Government

Somers Neighbors Oppose Development of ‘Oddball’ House

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SOMERS, N.Y. – Twenty-two weeks after giving the planning board an earful over adding another house on Green Briar’s Driftwood Drive, would-be neighbors returned last week to say “no way.”

As a detached single-family home, the residents argue, the proposed structure would clash aesthetically with their attached townhouse units, standing out, one of them said, like “one orange on a street of apples.” In addition, the owners contended at an April 12 public hearing, building that outlier would depress the value of their townhomes and pose a potential environmental hazard for nearby wetlands.

At issue is a proposal by Greenbriar Somers Corp. and 2-4-36 Green LLC to build a single-family, standalone house at the entrance to Driftwood Drive.

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Scaled-back from earlier, more-ambitious plans so it conforms with state wetland restrictions, the proposed house would be smaller than neighboring residences, lack the basement they enjoy and contain fewer bedrooms and square feet. Its third of an acre lot, sloping sharply down to Greenbriar Brook, would be fenced, unlike the property of the attached units.

“We’re asking for less-intensive use of the land,” Susan Shapiro, who owns the property, told the board. “Normally, in most communities, people would be quite happy to have less-intensive use of the land.”

But Robert Gaudioso, an attorney representing the Driftwood Drive residents, said “this smaller, oddball unit” would adversely impact the property values of other homes on the street, part of the sprawling Green Briar housing complex.

A 300-acre cluster development with some 230 homes, Green Briar has been offering groupings of single-family and townhouse-style accommodations since the early 1980s.

Last week’s planning board meeting, first of the spring, resumed a public hearing that began last fall and was postponed, in a series of adjournments, four times over the winter. About three-dozen people crowded town hall, filling seats up front and standing room space in the rear.

Amy Horowitz, one of eight Driftwood Drive residents who followed Gaudioso to the microphone, said she prefers the earlier plans calling for attached townhomes on two lots. “I want them to build what they said they were going to build,” she told the board. But wetland concerns forced the developers to scale back their plans. “So, now,” she said, “they want to merge the two lots together and build one orange on a street of apples.”

Another Driftwood Drive resident assailed the proposed location. “Go take a look at where they want to put this building,” Joe Starace suggested. “If you look at the area they’re talking about, in person, you’ll think, ‘How the hell can you put a house over there, a house that’s going to be contradictory to everything on the street?’ It will have an impact on our property values; it will have an impact aesthetically.”

At the initial public hearing last Nov. 9, George Semmens, vice president of the Greenbriar Homeowners Association, said that while the HOA board did not oppose construction of two attached townhomes on two lots, it disagreed with the proposal for a single-family residence.

But the applicant’s engineer, Joseph Buschynski, advised the board that after the lots were created in 1987, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation declared Greenbriar Brook to be a wetland, subject, along with the two lots, to environmental regulation. To meet mitigation requirements, he said, the developers combined the lots and chose to build one unit—the single-family house.

“That’s not our issue,” said Horowitz, a title insurance executive. “The issue is this is the way it was presented to the state and the attorney general. This is the way it should stay. I don’t believe this late in the game you can change the game plan.”

HOA attorney Gaudioso called the proposed construction “a one-off” and said, “This does not fit in with the character of this community. As a single-family residence on Driftwood Drive, it’s the first building that you will see when you pull in... It’ll be an odd duck, so to speak.”

An appraiser’s report prepared for the HOA, Gaudioso said, “documented that this smaller, oddball unit will have an adverse impact on the property values of the other units…on Driftwood Drive.”

Shapiro, the property’s would-be developer, rejected contentions that the single-family home would depress those property values. Referring to comparables, the real estate measure of similar properties’ characteristics, Shapiro said, “They just have to look at the comps: one home is this size with a basement; one home is this size without a basement. . . . It’s not the same home; it’s not going to affect your property values.”

Shapiro said of the residents’ opposition, “It’s really unreasonable that they’re trying to prevent us from using the land… All we’re asking for is a less-intensive use because the state regulations have changed.”

The planning board took no action last week and tentatively scheduled renewed discussions in June.

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