All About Armonk

North Castle Daily News

affordable housing in Armonk
Armonk Commons AFFH Housing Accepting Expression of Interest Applications

February 5, 2016
Applications expressing interest for North Castle’s first fair and affordable housing on Old Route 22 are now available. The deadline for the applications is February 29, 2016. The application process is overseen by the Housing Action Council. The Council’s mission is to provide housing opportunities for low to moderate income households and special needs populations.

An informational meeting about Westchester County’s fair and affordable housing in Armonk, Harrison, Pleasantville, Lewisboro and Rye Brook will be held on Wednesday, February 10, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Riverfront Library at One Larkin Center, 4th floor in Yonkers.

The estimated sale price of the 10 two-bedroom apartments is $250,000. The New York State subsidy is $40,000, which brings the net sales price to $210,000. The estimated monthly real estate taxes are $400 to $420. The estimated monthly common charges are $260 to $290. 

The maximum income limits -- that are subject to change -- are as follows:

No. of Persons   Income Limits

2                        $67,650
3                        $76,100
4                        $84,550
5                        $91,350

Armonk Commons offers 10 new two-bedroom townhomes in two buildings on Old Route 22 near Labriola Court. The first-floor plans by Future Home Technology show a 145-square foot kitchen and a 175-square foot living room and full bathroom. The second floor level offers a 158-square foot master bedroom and a 127-square foot second bedroom separated by a full bathroom. The lower basements include the indoor mechanicals and are unfinished.

The master bedroom’s front view looks out toward the hillside of the Betsy Sluder Nature Preserve. In the backyard, there are small individual patios, a newly masoned brick wall, and a hillside which will be landscaped with about 250 varied trees and plantings to conceal the view of Route 22.

There are two parking areas for 24 cars. One of the parking lots separates the two buildings. The streetscapes will be provided by Westchester County and will be approved by the Town of North Castle.

The application requires Federal Tax Returns from 2015, 2014 and 2013, and other financial and personal documents. The application can be found here.

Log Cabin Armonk

Armonk’s Housing Boom Reminds Me of the Big Band Era
Editorial By Michelle Boyle

March 25, 2016
Stories remain vivid of the Big Band era that brought all-star jazz performers to Armonk in the 1930s. Tommy Dorsey, Doris Day, Buddy Rich, Les Brown, Teddy Powell, Joe Marsala and many of the other best swing bands of the times arrived on the Armonk scene which attracted crowds from Westchester, Connecticut, and New York City.

Beginning in the late 1920s, Armonk’s nightclubs were known as the places to be for entertainment and to swing to some spectacular live music. The hamlet remained a popular destination into the early 1940s. Major New York radio stations broadcast live music, expanding the reputation of the musicians and the Log Cabin. Large audiences flocked to the legendary Log Cabin on Armonk’s Main Street. In 1934, Fortune Magazine estimated that the Log Cabin served about a million visitors a year. Just a few years earlier, a complete Log Cabin dinner cost $1.25. On New Year’s Eve, the fee was $2.50.

Through the 1930s and 1940s, the house orchestra played, and less frequently big bands were brought when there were live radio broadcasts done, at Rhineland Gardens. This later became the Blue Gardens. It's now the location of Brynwood Golf and Country Club where there is approved zoning for up to 80 new townhouses and homes.

Also part of the almost century-old entertainment scene, although on a much smaller scale, was upstairs at Mechanics Hall located at 41 Maple Avenue. Every Friday or Saturday night, weather-permitting, they had dancing with live music from bands such as the then-popular performers, the Jolly Ten. Typically a four-piece orchestra was hired to play from 9:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. The price of a ticket was fifty cents and refreshments were available. Local organizations were known to use dances there to raise funds.

Mechanics Hall has been around for at least 100 years. First it was a community center and then a lodge for the Junior Order of the American Mechanics. Later it was used as an auction house; now it is the business location of Cocobolo Interior Design.

Once again, the building at 41 Maple Avenue is undergoing some changes. The zoning has been approved for the development of six affordable apartments and a small retail space.

“If those walls could talk” perhaps we could hear the big bands as was described so well by James D. Hopkins. “The thrust of the beat of the drum reinforced by the bass fiddle, the sharp attack of the trumpets, the throaty growl of the trombones, in contrast to the more lyric swell of the saxophones, accented by the filigree tone of the clarinet and the embroidery of the piano notes, all coalescing into a torrent of rhythmic force that induced an irresistible excitement.” Hopkins wrote "The Jazz World in Armonk 1935 -1942" that appears in North Castle History, Volume III published in 1985 by The North Castle Historical Society.

Unfortunately, as Armonk continues to grow, its rich history of jazz influence can no longer be found. But let’s not forget the sound of the swing bands. (Note to Sam Morrell of Small Town Theatre: Can you hold a Jazz revival in 2017?)

The beginning of World War II changed the U.S. home front and it marked the end of the Big Band era for Armonk. Gasoline, among everything else, was rationed, which made it prohibitive to travel far from New York City. Neither of the two most legendary jazz clubs are still around; the Blue Gardens burned down in 1942 and the Log Cabin in 1965, leaving no trace of the jazz music.

Almost 75 years later, in some of the same locations, Armonk is undergoing further transformation, but it's to a new and different tune. Due to the 2009 settlement between the U.S. Department of Housing Authority and Westchester County, we are now seeing a shared quota of affordable housing for the county’s requirement to build 750 units among 31 municipalities (750 divided by 31 rounds out to 25 units per community).

In order to fulfill the county’s affordable housing quota, we’ve recently seen North Castle, specifically in Armonk, approve the zoning for multi-family housing developments with an additional 169 new residences. Expanding the types of housing available in town, there may be up to 80 luxury residences built by Brynwood; 30 condominium apartments built by Michael Fareri at the site of the former lumberyard at 170 Bedford Road; 16 senior housing condominium apartments built on Frank Madonna’s Old Mount Kisco Road property; and seven houses on Madonna's property on Route 128.

All together, these new developments are required to deliver 16 affordable residences.

Pending approval of the zoning change and special use permits, Fareri’s six affordable units will be built at 41 Maple Avenue, the former Mechanics Hall. The Brynwood and Madonna developments are required to build 10 affordable units combined. In addition, there are 10 more affordable condominium apartments almost completed on Old Route 22. These affordable units fulfill the prior commitments of the 27 townhouses and homes built at the Cider Mill development, and the 10 one-bedroom apartments in Armonk Square.

If the Westchester County rental and sales housing market continues to go beyond what ethnic minorities can afford, then this imbalance opens the possibility that the local zoning regulations could be considered unlawful. If so, this decision could justify litigation by the federal government to change zoning regulations which could result in a reduction of the minimum lot sizes in order to make room to build more affordable housing in Westchester County.

Let’s hope in 100 years, Armonk’s past events will be just as profuse as the unforgettable stories of nearly 100 years ago.


Maple Avenue Armonk
Retail & Affordable Apartments Proposed by Fareri at Maple Avenue  

September 11, 2015
Developer Michael Fareri proposed a combined retail and residential 9,200 square foot building at North Castle’s Planning Board meeting on September 10. His intention is to replace his buildings located at 37 and 41 Maple Avenue with plans to demolish 41 Maple Avenue and make alterations to 37 Maple Avenue, transforming the buildings into one lot.

Fareri said there is a saturation of retail space in Armonk and, therefore, his most recent plan for 39 Maple Avenue is for seven small affordable housing apartments with a small portion for retail. The apartments should be a welcome addition to the ten rental apartments in the neighboring Armonk Square.

The 39 Maple Avenue plan combines the first floor as retail and two two-bedroom residential apartments, and five one-bedroom apartments on the second floor with an elevator. He proposed 831 square feet of retail on the first floor, with the two two-bedroom apartments of 1,305 square feet each. The five one-bedroom apartments on the second floor range from 770 square feet to 1,068 square feet.

Fareri said he currently pays yearly taxes of $25,000 for the two buildings since 41 Maple Avenue is unoccupied. He estimated if he built the new proposal, the tax amount would more than double.

Fareri proposed to transfer the affirmative furthering fair housing (AFFH) requirements of 20 percent on the 36 apartments for his application of the proposed building at the former lumberyard on Bedford Road. He received a bonus building density from the Town Board for the lumberyard lot in agreement to double the required 10 percent of the AFFH component. At the Planning Board meeting, he proposed to reduce that Bedford Road proposal from 36 apartments, which included six affordable apartments, to build 35 market-rate apartments. He then proposed to build the 20% of the required affordable housing apartments, or seven units, at 39 Maple Avenue.

Fareri said there are several delays in the approval for the 36-unit building at the former lumberyard. One delay is that the Westchester Health Department is required to approve a 10-foot public waterline extension that is needed for the building on Bedford Road.

Fareri said the application process is cumbersome, timely, and costly. The professional fees to the Town alone for the required public hearings are estimated to be $14,000.

It’s anticipated that the application will require four public hearings between the various Town governing bodies. Roland Baroni, Town Attorney, said he recommended several steps.

• It will be necessary for the Town Board to require a State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). A public hearing will be held to consider a change in the legislation of the zoning text that limits the 40% requirement of second-floor residences in the Central Business Zone (CB). The second public hearing would involve consideration for a special use permit for the two residential apartments on the first floor in the CB-zone. The Town Board will also have to consider a resolution to relocate the affordable apartments from the building at the former lumberyard.

• The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) must consider 39 Maple Avenue’s .71% second-floor residential increase for the Floor Area Ratio (FAR). As well, they must review the variance for shared parking for the retail and residential apartments.

• The Planning Board must review the site plan for an approval at a public hearing. They would also have to hold a public hearing to reduce the amount of apartments on Bedford Road from 36 units to 35 units.

Due to the proximity of Route 128, the application also requires a review by the Westchester County Planning Board.

The Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of the new proposal exceeds the maximum permitted residential space in the allowable FAR of the CB District. Fareri will need to seek a FAR variance from the ZBA.The CB Zoning District is governed by the CB-A Zone, said Adam Kaufman, Director of Planning. The CB-A zone permits residential use of no more than 40% of the total floor area within the CB-A District of multi-family dwellings to be located on the second floor.

The two existing buildings currently have a deficiency of 31 parking spaces, said Fareri. The combined plan for residential and retail may qualify for a 25% reduction in shared parking as was applied to the neighboring Armonk Square project.

Art Adelman, Chairman of the Planning Board, speaking for himself said, “All the things you mention are positive. You have to convince the Town Board and the ZBA to do a few things for you. But you can make a compelling argument. It’s clearly an improvement from what exists.”

Fareri said in 2008 he received an approval from the Planning Board to combine the buildings, that he proposed to build mostly retail and offices on the second floor. But the economic climate stalled him from moving forward until now with a different plan.

Cider Mill Progress
By Alison Simon

Sept. 17, 2011
In exchange for an additional building permit and two certificates of occupancies (C of O) still outstanding at the Cider Mill site, the Town of North Castle received a $200,000 irrevocable letter of credit from the Cider Mill development ownership ensuring that their middle income housing requirements will be met within the next two years.

According to North Castle Director of Planning Adam Kaufman, in order to build the 27 housing units on the Cider Mill site developers are required by law to build eight middle-income housing units. Cider Mill building plans require that no more than 20 homes are built until the middle income housing requirements are met.  At this time, plans for the middle income housing units are still in the planning stages, and realistically will not be completed for at least two years.  This delay will impede the sale of two completed properties and one additional property to be built in the Cider Mill Development.  The four remaining Cider Mill units cannot be built until the middle income housing requirements are met or additional irrevocable letters of credit are issued.

To prevent further delay of the Cider Mill project and to ensure that the middle income housing (MIH) units are built according to plan, the previous Cider Mill property owners, Crabapple Properties, LLC,  agreed to give the Town of North Castle a $200,000 irrevocable letter of credit ensuring that the MIH units will be built.  The Cider Mill properties still in development were recently sold to Cider Mill Main St LLC.  Crabapple Properties, LLC will remain obligated to build the MIH units.

According to Town Attorney Roland Baroni, Crabapple Properties will forfeit the $200,000 if the middle income housing requirements are not met by December 31, 2012 at which time they will still be required to build the units.  The $200,000 forfeiture will serve as a penalty for failing to build the MIH on time. Baroni held that Crabapple Properties “will never get free of their obligation to build the units”.  According to Baroni, they will not be permitted to break ground on the four remaining building sites in the Cider Mill development until their MIH obligations are met or they provide additional surety bonds.  They would have to provide an additional $150,000 irrevocable letter of credit for each additional C of O they wished to obtain.  North Castle Building Inspector Richard Fon confirmed that since the $200,000 letter of credit has been received by the Town, two C o Os have been issued for the completed properties on the Cider Mill site.

Mark Miller of Veneziano and Associates, the law firm representing Crabapple Properties, stated that the purpose of the bond was to provide security to the town regarding Crabapple Properties obligations concerning the middle income housing on the Cockren property.  The bond insures that Crabapple Properties will maintain responsibility to fulfill it’s MIH obligations.  Miller confirmed that Crabapple Properties could obtain additional C of Os on the the four remaining building sites in the Cider Mill development if they provide the Town of North Castle an additional $150,000 irrevocable letter of credit for each unit to be built.

The Cockren property, located on Old Route 22 and also owned by Crabapple Properties, LLC, was designated for the construction of 10 MIUs to satisfy the Cider Mill complex's requirements.  Since the Town Board’s approval of this site in 2002, the Town has proposed converting the middle income units to affordable income units in accordance with Westchester County requirements. Westchester County has stated that it supports the development of these 10 units as part of its county-wide plan which will include 750 such units, and, according to Crabapple Properties' attorney Anthony Veneziano, they too have discussed participation in the County's affordable housing program.

Town Attorney Baroni said a public hearing is not required because changing the classification of housing from North Castle middle income units to Westchester County affordable housing units does not change the maximum level of what counts as "middle-income," which is what North Castle's housing board controls.

The Town Board must determine whether to adopt the County’s new model ordinance to comply with new county requirements regarding affordable income housing.  According to Supervisor Weaver, representatives from North Castle and several other towns met with representatives from the County in early September at Pace University to get further information on the County’s new model ordinance and how adopting it will affect our town.  At this point, according to Supervisor Weaver, the Town Board is split as to whether or not to adopt the new ordinance. If the Town Board decides to adopt the ordinance then a draft will be written and brought before the Town at a public hearing.

A federal lawsuit brought against Westchester County two years ago resulted in a county housing settlement which required that the County build 750 affordable income housing (AIH) units. The County budgeted over $50 million dollars to achieve the goal. Failure to comply would result in lawsuits against the county. Town Attorney Baroni said that if individual towns refuse to participate in this county wide ordinance, it could result in their forfeiture of county funded programs.

On May 16, at special public meeting about the affordable housing development on the Cockren Property, Supervisor Weaver introduced a panel of representatives from the Westchester County Housing Board to discuss the County's model ordinance and the particulars of building AIH. Lou Larizzi of Lazz Development discussed the requirements associated with building the AIH units. Lazz Development specializes in affordable housing development as part of the County's program.  If the Town adopts the County's ordinance, the County will decide whether to purchase the Cockren property from Crabapple Properties for its fair market value of over $400,000.  The County will then turn the property over to an approved AIH developer, such as Lazz Development, who will build the AIH units.  

Architectural renderings of the  pre-fabricated AIH units are available for review in the North Castle Building Department.  The current proposed project includes two prefabricated buildings of eight two-bedroom units plus two three-bedroom units.

What is the difference between the Town of North Castle’s middle income housing (MIH) and Westchester County’s affordable income housing (AIH)?

The main difference is that MIH follows a town model and is marketed to town employees and the price of the units is based on average town employee earnings.  On the other hand, AIH adheres to a county model and are marketed to county employees and the price of the units is based on the average county employee’s earnings.  The average county employee earnings is approximately $7,000 to $8,000 lower than the average North Castle town employee earnings.  The AIH will not give any priority to North Castle employees.

AIH are marketed to all county employees thereby providing a larger pool of potential purchasers.  The County also provides potential AIH buyers more access to financing.  According to Town Attorney Baroni, 10 of the 34 MIH units in North Castle are owned by people that do not work in the town. We need a larger pool of buyers to fill the units.  Baroni said, “Local programs cannot produce enough qualified buyers.”

In 2009, Westchester County was the defendant in federal law suit which resulted in a county housing settlement which required that 750 affordable income housing units be built within the next seven (now five) years in less racially diverse communities in the County.  North Castle is considered such a community.  The settlement also required that there be no local priorities given in the sale of those units.  County Legislator John Nonna said that North Castle signed an agreement, as did other Westchester communities, to receive community development bond grant (CDBG) money over a 20 year period.  In return, the Town must assist the County in meeting its obligation to provide affordable and fair housing.  At the Town Board meeting held March 9, 2011, North Castle's Town Supervisor Weaver signed a letter, with the authorization of the Town Board, demonstrating support of the development of these 10 units to be built and marketed towards the goals established by the County.”  (Town Board minutes March 9, 2011).
Westchester affordable Housing
Rye Cottage Townhomes were built by developer Lou Larizzi of Lazz Development
Legal Challenge to the Affordable Housing Decision Proposed

Updated June 1, 2011
On March 9, 2011, North Castle's Town Board authorized a letter asking the Westchester Housing Board to review plans for the Cockren Property, located at 22 Old Route 22, in Armonk.

Councilman Becky Kittredge and Councilman Michael Schiliro gave Supervisor Bill Weaver the majority he needed to sign a letter supporting the development of units on the Cockren Property to comply with Westchester County's Affordable Housing Settlement Agreement. The letter says the town supports the construction of ten affordable housing units to be built on the Smith-Cockren property. The Town acknowledged that the units will be built according to Westchester County's requirement to develop 750 affordable housing units.

Attorney Anthony Veneziano was at the Town Board meeting on behalf of Crabapple Properties, LLC, owner of the Cockren Property. Veneziano said that the property was designated for the construction of 10 middle income units (MIUs) to satisfy the Cider Mill complex's requirements, and his client has discussed participation in the County's Affordable Housing Program. Westchester County has stated that it supports the development of these 10 units as part of its county-wide plan for 750 units.

Resident Kerry Lutz, who was recently nominated by the North Castle Republican Committee as a candidate for North Castle's Town Board, says the biggest objection to the affordable housing is the location of the Cockren property. He believes the town needs to bring order to that part of Old Route 22, which is adjacent to the Beehive and Gavi Restaurants. During lunch and dinner hours, patrons of the restaurants are parked along both sides of the street. Lutz believes that putting a housing project there will lead to 10 to 15 fewer parking spots.

Another problem with the project's location, according to Lutz, is the placement of a residential structure between Route 22 and the commercial district. The units will be built into a hill that is below the southbound lanes of Route 22. North Castle's Planning Director, Adam Kaufman, says the windows in the back of the buildings will be below Route 22.

Lutz would like the Town Board to hold a public hearing to let the community have input. According to Town Attorney Roland Baroni, a public hearing was held for the project in 2002, when the Town Board approved the property as a site for MIUs. Baroni says that the change in use from MIUs to affordable housing doesn't require a public hearing.

Lutz regrets that the Town has discouraged public involvement in this matter, and says that the lack of a public hearing since 2002 makes legal action against the Town unavoidable. He calls this Westwood II and wishes the Town Board would stop putting the town in the situations that incur legal fees.

We spoke to an active member of the Whippoorwill Hills Board of Directors who asked to remain anonymous. The person says the Cockren location on a blind curve is a poor fit for residents, and that no one should live looking out to a restaurant and Route 22.

Whippoorwill Hills resident Art Adelman says, "I'll be in favor of whatever most easily promotes the improvement of Old Route 22 because things have been a mish-mash forever. We've got the nice restaurants, we've got two harmonious neighborhoods tallying over 200 homes, not counting the Cider Mill. Something needs to be done."

Lutz recently sent an email asking the Whippoorwill Hills Board of Directors to forward information to Whippoorwill Hills residents for review. The email was dated May 25, 2011 and says: "The Whippoorwill Hills Board of Directors has no part or persuasion on the topic below."

The following message by Lutz was forwarded:

"Push has come to shove. The only way we are going to stop the housing project from being constructed on Old Route 22 is by a lawsuit.

We have retained an attorney. We need to raise $10k for the Article 78. I have about 10 -15 people so far. We are seeking to raise about $250 per person which would mean that we need 40 participants.

We need to act quickly. Can you email the residents of The Hills and try to raise some money.

They should make out all checks to John (Kirkpatrick), Attorney and forward them to me.

Please let me know if you want to participate in this as soon as possible.

Thanks so much for your help and support."

Kerry H. Lutz

Attorney at Law

Attorney John Kirkpatrick of Oxman, Tulis, Kirkpatrick, Whyatt & Geiger worked with Frederick P. Clark and Associates as a consultant to North Castle's town planning from 1974-1980. He helped write the town's master plan, which included the first provision for middle income housing as an amendment to the zoning law.

Under New York State law, an Article 78 challenge applies only to the decisions of government officials and agencies. According to Jeff Hogue in www.lawny.org, "An Article 78 proceeding must be brought within a short period of time after a challenged decision is implemented, sometimes in as little as 30 days, but no more than four months." In most instances, Article 78 proceedings begin without a court appearance, merely with the filing of written documents.

March 9 was the date the Town Board asked the county to review the plans for the Cockren Property, and that may be the date that begins the deadline under Article 78 for filing a challenge within no more than four months.

According to robertcohenlawoffice.com, New York courts often decide in favor of an agency if the agency has documented reasons for its decision, even if many people think the decision is wrong.

The Town's decision to support the County's involvement in the development was supported by the North Castle Housing Board because the selling market for middle income units became difficult once the recession began in 2008. The county's program is available to a greater pool of applicants with lower incomes than is a similar program for North Castle town employees. Some people, however, object to the loss of the North Castle's Housing Board's input if the county reviews the applications.

Supervisor Bill Weaver held an informational meeting to introduce county employees and the builder involved with developing the Cockren property on May 16.  Click to view the video of the meeting :  http://northcastleny.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=401.

Veneziano says that the Town Board's letter is a preliminary step in a process that will take three to six months and Lou Larizzi of Lazz Development, who was introduced by the Westchester Housing Board, says it will take 14 months to build the units at the Cockren Property. So we won't see affordable housing in Armonk for at least two years.

Affordable Housing on the Smith-Cockren Property

Updated: May 6, 2011
The Smith-Cockren property located on Old Route 22 in Armonk has been proposed to house ten middle income units (MIU) of which eight of the units are to fulfill the MIU requirements for the Cider Mill complex, also on Old Route 22. Anthony Veneziano Jr., attorney for Crab Tree Properties, owners of the Smith-Cockren property, says the Town is responsible to sell MIUs under its housing guidelines. But, the middle income program is not producing buyers. He says, given the economy and the tightening of bank credit, that buyers in this income bracket are having trouble getting loan approvals.

Developer Michael Fareri bought the Schultz's Cider Mill property from the Schultz family. Fareri sold the Cider Mill in accordance with preliminary plans worked on with the Planning Board to develop it, as well as a partnership in the deed of the Smith-Cockren property, to Antares. Antares did not finish building the Cider Mill units. The Smith-Cockren property, Cider Mill and Armonk Square was purchased by several companies owned by residents and real estate developers Alan Zaretsky and the Dioguardi brothers for an undisclosed amount.

In order to complete the last seven of 27 units at Cider Mill, the requirement of building eight MIUs must be met.  

The discussion of the Smith-Cockren units has been in place since 2002, when Jack Lombardi was Supervisor and Michael Fareri owned the Smith-Cockren property. Discussions about the county buying the Smith-Cockren property as Federal Housing Administration (FHA) affordable housing units have been going on since Reese Berman was supervisor. Last year Supervisor Bill Weaver said the new board opposed the county taking over the project.

Other MIUs in town are ten units located in Whippoorwill Commons and 24 units in Whippoorwill Hills. The sales price of these units are based on the average income of town employees.  

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) qualifications are different from the MIU qualifications. MIUs are regulated by the town's housing board. The housing board qualifies residents on a point system, and the income cap is not to exceed a certain multiple of the town's median employee income. The selling price of the FHA units are calculated according to FHA code. The prices set are multiples of an average countywide employee's income. The average income of a county employee is about $8,000 less than the annual median income of a town employee says Veneziano. "The qualifying county range is an income of about $58,000 - $78,000."

Veneziano said that the county and town have different rental rates as well. The rental fees of the FHA are about 40% less in than the MIU program. But North Castle does not rent any MIU units at this time.

The difference of who controls the project is that if the county owns it, the county controls the application process instead of the North Castle Housing Board. The application process includes checking financial documents of an applicant to see if he or she is eligible for a unit. The County has built FHA units in Rye, where fire fighters, police and teachers reside.

If an agreement between the County, the Town and the Smith-Cockren property owners doesn't permit the County to build the ten affordable housing units on the Cockren property, the County could build elsewhere in North Castle and the Town might not have a say in the alternative location or in the number of units.

The County is mandated to spend $50 million to build 750 affordable units throughout Westchester. North Castle has offered a letter that states the town supports the construction of ten affordable for-sale units to be constructed on the Smith-Cockren property. The Town acknowledged that the units will be built and marketed pursuant to the requirement of Westchester County's requirement to develop 750 affordable housing units.  

Several neighboring property owners oppose the Old Route 22 location for the County's affordable housing.  They expressed concern, and said that building a "slum" in Armonk is a mistake in development. A public hearing has been requested to determine the support or lack of support by residents.
 
Zaretsky says the MIU or FHA units are similar in concept. He says he would be surprised if FHA housing brought "under-desirables" into our town.  "Not in my town," he says, is a wrong attitude.

At this time, there is no application pending to actually build the Cockren housing units.

Barbara DiGiacinto, Chairman of North Castle's Housing Board, said the board unanimously supports a letter from the town that the Smith-Cockren site should be considered by the County for FHA units. 

A letter of support from the Town Board to the County in favor of proceeding forward with the inquiry was approved by the Town Board with three "ayes" from Weaver, Kittredge and Schiliro and two "no's" from Cronin and Roth.  Read more coverage of this proposal

Armonk affordable housing units
Federal Monitor Criticizes Astorino’s Resistance to Affordable Housing
By James Shelly

March 22, 2016
Last week James E. Johnson, the federal court-appointed monitor overseeing the implementation of a 2009 affordable housing settlement between Westchester County and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), released a new report, the latest salvo in what has been a contentious relationship with Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and his staff. The report is a meticulously detailed catalogue of the “stark” differences between what county leaders have said in public about the 2009 settlement and what they recently said in sworn depositions by the federal monitor. The report could have implications in further litigation on the question of the county’s cooperation on the settlement.

Last April, the federal monitor submitted a report that questioned the county’s compliance with the settlement when the Town of New Castle refused to permit the development of 28 affordable housing units at Chappaqua Station. Johnson said that Astorino had not provided adequate sticks and carrots to move the process along, as he was required to do per the settlement.

In November, a U.S. Magistrate, Judge Gabriel Gorenstein ruled, that the county’s duty to support the settlement was not clear and unambiguous. The county executive’s office trumpeted the ruling as a victory against an overreaching federal agency.

After failing to convince Judge Gorenstein of the county’s resistance to the 2009 settlement, Johnson has written an exhaustive summary detailing what he believes is a failure by Westchester County leaders to live up to their obligation to “speak accurately about the terms and implications of the Settlement”. Specifically, Johnson criticizes Astorino for stating in many venues, from January to September 2013, that the federal monitor intends to force the county to build 10,768 units of affordable housing at a cost of as much as a billion dollars, and to dismantle zoning laws. According to Johnson, the settlement requires the county to spend $51.6 million to build at least 750 affordable housing units. After charging Astorino and others of spreading misinformation about the federal monitor and the settlement, in 2014 Johnson won the right to depose Astorino and three staff members. Those recent depositions figure heavily in the current report, and Johnson lists the contrasting statements in a tabular format, presenting column by column, one at a time, discrete terms taken from the settlement, public statements made by individual county staff members regarding those terms, and finally, what they later said under oath when questioned about their inaccurate public statements. In numerous instances, Astorino and staff acknowledged there was no basis, or none they could recall, for the inaccurate statements they made in public.

In addition, Johnson’s report lists two specific recent county initiatives to which the Astorino team devoted impressive resources and support. One is the “Westchester Smart” economic development campaign, and the other is the “Safer Communities” campaign. Johnson uses these initiatives to highlight what he considers to be the county’s comparatively weak efforts in discharging “its duty to educate the public as to the benefits of integration and fair housing,” as required under the terms of the settlement. The report says that the county claims its affordable housing campaign, “One Community Campaign”, which began in the fall of 2015, qualifies as compliance. “What the county now calls a campaign consists of a letter from Mr. Astorino and a page on its website,” says Johnson. He concludes that the effort of affordable fair housing campaign “compares poorly” with other county campaigns.  

Johnson’s report also devotes considerable attention to the county’s failure to submit to HUD “an appropriate Analysis of Impediments that considers the role zoning plays in impeding fair housing” as required in the settlement. Beginning in July of 2010, the report chronologically lists more than seven affordable housing submissions by the county, all of which have been rejected by HUD or by the Second Circuit Court. He also details his work with various local governments throughout the county. Again, by listing the failures and apparent foot-dragging, Johnson has raised the specter of litigation on county compliance that goes beyond counting the number of affordable housing units built. Astorino’s hyperbole aside, this part of the settlement may have more wide-reaching implications for Westchester County, and goes to the heart of the basis for the original lawsuit that led to the 2009 settlement.

Federal monitor Johnson is laying out the broad loop of a legal noose. Given the tone of the report that he has issued, one can only conclude that Westchester County will soon be back before the U.S. Second Circuit Court judge to defend itself against new charges that it has not complied with the 2009 settlement. And if Astorino and his staff can’t come up with a better course of action, the noose could tighten.

James Shelly is a Farmers Insurance Agency owner at 495 Main Street, Suite 103, Armonk. He can be reached at 917-720-4049, or email jshelly@farmersagent.com.

27 Affordable Housing Units Coming to North Castle
                            
September 18, 2015
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has increased its efforts to expand affordable housing and low-income housing. There are non-profit organizations that claim local municipal housing ordinances give a residency preference to the local population. The watch-dog organizations argue that if the population is 98% white, a white majority is being perpetuated. There is also an argument that there is not enough accommodations being given to people with disabilities.

The case for the plaintiff of the anti-discrimination suit of the New York City-based Anti-Discrimination Center against Westchester County was actually a False Claims Act suit based upon a federal law that passed in the 1860s when U.S. government contractors were building cannon balls and over-charging the federal government. The government said, if anyone is dubbing the government, a plaintiff, not affiliated with the government, can sue on behalf of the government to receive treble damages, recovering three times the actual damages.

Andy Spano, the prior Westchester County Executive, signed a certification accepting federal government money along with a consortium of 40 Westchester County cities, towns, and villages. They were granted millions of dollars. This action then forced the receiving municipalities to use the funds to provide affordable housing.

North Castle was among the 40 municipalities of the consortium. Therefore, North Castle’s Town Board passed legislation that mandates affordable housing for all of North Castle’s future multiple dwelling developments. The Town Board recently approved zoning for housing developments that require 27 affordable units to be built in North Castle.

To date, all of the 27 affordable North Castle units are projected to be built in Armonk.

There are ten affordable units being built on Old Route 22 that will be for sale. These units are the result of the transfer from the 20% mandated off-site middle-income requirements of the Cider Mill’s fare-market homes and from Armonk Square’s fare-market apartments.  

The recent approval of the 73 units for the Brynwood Golf Community requires eight affordable apartments. Brynwood’s site plan, including the on-site or the off-site locations for the affordable units, have yet to be publicly reviewed.  

The zoning approval of Frank Madonna’s senior housing plan for 14 apartments on Old Mount Kisco Road requires two affordable apartments.
 

Michael Fareri’s 36 approved apartments (which he intends to request a reduction to 35 units) at the former lumberyard will require seven affordable units if his lastest proposal is approved to relocate the affordable housing component to 39 Maple Avenue.

Westchester County’s affordable housing guidelines work off of 80% of the county’s average income, which is $76,500 for a family of three. The HUD affordable housing opportunities will be available through Homeseeker, which is coordinated with Westchester County. The affordable housing information will be listed here as the North Castle affordable housing opportunities become available.


New Housing on Old Route 22

Updated August 20, 2015
The modulars of the affordable housing units on Old Route 22 have arrived. The Armonk complex has two buildings with five two-bedroom apartments each. The sales price of the six interior apartments is expected to be $208,000. The four exterior units are expected to be priced at $218,000.

The complex will be walking distance to downtown Armonk. They will be connected by a continuous sidewalk. The three-story apartments all have an east and west exposure.

The 1,200 square foot apartments have two bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs. The view from the back master bedroom looks out toward shrubbery that blocks the unit’s view from Route 22. The second bedroom, in the front of the buildings, look toward the hillside of the Betsy Sluder Nature Preserve.

There is a kitchen and living room area with a half bath on the main floor. The back of the first floor of each apartment opens up to a patio that is surrounded by a rock wall and arborvitae for privacy. There is a utility room with a washer and dryer on the lower level, next to an unfinished basement space.

The assumption is that three persons will live in a two-bedroom apartment. HUD bases its income limits on a standard Area Median Income (AMI). The AMI standard used for Westchester is 80% to set the eligibility requirements for ownership. The affordability is broadly defined as a household paying no more than 30% of their monthly gross income toward housing costs that includes mortgage payments, property taxes, homeowners insurance and any common charges or Homeowners Association fees.

The application process will go through the Housing Action Council. Applications for home ownership will be accepted from the general public. The applicants will be chosen in a public lottery format. The qualified buyers will be determined based upon their income and other financial qualifications. The income guidelines are determined by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and New York State. The income guidelines are calculated by family size. The March 2015 guidelines for a maximum household income, for a three-person household, for a two-bedroom apartment is $76,500.

Developer Lou Larizza said it will be about another month before information about the Armonk complex will be listed on Westchester County’s website. Occupancy is expected in May 2016.

Planning Board Refers the Cockren Affordable Housing Back to ARB

October 25, 2014
Lou Larizza, the developer of Lazz Development, said he is the designated developer for Westchester County’s affirmative housing for the three-quarter-acre lot owned by Crabapple Properties on Old Route 22 in Armonk. Since 1985, Larizza has been an affordable housing developer in Westchester County, where he has built affordable houses in 13 municipalities.

An application to develop the Cockren property as a residential multi-family housing (RMFA) in North Castle has been publicly discussed since 2002. The same owners of Cider Mill and Armonk Square--Dom Dioguardi, John Dioguardi, and Alan Zaretsky--currently own the Cockren Property. The .70-acre lot had been dedicated to construct the eight middle income units required for the multi-family development of Cider Mill’s condominiums, also on Old Route 22.  

Tony Veneziano legally represents the Crabapple Property group. He said the Cockren property was to be developed for North Castle’s middle income unit program, and that was to be paid for by the developers. But the housing market collapsed and no interested buyers could meet the qualifications to buy the proposed new middle income units. Then, in 2011, the Weaver administration supported the Cockren project to be transferred to satisfy North Castle’s obligation for Westchester County’s affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH). At that time, Westchester County and New York State approved the funding. However, the majority of the Town Board of former Supervisor Howard Arden’s administration--which followed the Weaver administration--was not in agreement for the location of the AFFH at the Cockren property. Arden owns a commercial building on Old Route 22. Yet, as Supervisor, he neglected to offer an acceptable alternative location to build the AFFH units.

Veneziano said, “We were told to stand down for abject political reasons.”

Veneziano added, “Now the County may want to support the affordable housing project with funding because North Castle is on the short list of communities that the HUD monitor would like to see get affordable housing.”

The Crabapple Property group is still obligated to build the eight affordable housing units to the release the $200,000 bond held by the Town for the certificate of occupancy of some of the Cider Mill condominiums. To break ground on the remaining four building sites (of the 27 total Cider Mill condos) Crabapple must fulfill the affordable housing obligation with eight units. The same owners of Crabapple Property are responsible for providing two additional affordable housing units for the ten apartments at Armonk Square.

Lazz Development has proposed to build two buildings of five AFFH apartments at the Cockren property. The application was presented by Tony Veneziano and engineer Dan Holt, who represented the Crabapple Property Group at North Castle’s Planning Board meeting on October 20, 2014.

Developer Michael Fareri also spoke at that Planning Board meeting. Fareri said there is funding available from Westchester County to build the fair and affordable housing units. But he added that the public funding for the Cockren housing project is troubling him because of the requirement of affordable housing that fulfills the approval to finish building the $1 million plus condos at Cider Mill. Fareri asked, “Why should the County taxpayer’s money be used to assure that these affordable housing units are built?” Fareri has brought this issue up with the Westchester Housing Authority.

He also has an application before the Town to build six affordable rental apartments at the former lumberyard property on Bedford Road in Armonk, near the exit 3 ramp of I-684.

The Chairman of the Planning Board, Art Adelman, said he likes Lazz’s plans. But the applicant must convince the Architectural Review Board (ARB) to get this going because the Planning Board will not approve the plans without the ARB’s recommendation.

North Castle’s ARB is responsible for the visual design of the town’s residential and commercial structures. The ARB committee considers buildings’ color and materials to ensure the highest standards of design quality.  

Due to the lack of a quorum at the ARB meeting when the Cockren property application was reviewed, the applicant must go back to the ARB. If the ARB does not recommend the plans, a variance will be needed from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Larizza said the ten apartments in the original building plans have to be marketable. Initially, the apartment plans of two Cockren buildings were too small. The recently presented apartment plans were amended to be two feet wider and four feet deeper on the first floor. The first floor includes a living room, dining room, kitchen and a half bath. The new plans also show a larger second floor master bedroom of 16 x 14 feet, with a full bathroom, and a second upstairs bedroom of 16 x 12 with another full bathroom.

The ARB requested interior design changes of a third window on the first floor and a window at the top of stairs, exposing the stairs to more daylight. Larizza agreed to these changes. Everything the ARB asked to be done on the inside is possible, he said.

The exterior plans for the buildings show the second floor staggered with a back and forward dimension on the front facade. Larizza said the ARB wants the first floor staggered as well. A staggered first floor would alternate the five apartments: one unit forward, the next back, with the center unit back four feet. Aesthetically this would create a more appealing facade. However, Dan Holt, the engineer, said this would cause a further setback of the buildings’ foundation. This requires an excavation of the hillside behind the buildings that abut Route 22. The other option is to bring the buildings forward. However, this option would require a variance for the setback of the building from the road. A request for a variance must be presented to North Castle’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

Larizza said ARB’s requested exterior changes of the foundation, including the use of stone accents, Marvin windows, Azek trim, and HardiePlank siding call for a beautiful plan. But these changes create a cost issue that is not agreeable with Larizza.

He estimated that the market selling price of the two bedroom affordable housing units should be between $190,000 to $200,000. Therefore, the building costs must be kept down to price the units for a two-to three-family dwelling. Qualified buyers’ restricted maximum income will be about $60,000.  

Cockren Middle Income Houses

Discussions continue between the town and real estate developer and property owner Alan Zaretsky and partners, Diogardi Brothers.  Still in the conceptual stages, the Cockren property (also referred to as The Crab Apple) was presented to the Planning Board by Billy McClure and engineer Dan Holt. The development is proposed on a small lot on Old Route 22. These middle income housing units will meet the requirements for the resolutions for the Cider Mill Complex, also on Old Route 22. When the Crab Apple development is complete, eight units on the Cockren property will fulfill the requirements for the Cider Mill resolution.  

Cider Mill's owner, also Alan Zarestky and the Diogardi Brothers, will be permitted to proceed with the remaining certificates of occupancy and building permits to finish the seven of 27 total fair market value units at Cider Mill.

After several presentations and back and forth options of studios, one bedroom or more units, the current  proposed project includes two prefabricated buildings of either six to eight two-bedroom units plus two three-bedroom units, which will bookend both of the buildings. The size of the individual units will determine if there will be either six or eight two-bedroom apartments. All possibilities are being considered, including six middle income bedrooms, two fair market bedroom units and two three-bedroom units. But even if two two-bedroom fair market value units were on the inside ends, with more square footage, upgraded amenities, finishes and appliances, the value of the fair market apartments would be decreased by the surrounding middle income units.

Originally underground parking garages were presented, but according to Dan Holt, "The garages under the building laid out terrible and looked like a mess and didn't make sense." The site plan is being held back while the applicant is looking for approval on a variance for the outdoor parking.

Design features presented a bedroom in the attic, big windows in the back facing Route 22, no skylights, and 1,000 square feet interior with an additional 500 sf in the basement. Each unit would have a partially finished basement with laundry, hydro-air and central air conditioning. Each unit would be staggered rather than have a flat facade.  The three-bedroom apartments would have their third bedroom in the basement. Bedroom dimensions were presented as 10.11' X 12' and 10.4' X 14.10', plus closets.

Exterior design details were briefly presented as fencing between the patios, outdoor parking, a small common recreation area in the southern section of the property, landscaping with paths and a sidewalk running along the property on Old Route 22.  

The infrastructure options are to either make multiple connections tapping into the existing lines or, as the Water and Sewer department recommends, lay new lines requiring the application to go to the county for approval, which will prolong the process.

The applicant doesn't want the units to sit unoccupied in this unpredictable real estate market and is therefore attempting to work out the details with North Castle's Housing Board to market the units once a building permit is issued.

Taking baby steps and working through bureaucracy remains to be a tedious process. An environmental impact study, the Zoning Board variance review and approval, the Architectural Review Board and a public hearing are still required. The applicant's goal is to break ground before September and to have the pre-fab buildings in place by September.

Armonk's MIU Housing

Updated May 11, 2010
Armonk resident and developer Alan Zaretsky is a partner of several prime real estate properties in Armonk. These properties include Armonk Square in the center of town, Cider Mill, and Crab Apple Properties on Old Route 22.  Management at the Cider Mill and the Cockren property, also known as the Crab Apple Property, are aligned in resolving the off-site designation of the middle-income units (MIUs) for Cider Mill.

The Cider Mill property, under the original plans, was slated to include eight MIUs. Developer Michael Fareri bought Schultz' Cider Mill in 2002, and subsequently sold it to Antares.  Antares in turn, built and sold a majority of the Cider Mill units, but could not complete the development without fulfilling the middle-income housing requirements. Zaretsky purchased the unfinished seven units of Cider Mill, but the Town will not issue building permits and certificate of occupancies, until the MIU requirements have been met.

Old Route 22, across from Gavi and down the road from Cider Mill, is slated to be developed as the Crab Apple Property.  The latest proposed ten Crab Apple MIUs will be five apartments of 1,045 square feet in two buildings on just less than an acre of land. The buildings will be pre-fabricated set in a foundation.  This will fulfill the Cider Mill resolution for approval. Since only eight apartments are required to fulfill the resolution, two apartments will be land-banked against future obligations.

Although Armonk Square is in the central business district, they must meet the requirement of 20% of their apartments to be MIUs on premise.

The Crab Apple's conceptual plans have been presented to the North Castle Planning Board. The general consensus was that the two proposed buildings are attractive, and provide a significant improvement to the vacant lot.  Crab Apple's conceptual plan received positive feedback from both the Planning Director and Planning Board. A lawn mower shop and the large house owned by George Smith and his family were located on the original site; the home, however, was demolished last year.

There are many details of Crab Apple that need to be ironed out. The specification plans include 22 outdoor parking spaces, with plans to add a few additional spaces. The calculations for open space need to be reviewed. The initial plans called for studios and one-bedroom apartments, but there doesn't appear to be a need for smaller apartments. The plans now include all two-bedrooms apartments, with a request pending from the Housing Board to consider all four end-units as three-bedroom apartments. Currently, there are only three other three-bedroom MIUs in town, and over the years, people have requested three-bedroom apartments.

The Crab Apple property is in the early stages of development, which opens the door for the town's regulating boards and inspectors to review the plans. The Architectural Review Board must review the project, along with the Housing Board, Fire Inspector, and Sewer & Water department. Accordingly, we expect a public hearing to take place in the near future.

The Planning Board's requests included moving the washer and dryers to the basement, erecting a fence in the back of the property, and moving the utilities underground. Finally, the question remains how to effectively meet the parking needs with on-street parking, and possibly construct a side-walk connecting all of Old Route 22. This is only the beginning of a long process, with more details to follow.  A major obstacle is that the developer wants the units to be marketed and sold before they start building them.

North Castle's Moderate Income Housing

Posted May 19, 2011
To build a multifamily development, says North Castle Director of Planning Adam Kaufman, the law requires developers to build a percentage of their units as affordable housing, as was true when Michael Fareri owned the Cider Mill on Old Route 22.

In order to build the 27 housing units there, Fareri was required to build eight middle-income housing units.  Fareri proposed the Cockren Property, also on Old Route 22, as an alternative site to build the required middle-income units for Cider Mill. 

Antares bought both the Cider Mill and the Cockren properties from Fareri. Antares sold them to a partnership owned by developers (and Armonk residents) Alan Zaretsky and the Dioguardi Brothers. Once the affordable housing unit requirements are met, the town will issue the remaining building permits and certificates of occupancies  to complete seven of the 27 remaining units at Cider Mill.

Zaretsky presented plans for Crab Apple Properties to build middle-income housing units at Cockren several years ago. North Castle Town Attorney Roland Baroni said the Planning Board and the Town Board both agreed to approve the site plans for the Cockren property and for the Cider Mill in 2002, when they were the subject of a public hearing.  Baroni said he doesn't believe a public hearing is required now because changing the classification of housing from North Castle middle-income units to Westchester County affordable housing units doesn't change the maximum level of what counts as "middle-income," which is what our housing board controls.

In 2008, the economy crashed and banking credit tightened. Councilman Michael Schiliro said that after several months of analysis of the middle-income unit housing market, the North Castle Housing Board recommended that the Town Board send a letter to the County to consider the Cockren property for county affordable housing rather than for North Castle middle-income housing. Since the middle-income housing market was struggling due to the economy and to reduced mortgage financing, making it difficult for middle-income earners to buy homes,  Zaretsky did not want to build additional middle-income housing units North Castle that couldn't be sold.

By a majority vote, the North Castle Town Board approved and sent a letter to the county government suggesting the Cockren property as a site for affordable housing. Weaver says the Town Board is looking to promote development in the town, and says that if the Cockren property is not developed, it will hold up two other properties: Cider Mill and Armonk Square, because they are both owned by the same people.

At a special meeting on May 16, Supervisor Weaver introduced a panel of representatives from the county who were interested in purchasing the Cockren property for $400,000.   

Lou Larizzi of Lazz Development specializes in affordable housing development and has built low-cost housing in Rye Brook. He is a private developer building affordable housing as part of the county's program. Some subsides are provided for the construction of affordable housing developments. It will be up to the county whether they buy the property from Crab Apple Properties.  

The ten affordable housing units proposed by Crab Apple Properties and Lazz Development are similar in design, construction and price to the units in Crab Apple Properties' plans. The plans include ten two-bedroom units of 1,100 square feet, each with private patios. The second story windows will be below Route 22, which is at a higher elevation up a hill from the backyard of the Cockren complex. Larizzi says it will take about 14 months to build the complex from start to finish.

Both affordable housing plans only offer the units as privately owned, with no subleasing or renting permitted. Under the County's regulations, the units will be sold subject to income, eligibility and market requirements.

There is no requirement that North Castle have a certain number of affordable units. County Legislator John Noona said that North Castle signed an agreement, as did other Westchester communities, to receive community bond development grants over 20 years, but in return the Town must assist the County in meeting its obligation to provide affordable and fair housing. Noona said that Bedford and Larchmont are already building affordable housing, and more units will be built across the county.  

Mary Jennings Mahon, Special Assistant for Real Estate to Westchester's County  Executive, said the county has to build 750 affordable housing units throughout Westchester's 31 municipalities, with no quotas set for any one municipality.  Mahon added that 154 units have already been financed and built, with more units being built in 13 Westchester municipalities.  

About 50 people attended the May 16 special meeting, and several residents questioned whether the town can change the already approved middle-income housing units, regulated by North Castle's Housing Board, to affordable housing units regulated by the Westchester County Housing Board without a public hearing. Baroni said a public hearing was held in the past and approval was given by the Planning Board and Town Board.

Weaver said the biggest difference in North Castle middle-income housing and Westchester County's plan, is that the pool of applicants in the county's program will be from all over the county, and North Castle residents will have no advantage in the lottery when potential qualified buyers are chosen. Under the county's housing regulations, the income requirements are based upon the county's median income, which is about $8,000/year less than the median income of the Town of North Castle's employees.

The tone of the opposition to the affordable housing units was very civil at the May 16 meeting, with further questions raised about why the residents of the town were not informed about the change in the housing classification and permitted to discuss it at a public hearing. Councilman Diane Roth and other residents requested that the Town Board further review the county's affordable housing plan to see if the required units can be built in a better location.

Developer Michael Fareri said he has proposed the old lumberyard as a possible location for affordable housing. Howard Arden suggested transferring the required units to Armonk Square's residential component. Residents also expressed concerns about home buyers at the County's median-income level versus the town's median-income level.  

Questions were expressed about the way the county system is set up, with only 5% down payment required, increasing the potential for defaults on mortgage payments as well as taxes. Rose Noonan, from the Housing Action Council, said that the County requires that the housing debt incurred not be greater then a debt/income ratio of 33% of a buyer's yearly income. She says that figure makes sense for the group of buyers with incomes between $67,000 to $83,800 eligible to buy a two-bedroom unit for two to four people.  The county says "No" to potential buyers when their income is not high enough.  

Several residents also raised the question of property taxes. The market value of the units will determine the tax level. Baroni pointed out that the 27 units built at Cider Mill will be sold and taxed at market rate, while the 10 units to be built at the Cockren property are the affordable units which will sell for $210,000 and will be taxed at a lower rate.

The income restriction determines the pool of buyers. Noonan says many buyers are first-time home purchasers and typically their income will rise in the future. Questions about who our potential neighbors will be are valid, she says, but county officials assume that the buyers will quickly become part of the fabric of our community, because they are middle-income people and not lower-income earners. In Rye Brook, where Lazz Development built nine affordable units for the county, there is a policeman, a teacher and a young doctor.  Noonan said thousands of people are looking to buy homes, many with lower income levels, but she believes they will be able to keep up with the cost of living and be active in our community.

Several residents expressed support for the project. Linda Trummer-Napoliatano said she didn't see why if the units were approved as middle-income units, they wouldn't also be appropriate as affordable housing. Residing in nearby Whippoorwill Hills, she didn't feel the new units would have any negative impact on her home or its property value.

Supervisor Weaver says that selling the Cockren property to the county will free up funds to complete the Cider Mill units, which would accelerate the construction of the first phase of the infrastructure at Armonk Square. Zaretsky and the Dioguardi brothers own Armonk Square. They are purported to have $13 million tied up in the property, and as expected, they are anxious to start building. Weaver says the approvals are complete for Armonk Square and have been for two years.

Astorino's On The Road Campaign Lands in North Castle

June 18, 2013
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino held a Town Hall meeting in Armonk to discuss county issues and concerns that affect North Castle. His on "the road campaign" is an open dialogue with residents to share his accomplishments, which include protecting taxpayers, preserving essential services and promoting economic growth.

Astorino said Westchester County is on target to meet the necessary requirements to build 750-affordable-housing units over seven years, as determined by the Housing and Urban Development settlement. Astorino said, "Additional actions will be needed for the Town to make meaningful progress toward meeting its affordable housing obligation under the 2009 Settlement."

"Beyond the four corners" of the county's settlement, HUD has determined that Westchester’s supplement zoning submissions do not provide sufficient evidence to support the county's affirmatively further fair housing. The monitor for HUD reports that the affordable housing "benchmarks" for 31 eligible Westchester communities is 5,847 units, of which North Castle's benchmark obligations is 666 units.

A report card dated March 2013 from Federal Housing Monitor James Johnson was sent to the 31 eligible Westchester communities. Johnson says North Castle's middle-income housing does not conform to the model of the affordable-housing zoning ordinance. "Under current conditions, the Town has the capacity to produce 82 additional multifamily units, without demolition and redevelopment." Click to view the document here.

Astorino said the benchmark obligation has not been enforced and the municipalities are not required to respond. But if Westchester County communities were required to adopt the additional model affordable-housing zoning ordinance of 5,847 more units (with an outstanding benchmark obligation of 666 FAH units in North Castle), Astorino said, "I'll be back in court real quick."

Astorino is working with Supervisor Howard Arden and the Town Board to repair and relocate the historical Elijah Miller House from Virginia Road to Fountain Park in North White Plains. More details need to be worked out, says Astorino, such as who will be responsible for the maintenance of the building and who will oversee the building once it is moved.