GovernmentThe Examiner

Summit Club, North Castle Scuffle Over Conservation Easement

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North Castle officials and the principal of the Summit Club were at odds last week over whether a conservation easement is needed for the 130-acre golf course despite a deed restriction prohibiting further development.

The town’s Open Space Committee has recommended the Town Board require the Summit Club to agree to the easement to ensure that if the golf course ever ceased to operate the land would remain open. The town and Summit have agreed on that point through the deed restriction.

The Summit Club is looking to build 72 luxury condominiums that will be on 26 adjoining acres at the same site on Bedford Road in Armonk.

Last Wednesday evening, Open Space Committee Chair Kerri Kazak said the Town Board approved the rezoning under the assumption of having a third party hold the easement in order to enforce the restriction.

“The purpose of an independent third party would be to hold an extra layer of expertise in monitoring and enforcing the easement and an extra layer of protection should the parties want to modify or amend the easement at a later date, the overall goal being continued protection of this parcel of open space,” Kazak said.

Among the chief concerns outlined by the committee was how payments would be made to make sure the easement would be adhered to and how a transition from a golf course to open space would be executed.

Kazak said following the 2015 Town Board rezone of the property, the committee contacted two organizations in hopes of finding a holder for the easement – the Westchester Land Trust and the Pennsylvania-based North American Land Trust. The applicant agreed to go with the North American Land Trust, she said.

A $40,000 payment would be required for legal work and other tasks and there would also be a $100,000 stewardship fee. However, to avoid having the Summit Club pay the $100,000 up front, the money would come from the future condominium unit owners when they buy the residences. About $1,500 would be added onto the purchase price for units that are estimated to cost $2.5 million, Kazak said.

However, Jeffrey Mendell, the principal for the Summit Club, said while he agrees with the town’s goal of protecting the land as open space, his enterprise should not have to pay for it nor encumber future residents. In 2019, Summit agreed to the deed restriction.

“We still object to the idea of a third party being brought in at our expense and/or future residents’ expense, and I don’t think I’m going to change my mind on that,” Mendell said. “The town has the right to bring in a third party and pay for it themselves. If you want to do that, be my guest.”

Supervisor Michael Schiliro said the benefit of having a third party hold the conservation easement is to guard against a future board easily dissolving the deed restriction.

“You want to have that check and balance where there’s a third party, to put a check on a board in 10 years that says ‘We need assessables, we’ll get to build on this,’” Schiliro said. “We don’t want that to happen.”

Councilwoman Barbara DiGiacinto echoed those thoughts of having a third party, particularly one that is knowledgeable about open space.

In 2015, the board approved the Golf Course Community Floating Overlay District to allow the project. In 2019, the parcel was subdivided to separate the course from the residential use.

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