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Calling it “a sham” and politically motivated, Yorktown Supervisor Matt Slater has vowed to vigorously defend the town against a lawsuit recently filed over the implementation of an Overlay Zoning District in downtown Yorktown Heights.
“Here we go again,” Slater reacted to the Article 78 petition launched in State Supreme Court April 28 that town officials just learned of last week. “Unfortunately, this latest move follows a pattern of one step forward, two steps back that has hampered economic revitalization in our community for far too long.”
“If our residents wonder why progress on revitalizing the Heights hamlet seems to crawl at a snail’s pace, they need look no further than tactics like this one for the answer,” Slater continued. “Over the years those who seem intent on blocking any change for the better have blocked or delayed many positive projects and even held up adoption of the town’s Comprehensive Plan. It is disappointing that someone so out of touch with town residents is desperately trying to block the much-needed economic progress for the entire town.”
The lawsuit against the Town Board and Unicorn Contracting, developers of the proposed mixed-use project called Underhill Farm on the former Soundview Preparatory School site on Underhill Ave. that is currently before the Planning Board, was filed by Protecting Yorktown’s Quality of Life Foundation, Inc., Martha Dodenhoff, Susan and Steve Dolled and Louise Fang.
According to the New York State Department of State, the contact for Protecting Yorktown’s Quality of Life Foundation, Inc. is Patricia Sullivan-Rothberg at 428 Granite Springs Rd.
Sullivan-Rothberg, an 18-year Yorktown resident who has worked more than a quarter of a century in documentary film and television production/distribution, ran unsuccessfully on the Democratic line for Yorktown Town Board in 2019. As a candidate, she said she was “dedicated to environmental stewardship.”
During a public hearing last December, Sullivan-Rothberg, who did not respond to an email last week about the lawsuit, spoke out against the Town Board adopting the Overlay Zoning District, which was implemented in the Yorktown Heights and Lake Osceola business hamlets with a goal of encouraging creative redevelopment approaches. The overlay zones allow a greater diversity of permitted uses, including residential, with the goal of revitalizing specific neighborhoods.
“One size does not fit all,” contended Patricia Sullivan-Rothberg. “Who benefits from the overlay law? The answer is the developer. We deserve better and we have advocated for better. We know better.”
Characterizing the legal action as “extremely frustrating,” Slater said the town will now have to spend time and money defending the zoning.
“That is not only a waste of resources, but it hurts economic redevelopment efforts that the vast majority of our residents want,” he said. “We have so many new projects in the pipeline that will revitalize and re-energize our downtown area that may be put on hold and that could be lost altogether while the lawsuit drags on through the courts. It’s extremely disappointing, to put it mildly.”
In part, the lawsuit contends the Town Board made a mistake when reviewing the Overlay Zoning under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).
“There will be significant impacts to existing community and neighborhood character and historic resources, and the Town Board should have issued a Positive Declaration and required preparation of a generic environmental impact statement to assess all the direct and cumulative impacts of the (Overlay Zoning) law in the manner the law intended,” the lawsuit stated.
Slater insisted the SEQRA review conducted by the town prior to adoption was thorough and complete and followed a path set forth by the town’s planning staff and outside planning consultants.
“We will vigorously defend ourselves and are confident that the court will confirm that we handled the process correctly, but that will take time,” he stated. “Creation of the Overlay District gives us the ability to have a boutique hotel that is proposed in the heart of our downtown, to create plans for a complete transformation of the Yorktown Green shopping center, preservation of the historic Underhill House and much more. All of this is jeopardized by this divisive and unwarranted legal maneuver.”
Rick has more than 40 years’ experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, running the gamut from politics and crime to sports and human interest. He has been an editor at Examiner Media since 2012. Read more from Rick’s editor-author bio here. Read Rick’s work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/pezzullo_rick-writer/