State Board Approves Variances For Chappaqua Station

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- Conifer Realty prevailed in its second go around with the state's Hudson Valley Regional Board of Review on Thursday. The board approved four building and fire code variances needed for its Chappaqua Station affordable housing proposal.

The state's Hudson Valley Regional Board, pictured, approved four variances sought for the Chappaqua Station affordable housing proposal.

The state's Hudson Valley Regional Board, pictured, approved four variances sought for the Chappaqua Station affordable housing proposal.

Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

One of the variances pertains to the number of permitted openings for the structure, which includes 28 apartments and would be built at 54 Hunts Place. The other three, which were approved in a single vote of the board, pertain to space for the staging of firefighting vehicles.

The four board members, who met at Cortlandt Town Hall, approved the openings variance unanimously. The approval of the other three variances was by a 3-1 margin.

In July, 2014, the board rejected seven of eight variances that Conifer previously sought. Conifer, which only sought four variance the second time, subsequently modified its project to include safety measures such as exterior sprinkler systems on the building's eastern side and a change of material.

The openings variance has conditions including inclusion of the exterior sprinklers and getting a "no-build" zone from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) along the building's eastern side.

The project, whose site is next to train tracks and the Saw Mill River Parkway's northbound exit ramp, has been criticized by various residents who have worried about safety and believe there would be a stigmatizing effect, Daily Voice and other media outlets have reported over the years.

The variances pertaining to vehicle staging include conditions that involve improving the parkway's exit ramp, adding four fire-hose stations in the structure's first-floor parking garage and including several alternative measures for the project recently proposed by a consulting firm on Conifer's behalf.

Conifer attorney Randolph McLaughlin reacted positively to the news.

“Well, we’re pleased that this process has come to a conclusion.”

Going forward, McLaughlin said, “we certainly plan now to proceed with this project as expeditiously as we can.”

Bill Spade, a Chappaqua architect and project opponent, said he was "disappointed" and expressed concern about the safety for residents who would live in the building.

Approval of the variances is the latest victory for Conifer. Late last year, Westchester County approved funding for Chappaqua Station, which was contingent upon getting the variances. In September 2013, the New Castle Town Board approved a special permit for the proposal by a 3-2 vote.

The special permit, under the town's code, is good for 18 months, according to Town Counsel Edward Philips, who was present at the review board's meeting. This means that the permit is set to expire in March. The Town Board would need to approve an extension of the permit.

Spade, who is part of a local group of residents opposed to the project, says they will argue against a renewal of the permit. The group has a lawsuit pending in state Supreme Court to overturn the Town Board's previous approval. 

Later in the day, New Castle Supervisor Rob Greenstein emailed a statement in response to the news.

"I remain concerned about the issues that I raised in 2013, namely, the safety of putting an apartment building at that location, and what that location says about our community," Greenstein wrote. "We should have done better.  I've offered to work with Conifer to find a larger and more attractive location, but they've insisted on sticking with the Hunts Place site.  Looking ahead, Conifer has additional conditions in the special permit, as well as in the variances themselves, that they must satisfy."

The units from Chappaqua Station would count towards Westchester County's 2009 federal affordable housing settlement, which calls for the construction of 750 units in predominantly white communities within a seven-year period.


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