EnvironmentThe Examiner

Protection of Kensico Reservoir Sought for Armonk Housing Proposal

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An applicant hoping to develop 175 units of multifamily housing on the former MBIA property in Armonk will have to demonstrate it can protect New York City’s drinking water supply before receiving a requested zoning change.

Representatives for the developer of the proposed Airport Campus project at 113 King St. said last week they have agreed to meet with Riverkeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in hopes of coming up with a plan that will safeguard the nearby Kensico Reservoir. The applicant’s attorney, Anthony Veneziano, said he was optimistic they would find a solution with the two environmental groups as well as satisfying the requirements of the state and New York City.

“I think we have to accept the fact that if we don’t work with them and convince them of our position or mitigate the potential impacts, they’ll be standing up here with swords and platings,” Veneziano said during the resumption of the public hearing on the rezone last Wednesday.

Airport Campus is asking the North Castle Town Board to rezone the 39-acre parcel, now in the Designed Office Business district, into two separate designations – a 4.5-acre piece around the existing southern office building would become Residential Multifamily Senior Citizen Housing (R-MF-SCH) and the remaining 34.3 acres would be the Residential Multifamily district.

The developer is planning to build 50 age-restricted two-bedroom units in the senior zone with condominium taxation by repurposing the existing 100,000-square-foot office building. There would be 125 three-bedroom townhomes built by Toll Brothers with an average size of 2,500 square feet. The townhomes would be fee simple.

Last week, attorneys for Riverkeeper and the NRDC asked the Town Board to hold off making any decisions on the rezoning request until a plan to protect the drinking water supply is in place. Riverkeeper attorney Michael Dulong said the Kensico Reservoir is “the crown jewel” of New York City’s water supply, bringing drinking water to eight million people in the city and another 100,000 Westchester residents.

“So it’s pretty much the most sensitive receptor in New York, the most sensitive water resource in New York,” Dulong said.

Complicating the matter is that the environmental groups were unaware of the Airport Campus development plan until recently when the developer reached out, Dulong said.

Riverkeeper had entered into an agreement with MBIA addressing the protection of the reservoir’s water in 2003 and signed a conservation easement in 2006 with the corporation.

Although Airport Campus representatives are hopeful to satisfy the concerns of Riverkeeper and the NRDC, a couple of other entities have reservations regarding the plan. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in an Apr. 12 letter to the town, cast doubt on whether residential development was wise environmentally for the site.

Cynthia Garcia, a supervisor at the DEP’s SEQRA Coordination Section, said the proposal is of “the utmost concern” to the agency.

“DEP is concerned that given the alternatives facilitated by the zoning amendment, would result in a significant conversion of existing pervious, vegetated areas to maintenance-intensive impervious surfaces, a change that poses adverse impacts to water quality in the Kensico River basin,” Garcia wrote.

The DEP supports a pause in any rezoning consideration until a draft Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) can be distributed to all of the involved and interested parties.

Furthermore, in a letter that was also sent last week, the town’s Open Space Committee was against the Town Board granting the zoning change. It cited the municipality’s Comprehensive Plan, which recommended the introduction of residential uses to the MBIA and other office parks if it’s “at a scale comparable to surrounding land use patterns.”

“The Applicant’s current plan is not ‘at a scale comparable to surrounding land use patterns,’ and therefore the Town Board should not change the zoning code to accommodate the Applicant’s plan,” the committee concluded.

On the Town Board, Councilman Jose Berra appeared to be the most skeptical, calling the plan “unusually dense zoning.” He expressed concern that if the plan needed to be revised because of environmental issues, he hoped to see how the layout would appear.

“I’m looking at this this. I’ve had some problems with the density that I’ve seen before, so I really would want to see what it would look like if you moved the units, if you crammed it into a smaller area because that to me seems really dense,” Berra said.

Supervisor Michael Schiliro said he was comfortable with the plan while the applicant looks for a way to navigate the environmental issues.

“You’ve been working on it a long time. I like age-restricted (housing) in town,” he said.

Veneziano said he and his clients are eyeing the first meeting in May for the board to adopt the findings statement and move the rezoning forward.



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