The Examiner

Residents Blast Benchmark Proposal as Spot Zoning at Hearing

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By Janine Bowen

Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce President William Flooks speaks in support of the proposed Benchmark assisted living facility.
Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce President William Flooks speaks in support of the proposed Benchmark assisted living facility.

Neighbors of the proposed 87-unit assisted living facility in Pleasantville once again leveled a barrage of criticism against a possible rezoning to accommodate the project during Monday night’s village board meeting.

At the resumption of the public hearing, opponents of the Benchmark Senior Living plan expressed concern about the concept of a floating zone because it could be applied to other parcels in the village in addition to the 3.9-acre site near the United Methodist Church on Bedford Road.

The floating zone could apply to any land with frontage on a state or county road that is at least 3.5 acres, a quarter-mile from commercial services and a half-mile from the Benchmark site. Since there are few, if any, locations in the village that would qualify, accusations of spot zoning were raised.

“What you have here, you have one parcel that can qualify,” said Foxwood Condominium resident Eileen West. “That is not a floating zone, that is one zone that can be built in a particular place, really to get around existing regulations and that’s a concern.”

Public comments on the controversial application will be accepted at village hall until this Thursday, March 27 at noon. The board did not decide whether they would vote at its next meeting next Monday, March 31 on Benchmark’s zoning request.

The hearing was continued after residents argued on March 10 that there hadn’t been sufficient notification that the proposed resolution would include a text and map change in the zoning laws to create a floating zone to allow the facility.

The board, as well as David Steinmetz, the attorney representing Benchmark, assured residents that the adoption of the floating zone does not constitute spot zoning under the law and is a legally permissible option.

“While your action is lawful, the spirit is clearly one of spot zoning,” countered resident Peter McAndrew.

The issue has been a contentious topic within the village over the past year. On Monday night, Mayor Peter Scherer reminded residents that a public hearing is an opportunity for residents supporting either side of the issue to speak.

“We have received a number of extremely disturbing reports of people who felt that they were threatened or harassed based on their opinions,” Scherer said. “That is an appalling circumstance and it is hopefully something that none of us want to be happening in the Village of Pleasantville.”

During Monday’s hearing, many residents raised quality-of-life concerns such as increased traffic on Route 117, an already dangerous road. That prompted suggestions for a traffic light at Manville and Bedford roads. There were also worries about odors produced by the daily food preparation and dumpsters at the site.

“You’re concerned about the people moving into assisted living, but what about feeling anything for the people who are here now who will be suffering and smelling and seeing and will not be able to use their backyard or…open their windows,” said Mindy Stoller, whose house would face the area where Benchmark has proposed the dumpster be placed.

Resident M.J. Becker, who lives near the St. Jude site, a care facility for the handicapped on Oakridge Road, said employees of that facility consistently leave trash and fail to exercise caution when driving through the neighborhood that often has children walking and playing. Becker fears the employees at Benchmark would do the same.

“They’ve been a bad neighbor and I can’t imagine this is going to be much better,” she said.

Additionally, residents were worried that Benchmark employees, who would be prohibited from smoking on the grounds, may find a way to do so.

Some speakers did express support for the Benchmark project, believing that it will fill a void in the community, even if it may alter some of the residents’ views from their homes.

“I think it’s just a great site for the facility…and I’d rather look at a tree than a building, any building, but as a member of this community, I just want to say that this community could use this facility and it would allow people who are getting old to have a place to stay here in our community,” said Arnold Wile, an architect who lives in Armonk but works on Marble Avenue.

Chamber of Commerce President William Flooks, speaking on behalf of the chamber, said that he believed the project would allow elderly residents to stay in Pleasantville. It would also be an economic asset to the village, he said.

The land, which has been tax exempt because it is owned by the United Methodist Church, would generate $425,000 a year in combined tax revenue for the village and school district, according to estimates.

But resident Monica Strobel said the increased revenue might come at the expense of losing residents.

“There are a lot of neighbors on Maple Hill that aren’t really high users of the school system and the services and if our major investment in our homes is going to be affected by this, and it will, we may take flight,” Strobel said.

She noted that if empty nesters sell their homes, new families with children may move into Pleasantville, negating the increased tax revenue.

Resident Joan Horton agreed, stating that she would rather see her taxes increase than have the parcel be rezoned to accommodate Benchmark.




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