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County Revisits Chappaqua Station Funding

Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz speaks at a press conference near the proposed Chappaqua Station site. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
The proposed 28-unit Chappaqua Station housing development is being considered again by the Westerchester County Board of Legislators. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
The site of the proposed Chappaqua Station housing development, which has drawn opposition from people concerned about safety and a possible stigmatizing effect. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- Eleven months after the Westchester County Board of Legislators narrowly rejected funding for the Chappaqua Station affordable housing proposal , the matter is being taken up again.

At a Thursday afternoon press conference, Board Chairman Michael Kaplowitz confirmed that legislation is being considered. However, he explained that expenditure of funds cannot happen unless state and municipal variances are received.

The project's developer, Conifer Realty, was dealt a major setback in July when a state review board denied seven of eight fire and building code variances needed for the 28-unit apartment project. Since then, Conifer has not been outspoken publicly about the matter.

Legislators rejected funding by an 8-9 margin at a meeting last December , according to county records, with Kaplowitz having been among the "no" votes.

Kaplowitz also warned the county is behind on its annual benchmark set as part of its 2009 affordable housing settlement.

The county's settlement with the federal government, requires construction of 750 affordable housing units in Westchester's predominately white municipalities over seven years.

Instead of meeting the 450-unit benchmark, Kaplowitz said they have only 426 units approved. Conifer's units would count toward the affordable housing quota.

The chairman, whose district includes New Castle, also discussed the consequences of the county not meeting the benchmark, which include a $30,000 fine and subsequent monthly fines of $60,000.

In a Nov. 20 letter to the board, County Executive Rob Astorino also noted the fine amounts. He urged the board to approve four legislative items pertaining to Conifer, which include bond funding.

The proposal is for a site at 54 Hunts Place that is roughly one-third of an acre and is near train tracks and the Saw Mill River Parkway. Daily Voice previously has reported on opposition from some in the community who cite safety and concern about a stigmatizing effect.

Last December, a group of opponents sued the Town of New Castle in reaction to the Town Board's 3-2 approval of a special permit for the project. The state lawsuit, which is still pending, seeks to overturn the approval.

Standing adjacent to the proposed site, Kaplowitz continued to stress safety as an important matter for the project. He also placed the onus on Conifer to make sure its project can get variances and to work with the state.

“If the developer is committed to this parcel and this project, they are now, posthaste, going to have to negotiate to achieve these variances," he said.

Kaplowitz said if the developer is unwilling to do so or can't, then he hopes it will continue discussions with the Town of New Castle and to look at other sites in town.

New Castle Supervisor Rob Greenstein was informed about the deal, Kaplowitz confirmed.

Reached for comment Greenstein said, "Although I haven't seen the legislation yet, from what I gather, the county's position hasn't changed.

"Everyone agrees the project must satisfy New York State fire and building codes or obtain variances in order to move forward at the current site, including Conifer."

Even though Conifer has been quiet in recent months, Astorino's letter touches on what the developer has been doing regarding dialogue with New York State.

"The developer has been working with (New York State) to secure the necessary variance by certain alterations to the construction," he wrote. "However, as your Honorable Board knows, approval of these Acts (county legislation that includes bond funding) ONLY provides financing and does NOT allow the construction unless or until the necessary variances are granted."

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