The Edgemont Community Council unanimously agreed Monday to oppose the latest proposal by the Town’s Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee to expand multifamily housing in Edgemont on Central Avenue and at the Hartsdale Train Station by authorizing up to four stories of such housing to be built atop retail businesses in specially designated “nodes.”
The Edgemont “nodes” where the steering committee wants to encourage the building of more multifamily housing are in the area on both sides of Central between and around Mount Joy and Henry Streets, along Central at Ardsley Road, and at the Hartsdale train station between Old Colony Road and the Pipeline.
The resolution adopted by the ECC noted in particular that one third of Edgemont’s existing housing stock already consists of multifamily housing and warned that expanding the number of such units to be built in a top performing school district such as Edgemont could lead to overcrowding and threaten the ability of the Edgemont school district to remain affordable and sustainable.
ECC directors were told that data showing the exponential growth in the number of school children from Edgemont’s apartments during the period 2006-07 through 2013-14 was apparently never given to members of the comprehensive plan steering committee to consider — even though ECC directors had emails confirming delivery of the data in May 2014 to steering committee chairman Francis Sheehan and the Town’s planning staff.
ECC president Bob Bernstein said that Mr. Sheehan was taking the position that the committee was doing Edgemont a “favor” by recommending that, if Edgemont goes along with their idea to allow apartments to be built atop retail stores in the “nodes,” the Town would in turn amend the zoning ordinance to bar development of any more multifamily housing in areas along Central Avenue outside of the “nodes,” where such housing currently does not exist but theoretically could still be built.
Mr. Bernstein said that offering that “compromise” was like offering Edgemont “ice in the winter” because the risk of such housing being built where, for the past 40 years it has been allowed, but never developed, was remote at best.
Town officials, however, have said that Edgemont is at risk of more multifamily housing being built along Central — outside of the nodes — when developers discover that the retail strip malls that lines the street have outlived their useful lives and need to be torn down.
ECC directors said Monday they would not object to the nodes as such as long as the housing component were eliminated in its entirety and replaced with office space or additional retail. Directors pointed out that Mr. Sheehan’s statement in the Inquirer that no housing was being proposed for the node at Central and Ardsley Road was contradicted by the report itself, which expressly authorizes housing as one of the permitted uses.
The ECC also favored modernizing the zoning restrictions along Central so as to encourage state-of-the-art retail businesses and office complexes.
Residents were urged to attend the comprehensive plan steering committee’s only scheduled hearing thus far, which is set for all day April 28 — one day before the ECC’s annual meeting. Once the steering committee completes its hearing, it will then vote to refer the plan to the Town Board, which will conduct its own process before voting whether or not to adopt it.
More than 40 people attended the ECC meeting Monday night in the high school faculty lounge, making it one of the largest monthly meetings in recent ECC history. A group of around 20 Edgemont residents of Chinese descent attended the meeting, said they recently formed their own civic association with at least 100 members, and were determined, they said, to oppose the proposed comprehensive plan, with several stating they would much prefer to see Edgemont incorporate so that it could formulate its own comprehensive plan and not have to rely on a steering committee and a town board they had no confidence would do the right thing — and could hurt the school district.
In addition to welcoming the new group, the ECC passed a formal resolution congratulating the Chinese residents on their determination to work with the ECC to present a united front against the revised comprehensive plan.
However, Mr. Bernstein stressed the importance of Edgemont residents at all times going the extra mile in their efforts to persuade town officials to revise the plan so that “if we fail, we can tell our neighbors we did everything we could.”
Also at the meeting Monday, the ECC heard from Dorrine Livson, the president of the Worthington Woodlands Civic Association, who is seeking assistance from other civic groups to help them oppose an application on Dobbs Ferry Road to construct a 107,000 square foot indoor sports facility and outdoor fields on the 32-acre Westchester Golf Range property, which is currently zoned residential.
The golf range itself is obviously commercial, but is a legal non-conforming use, since it was built long before the Town’s zoning code declaring the area there residential was enacted.
Last week the Town Board voted 3-2 to declare itself “lead agency” to begin the process of determining whether the property should be re-zoned to allow the sports facility to be constructed. More than 125 residents of the area crowded into Town Hall last week to oppose the Town Board’s 3-2 vote, which was discretionary.
The Town did not have to allow the application to go forward and recent applications in other areas considered politically more sensitive were summarily rejected by the town board and not allowed to go forward. Specifically, Mr. Feiner refused to allow the town board to consider a multifamily housing project in the Ardsley School District, where he resides, and town councilman Kevin Morgan refused to allow the town board to consider an assisted living facility proposed for Payne Street in the North Elmsford section of town where he lives.
Ms. Livson said she hoped the ECC would support their efforts to persuade the planning board to reject the application which, if it does, would require a four-vote supermajority by the town board for the project to go through. At present, it is unlikely that the applicant would get those four votes. Another way to require a supermajority vote is if the residents who own property abutting the land that is subject to the zone change file a petition opposing the change in designation.
Regardless, Ms. Livson said she hoped the Town would give them the opportunity to recommend the consultants the Town plans to hire in order to analyze the environmental impacts of the application, but it is not clear that those on the board that favored going forward with the application will allow that.
At today’s work session of the town board, it appeared that the applicant had already worked with town staff to draw up RFP’s for their own consultants, which is a development that suggests that town staff is already working at breakneck speed to help the applicant try to secure its approvals as quickly as possible.