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Recent property sales and proposals to build new homes and a variety of living spaces in Pleasantville have agitated some residents concerned that runaway development is taking over the village.
Escalating negative sentiment against new development heard at meetings and found on social media has compelled the Village Board to schedule a town hall for Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. to discuss the issue. The location has yet to be determined.
“A lot of folks are talking to one another, talking to us and on social media about development in the village,” Mayor Peter Scherer said at the Oct. 13 Village Board meeting. “It was driven by a preliminary proposal by the current owner of the former Chase Manhattan Bank on Wheeler and Bedford Road to convert the building to residential use.”
Scherer referenced an informal presentation a few weeks ago by Michael Beldotti, whose family has owned the 97-year-old building since 1980 and who appeared before a recent joint meeting of the village’s Planning Commission and Architectural Review Board.
Beldotti, who has yet to apply for a building permit, floated initial plans for a mixed-use project that includes apartments in a new adjacent complex along with others in the existing building. Preliminary plans call for 22 one-bedroom and 18 two-bedroom units with 49 parking spaces.
“One of the issues that prevails is whether we as a community or as a board need to be thinking about changing our zoning to change the developmental potential for various properties,” Scherer said.
Potential property sales have also made residents nervous. The likely buyer of the Girl Scout property on Bedford Road and Great Oak Lane could legally subdivide the current lot into six lots and build two two-family homes facing Bedford Road and four one-family homes on Great Oak Lane.
Also for sale are four contiguous parcels totaling 20 acres, advertised by the realtor as sites conducive for residential development. The properties are 1 and 3 Campus Drive, 71 Bedford Rd. and a parking area on Manville Lane that serves 1 Campus Drive.
Completed projects in recent years are Toll Brothers’ Enclave at Pleasantville on Washington Avenue and the mixed-use project at 39 Washington Ave.
Another two projects are under construction – 70 Memorial Plaza and residences on Depew Street off Grant Street and the Saw Mill Parkway. The demolition at 70 Memorial Plaza started in 2019 and as the new structure has emerged over the last year, some village residents became worried about more apartments downtown. Some have also called for a building moratorium to allow for time to consider changes to the zoning code.
Last week the village formally adopted a new R-2A zoning code that requires the entire frontage of two-family homes on Bedford Road to face the thoroughfare. The new law was prompted by a proposal to build two two-family homes, one located on the corner lot of Bedford Road and Clark Street and the other on the adjacent lot on Clark Street. The developer has since changed the plan for one-family homes on Clark Street.
The mixed-use building at 70 Memorial Plaza will include 82 apartments on the upper three floors with 7,691 square feet allotted to street-level retail space. The three-level underground parking garage is expected to accommodate 137 parking spaces for residents’ use and for shoppers in the central business district.
Scherer pointed out that the village’s zoning law has existed for several decades and has shaped the downtown by allowing three-story structures. When the four-story 70 Memorial Plaza was proposed, the village weighed the plan because the two vacant buildings that had to be demolished were located over a 30-foot rock mountain.
“There was essentially no development potential there if we required that any new construction provide on-site parking,” Scherer said. “Nobody could afford to take down the rock and build on-site parking without a little more economic potential so we expanded that zone to allow four stories. No other (zoning) changes were made anywhere else.”
Pleasantville resident Tom Rooney spoke at last week’s public hearing held for the new R-2A zoning code.
“I’m not opposed to things going forward, I’m opposed to getting inundated with more and more apartments,” Rooney said. “You can’t move in this town now.”
Another issue for some village residents is limiting affordable housing that two-family and multifamily homes could offer, an issue that was also raised during the R-2A hearing.
Three village trustees had similar concerns about some of the anti-development rhetoric they encountered.
“I want to briefly comment on a troubling line of thinking that arose during the (R-2A) process, one I think we need to confront when we talk about development and the future of the village,” said Trustee David Vinjamuri. “It was the number of people saying we don’t want renters, and the implication being that renters don’t care the same amount about the village or they are not the kind of people we want. There is a shred of a soft bigotry that can seep into these conversations about the difference between people who own property and those who rent.”
Trustees Nicole Asquith and Michael Peppard echoed Vinjamuri’s concern.
“It wasn’t until I was running for the board when I realized just how many multifamily, two-family homes and apartment complexes there are in the village,” Peppard said. “As we head to the town hall meeting, it’s important for people to realize the things that already exist in the village they live in and see it with clear eyes.”
Scherer said the 2020 U.S. Census reflects that about one-third of village residents are renters while two-thirds are homeowners.
Abby is a local journalist who has reported on breaking news for more than 20 years. She currently covers community issues in The Examiner as a full-time reporter and has written for the paper since its inception in 2007. Read more from Abby’s editor-author bio here. Read Abbys’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/ab-lub2019/