When construction began on a single-family house on Ashland Avenue in Pleasantville some months ago, neighbors began to notice the footprint was larger than most other houses in the area.
Some residents on the block contacted both the village board and the zoning board asking about the proposed house whose footprint was about 4,900 square feet but with added floors and a finished basement would end up being 10-15,000 square feet. Lynn and Edward Russell, who live immediately south of the planned new house, wrote a letter to the zoning board expressing concern that the board would allow variances for maximum height and coverage parameters, rendering the house too big and seemingly out of place in the neighborhood.
Ashland Avenue resident Peter Rogovin recalled a Zoom call-in to a zoning board meeting earlier this year with several of his neighbors.
“The overwhelming sentiment on the call was that the house was too big for the property, even on a street that has very large houses,” he said.
The village zoning code does not include a FAR (floor area ratio) regulation, which stipulates an allowable ratio of total square feet of a house divided by the square footage of the property. Consideration is also given to the grade and slope of the property within the regulation.
To address residents’ concerns about regulating house size, last week the village board voted on a resolution to have a professional study done to determine if the village zoning code should incorporate a new FAR regulation. The study, which will cost the village $15,000, will be done by New York City based BFJ Planning, the same company that worked with the village to update the master plan a couple of years ago and has worked with other Westchester municipalities on similar zoning regulations.
Village Trustee David Vinjamuri said the study was a good idea.
“A community in Connecticut was seeing big white elephant houses cropping up all over the place for years and years and suddenly they realized their zoning rules were not tight enough,” he said.
Agreeing with Vinjamuri, Trustee Nicole Asquith said, “If it’s a real concern to residents in Pleasantville it’s worth looking into. Over time, it seems that Pleasantville is becoming a more desirable place to live and we may see bigger houses being built.”
Village Trustee Joseph Stargiotti didn’t vote to approve the study and asked to postpone the vote until next month because he wanted more time to consider BFJ’s proposal.
“The house that is being built [on Ashland Avenue] is very, very large,” he said. “Although I agree that such a large house shouldn’t be built, there are not going to be a lot of houses built that size here in the village. I don’t know what the benefit of a FAR will be.”
Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer agreed that many lots in the village were too small for large houses, but felt the study should still be done.
“We ought to go ahead with the study because we owe it to the folks that expressed concern about it. Rejecting this proposal feels to me like not fulfilling that responsibility,” he said. “It could very well lead by a decision that we shouldn’t do anything.”
BFJ plans to examine footprints of single-family homes in Pleasantville. The company will draft a FAR zoning regulation for single-family zones to be presented to the village and reviewed for possible revisions. Once the draft regulation is completed, a public hearing will be scheduled and an Environmental Assessment Form will be submitted as part of the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), in which the village will be the lead agency. The entire process will include about half a dozen meetings with the village board and a public hearing.