Yorktown Board Infuriated over Charges of Special Treatment for Builder on Former Soundview Site

Former Yorktown Susan Siegel
Former Yorktown Supervisor Susan Siegel

Yorktown Supervisor Matt Slater and other members of the Town Board last week refuted assertions they were taking measures to benefit a proposed project for 165 units of market rate housing on the former Soundview Preparatory School on Underhill Avenue.

Former supervisors Susan Siegel and Ilan Gilbert were among those who dominated the Courtesy of the Floor portion of the Zoom meeting on January 19 with sharp criticism regarding the board’s support of Planned Design District Overlay Zones.

The Underhill Farms development, which is being proposed by Unicorn Contracting and was discussed during the board’s work session on Monday, is one of dozens of properties throughout the town that the Planning Department has determined would be suitable to be placed in an overlay zone.

“It’s very obvious that the overlay concept zone is being used as a back door or de-facto way to rezone the Soundview property without going through the regular zoning process,” Siegel contended. “Why is the Soundview parcel being treated differently? Is there some reason that developer is being given special treatment?”

Former Yorktown Supervisor Ilan Gilbert
Former Yorktown Supervisor Ilan Gilbert

“There should not be a situation where a particular applicant got an advantage knowing the zoning would be different and that’s why they purchased the property,” remarked Gilbert, who was nominated by the town’s Democratic Committee last week to seek a seat on the Town Board in November. “That would be like inside trading.”

Underhill Farms is envisioned to appeal in large part to an older population, with 135 of the units being considered senior-friendly and 75 specifically designed for senior citizens. Also planned is 20,000 square feet of retail and office space and 300 parking spaces. Official plans were submitted to the town on January 22, according to Slater, who noted Yorktown had an opportunity to buy the property for $3 million after Soundview announced in February they were closing.

Slater said innuendos of inside deals between the town and Unicorn Contracting “couldn’t be further from the truth.” He pointed out Planned Design District Overlay Zones were included in the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

“I don’t think it should be a surprise. Any accusations of nefarious wrongdoing is just unacceptable in my eyes,” Slater said. “Everyone will go through a transparent process to make sure that it fits for the town and adheres to the law. We’re not letting anyone cut corners on the requirements that already in the Town Code. Unfortunately, our community has a long history of turning away or reacting negatively to proposals.”

Councilmen Ed Lachterman and Tom Diana also took offense with some of the allegations made against the board.

“Whether real or implied, there is nothing nefarious that we are bringing forward here,” Diana said. “That something is underlying here is insulting.”

“There’s a lot of crap being flung against the wall and I think it’s very inappropriate,” Lachterman remarked. “If there was something nefarious, why would we give it to planning? It doesn’t make sense.”

The stated purpose and intent of the Planned Design District Overlay Zones is to provide the town with “flexibility in land uses which bolster economic development by providing not only a diverse array of commercial businesses, but mixed-use residential and commercial parcels to both provide abundant job opportunities and contribute to the local tax base.”

Another property in the Yorktown Heights business hamlet that is included in the overlay zone is the Yorktown Green Shopping Center, where Kmart and Pathmark once stood. Representatives of Oster Realty, owners of the Yorktown Green, also appeared at the Town Board’s January 26 work session with a mixed-use proposal for the site.