The Examiner

Special Permit Sought for Automated Airport Garage in No. Castle

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A proposed parking structure at Westchester County Airport that has been discussed for nearly a decade is gaining traction in North Castle after the project has been reduced in scope and is more environmentally friendly.

The application for Park Place at Westchester County Airport, proposed for 11 New King St., calls for an automated facility housing 850 vehicles on the 2.5-acre site of an underutilized office building, said William Null, the attorney for applicant 11 New King Street LLC. The original plan was for 1,450 spaces.

On June 5, the North Castle Planning Board approved a findings statement concluding the project would be environmentally palatable, in part because it would mitigate stormwater runoff that has plagued New King Street and significantly reduce impervious surfaces. It would also be consistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

Null said the need for the facility has been justified by studies done for his client as well as by the town’s independent consultants. The airport currently has about 1,100 spaces and has 150 auxiliary parking spaces at SUNY Purchase.

Using industry standards, an airport serving as many travelers as Westchester County Airport should have at least 3,500 spaces, said Jeffrey Brown, one of the 11 New King Street LLC partners.

“We’re very confident there’s a need at the airport, there’s a need for this facility that’s a benefit here for both the community and for our client to build this on industrial district land,” Null said.

Last week the applicant appeared before the North Castle Town Board to advocate for the required zoning text amendment that would make automated parking a special permit use in an industrial zone.

Brown explained that automated parking would limit the frequency of cars being started, making the facility more environmentally friendly than a conventional garage. A traveler driving their car to the airport would pull their vehicle into a container at the garage that would then be moved to different locations or levels, eliminating the need for attendants to move vehicles around the facility.

Since the project was proposed in 2009, technology advances have made automated parking increasingly more efficient, Brown said. Furthermore, travelers could contact garage personnel to let them know when they are scheduled to return. That would their car to be near the exit when their plane lands.

“It’s clear to us nobody would endure the pain and suffering and inconvenience to go to SUNY (Purchase) and wait for the van and be outside if they had other choices,” Brown said. “They’re not doing it because they are confident they can get a spot at the airport when they need it.”

Shuttle vans would be available at the proposed New King Street garage for the two- to three-minute drive to the terminal.

Despite the planning board’s recent findings statement, the Westchester County Planning Board issued a letter to the town and the applicant objecting to the project because additional parking isn’t needed and the structure would pose risks to the regional water supply.

“In fact, the current airport garage is significantly under capacity with daily vacancy rates of nearly 50%,” the June 7 county planning board letter stated. “When combined with the fact that airport parking is now provided at Purchase College (which opened after this parking project was initially proposed), an additional parking option in this location is not needed.”

Null said he was puzzled by the response because it runs counter to the airport’s Master Plan, which outlines a need for more parking.

Although the garage has been linked by some opponents to the controversial airport expansion issue, there is no connection between the two, said Councilwoman Barbara DiGiacinto.

“When people oppose this concept they really focus on the expansion of the airport and this is not what this project is concerned with, and by going there it’s just sort of muddying the waters,” DiGiacinto said.

Supervisor Michael Schiliro said it would make little sense for an applicant to spend millions of dollars over eight years to mislead officials regarding need because it would then be impossible to recoup the investment.

“It wouldn’t be logical for somebody to produce a study to support a conclusion that nobody wants and to invest $17 million, then find their data is faulty,” he said. “That wouldn’t connect.”

The public hearing on the zoning amendment was closed. The town board could vote on the amendment at its June 28 meeting. Site plan approval from the planning board and the special permit from the town board would still be needed for the project to be built.




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