YORKTOWN, N.Y. – For the second time in as many weeks, residents opposed to rezoning 19.3 acres north of Jefferson Valley Mall to accommodate a rental development of 150 units appealed to the Town Board to consider the impact its decision could have on the community.
This time, however, members of the governing body expressed their own concerns, assuring them that the approvals process for the development proposed for the site off of East Main Street between Hill Boulevard and Lee Road is “far from being a done deal.”
“We need a lot of concrete answers before we make a decision,” Supervisor Ilan Gilbert said right after the board closed the courtesy of the floor portion of its meeting on Tuesday, July 2.
Diversified Properties LLC has set its sights on the single-family-zoned property for the construction of 11 two-story buildings with one- and two-bedroom units. To do so, the board must first approve its application to rezone the parcel for multifamily housing.
The developer in April updated the board about its progress in attempting to buy or secure an easement for a contiguous property to augment the development’s proposed single access, which has been deemed inadequate. The board also heard from Diversified’s traffic expert, who suggested the developer would be willing to contribute to the cost of installing a traffic signal at East Main and Lee.
The installation of one signal will not be enough, opponents contend, with some predicting as many as five may be needed. Preservation of open space and the quality of life it affords is another driver of some residents’ angst.
Leading the charge at the July 2 meeting, Louise DeMarco read into the record portions of an executive summary of the municipality’s 2010 comprehensive plan to illustrate the proposed development’s shortcomings, from a desire to “continue to be primarily a low-density community of single family homes with strong neighborhoods that have a balance of developed areas and open space” to protecting quality of life on local streets and in neighborhoods with “low volumes and speeds and minimal truck traffic.”
DeMarco also disputed a claim made at the June 18 meeting that a majority of Jefferson Village residents did not oppose the project, waving a handful of petitions to prove her point.
Tony Grasso, a former councilman, didn’t share DeMarco’s sentiments, focusing instead on the benefits of the project.
“Am I in favor of this type of housing?” he asked rhetorically. “With 15 grandchildren, all graduated from college with great jobs, they would love to come home to Yorktown. Guess what? There’s no place for them to go. What do we owe these kids? Do we owe them something? There’s an old saying, ‘I’m here now; I don’t want anybody else.’Well, we have to look beyond that, way beyond that, and let’s make the right decision for the right people.”
Gilbert said among the first orders of business in response to the application would be to commission an independent traffic study, possibly at the developer’s expense. He also pointed out that Diversified representatives “indicated that they had constructed close to 2,000 of these units over a period of 20 or 30 years.” Particularly in regard to the number of school-age children such a development would generate, he said, “We need answers and some of those answers may have to come from the history” of Diversified’s existing developments.
“It could be that this development may save us tax money, or it may cost us tax money, but I’d like the answers before we make a decision,” he said.
Councilman Tom Diana said he was “alarmed” when told the development would generate only a dozen or so school-aged children.
“Don’t insult my intelligence, OK? You have 100 two-bedrooms, you’re going to have at least 50,” he said, adding that the board needed “an honest interpretation of the facts,” which would require “research by this board.”
“We want to know what the history is” of similar developments by Diversified in other communities, Councilwoman Alice Roker agreed.
Councilman Ed Lachterman cautioned against comparing apples to oranges: “You need to find one of these in a community with a school system rated like ours, because our school system is definitely a draw.”
Gilbert said the board also could ask Diversified to provide shuttles to the train stations as is done in similar developments in Queens and Croton.
“That could be the aim to guarantee a particular audience that they would have for these apartments,” he said, referring to millennials.
At this point, Highway Superintendent Dave Paganelli asked to speak on the issue.
“We have traffic problems up there,” Paganelli said, estimating that during peak hours on East Main Street, “80 percent of the traffic on that road is from Putnam Valley.”
“Those are not our residents that are using that road. It’s a major issue. It’s a very dangerous road; there are blind corners.”
Paganelli said he applauded the board for its willingness to hire an independent traffic consultant, dismissing applicants’ experts in such matters.
“They’re paid by the person (applicant) to make the facts look the way they look,” he said. “Things are very flexible in that world.”