Armonk where a new farm-to-table American restaurant will open following renovation and expansion of the space. Months of haggling over parking was finally resolved last week.

The North Castle Planning Board granted conditional approval last week to a new farm-to-table American restaurant in downtown Armonk that had been the subject of contentious hearings over the availability of parking.

By a 4-1 vote, action by the board will allow for the 144-seat Wren of the Woods restaurant to move into 12 Maple Ave. despite some reservations about the potential for parking headaches. Applicant Stefan Martinovic plans to renovate and expand the existing 200-year-old structure from 1,700 to 3,600 square feet for his establishment. There will be 90 seats inside with 54 outdoor seasonal seats.

What appeared to ease concerns for most of the board were the findings of the town’s traffic consultant, Hardesty & Hanover, LLC, which concluded that the applicant had acquired enough off-site parking near the restaurant to satisfy demand in the evenings and on weekends.

In addition to 21 spaces on site at 12 Maple Ave., including two handicapped-accessible spaces, Martinovic has secured use of the nearby lot at 20 Maple Ave. from that property owner for use after 5 p.m. and on weekends, providing another 31 spaces.

The consultant’s findings concluded that there should be valet parking at each site but no shuttling between the two properties, which are about 90 feet apart, to avoid excessive movement of vehicles. Use of valet parking would increase the combined capacity at the two properties from about 40 to 52 spaces, the Hardesty & Hanover report stated.

For weekday lunchtime, there is a projected maximum need for 23 spaces, two more than are currently on site at 12 Maple Ave., a shortfall of up to two spaces. The consultant’s report also noted it did not take into account patrons who might walk from elsewhere in the downtown to the restaurant.

Martinovic had previously reached an agreement with the American Legion post on Bedford Road for nine spaces to accommodate employee parking. All employees must park there and not on-site.

The consultants recommended that the restaurant use flags for the 12 Maple Ave. valet service to the corner of Maple Avenue so arriving patrons do not turn into the shared driveway if the restaurant’s lot is full and continue to 20 Maple Ave. Also, “no stopping anytime” signs must be installed along the shared driveway and the north side of Maple Avenue in front of 20 Maple Ave.

“With these changes and signage, it should better alert drivers where to go for parking and to deter stopping or standing along the shared driveway and along the north side of Maple Avenue,” wrote Steven T. Cipolla, senior traffic engineer for Hardesty & Hanover, wrote in his report.

A proposed pedestrian crossing should be ADA compliant and meet all the latest standards for signage and striping, it was recommended.

The recommendations will be incorporated as conditions of the site plan along with a Community Benefits Agreement that must be consummated with the Town Board.

Initially, the town’s police department raised concerns about queuing of traffic that could spill out onto Maple Avenue.

Board Chairman Christopher Carthy said while he struggled with aspects of the plan, he said the contribution the town would receive as well as the potential impetus for the creation of a parking district so individual property owners would not be hamstrung by the limitations of the space on their parcel would help to maintain a vibrant downtown.

“I think it’s significant that the applicant has agreed to that with the Town Board, to get a contribution to the parking district, and getting that parking district going I think is a significant contribution from their standpoint,” Carthy said.

“I do agree with the applicant that this application could be the catalyst – is the word I use – could be the catalyst for creation of that parking district, and without it, I don’t think we get it,” he added.

Under the town code, for square footage or the number of seats, 48 on-site parking spaces would have been required, but the Zoning Board of Appeals granted a conditional variance.

The sentiment on the board wasn’t unanimous. Board member Larry Ruisi said he was worried that the restaurant would attract a more robust business than anticipated, creating the potential for havoc in the area impacting other businesses.

“I think there’s going to be more traffic there, and I think what’s going to happen is that the ZBA did grant this variance, but people are going to park in the downtown, so if there’s an overflow at 12 (Maple Ave.), they’re going to go to the closest lot, the CVS lot, or other lots along the way,” Ruisi said.

After months of concern, Martinovic’s attorney, Anthony Veneziano, said his client was ready to comply with the conditions and move toward renovating the space and getting open for business.

“These are conditions which we are fine with, and it gives you some jurisdiction over the restaurant, and we’re okay,” Veneziano said. “You won’t abuse it and we’ll be forthright.”


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