By Janine Bowen
The developer of the proposed Pleasantville assisted living facility near the United Methodist Church presented village officials last week with changes that limit the visual impact of the building on neighbors.
Bill Cook, director of project management for Benchmark Senior Living, reviewed the most recent revisions for the 87-unit facility, including an eight-foot reduction in the building’s height and removal of the fourth story. The third story would be contained within the roof.
“Essentially, most of the building would look like a two -story building and the third floor would actually be in the roof … very similar to an old Victorian-style house,” Cook said.
Aware that the project is surrounded mostly by private homes, Benchmark has also made an effort to give the building a more residential appearance. The structure would consist of brick and cement board siding, which resembles wood, and include features such as covered porches and double-hung windows.
“From an architectural point of view, we’ve done everything possible to try to maintain the vernacular of the town,” Cook explained.
Benchmark representatives said they would also plant trees along a proposed retaining wall to help screen the building.
However, neighbors who attended the Jan. 6 village board work session said they weren’t satisfied with the screening plan, noting that the trees would fail to block the view for those homes that are on a higher elevation. In addition, Maple Hill resident John Strobel pointed out that the attempt would be ineffective from fall until spring when the trees are without leaves.
Safety and the facility’s impact on traffic were additional issues raised by neighbors. The driveway might create a difficult turn for operators of large trucks and commercial vehicles.
However, Susan Favate, senior associate at BFJ Planning, the village’s planning consultant for the project, said the driveway would have little effect on traffic. In its analysis, BFJ concluded that only large vehicles such as fire trucks, which would probably not visit the site frequently, would have problems with the compact driveway and infringe on traffic when exiting the site.
Residents were also concerned that employees and visitors would generate an increase in traffic, adding congestion to an already crowded area.
Strobel, a 35-year Maple Hill resident, said the facility would negatively impact property values.
“The people who do live close by never thought that when they bought their homes … that the zoning could be changed to build a building like this,” he said, adding that there are few facilities in Westchester similar to the one proposed by Benchmark to makes comparisons.
Favate suggested that Benchmark talk to real estate agents in areas where there are comparable facilities to see whether property values were affected.
The applicant and the board agreed that the residents’ concerns are critical in the review process and the project’s impact on neighbors is an issue that must be addressed.
“The impact on the people who live there [close to the facility] is very important,” said Mayor Peter Scherer.
He explained that the opinions of those in favor of the project must be balanced with those opposed.
“The feedback that I’ve gotten from lots of people is that they like the idea, they like the use [of the facility], they think its okay in that location,” Scherer stated.
The mayor acknowledged that many of those who have voiced support for the project via email do not live close to the site and would not have a view of the facility from their homes.
Despite Scherer’s mention of community support, Strobel pointed out that those residents have not attended the public meetings where the project has been discussed.
“There hasn’t been one village resident that came to these meetings … and said we need this,” he said.
The Benchmark application is scheduled to be discussed at tonight’s (Monday) village board meeting, which gets underway at 8 p.m.