The North Castle Town Board will hold a public hearing Wednesday evening on a proposed local law that would reduce the percentage of affordable housing units for a revised condominium project at the old lumberyard site in Armonk.
Town officials are weighing whether to allow developer Michael Fareri to provide 10 percent affordable housing units instead of 20 percent for his reconstituted proposal at 162 Bedford Rd. In exchange for lowering the density from 36 to 22 units, he would be required to provide two units of affordable housing rather than six.
However, Fareri has until June 30, 2022, to complete construction to be able to obtain the zoning text amendment unless there are extenuating circumstances. The town approved the 36-unit plan more than five years ago, but Fareri then balked at complying with the 20 percent requirement, saying it was financially impractical for him to build the project.
Most of the Town Board signaled that it is prepared to approve the text amendment that would lower the affordable housing requirement in the R-MF-SS zone that is at the site, which is a special residential multifamily senior housing designation. The town’s affordable housing ordinance requires 10 percent on all other residential parcels throughout North Castle.
Supervisor Michael Schiliro said he was comfortable with what is in the proposed text change.
“The responsibility is on the applicant to get the project finished by that date, or pretty close to being finished,” Schiliro said. “But we are serious about that date.”
Should Fareri receive the approval from the Town Board, he would still need subdivision and a revised site plan approval from the Planning Board. He said he hoped to begin site work by next month to be able to construct the building by November, then work in the interior of the structure during next winter to make the deadline.
However, that would require quick approvals from both boards and a building permit from the Building Department.
“Once I get in the ground, the faster I get the job completed, the better it is for the town and certainly better for me,” Fareri said.
“If you’re giving me a timeframe of 16 months to build 22 units, we’re going to have to work together to get the project done in a fast-track manner,” he later added.
At the Town Board’s last meeting, Fareri verbally sparred with Councilman Jose Berra who has grown impatient with the developer’s pledges to build the project while constantly seeking changes.
Berra told Fareri that the change “works better when there’s a lot of trust.”
The comment irked Fareri who repeatedly asked Berra whether he didn’t trust him.
“I have built in this town for 50 years,” he said. “I have an impeccable reputation. “I’ve built just about every condominium in this town and probably an additional 100 houses, and never once did I not complete a job.”
But Berra reiterated previous comments he made, calling the text change “misguided.” He said while the main motivation for Fareri has been economic, the realities of the housing market in the area have changed over the past year.
“We know that pricing has gone up for housing in this area since COVID,” Berra said. “So leave it at that, Mike, no offense intended. I don’t want to rehash old histories (but) that’s my view and I’m trying to look out for my town just like everybody else is on the board.”
Councilwoman Barbara DiGiacinto said that the board should clarify what would constitute close enough to being finished with construction for Fareri to avoid losing the proposed affordable housing unit reduction. She said it would make sense for Fareri to start construction and dawdle.
Schiliro said the town will consult with Building Inspector Robert Melillo to make sure everyone’s in agreement.
“We want this project built and completed and we know there’s a certain amount of time that’s needed to do it,” Schiliro said. “We are focused on you getting it done as quickly as you can, but we’ll make sure we’re covering all our bases before the hearing.”
The public hearing is part of Wednesday’s North Castle Town Board meeting that begins at 7:30 p.m. Click HERE to watch.