“Game On” — the local startup that for the past several years has wanted to construct on Dobbs Ferry Road an eight story “bubble” to enclose indoor soccer and lacrosse fields, first on the site of the former Frank’s Nursery, and then, when that deal fell through, on the site next door of the 32-acre Westchester Golf Range, is back again before the Town Board tonight with a scaled down proposal.
The eight-story “bubble” has been replaced with a five-story 107,000 square foot permanent structure to house the indoor fields and the outdoor golf range is expected to remain intact as part of the ongoing business. Also planned are several outdoor fields. The golf range is the last remaining public outdoor golf range left in Greenburgh.
The Town Board tonight is scheduled to grant itself “lead agency” status to start the process of reviewing Game On’s application for the change in zoning that would be required for construction of the project to begin.
The zoning change is needed because the property is zoned residential for single family homes; the golf range, which has been in operation on the property for decades, long before the zoning code was adopted, is considered a “legal non-conforming use.”
In essence, the zone change would allow the property to be used for commercial recreation purposes. Because the property is already being used for that purpose by the golf range, the petition is seeking, for all intents and purposes, an intensification of a pre-existing legal non-conforming use.
Residents from three adjacent neighborhoods who say they will be adversely impacted by the plans have been asking the town board not to allow the zone change process even to begin. The three neighborhoods are the Worthington Woodlands area, which is across the street from the golf range property, Secor Woods, which sits behind the golf range property, and Westchester View Lane, which is adjacent to the golf range.
All three neighborhoods use Dobbs Ferry Road as their main thoroughfare and fear that the facility, if constructed, would lead to traffic congestion that will destroy the residential character of their neighborhoods. They also worry about noise and light pollution and say the building housing the fields will be too large and unsightly.
They also feel that because Town Supervisor Paul Feiner has for years been supporting the Game On proposal, first at Frank’s and then at the golf range, that the deck is stacked against the residents and that no matter how many times Mr. Feiner claims not to have made up his mind, the “fix” is already in and the application will be approved with little or no change.
The town board meanwhile decided in a work session several weeks ago in an informal 3-2 vote that it would allow the petition process to go forward anyway — and tonight’s vote, which is not expected to change, will formally launch that process.
The three town board members in favor of allowing the petition process to go forward are Mr. Feiner, and council members Kevin Morgan and Ken Jones, all of whom are running this year for re-election. Council members Francis Sheehan and Diana Juettner are opposed.
Allowing the petition process to commence is not a guarantee that the zone change will be granted or that, if granted, it will in fact resemble what’s currently on the table.
The reason is that the zone change process will require a full blown environmental impact statement in which impacts on traffic, infrastructure, noise and light are supposed to be investigated and weighed to determine whether the change in zoning will adversely impact the character of the community and if so, whether there are mitigations that can be required to lessen those impacts.
By voting tonight to allow the petition to go forward, the town board is effectively inviting all residents opposed to the project — and there are apparently quite a few — to come to meeting after meeting, throughout the year, to register their protests and concerns. Most of their anger though is expected to be directed against Messrs. Feiner, Morgan and Jones for allowing the petition even to be considered.
Game On has had a checkered history with the Town. It first sought to enter into a 15-year lease of the six-acre Frank’s Nursery property to build an eight-story “bubble” to enclose its sports fields. Mr. Feiner was an outspoken supporter of that proposal.
When that deal collapsed, Game On entered into an option to acquire the 32-acre golf range property and filed a petition for a zone change similar to the one they are asking for now.
That petition was withdrawn, however, when residents opposed to the project pointed out that the zone change then under consideration had been drafted in secret for the applicant by the town’s then planning commissioner, Thomas Madden, at the direction of Messrs. Feiner, Morgan and Jones, and without the knowledge of Mr. Sheehan and Ms. Juettner. In addition, the petition that was filed was not accompanied by an affidavit of support from the owners of the golf range, as the town zoning ordinance requires, a problem that did not seem to concern Mr. Feiner at the time.
This time, however, the zoning change appears to have been re-drafted independently by new counsel for Game On, without the involvement of town staff, the town’s planning commissioner has been replaced, and the required affidavit of support from the owners of the golf range was included.
Game On also seems to be trying to remove the taint of Mr. Feiner’s prior involvement with their plans in the hope of winning the trust of skeptical residents.
Game On’s principals have also been attending town board meetings for the past few months to make the point that they not only have local ties to the community, but also run indoor recreational businesses already, including at a facility in the Village of Tarrytown near the Metro North station there. They say they need the new facility on Dobbs Ferry Road to expand their existing indoor recreation businesses for which they say there is growing demand.
Nevertheless, many of those opposed to the zone change and proposed sports facility say they feel that Mr. Feiner, through his actions, has pre-judged the application and that no matter what Game On says, their concerns won’t therefore be addressed fairly by them or by the Town.
Game On’s principals and their attorney, David Steinmetz, have tried to counter that impression by offering to meet with residents, but years of distrust based on Mr. Feiner’s prior involvement and his outspoken support for the project remain.
Also lurking in the background is an already existing competing indoor recreational business, House of Sports, based in Ardsley, which has long been opposed to the application by Game On.