GovernmentThe Examiner

Revised Armonk Hotel-Townhouse Plan May Still Be Too Dense for Town Board

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The developer of a proposed hotel and townhouse plan in Armonk has once again revised the project by reducing the number of units but two North Castle Town Board members remain uncomfortable with its density.

Frank Madonna is seeking to subdivide a 32-acre property on North Castle Drive that was formerly owned by IBM, but the smaller parcel would require a rezone to accommodate the residential portion of the project. Either a senior housing floating zone or a multifamily designation is being sought.

The project, called Eagle Ridge, still calls for a three-story, 115-room hotel on a 20-acre portion of the site, but the applicant has trimmed the number of townhouses to 72 on what would be the smaller parcel.

In January, when a draft environmental findings statement was discussed between the applicant and the Town Board, Madonna presented two alternatives – the hotel with 59 condominiums and 50 townhouses and another with the hotel and 82 townhouses.

Attorney Kory Salomone said with the continued reduction of housing units, the plan now contains 56 percent less residential density than in the original 164-unit plan. Furthermore, there’s been a 37 percent reduction in square footage of the entire project, from 431,000 square feet to the current 274,000-square-foot proposal, including having reduced the hotel structure from more than 71 feet and five stories to three stories and 45 feet.

A hotel can be built on the site without a rezone, but the residential component is needed to make the project financially feasible, Salomone said.

“We need this density in order to subsidize the hotel,” he said. “We keep hearing it’s too dense, it’s too dense, it’s too dense, and that’s fine, but no one has articulated what are the impacts that are associated with the density that are objectionable. To say that it’s too dense, that’s just an arbitrary statement.”

The age restricted units would be about 3,000 square feet each, including a 500-square-foot garage, containing two bedrooms with a den and an office, Madonna said.

While Supervisor Michael Schiliro and Councilman Barry Reiter have been encouraged by Madonna’s ongoing reductions, council members Barbara DiGiacinto and Jose Berra remain highly skeptical of potential impacts. In January, Berra estimated that he would likely be comfortable with only about 30 residential units.

The current split on the board on the issue is noteworthy because the board’s fifth member, Councilman Saleem Hussain, has recused himself on the matter because he works for IBM.

“This density is significantly too high for me, still, and by density, as I’ve said before, not just the number of units but the square footage that’s involved, so that’s really important,” Berra said.

DiGiacinto, who also expressed discomfort with the density, said she wanted a guarantee from the developer that if the housing is going to be built first that the hotel would also be constructed.

Town officials have pressed for a full-service hotel in town, a need that became more urgent last year when La Quinta Inn closed on nearby Business Park Drive.

“That guarantee that there’s going to be a hotel is a very important piece, just as the density restriction (and) pedestrian access,” DiGiacinto said. “I would be uncomfortable reconvening the public hearing because I still feel there are things left that are not to my satisfaction.”

She complimented the applicant for continuing to pursue a pedestrian crosswalk across Route 22 so residents would be able to walk from the site to downtown Armonk. The town must formally notify the state Department of Transportation that it wants the agency to consider a crosswalk, Salomone told officials last week.

The developer and his representatives said they would have no problem guaranteeing construction of the hotel if the project is approved and would accept establishing an escrow account with funds that would go toward the price of its construction.

Schiliro said he did not object to the developer’s plan for the residential units to have condo taxation because it would be age restricted.

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