The Mount Pleasant Planning Board’s formal review of the $1.2 billion North 60 project opened last Thursday evening with a public hearing on the scoping document drawing residents’ comments on environmental issues, traffic and access to the site.
Representatives for Fareri Associates, the outfit that agreed to a 99-year lease in January to develop the mixed-use project on 60 acres of county-owned property near Westchester Medical Center, gave a brief presentation about the benefits and challenges of the project. Up to three million square feet of biotech and medical office and research space, retail space and a hotel will be built in multiple phases.
The first phase calls for a 100,000-square foot hotel, 220,000 square feet of biotech and research space, 100,000 square feet of medical offices and 80,000 square feet of retail, which would include neighborhood-style shopping, including restaurants, a coffeehouse and other attractions, said Erik Aulestia, a planner and partner for Torti Gallas and part of the team representing Fareri Associates.
Today’s workers are looking for choices for lunch or to meet with work colleagues or friends outside of the office but in close proximity to the medical center, he said.
“You’re no longer looking for the kind of suburban office park that’s insulated where you have limited choices,” Aulestia said. “Businesses are looking to attract, especially the younger generation, they are looking for mixed-use, walkable places where there are opportunities to go have lunch in a different place. There are things to do there, it’s much more walkable. So that’s what we’re really trying to create here.”
During the hour-long hearing, eight speakers offered comments, most of whom were supportive of the plan’s goals but wanting to make certain that the town and their neighborhoods are protected environmentally and from the increase in traffic that is almost certain to occur.
Richard Wisniewski, one of a few nearby Philip Place residents to speak during the hearing, said access to the site, transportation and the traffic impact on the community are critical issues that aren’t fully addressed in the document. Another Philip Place resident, Debbie Valentino, said the applicant needs to make sure that their neighborhood doesn’t become an unbearable place to live.
“We’re struggling with the 90 cars that go throughout streets right now,” Valentino said.
Residents had previously communicated to the applicant since the release of the draft scoping document that a popular cut-through for motorists is from Route 9A.
Marie Donnery said her home looks out into the woods where the project would be sited. She said she’s concerned that her quality of life will suffer, particularly during construction.
“Our windows face the woods at this time,” Donnery said. “When they site it during construction, my fear is that we’re going to be able to see everything that is going on.”
The town’s Conservation Advisory Council Chairman, Steven Kavee, said while there are many good aspects to the plan, the draft scoping document failed to sufficiently address a series of issues, including identifying the types of biomedical and pharmaceutical waste that could be produced.
Low-impact stormwater management strategies and an option that abstains from pesticide use should also be included in the revised document, Kavee said.
He also reminded the Planning Board that the town is in the midst of updating its Comprehensive Plan, with officials focusing on revitalizing its three hamlets.
“The idea of creating a village within a village is a great idea,” Kavee said. “It’s part of the future view of planning. There is a concern how this would affect the development of the hamlets.”
Two representatives of local trade unions also spoke at last week’s hearing, With many union members living in Mount Pleasant and an estimated 4,000 construction jobs that will be created by the project, employing nearby residents would boost the local economy, the said.
Thomas Capurso, a business representative for Local Union No. 3, which is the electricians’ union, and Richard McSpedon, a delegate to the Westchester-Putnam Central Labor Body, said many of their local members are also volunteer firefighters.
“This is a tremendous burden on the volunteer fire department and the surrounding departments are affected,” McSpedon said. “There’s a lot to this and I don’t think the document went deep enough into it.”
Planning Board Chairman Michael McLaughlin told residents that all planning-related issues would be addressed in the updated scoping document. He also recommended that residents appoint a leader or a few leaders who will be responsible for relaying updated information to the community.
“We are here to make sure that what goes on, to the extent that it involves planning, gets a full public airing,” McLaughlin said. “We are here because you are here, not the other way around. We want you to know what is going on. We want to hear from you about things we don’t know (about that are) going on.”
Neil DeLuca, president of The DeLuca Group and a representative of Fareri Associates, said he expects the scoping document to be developed into a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)
There will also be hearings on the DEIS and Final Environmental Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), McLaughlin said.
Residents have until July 6 to e-mail written comments email@example.com or mail to Mount Pleasant Town Hall, 1 Town Hall Plaza, Valhalla, N.Y. 10595, ATTN: PLANNING, or hand-deliver a letter to the Planning Department.