News Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.
The Pleasantville Village Board unanimously agreed last week to accept an appeal from a developer and overturn an Architectural Review Board (ARB) decision regarding the rooftop HVAC units at 70 Memorial Plaza.
Applicant Pleasantville Lofts, LLC, the developer of the mixed-use building, had appealed the Oct. 11 ARB decision, which failed to accept changes made to the HVAC mechanical equipment.
The ARB, a joint board that also functions as the village’s Planning Board, deemed the units visually and aesthetically unacceptable and had refused to grant final approval to the otherwise completed project. The matter delayed the anticipated November opening of the building.
The developer’s appeal claimed the ARB wrongly used personal preferences over evidence-based factors to deny the approval. The appeal required the Village Board to rule on the matter under the village code.
Pleasantville Lofts, LLC complied with most ARB requests by painting the HVAC units black, but the ARB still refused to approve the project claiming the gaps between the units needed to be covered to create a more solid looking structure as opposed to what they deemed as appearing “saw-toothed.”
Ruling on the appeal, Village Board members agreed that the ARB’s denial didn’t support the village code, which states an application denial would be justified the appearance had a negative effect on the community and surrounding property values.
At the Nov. 27 Village Board meeting, Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer said the entire board had read through 70 pages of ARB meeting minutes and reviewed the village’s legal standard before coming to a decision.
“We’ve also reviewed the history of other circumstances of exposed roof mechanicals unrelated to this project,” he said. “It is my view to vote to sustain the appeal and vote in favor of the applicants.”
Scherer added that because the building was prominent and centrally located in the village, the impact of the rooftop mechanicals was much more visible if it had been on a smaller structure.
The issue of covering the manufacturing labels was resolved by the developer who agreed to use a removable black cover. Also planned is some type of screening to cover the units along with hemlock trees in planters for the back side of the building to shield the units from view.
“This was like a slow-moving car accident that could be predicted from months and months of tension between the parties, and ending here has not been entirely unpredictable,” said Trustee David Vinjamuri.
He added that it would have been helpful if local commercial real estate agents had been asked if the HVAC units on the roof would be detrimental to the area’s desirability and property values.
In voting to support the appeal, Trustee Michael Peppard said he also sought evidence to validate the claim that the rooftop HVAC units would be have a negative impact on surrounding property values.
“The building is very impressive, and the fact that the rooftop mechanicals look jagged and disrupt the roofline is undeniable,” Peppard said. “That said, there are other buildings within the same block that, if you’re standing at the train station entrance, also have very visible protruding roof mechanicals, and there’s no evidence that these mechanicals are detrimental to the desirability of the surrounding area.”
Trustees Paul Alvarez and Nicole Asquith voted in support of the appeal for similar reasons.
The board acknowledged their respect and support for the work done by the Planning Board and ARB members, all of whom are committed volunteers.
The appeal presents the Planning Board and ARB with the issue of developers’ original project plans and renderings that fail to adhere to the final project. The Atwood on Depew Street was significantly different from the original plans causing months of contentious meetings until the matter was resolved.
Original plans submitted by Pleasantville Lofts, LLC for 70 Memorial Plaza showed rooftop HVAC units that were shorter. The change caused months of haggling, ending up with the developer’s appeal.
Scherer stressed that changes may be necessary to the current review process to avoid a similar problem again.
“This whole episode was a long and tortured process and underscores the efforts of the Planning Board and ARB to try to address the matter that arose in the course of the creation of the building that wasn’t part of the original approval,” Scherer said. “The whole process suggests that we need to give further review of how we manage mechanical issues like this that changes the likely appearance, location and color of HVAC units.”
A formal resolution accepting the appeal will be voted on at the next regular Village Board meeting on Dec. 11 at 8 p.m.
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/