GFD Sparin1A minor fire last night at the Sprainbrook Nursery on Underhill Road destroyed an outbuilding next to the greenhouses, but otherwise left the nursery, now closed for the winter, undamaged.

Earlier reports from the Journal News and Town Supervisor Paul Feiner had conveyed the impression that the fire did far more damage than it did.

The outbuilding, which looks to have been used as a storage garage, is separated from the Sprainbrook greenhouses by a few feet, and is located at the far end of the facility, furthest away from Underhill Road.

Greenville Fire Chief Daniel Raftery said at least three propane tanks leaning next to the unheated building had exploded.  Chief Raftery said “at this point” the fire does not appear to be suspicious in origin, but its cause is still under investigation.

The Sprainbrook Nursery, which has been run by Edgemont resident Al Krautter and his family for 70 years, had closed for the season at around Thanksgiving.  The nursery normally does a robust business at this time of the year selling Christmas trees, wreathes and other holiday decorations, but Mr. Krautter had said last year that the business would soon be closed permanently.

Shelbourne, an assisted living company, has said it plans to file an application next month to construct an 85-98 bed facility on the Sprainbrook Nursery site. The site is zoned R-30 for single family residences only.  A recent amendment to the Greenburgh zoning code permits assisted living facilities in residential zones, but only if they are on minimum 4 acre lots within 200 feet of a state or county road.

However, the Sprainbrook site is only 3.79 acres and is not within 200 feet of a state or county road, which means that Shelbourne would need to get variances from the Town’s Zoning Board of Appeal.  Shelbourne would also need to get site plan approval from the Town’s Planning Board and before opening, all assisted living facilities in Greenburgh must be granted special permits by the Town Board itself.

Shelbourne may be facing an uphill battle to win approval.  Difficulties in fighting last night’s fire suggests fire safety in that location may be a problem. In addition, because Shelbourne’s residents are expected to need more rescue services than the average population, not being on a state or county road could also be a problem.

Some Edgemont residents are also concerned that the construction of a large 85-98 bed commercial facility that would be regularly served by trucks bringing food and medical supplies would be inappropriate for a residential neighborhood.  Others are saying that they would prefer that the site be used instead for single family housing and that the promise of $600,000 in additional property taxes if Shelbourne has not been confirmed by any town officials and may turn out to be much less or not at all if, as a condition for accepting Medicaid payments, which Shelbourne’s facilities currently do not accept, the facility must become non-profit and tax-exempt.

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