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Traffic, Environment Chief Hurdles With Toll Brothers’ Mt. Pleasant Project

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Wary Mount Pleasant residents expressed uneasiness last week that the density of Toll Brothers’ proposed 162-unit townhome project could create untenable traffic and congestion problems near the site along with potential environmental concerns.

There were 16 residents who addressed the Planning Board during the June 6 public hearing for Kensico Preserve, the opening session during the board’s site plan review for the proposal at the Legion of Christ property off of Columbus Avenue in Thornwood. Toll Brothers, the national luxury homebuilder, is seeking to build the age-restricted units with three bedrooms each, most totaling between 2,400 to 2,800 square feet, on 96 of the site’s 165 acres.

Up to 25 percent of the residences will be under 2,000 square feet, and therefore less expensive, following the Town Board’s wishes to have some units offered at a lower price point.

Last year, the Town Board rezoned the property from Office Business to R3-A, a multifamily residential zone to accommodate the project, which will be clustered.

While there was an assortment of concerns raised last week by residents who spoke, a recurring sentiment was the likely negative impact caused by traffic generated by the 162 townhouses on the streets close to the site.

Eastview Drive resident Rick Zottola said that in addition to what could be hundreds of cars owned and driven by residents at the 55-and-up community, there will also be a large number of deliveries as well as trips to collect garbage and provide other services that could result in a massive number additional vehicle trips per day.

Zottola also noted that most of the units would be built closer to Westlake Drive, likely attracting drivers to leave from that side of the development, creating the potential for congestion and other headaches for residents who live nearby. He called the situation “a dangerous scenario.”

“Westlake Drive, I believe, is currently a high-risk road,” Zottola said. “It’s narrow with no sidewalks, it’s used by pedestrians and joggers, school buses stop on it to drop off kids and pick up kids. There’s a day care center at Pepsico. It has a long, straight runway, and frankly, people drive too fast on it.”

While the developer is expected to eventually install a sidewalk for Westlake Drive, David Pond, a resident on that street, urged the board to force the developer to build it before construction. He called having that sidewalk “an absolute necessity.”

“The safety of our residents, especially our children, must be a top priority in this project, especially during the construction phase with Phase 2 construction considering the opening on Westlake Drive,” Pond said.

Rich Zimmer of Halsey Place was another resident who warned of safety issues on the roads.

“The quality of life to live over there and to compete pulling out of Halsey with 400 or 500 cars that are going to be pulling out of there is going to be impossible,” Zimmer said.

He and a couple of other residents were also concerned about environmental impacts, from the displacement of animals as a result of extensive tree-clearing that could force the animals to travel to other areas imperiling drivers and residents, and extensive tree-clearing.

Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) Chair Steven Kavee addressed the environmental challenges facing the project, including the level of disturbance to the land, the apparent absence green construction and sustainable practices and the lack of native species that are being planned.

The landscaping plan should contain at least 70 percent native species and not rely on “adaptive” plant and tree species, he said.

Kavee said if the town and developer want to cause less disturbance the applicant should reduce the number of units.

“Ultimately, we’re looking at a development here that (if it) is approved in its current form will have a number of impacts,” Kavee said. “There may be some ways to minimize or mitigate those impacts, but at 162 units, it’s going to be awfully hard.”

Before public speakers, representatives from Toll Brothers pitched to the board and the community the benefits of the project, including providing age-restricted housing in a town that has very little of it.

Kevney Moses of Toll Brothers said the project is estimated to provide about $2.3 million a year in total tax dollars, including about $1.95 million to the Mount Pleasant School District and $166,000 to the town with condo taxation.

While a couple of residents were concerned about the development producing students for the school district, no one under 19 years old would be allowed to live at Kensico Preserve.

“Overall, we’re very excited to bring this to the community and engage with you as we work through the approval process,” Moses said.

The board adjourned the public hearing but did not announce a date when it would reconvene

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