North Castle Grapples With Zoning for 88-Unit Eagle Ridge Project
The North Castle Town Board will be faced with whether to rezone 32 acres in Armonk to accommodate a reconfigured residential project after a public hearing on the issue was convened last week.
Applicant Maddd Madonna Armonk LLC is proposing the 88-unit townhouse development Eagle Ridge on North Castle Drive and is seeking to change the zoning from Office Business Hotel for just over 10 of the acres and from the Multifamily Senior Citizen Housing designation on the remainder of the land to another residential multifamily zone.
Frank Madonna, the principal for the development team, abandoned the concept of a hotel with as many as 124 rooms on the 10-acre portion of the property because of lack of financial viability.
He also needs to switch what would have been the residential parcel from the senior citizen housing because the three-bedroom townhouses would be age-targeted, not age-restricted units. The townhouses would have fee simple taxation.
During the hearing at last Wednesday’s Town Board meeting, the attorney for the applicant, David Cooper, said his client plans to contribute $248,000 in recreation fees – $3,000 each for the 80 market-rate units and $1,000 each for the eight affordable residences – in addition to the $2 million fee for mitigation efforts as part of the Community Benefits Agreement.
Some board members have sought to trim the number of units, believing that 88 townhouses may make the site more crowded than necessary. Councilwoman Barbara DiGiacinto inquired whether Madonna might be willing to rezone to the conventional Residential Multifamily (R-MF) district because that would trim the number of units being proposed.
“It would be a little less dense, it would be like Whippoorwill Hills, Whippoorwill Ridge,” DiGiacinto said.
However, Cooper responded that the unit reduction isn’t something that the development team would agree to. The difference in the zoning would cap the number of units at 75 in the R-MF zone. Cooper said the R-MF-A, which is what is being sought, could accommodate up to 130 units, although Madonna will not go beyond 88.
“In fact, you couldn’t have a financially feasible project,” Cooper said of the R-MF zoning. “The applicant is not pursuing the R-MF for that reason. If the town wants to look at the R-MF, the site’s not going to get developed.”
As a result, none of the proposed mitigation measures as well as the projected total tax revenue will be realized. The applicant estimates that when fully built, the project would yield $2.4 million a year in total revenue to all taxing jurisdictions as opposed to the current $220,000 in annual property taxes.
Madonna added that with an R-MF zone, he would not agree to an age-targeted fee simple townhouse model.
Councilman Jose Berra voiced concerns about density, saying that the town was willing to consider 72 townhomes and greater density if the hotel was part of the project. However, with the hotel removed from the plans, Berra said he would like to have the density reduced.
North Castle does not have a lodging facility since La Quinta Inn on Business Park Drive left town in 2020.
Other factors the Town Board has to consider is feedback from the Byram Hills School District on 88 age-targeted units, which does not prohibit families with children from moving into the development, impact on area traffic and emergency services as well as cumulative impacts and pedestrian access.
There were a few residents who spoke during the hearing. Resident Linda Fernberg said with this proposal, another 20 units at the old lumberyard and the potential for 34 units at the former Mariani Garden site, the town risks congestion near its downtown.
“The town is a choking point for everybody who lives north of town or in town, and the only two roads that come in (are) Maple and Main Street,” Fernberg said. “We already complain about the traffic and the traffic study says everything’s fine and it’s going to be fine. We’re complaining year after year after year.”
Another resident, Ed Woodyard, said if you factor in the number of rooms that would have been at the hotel and the number of bedrooms under the 72-unit plan, the 88 three-bedroom units give the same number of bedrooms – 264.
Councilman Matt Milim mentioned that the town is faced with having to increase its assessables to ward off rising costs and other expenses. It’s best to have new development with fee simple taxation, although he would prefer R-MF with less density, he said.
“I just don’t think that it will be, and as a result, I’m concerned that if we pursue it or push that way, we just won’t get anything,” Milim said.
Director of Planning Adam Kaufman said he would prepare a resolution under the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) that determines whether there should be a positive or negative declaration depending on the direction from the board. A negative declaration would mean the project would pose no significant adverse impacts.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/