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Toll Brothers Pitches 160 Units for Thornwood Legion of Christ Property

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Toll Brothers
The Mount Pleasant Town Board listened to Toll Brothers representatives present a 160-unit townhouse development plan last week for the Legion of Christ property in Thornwood.

Luxury home builder Toll Brothers is in contract to purchase the Legion of Christ property on Columbus Avenue in Thornwood and expects to submit a zoning change request to build 160 townhouses at the site.

Representatives for the company pitched the plan to the Mount Pleasant Town Board last week for the same property that Baker Residential was approved for 73 single-family homes in a clustered development more than four years ago. However, Baker Residential and the Legion had legal squabbles and the project was never built.

Attorney David Steinmetz said the new proposal by Toll Brothers would bring “age-targeted” units that would be geared toward the empty-nester and members of the active senior community, many of whom wish to stay in the area. Couples and families that are starting out could also be attracted to the units.

Although all of the units are proposed to have three bedrooms with a basement, most would have the primary bedroom on the first floor, making it “senior-oriented,” he said. Many of the residents might still be working but are moving closer to retirement age. Preliminary plans call for units to average about 2,300 to 2,400 square feet.

“Toll Brothers sees the site as a wonderful opportunity to develop in the town but to do it in a different fashion,” Steinmetz said.

“We’re trying to present a product here in the Town of Mount Pleasant that is different from most, if not much of what otherwise is accessible in the town,” he later added. “There has not been a high-quality, state-of-the-art family townhouse development in this town in quite some time.”

Toll Brothers would use a very similar environmental and planning envelope that Baker Residential had approved but with less site disturbance because instead of 73 homes, there would be 43 structures containing three or four units each. Fewer car trips and school-age children are expected to be generated.

Steinmetz said the application would require the Town Board to rezone the 165 acres from OB-1 to R-3A to accommodate multifamily housing.

James Fitzpatrick, division president for Toll Brothers, said while the units may seem large for empty-nesters, many homeowners don’t want to relinquish the comforts they have grown accustomed to but also don’t want to deal with the maintenance on a single-family home.

“They want to congregate with friends,” Fitzpatrick said. “The parts of the house that are most important to them, they don’t want to compromise, they don’t want a smaller kitchen, they don’t want a smaller bedroom, they don’t want a smaller bathroom or closet.”

Town Board members appeared skeptical about the developer’s claim that 480 bedrooms in 160 units would yield far fewer school-age children than the 73 single-family homes. Steinmetz said about 30 school-age children would be generated, about 57 fewer than the Baker Residential project.

Mount Pleasant officials had also hoped that a developer could be attracted to build senior housing or at least age-restricted housing at the site. There are few choices for independent seniors to live in town after selling a single-family house.

Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi said he can predict that some residents are going to want the town to receive a benefit in return.

“Is there something in that 160 that we can say we’re going to offer for this demographic?” Fulgenzi said.

Councilman Tom Sialiano asked whether Toll Brothers would develop a modest number of two-bedroom units instead of having only three-bedroom units. Other board members questioned whether the plan would be viable at all.

“We do have a lot of seniors in town and we do have a lot that come to us and say this (town) offers nothing for us. We can’t stay and maintain our house anymore, but we don’t want to leave Mount Pleasant,” Councilwoman Danielle Zaino said. “We have our doctors; we have our churches. For them to sell and move into a three-bedroom, I think is a little large.”

Steinmetz said Toll Brothers would formally ask the Town Board to be placed on a meeting agenda to be referred to the Planning Board. Then the Town Board would hold a hearing on the zoning change, and if that gets approved, Toll Brothers would be sent back to the Planning Board for site plan review.


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