Town Board Poised to Approve Yorktown Overlay Zones

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The Yorktown Town Board will likely approve Planned Design District Overlay Zones that have been studied and scrutinized for about the last 18 months at its Dec. 21 meeting.

The board once again heard a wide array of opinions on the controversial subject during a more than two-hour public hearing Dec. 14 that was held in person at the Albert Capellini Yorktown Community and Cultural Center and on Zoom.

Following public comments, the board closed the hearing and Councilman Ed Lachterman pushed for the board to vote on the proposal before two new members take office on Jan. 1.

“We’ve had this for 18 months. It’s not appropriate to wait for the new board,” said Lachterman, stressing newly elected councilpersons Sergio Esposito and Luciana Haughwout, who both supported the measure at the hearing, have not been involved in the board’s lengthy discussions on the matter.

“This has been kicked around for quite some time,” Supervisor Matt Slater agreed. “We told residents of Yorktown we would take our time on this and explain all the possibilities, and we have.”

Town officials have been considering the creation of overlay districts in the Yorktown Heights and Lake Osceola business hamlets with a goal of encouraging creative redevelopment approaches. The overlay zones would allow a greater diversity of permitted uses including residential with the goal of revitalizing specific neighborhoods.

Representatives of Buckhurst Fish & Jacquemart, the firm hired by the Town Board to do a study, maintained enacting overlay zoning districts in Yorktown Heights and Lake Osceola could result in the development of about 400 housing units over the next decade.

“The only option we have is not to do anything and that’s not going to happen,” said Councilwoman Alice Roker. “We have to do something to move forward.”

Many residents who spoke at the hearing agreed with Roker’s assessment.

“I see this as a golden opportunity for the people of Yorktown,” said Rick Cipriani, a retired civil engineer and 46-year town resident. “There’s so much we can do to improve this town. I see it as income for the town and it gets rid of some really ugly spots.”

“I don’t think there is any downside to this at all,” said 45-year resident Brian Wilson. “It will give people the opportunity to stay in this town.”

References were made throughout the hearing to a mixed-use project called Underhill Farm that is being proposed on the property that once housed the Soundview Preparatory School on Underhill Ave. Some speakers urged the board to remove that site from the Overlay Zones district, citing its historic nature, particularly a structure known as the Underhill House.

“The Soundview property doesn’t belong in the Overlay Zone,” remarked 55-year resident Dan Strauss. “You don’t need an overlay district to do what you need to do. There is a siege in Yorktown on the fabric of this town. This town is a single-family town. It is not an apartment town.”

“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.”

Paul Guillaro, of Unicorn Contracting Corporation, the developer of Underhill Farm, maintained in a letter nearly $2 million will be invested to restore the Underhill House and the development will be “a source of pride for Yorktown residents and a catalyst for Yorktown’s small business community.”

“At Unicorn Contracting, we view Underhill Farm as the beginning of a long-term relationship with Yorktown and, by ensuring the property is included within the overlay district, a model for the town to create other collaborative partnerships that invest in its future,” Guillaro wrote.

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