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Conifer’s Zoning Change Proposal To Be Reviewed By Planning Board

Although New Castle's Tuesday night work session was not a public hearing, more than 20 residents came to listen in.
Although New Castle's Tuesday night work session was not a public hearing, more than 20 residents came to listen in. Photo Credit: Michael Nocella

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – In an attempt to streamline its process for a special permit, Conifer Realty recently sent a zoning change proposal to the New Castle Town Board that would ultimately alter the town’s workforce housing law to give its property’s current zoning more flexibility.

The Town Board discussed the proposal in its Tuesday night work session in Town Hall. Although the session was not a public hearing, more than 20 residents came to listen in.

Conifer’s proposed 28-unit, 3-4 stories tall apartment building sitting on General Industrial (I-G) zoning has been well documented as a  sticking point in the company’s quest for a special permit. A Retail Business (B-R) zone is more development friendly, as it has no maximum for building coverage and allows building to be up to three stories in height. I-G on the other hand, limits building coverage to 40 percent of the lot’s total area and only allows buildings to be two stories tall.

The town’s current workforce housing law—last updated in 2010—allows for such development to be built with special permits issued by the board.

“This isn’t a new issue. This is an old issue that has been unresolved,” said Town Board member Jason Chapin.

“We have some discrepancies in the I-G zoning and the workforce housing, and we’re trying to make sure they’re not contradicting each other and that they’re providing some clarity. So we know when we make a decision, we have the right information and not creating a bigger problem.”

Conifer’s proposal would essentially do two things: It would apply the Retail Business (B-R) dimensions to General Industrial (I-G), or any zone that is encompassed by the workforce housing law, and it would also give the Town Board the authority to waive applications of other zoning provisions.

The town board’s law firm, led by Smith, revised Conifer’s proposal, by asserting a different criteria to guide any waiver that might be considered by the board, and to make it clear that the authority to waive would be in regards to only workforce housing sections—not of the entire zoning section.

Smith also made it a point to note that the revision by no means represented an endorsement of Conifer’s request, but was simply an effort to make an idea that might be considered, in their view, better. He admitted both prospals deal with the main theme of streamlining the process going forward.

“This would coordinate the decision making process into the special permit making process, as opposed to making it a two-step issue with the Town Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals, as it relates to the I-G zone,” he said.

While no substantive decisions were made on either proposal Tuesday night, the Town Board did pass a resolution to pass off both proposals to the Planning Board, in an effort to receive additional feedback and perspective on what such a change would mean going forward.

If the proposal were to ever be approved, it would be subject to an official public hearing first.

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