A newly formed group of residents is continuing to claim a proposed project for 165 units of market rate housing on the former Soundview Preparatory School on Underhill Avenue in Yorktown is being given special treatment.
Members of the Committee for a Sound Plan for Soundview are planning to publicly confront the Town Board on February 2 with a detailed timeline showing Unicorn Contracting, the developer of the mixed-use plan called Underhill Farms, has not followed the town’s standard planning review process.
“The issue that’s before the Town Board right now is one of transparency,” said Trish Rothberg-Sullivan, a member of the committee. “The issue is not the Underhill Farm(s) plan, but how the Town Board is going about changing what could be developed on the property without going through the regular rezoning process.”
The Underhill Farms development is one of dozens of properties throughout the town that the Planning Department has determined would be suitable to be placed in a Planned Design District Overlay Zone. 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.”
“Putting Soundview in an overlay district is nothing more than a backdoor way for the Town Board to avoid having to vote on a controversial rezoning,” Rothberg-Sullivan said.
During a January 19 meeting, board members took offense with some of the allegations made against the board, with Supervisor Matt Slater remarking, “Any accusations of nefarious wrongdoing is just unacceptable in my eyes.”
In a joint statement issued January 31, the Town Board and Planning Department stated the Soundview School property was included in the planning for the Overlay Zone from the start of the Planning Department’s evaluation of the new district, which was based on the announcement in early February of last year that the school would be closing.
“Clearly, the Soundview property has historic elements worthy of protection and preservation,” town officials stated. “We take the town’s motto, ‘Progress with Preservation,’ seriously, and we will be guided by it. Inclusion of Soundview in the Overlay District is the best way of assuring this is accomplished.”
Town officials stressed the concept of enacting overlay zones to spur development was first proposed more than 17 years ago, and, in 2011, were adopted as part of the town’s Comprehensive Plan. The Committee for a Sound Plan for Soundview claims the Comprehensive Plan never recommended the Yorktown Heights business hamlet be part of an overlay district.