The Examiner

State Board Approves Variances for Chappaqua Affordable Housing Project

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The state Board of Review when it was deliberating behind closed doors last July.
The state Board of Review when it was deliberating behind closed doors last July.

A state panel gave conditional approval for needed building and fire safety variances Thursday to the developer of the controversial Chappaqua affordable housing project.

The Department of State’s Hudson Valley Regional Board of Review granted Conifer Realty four variances needed to build the 28-unit Chappaqua Station project on Hunts Place. The board’s decision was a reversal from its position of about six months ago when it denied Conifer seven of eight variances that had been requested.

The board voted unanimously in favor of the variance that allowed for multiple windows on the side of the building facing the Metro-North train tracks with zero setback from the MTA property line. It also approved three variances by a 3-1 margin regarding the amount of room needed for aerial access to fight a fire.

Conifer must still adhere to several conditions before it can move forward, including receiving MTA permission state Department of Transportation permission to use the exit ramp of the nearby Saw Mill River Parkway so firefighters have the proper distance from the roughly 50-foot tall building to fight a blaze.

New Castle Town Attorney Ed Phillips said he was surprised by the board’s conclusion.

“I’m a little surprised by the decision to grant the variances for the aerial access because the (revised) application they submitted in October wasn’t any different than the previous application,” Phillips said.

In July, the board rejected all but one of the requested variances, citing the lack of setback between the Conifer and MTA properties, inadequate aerial fire apparatus access and that some of the materials originally proposed for the structure would be unsafe.

The building is proposed to be built on a parcel that is just over one-third of an acre.

Randolph McLaughlin, the attorney for Conifer Realty, said there were key differences between last year’s application and what had been resubmitted, particularly regarding building materials.

“We are very pleased with the outcome,” McLaughlin said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “Conifer changed the structure to a steel frame that required fewer variances. Conifer will proceed to satisfy the conditions stated by the Board of Review.”

In late 2013, the developer received a special permit from the town,  hinging on the  Board of Review’s approval.

New Castle Supervisor Robert Greenstein, who was critical of the former town board’s approval of the special permit when he was a candidate, said his concerns of putting an apartment building at that location and what that says about the community remains the same.

“We should have done better,” Greenstein said. “I’ve offered to work with Conifer to find a larger and more attractive location, but they’ve insisted on sticking with the Hunts Place site. Looking ahead, Conifer has additional conditions in the special permit, as well as in the variances themselves, that they must satisfy.”

Look for updates to this story in next week’s Examiner.


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