Armonk's Senior Assisted Living Will Be More Like a Five-Star Hotel
March 28, 2013 The Engel Burman Group is building an assisted living community at 90 Business Park Drive in Armonk's Business Park's Planned Light Industry (PLI) zone. The allowed PLI district includes motels, business and professional offices, warehouses, recreation centers, day spas and assisted living facilities.
90 Business Park was sold for $5.5 MM in December 2012. Five acres, of the six-and-half acres, will be used for the assisted living building. The lot will be subdivided, with the one-and-half acre lot along Route 22 to remain vacant. The applicant has not presented plans to develop the second lot, but has said that an office building could fit into the space.
The assisted living building will have three stories, with a total square footage of approximately 119,000.
The senior community will include 136 beds, and will offer many amenities including: library, card/game room, sunroom, bistro, private dining room, movie theater, salon, arts and crafts studio, fitness center, which includes a swimming pool, wellness center, and an activities center for visiting grandchildren. They will also have an inter-generational program that will invite local students into the building for different levels of interaction with the seniors.
Engel Burman's principal Steven Krieger said, they are not a nursing home, but they do have a full-time nurse on staff; they also have visiting hours for doctors offered as a convenience for the residents. "We are a non-medical model, more like a five-star hotel for seniors. We help seniors with activities of daily living such as eating, bathing, grooming and going back and forth from different activities. The typical resident is someone in his or her early to mid-eighties, who may have lost a spouse, is living alone, not socializing, not cooking for himself or herself; some of the seniors may also be experiencing a little depression." They also plan to have a special wing for dementia and Alzheimer's patients.
Krieger anticipates the building's hard cost to be between 17 and 18 million dollars. Attorney Mark Miller, representing Engel Berman, said the applicant will be funding up to a maximum of $30,000 of improvements to the intersection of Business Park Drive, Route 22 and Maple Avenue. The improvements will include re-striping of the road and partial removal of the three foot median on Route 22 to allow two distinct lanes, satisfying New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) standards to permit left turns onto Route 22.
North Castle Adds Another Corporate PILOT Program
January 10, 2013 Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) are public benefit corporations. In 1969, New York State legislation was enacted to create IDAs for the purpose of contributing to the economic development in specific locations of New York State. In May 2006, the Industrial Development Agency in New York reported 115-active IDAs. There are several IDAs on North Castle's tax roll: IBM, Swiss Re, Car Quest, and recently Engel Burman Group, the company that plans to build an assisted-living facility in Armonk's Business Park.
New York State would prefer Westchester County's Industrial Development Agency (WCIDA) to initiate the IDAs, according to Town of North Castle Attorney Roland Baroni. CarQuest and Engel Burman Group IDAs are associated with Westchester County, while IBM and Swiss Re are New York State IDAs. Westchester County has agreed to a variety of incentives with Engel Burman Group to encourage them to locate their businesses in Westchester County. In turn, Engel Burman Group has guaranteed that they will create a certain number of new jobs. "The purpose of an IDA," according to the IDA documentation from NYS Government Services, "is to promote, develop, encourage and assist in acquiring, constructing, improving, maintaining or equipping certain facilities, thereby advancing the job opportunities, health, general prosperity and the economic welfare of the people of New York."
As an IDA property, Engel Burman will be tax exempt, and they will make payments-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOTS) that will begin in 2013. The Engel Burman Group’s assisted-living facility is controlled by an IDA and is exempt from a variety of taxes. The benefits may include taxable bonds for construction financing; state and local sales tax exemptions on construction material, furniture, equipment and fixtures; exemption from payment of property and mortgage recording tax; and the PILOT agreement on property.
Supervisor Howard Arden said he is pleased with the results of the 15-year PILOT agreement between the Town of North Castle and Engel Burman Group at Armonk LLC; the agreement had been negotiated by North Castle's Town Attorney Roland Baroni and North Castle Tax Assessor Victoria Sirota. The North Castle Town Board unanimously agreed, authorizing Arden to execute the PILOT agreement. Arden has not responded to us about the details of the contract as of this publication.
A Closer Look At Sutton Place
November 28, 2011 Sutton Place is an assisted-living facility consisting of 136 beds that will be located at 90 Business Park Drive on the east side of Route 22, adjacent to the south ramp to I-684. At the November 21, 2011 Planning Board meeting, a site approval plan was discussed and approved for the facility, based on certain conditions.
North Castle’s Architectural Review Board (ARB) is responsible for ensuring the aesthetic value of natural and man-made features of the exterior of the town’s commercial, municipal, recreational and residential buildings. The ARB reviews the principal materials of siding, paint and stain colors.
Several members of the ARB attended the November 21, 2011 Planning Board meeting. Planning Board Chairman John Delano said the applicant holds the reigns to this project and chose to have the ARB involved as the last part of the approval equation. Delano said that the ARB “should do what it is that you do, as if this review were at the beginning of the project.” Town Planner Adam Kaufman said the Planning Board is waiting for the ARB’s recommendations, a condition required for the final site plan approval.
To get an accurate view, ARB reviews architectural drawings that show a three-dimension perspective of the construction drawings. The ARB said that they like the dimensions of the X-shape of the 119,000 square foot building, but they have some concerns, including the orientation of the building. ARB member Chris Tuzzo said they would like the building to have some architectural integrity. Tuzzo added that it is fine to create the elegance and richness of a stately mansion, especially given the location of the large building in a prominent section of town. But the ARB said that the faux-brick façade materials give the building an inauthentic look. They will review some alternatives to the material of the façade.
Chairman Anthony Calvello said the ARB did not agree with building’s exterior color combination of faux red brick and sandstone beige. They would prefer a more harmonious look, rather than the contrast between the cement panels and the faux bricks. They want to review some samples to help enhance the appearance of the building’s exterior.
The three-story building has several one-story portions facing Route 22 and I-684. ARB would like to see a break in the roof line to add to the character of the building in the one-story areas. They also mentioned jutting the heights of the roof of the front of the building and adding detail to the roof line. Finally, they suggested perhaps adding dimension to the flatness of the front of the building with the addition of bay windows.
Tony Veneziano, legal representation for Engel Berman Armonk, said the new development cost of Sutton Place is between 24 and 25 million dollars. The company has built several other facilities on Long Island and is completing another assisted-living structure in White Plains. Sutton Courts’ interior is set and will duplicate the other Engel Berman facilities. It will also include a swimming pool, putting green, hibachi court, outdoor terrace with a barbeque area, gazebo and garden, and a walking path. “They are looking for residents to love it and have a “Wow Effect.”
ARB will be reviewing the properties’ landscaping and was assured by Engel Berman that they will spare no expense on the landscaping.
North Castle’s town code requires a recreation fee for use of the town’s recreation facilities in the amount of $1,000 per unit for multi-family dwellings. Sutton Place will offer 136 beds in studios, one-bedrooms and friendship units with two separate bedrooms. Hence, the 136 beds of Sutton Place will require a recreation fee of $136,000. The applicant has asked for a waiver of the recreation fee, since they will provide 12% for an acre (as required by code) for recreation to serve the residents at their own facility.
Town Attorney Roland Baroni said the town and the Recreation Board should consider if the proposed recreational facilities would be adequate to serve all the recreational needs of the residents or if they may go off-site to participate in the town’s senior programs. The Planning Board will ask the Recreation Board to review the issue to consider waiving the fee. The Planning Board may consider a waiver of all or part of the fee, based on the recommendation of the Parks and Recreation Board. This is another condition of the site approval.
Steven Kreiger, a principal of Engel Berman, says Sutton Place will have private non-emergency ambulance services on call 24/7. Their emergency calls will rely on the services of the Armonk Fire Department. Baroni said the Armonk Fire Department is concerned that the emergency calls resulting from Sutton Place will increase the demand of Armonk’s Volunteer Fire Department by 10%. The potential problem is a result of the rule that all emergency calls must have an emergency medical technician (EMT) available; accordingly, this increase in calls would overburden the department. As a result, the Armonk Fire Department has requested that Sutton Place have an EMT on staff at all times. Engel Berman has committed to this condition. The approval will be subject to any additional requirements submitted by Armonk’s Fire Commissioner.
The Planning Board approved the subdivision, which would create two lots from the existing one lot of the 6.5 acres. Sutton Place at 90 Business Park Drive will be situated on 5 acres. The 1.5 acres of the adjacent second lot will remain vacant at this time, but may be used as a site for an office building in the future.
The Challenge of Obtaining Building Approvals
May 17, 2012 North Castle's Residential Project Review Committee (RPRC) was created under the Berman Administration in 2008. The committee was formed to streamline the required approval process for applicants to renovate or build a new home and for property owners to make minor renovations to their homes. There are currently six members of the RPRC: Director of Planning, Town Engineer, Planning Board Chairman, a building inspector, an architectural review board member, and a conservation board member.
Unfortunately, there is a flaw in the streamlined process of the committee: It eliminates the notification of neighbors. This committee, unlike the Planning Board, does not require proper notification to neighbors. In addition, applications that are being reviewed by the Planning Board require the Town to post a planning board sign that is clearly visible to all neighbors in front of a property. The items that appear on the RPRC agenda are posted on the town's website. As a result, the burden of reviewing the town agenda for projects that may be under consideration in their neighborhoods falls on residents.
According to Planning Board Chairman Bob Greene, if the professionals reviewing a site plan at a RPRC meeting think a problem could arise with the application or the development of the site plan, they refer the application to the Planning Board. However, can the RPRC fully understand all the issues involved with the proposed development without any input from the neighbors? Currently, RPRC members may or may not choose to visit the building site.
Many of the neighbors’ concerns often presented at Planning Board meetings involve privacy issues, environmental issues and the potential financial impact on home values. Greene says the RPRC considers dense screening and maintenance of required landscaping an important part of the site plan approval process. Screening is an essential marketing consideration for builders and residents alike. Greene feels that both the RPRC and the Planning Board are sensitive to the issue of adequate screening.
In March 2012, the RPRC determined that the Rondeau application for new construction of a more than 3,000-square-foot house on Bedford Road met the code requirements and did not require approval from the Planning Board or Architectural Review Board. The new house was to be situated on a subdivided lot near an existing home. Paul Vink, lawyer for the Cavallaros (residents of the existing home), made an appeal to the Planning Board asking that they overturn the RPRC decision to pursue further review of the application. Since Chairman Bob Greene was involved in the original RPRC decision, he had to recuse himself from the Planning Board's review of the appeal. The two sides (the existing homeowner and the owner of the proposed new house) each had professionals arguing both sides of the appeal. Rondeau's architect presented plans for a home, one which included a swimming pool and configured the house on the lot to accommodate the pool. The opposing side said they wanted the opportunity to present an alternative plan prepared by their landscape architecture at their expense; this plan would keep the new house out of view from the Cavallaros’ existing home.
Acting Chairman Art Adelman asked the two sides to meet at the site and try to work out a viable alternative. The parties appeared at the May 14 Planning Board meeting without an acceptable compromise and Vink, once again, asked the Planning Board to overturn the RPRC decision.
Planning Board Member John Delano said after visiting the site that some consideration should be given to the location of the house; he did not expect a property owner of two acres in Armonk to be forced to stare at another home, which is often the case in neighborhoods of smaller lots, such as those in North White Plains.
The four remaining Planning Board members split their decision in the appeal ruling which automatically overturned the RPRC decision. The Rondeau application should appear on a future agenda of the Planning Board meeting and possibly the Architecture Review Board as well. This would give the neighbors an opportunity to present their opinions for consideration.
Real Estate Agent Julie Schneider worked with the Rondeaus on the purchase of their property. Schneider said North Castle’s reputation for obtaining building approval is considered challenging. She was disheartened with the results, namely overturning the RPRC approval, because as a realtor she had done her homework: She had already consulted with pool professionals and the Conservation Board. The vacant property was on the market for five years, which gave the Cavallaros ample opportunity to purchase the lot if they didn’t want a house to be built there, said Schneider.
But Vink, Cavallaro’s lawyer, argued that the issue was not that they did not want a house on the neighboring property; rather, he said that while the original plans for the location of the two homes on the subdivided lot were not binding, they wanted the new home to remain out of sight, as it was in the original plans.
When the Planning Board or the RPRC approve a project and a building permit is issued with requirements, what recourse is there if the applicant does not adhere to the approval requirements? How are the requirements enforced? When Mike Cromwell, North Castle’s Assistant Building Inspector, was asked how to go about enforcing the RPRC’s requirement to have additional landscape screening of a pool after the decision has been approved by the RPRC, he had no response. Town Planner Adam Kaufman said the responsibility fell on Cromwell's boss. But just who is his boss? Is it ultimately the taxpayer, since some people feel that taxpayers are the real bosses of all municipal employees?
Since it is the neighbor's responsibility to learn of a renovation or a new construction project in most of the RPRC's applications, the neighbors are usually not made aware of the project until after the site plan has been approved by the RPRC and a building permit has been issued. Therefore, it appears as if the streamlined process of the RPRC may benefit applicants by expediting their approval, but it does not seem to be in the best interest of the neighboring community.
North Castle's existing two building review processes are flawed. Applicants may be faced with the hassles of the Planning Board process, which can be tedious, expensive and burdensome to the applicants: This was the rationale behind the formation of the RPRC. Unfortunately, the simplified process of the RPRC may be negligent for the existing neighbors of a property under consideration.
Councilman John Cronin is a neighbor of the proposed Rondeau home. He said he would like to see some way of striking a balance between the streamlined approval process for the RPRC and implementing a neighbor notification process, like it is currently handled with the Planning Board. Perhaps a simple solution to the issue of neighbor notification would be having the Town post a sign in front of a property saying “Under the Review of North Castle RPRC.”
F.P. Clark presented a Banksville Planning & Zoning Study at North Castle's Town Board work session on February 10, 2012. Watch the video below.
61 & 73 Old Route 22, Armonk.
Old Route 22 Improvements
March 27, 2012 Margaret Briggs' Estate is the area in which the now-closed India Cafe & Grill and Tutor Time Child Care/Learning Center are located on Old Route 22. The 4.58-acre property has been proposed to the North Castle Planning Board as a subdivision for the past four-to-five years, and was proposed again at its March 26th meeting.
The recommendation is to divide the commercial property into two separate lots. One lot is proposed in the area in which the India Cafe & Grill restaurant is located, directly off Old Route 22. The Briggs Estate leases the property to the restaurant owner, who closed the cafe about four years ago. Once the property is subdivided, the intention is for the owner of the India Café to buy the 2.78 acre lot for an undisclosed amount. The plans for the building are unknown; it could be renovated, or the owner may choose to sell it.
The second 1.8 acre lot is the site of the Tutor Time Child Care, located in the rear portion of the subdivided lot.
Currently, the businesses are zoned differently as RB (roadside business) and R1A zoning districts. Director of Planning Adam Kaufman said the applicant must present the project to the Zoning Board of Appeals to determine if a variance is necessary; the variance may be required for the proposed division of the frontage of the two properties that must meet the minimum requirements of their respective zoning districts. The Planning Board’s members said they will give a positive recommendation if a variance is needed.
The proposed parking modification shows a shared parking plan that allows for the two businesses to operate; this would be made possible with an easement which connects the parking lots that stretch across both properties. It is anticipated, if the businesses remain as they currently are, that the parking use of a restaurant and school will peak at different times during the day. The John Meyers’ civil engineer who presented the project emphasized that even though the lots will be divided, the parking will function as though it is one property and will be an improvement to what currently exists.
This application is 90% complete, according to Director of Planning Adam Kaufman. Kaufman reiterated the requirement, which the applicant is in agreement with, to construct the sidewalk and other streetscape improvements along the frontage of both properties on Old Route 22.
John Kellard of Kellard Sessions, civil engineers and landscape architectural consultants for the town, said the design improvements have been studied along Old Route 22, from Route 22 to Main Street. The streetscape plan calls for narrowing the road to 24 feet; it will include on-street parking, improvements to curbing, sidewalks and landscaping.
Kellard says the plans for the design of Old Route 22 will be implemented when the property owners present their applications; at that time, they will they will be responsible for improving the frontage. The proposed plan has been accepted by the Briggs Estate; the Crabapple Property owners, who presented the middle-income housing project; and the old Armonk Bowl property that is owned by New York City Department of Environmental Protection.
Senior Housing Project on Old Mount Kisco Road Proposed
Updated February 28, 2013 Frank Madonna purchased 3.6 acres of property on 125 Mount Kisco Road between 2008 and 2010. The property is currently zoned for six-single family homes, but Madonna, who has long been working on plans to develop the property, appeared before the Town Board on February 13 to discuss a proposal for multifamily dwelling units for seniors, off Main Street just north of downtown Armonk.
The rezoning proposal, "The Byram," calls for 28 apartments for seniors age 55 and older. The plan calls for 16 two-bedrooms apartments and 12 one-bedroom units for a total of about 37,000 square feet of living space split among three buildings. Madonna would like to duplicate the architectural style and elegance of the homes in the Sands Mill and Wrights Mill communities that are located farther north on the other side of Route 128.
The property slopes 28 feet starting from an elevation of 372 feet at the lowest point on Route 128, to 400 feet at the highest point near Old Mount Kisco Road. Madonna says the slope allows for parking at ground level under the buildings, similar to a private home's basement garage.
Madonna's current proposal includes the connecting of the buildings into North Castle's Sewer District Number 2; he would like to build a main line from the public waste system. He says he will also, at his cost, subsidize the infrastructure in the neighborhood by connecting the private homes on the east side of Old Mount Kisco Road within 100 feet of the development to the District (assuming the homeowners are agreeable). Madonna owns two homes on the property and he plans to demolish one. He says there are eight other homes that would be eligible for the work, and he would like to connect them to the public sewer service to eliminate Old Mount Kisco Road's sewer problems. Madonna says the homes in this area have failing septic systems and present a health risk to the drinking water, both in the residents' wells and in the North Castle Water District Numbers 4 and 7 municipal supply wells located near School Street.
In 2009, Madonna said the Town's Sewer Capacity Task Force stated that "there is evidence of septic problems within the Old Mount Kisco Road neighborhood." Madonna said an analysis from 1992 states that the estimated cost to provide a sewage expansion into the neighborhoods of Old Mount Kisco Road, Annadale Street and Orchard Drive is in excess of $300,000, due to extensive excavation work. Madonna said the report, over twenty years ago, stated that the cost to extend the sewers was prohibitive to the individual homeowners and therefore they are still without public sewers.
Madonna said he does not have to cover the expense of the sewer connections in the other homes. However, the town code, in Chapter 164, says if someone builds a project and puts a sewer line in, and if the Town then determines there are problems with the septic systems in the surrounding area, the homeowners will have to connect to the main line and pay for it themselves.
Supervisor Howard Arden said he doesn't think that Madonna's need to construct a certain amount of units to cover the cost of building the sewers justifies the amount of density that he is proposing; although Arden said he appreciates the benefit of public sewers to the neighborhood.
Madonna said he tried to present his proposal to the Town Board in November 2012. At that time, the neighbors expressed concern about the project and the Town Board tabled it for further review. Madonna said it was evident at that time that there was a lot of misinformation about the proposal. He said that he has since spoken with several homeowners, explaining that the height of the building will not exceed the height of a two-story home, or as was mistakenly said, the 45'-high telephone poles along Route 128. The visual impact will not ruin the neighborhood, says Madonna, because the condos will have landscaping that will grow and fully screen the buildings in a couple of years. In addition, the 28-foot slope will create a natural berm.
Madonna is proposing to develop three two-story buildings over a parking garage. The restriction to seniors 55 and older, says Madonna, will bring additional revenue to the town and money to the downtown business district without the expense of adding children to the school district. Madonna projects the discounted tax rate for the condominiums to be an estimated $140,000 per year, given the total estimated sales of $13 to $14 million.
"There is a lot of work to be done in the area and I am more than willing to do it. I just have to be able to pay for it. I need a product that I feel comfortable building, especially since it will be age restricted," said Madonna.
Armonk resident John Diaconis asked if there are plans to build any affordable housing units in the development under Westchester County's requirements. Madonna said he will build what he has to under the town code; either by providing two-middle income units, or if the town mandates it, three-middle income units. Madonna added that they will be one-bedroom units of 850 square feet in the middle of each building's first floor.
Armonk resident Neal Baumann said that as a homeowner in the School Street/ Route 128 area he is concerned about the traffic at the already congested intersection, because people there drive fast. Baumann said he would like to see a traffic light there, but this requires consideration of New York State which owns Route 128.
Supervisor Arden said that he wants to be careful there are no other apartment buildings in town, and no other location that has underground parking.
The most recent developments in town have had more of a townhouse look to them. But in fact, the town does have an apartment building which was converted from the old school house at the bottom of Whippoorwill East.
Councilman John Cronin said he has several concerns with Madonna's project that were expressed in a prior meeting several months ago. Councilman Cronin said he does not want to see an entrance off of Route 128, because it is already a congested intersection, especially around school time. Cronin also said he is concerned about the mass of the buildings and the density. "The goals of the sewer connections are great," Cronin added, "and it would have a positive impact on the community." But the plans have changed several times, said Cronin, and he would find it difficult to send the plans to the Planning Board, as requested by Madonna.
Councilman Diane Roth said she wants to see the project succeed, but suggests Madonna tone down the density.
If the Town Board is going to go to the trouble of sending this to the Planning Board, said Director of Planning Adam Kaufman to the Town Board, it should be with some indication that the three apartment buildings and their density are acceptable.
The Town Board has scheduled a joint work session with the Planning Board on Monday March 11, at 6:00 p.m., at the Town Hall Meeting Room. The Madonna project is on the agenda to hammer out something that is more acceptable to everyone, said Supervisor Arden.
Throughout this process, Town Attorney Roland Baroni said to Frank Madonna, the Town Board can hand this project back to you anytime and say they are not interested. What the Town Board is trying to do is to get you to a point where everyone is comfortable with the project, Baroni said, and a work session will help to achieve this.
Smart Development in Our Town
Updated August 26, 2012 North Castle continues to receive applications for commercial development, residential multi-unit developments and smaller subdivisions of some privately owned properties in town. The key to smart development in North Castle is initiating commercial development that meets the demands of its residents.
The commercial development already underway is Armonk Square, which should be completed by spring of 2013. About 10-business establishments and 10-second-floor apartments will be located there, including a supermarket, a bank and a real estate office.
The public hearing for CVS's site-plan approval is on the Planning Board's agenda for September 10, 2012. If the site plan is approved, as expected, construction will include one small subtenant, referred to as a green grocer; this project should be finished by spring of 2013 as well.
New commercial development on the Planning Board's agenda includes applications for construction of an additional 5,100-square-foot commercial space in North White Plains, and the expansion of the Stop & Shop; Stop and Shop intends to add a pick-up food service area adjacent to the supermarket.
Mariani Garden Center has submitted an application with proposed zoning amendments to allow for less restrictive and additional uses in the Nursery Business Zoning District. The Planning Board has given a positive recommendation to the Town Board to allow Mariani's to hold special events, with a maximum of two hundred people inside the greenhouse and retail space. At the same time the Planning Board members expressed concern about the noise level and traffic logistics at an event of this size held at Mariani Gardens. A public hearing and site plan approval are required to further review the amendments for this application.
Construction is expected to begin shortly for Sutton Court, an assisted-living facility in Business Park. It has already received approval as a 136-bed-community, and it will be the tenth facility built in New York by the Engel Burman Group.
The concern expressed by residents regarding residential development is that the growth of our population could burden the services of the police and fire departments, as well as impact our infrastructure and its maintenance; the increased size of our school population is another matter that must be considered.
The Byram Hills School District's total enrollment for 2012-2013 is expected to be 2,637 students, compared to 2,652 students in 2011-2012.
"The most interesting factor in our enrollment is that we expect to open with 190-kindergartners, compared to 164 last fall. The additional 26 students influenced us to increase the number of classes from eight in 2011-2012 to nine in 2012-2013. Each kindergarten class will have 20-21 students, which is within our class-size guidelines. Class size in kindergarten will be about the same as last year," said Bill Donahue, Superintendent of the Byram Hills School District.
"The most notable aspect of the kindergarten enrollment is that it breaks the trend of declining kindergarten enrollments that dates back to 2008 when the downturn in the housing market began. The kindergarten enrollment for 2012-2013 will match that of 2008-2009," added Dr. Donahue.
Other applications for residential building that are currently under review of the Planning Board include subdivisions for two lots on Whippoorwill Road, a four-lot subdivision on Mianus River Road, and one four-lot subdivision on East Lane, West Lane and Nichols Road.
There are also projects currently on the back burner for multi-unit developments of Brynwood's 114-units on Route 22, as well as 33-units on Old Mount Kisco Road proposed by Frank Madonna, Jr. Both applications should be available for public review in the near future.
Brynwood will be required to build an additional 10 or 20 percent (depending on off or onsite location of the middle-income units) of the 114 units under discussion.
The Town also needs to consider the eight-middle-income units required by Cider Mill that were slated for the Cockren Property on Old Route 22. There has been some discussion to relocate the units to downtown Armonk (the final location has yet to be determined) and to be built by Westchester County to help fulfill its HUD obligation.
The need to balance commercial development with residential expansion continues to be a challenge for local government for the past decade as our population has grown almost 10 percent from 10,849 to 11,841 residents.
Former Byram Hills Superintendent Jackie Taylor said in June 2012 that the district would be comfortable with enrollment at 3,000 students. Accordingly, the district should be able to accommodate more students as a result of the growth of our residential population.
The need for office space has been reduced by the use of portable laptops and home offices. Westchester County is experiencing a high vacancy rate in the industrial districts. There are several office buildings vacant in Armonk's Business Park.
Legislation has to adapt to the changing times so that the Town can sustain itself without substantially increasing the taxes of town residents. To help with the vacancies, the North Castle Town Board is considering legislative action that permits usage of recreation and fine arts’ facilities in all the zoning districts of Armonk, including Business Park.
At the public hearing on August 16, the Town Board discussed new legislation that would permit fine-arts education facilities to operate within the Town's industrial zoning districts. Specifically, a dramatic arts’ school was permitted as a subtenant in the larger office building of the contractors CW Brown on Labriola Court, Armonk.
The definition of a fine-arts instruction school is “ an establishment that teaches skills in the visual arts and performing arts, including but not limited to painting, sculpture, collage, decollate, assemblage, installation, calligraphy, music, dance, theatre, architecture, film photography, conceptual art, and printmaking."
The Town Board could not agree on the issue of permitting recreation centers within the town's zoning districts, and accordingly, put part of the proposed local law on hold. They also tabled defining recreation centers, which are considered establishments that provide the general public with an entertaining activity for a fee; this would include skating rinks, bowling alleys, swimming pools, racket clubs, health facilities, gymnasiums, martial art studios and children's activities.
Councilman Steve D'Angelo said skating rinks, bowling alleys, movie theaters, and swimming pools should be taken out of the mix for general approval and should require special permits. He feels there are other potential uses that may be beyond our imagination.
Councilman John Cronin said he is in favor of maximizing flexibility for business owners in Business Park. He is open to having new businesses that would complement the existing businesses there.
Councilman Michael Schiliro quoted from the Master Comprehensive Plan that states the retail centers of North Castle's three hamlets should limit retail and business to the retail centers of the hamlets of Armonk, North White Plains, and Banksville. He added that special-use applications should be reviewed by the North Castle Town Board to determine what is allowed.
While the Town Board continues to use the special-use permit process to determine what is acceptable, Councilwoman Diane DiDonato-Roth commented that this process is ineffective; she feels that the Town Board should step aside and allow free enterprise to work.
Supervisor Howard Arden said a little more care should be given to applications for larger facilities; however, he believes the Master Plan is obsolete when applied to commercial planning.
The political differences of the Town Board are delaying the decision, as they have many times in the past. Unfortunately, the residents and business owners of our town may be the ones who will ultimately pay the price.
Special Meeting for Banksville Rezoning
March 22, 2012 Special Meeting for Banksville Rezoning
At a special meeting of North Castle's Town Board on March 21, 2012, a question and answer discussion was held to discuss proposed legislation to rezone the northerly side of Banksville Avenue from a General Business (GB) to a One-Family Residence District (R-1/2A).
Bob "Herbie" Farquhar, owner of Banksville Lawn Equipment for the past 31 years, stressed that we need to keep businesses in Banksville, not take them away. He believes that business owners and residents can work together to settle on a business section for Banksville Avenue, allowing appropriate development for both businesses and residences.
An application for an assisted living facility was discussed at the October 27, 2010 North Castle Town Board meeting. The applicant, The Engel Burman Group, requested that the Town Board modify the Planned Light District, (PLI), for the entire Business Park development, so that an assisted living community could be built on 90 Business Park Drive, Armonk. The Engel Burman Group's Bristal Assisted Living chain currently consists of seven properties located throughout Long Island, New York. Read more
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 Properties, are aligned in resolving the off-site designation of the middle-income units (MIUs) for Cider Mill. Read more
St. Nersess Armenian Seminary Hosts Last Summer Picnic in New Rochelle By Natalie Pudalov
June 19, 2013 Driving into the St. Nersess Armenian Seminary Summer Picnic on the afternoon of Saturday, June 15, one could hear the John Berberian Ensemble playing cultural music, smell the traditional chicken and luleh kabob meals, and observe vendors selling customary Armenian items. The event was open to the public, as it was an opportunity for children to enjoy an afternoon of games and activities such as Red Light/ Green Light, Simon Says, and Twister. Most notably, the children enjoyed watching the magician, The Great Charlini, pull a chicken out of a wooden box as well as produce drawings from a blank color book. With a minimal registration fee, adults and children could also sign up for the Tavloo Tournament, a traditional game in Armenian culture which is synonymous to backgammon. The winner of the tournament was congratulated with a St. Nersess Tavloo Tournament Championship trophy as well as Seminary memorabilia. Many adults also participated in the Super Raffle, with cash prices including $3,000, $1,500, and $500. With music, food, and dancing- and not to mention beautiful weather- individuals of all ages seemed to have a great time.
While food vendors, music, and picnic tables remained in one tent, Armenian vendors spread their items across tables in the other. Mr. Edward Baykar Devrishian from ArmenianVendor.com sold items that were either made in Armenia or from another Armenian company. Mr. Devrishian “partners with different organizations and gives a percentage of the profits back.” On Saturday, a percentage of the profits made at his table went directly to the Armenian Seminary. The majority of the jewelry sold at his table incorporated evil eyes, which are intended to ward off the spirits of dislike and jealousy. He also included red, blue, and orange Worry Beads which are strings of beads traditionally associated with passing time or repelling bad luck.
In mid-2014, St. Nersess Armenian Seminary will move to Armonk on Bedford Road, across from Congregation B’Nai Yisrael. Reverend Fr. Mardiros Chevian, the Dean of the Armenian Seminary, explained that he was “looking for a place where [they] could develop a small campus...and the new site will provide this possibility.” On the 5.5 acres purchased in Armonk, the St. Nersess Board of Directors plan to include an 8,400 square-foot Theological Center and Chapel, Single Student’s Residence, Married/Faculty Residence and Dining Hall, Dean’s Residence, and Recreation Center. With the ultimate sale of the seminary in New Rochelle, Reverend Chevian explains that he hopes to continue the goal of training full-time workers such as priests and lay ministers as well as work with young people and faith development. Characteristically, the Armenian Seminary offers four summer conferences for high school and college students, including a Deacons’ Training Program.
Before relocating to New Rochelle in 1978, St. Nersess Armenian Seminary was located in Evanston, Illinois. In mid-2014, Armonk will be home to the only Armenian Seminary found in the western hemisphere.
North Castle Land Development’s Tie to Politics By Michelle Boyle
April 18, 2013 Legislation on the local level should not be based on political afflictions. Politics and party afflictions should be left at the door at every town board meeting. North Castle has been bipartisan for too many years.
Once again we are seeing a division within North Castle's Republican Party. Many people believe we'll see a repeat of the results that occurred in the 2011 election year. Three seats on the North Castle Town Board are up for election in November, 2013. Councilwoman Diane Roth’s, Councilman John Cronin’s and Supervisor Howard Arden's terms all are all set to expire in December, 2013.
The challenge is finding willing and capable candidates. But who would want to put up with the abuse of character assassinations and political attacks? And that occurs during election time: What follows afterwards is anyone’s guess. As residents begin to consider running, they seek party support. Some people believe that we'll see an election for the position of town councilman that mimics the 2011 election strategy. Howard Arden ran as an Independent so he could get his name on the ballot. Accordingly, it enabled him to enter the primary and win the Republican endorsement originally held by Bill Weaver.
The four, local political parties, Democrat, Republican, Conservative and Independent, are open to interviewing candidates. The party leaders of the town's 11 voting districts will hold interviews, vote on candidates and announce their support. If a candidate is not supported by the two major parties, they may either petition for a new party line or seek the endorsement of the less-popular party line, such as the Conservatives or Independents.
As of October 19, 2012, the total number of active, registered voters in North Castle was 8,759.
If the North Castle Democratic Committee were to endorse candidates, Democrat Charlene Jacobi and Independent Barry Reiter would likely be considered if they are running. In this scenario, any other potential candidate would need to be endorsed by the Independent, Conservative or another political party.
We may see a new party line formed by fiscally conservative Republicans, if they are not backed by the majority of the North Castle Town Republican Party members. This proposition would be similar to what occurred in 2011: A new party, the Alliance Party, was formed and it cross-endorsed Democrat Michael Schiliro, Republican Steven D'Angelo and Republican Billy Weaver.
At this point, almost everyone is waiting before announcing his or her intention to run; they want to first understand where everyone else stands. North White Plains resident Jill Grotta, a registered Republican, is considering running for the North Castle Town Board. If Republican Barbara DiGiacinto decides to run for Town Board, DiGiacinto and Grotto may get the Republican Party nod. In that case other candidates might petition for other parties lines, and most likely, cause a primary for the Republican Party. But it is too early for the parties to support one candidate over another. And Roth and Cronin are delaying their announcements of whether they plan to run, or rather, to support other candidates.
With the day-to-day town business currently overseen by Town Administrator Joan Goldberg, the most important responsibilities for the Town Board members are reviewing zoning change applications, which will ultimately determine the future development of North Castle.
Armonk is experiencing a building boom with the development of Armonk Square, Engel Burman’s assisted living community and the CVS Pharmacy. Armonk Square is slated for completion sometime this summer. The developers will open almost 53,000 square feet of space, including 10,000-square-feet of residential apartments. The retail operations include the long-awaited DeCicco's Family Market, JP Morgan Chase Bank, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Fortina Pizzeria and other retail operations yet to be announced.
Engel Berman is in the process of building a 136-bed, assisted-living facility at 90 Business Park Drive. The fixed pilot payments have been established as $8.5 million over the next 12 years.
Retrofitting the CVS Pharmacy in Armonk Shopping Center has been delayed by the filed Article 78, which has been dismissed. But Charlene Jacobi, President of Concerned Citizens of Armonk and co-owner of Town Center Pharmacy, says they will appeal the decision in a higher court. The start date for construction of the building remains questionable, and the estimated 20,000-square-foot property may remain vacant. CVS Pharmacy does not yet pay rent to Eden Management (operated by Werber Brothers), who have owned the building for over 50 years.
There are also many other zoning issues and property developments in North Castle that have been discussed. These include the following properties: 88 condominiums at Brynwood Golf and Country Club; expanded use of Mariani Gardens as a catering hall; 14 to 16 apartments for senior housing on the Madonna property on Old Mount Kisco Road; the future use of the American Legion, the possibility of eight to ten affordable housing units in the educational wing of the old Methodist Church; the rezoning of Banksville’s commercial and residential districts; a dog park in Wampus Brook Park; the development of the old lumber yard on Bedford Road; the old Cockren property on the eastern portion of Old Route 22; the town owned one-acre property on the west side of Old Route 22; and the empty office building at 99 Business Park Drive.
The future development of North Castle lies in the hands of the North Castle Town Board. When the dust begins to settle and petitions have been circulated, be sure to consider the importance of asking the candidates where they stand on the issue of our town’s future development. Don’t simply take the position of signing the petition and enabling a candidate’s name to appear on the ballot. Understand each candidate’s position on these projects, especially before casting your vote in November.
Car Club Steering Off the Road
April 21, 2012 Vito Errico is considering retracting his application for a permit for the membership Car Club at Byram Lake. He is currently considering different options to garage his own collection of five cars, which includes a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Hot Rod and his latest addition: a red 1951 Chevy pick-up. He garages his cars now in Buchanan, NY.
"I'll carve out three-to-four acres for my private residence and a place to park my own cars,” Errico said. He added that it wouldn’t be a business. Instead of a private membership club for 50-plus cars, he is considering building a lake house for his family, with an accessory building or buildings under the right of use. Errico explained, "It may just be a place to park my cars and I won't allow other people to park their cars in the garage." He also anticipates storing row boats, paddle boats, kayaks or canoes for his family’s recreational use on the lake.
Errico commented that the 60 neighbors who were in strong opposition to the membership club should not dictate to the 13,000 residents of the town. But at the end of the day, he wants to take the path of least resistance. "I don't want to make people unhappy: I feel bad that people have to fight this.
"My intention was never to hurt anyone. The people that don't want it educated me on how much work has to go into running a non-profit membership club." Certain obligations are involved that finally made him ask the question: Do I really want to manage other people’s cars?
Errico doesn't know how the story will unfold. But he is fairly certain he will not choose to have a car club. He is leaning in the direction of his original plan to file an application for a single home on the 65 acres with accessory-use buildings; this would provide him a place to house his own private collection of cars. For now he will wait and consider the best possible option.
The Car Club at Lakeview was presented to the North Castle Town Board at a work session on February 3, 2012. Watch the video below.
IBM's Backup Water Tower
Nov. 9, 2011 Donald Snyder, a structural engineer for Spotts, Stevens and McCoy, represented IBM at the North Castle Planning Board meeting on November 7, 2011. He presented plans for a 150,000 gallon domestic water storage tank to be located behind the fitness center at IBM’s Armonk campus of 340 acres. IBM’s original headquarter was built in 1960.
Snyder said the goal is to have a backup tank in case any problems arise with the pressure or clarity of the municipal water supply, a situation which occurred recently. If there were a problem with the water, IBM could shut down the domestic water supply and have about four days of water available for the entire IBM complex.
Planning Board member Jane Black asked if IBM intended to change the existing municipal water system. Snyder said that IBM has no intention to do so; this tank would be intended solely for temporary use during any potential water disruptions. Town of North Castle Attorney Roland Baroni asked whether or not a tank already exists on the property. Snyder said the existing tank is intended for the sprinkler fire protection system. IBM also has a 20,000 gallon tank buried underground that is not large enough to meet special water needs; furthermore, the tank will need to be replaced in the near future.
The proposed tank would be about 30 feet in diameter and 27 feet high, with a green roof. It would be located in a woodland setting, with surrounding landscaping to camouflage it.
The Planning Board members intend to visit the site, and have scheduled a public hearing on December 12, 2011 to discuss the subject.
Affordable Housing on the Cockren Property
The 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 Apple Properties, owners of the 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. Read more
Design Study of North Castle's Three Hamlets
Updated January 19, 2012 A study committee comprised of town staff and members of the Planning Board and Architectural Review Board began the long process of creating design guidelines as standards; they are also developing recommendations regarding harmonious buildings, signage, streetscapes, walkways and plantings of the three hamlets of North Castle: Armonk, North White Plains and the Eastern District of Banksville. Sullivan Architectural Consultants has been hired to study and generate a report entitled Town of North Castle: Hamlet Design Guidelines.
The study, while not complete, focuses on improvements to the three geographic hamlets of North Castle that are recognized for their unique characteristics. The purpose of the study is twofold: the preservation of the unique characteristics of each hamlet and encouragement of future development that will enhance the positive attributes of each hamlet.
North White Plains is the oldest hamlet of North Castle. It has an urban center with two distinct sections divided by the north and south locations. The southern portion is more urban and has a more “walkable” feel. The guidelines recommend enhancing the retail storefronts and managing parking more efficiently. The northern area is more suburban, with strips of commercial areas. Improvement of the traffic patterns at building locations and additional landscape buffers and street furnishings, where appropriate, are the recommendations for this section of North White Plains.
Armonk is a suburban hamlet that maintains a pedestrian-friendly downtown area. The study recommends that future developments keep large parking areas tucked away from sight of the major retail corridors. It also suggests that new developments take into consideration the existing variety of architectural styles in downtown Armonk.
Banksville is considered the town's most rural center, with its low-density, residential character, mixed with commercial properties along its major thoroughfare. Future improvements should streamline access to retail locations and utilize creative paving and landscaping means for cars entering and leaving the major thoroughfare of Bedford-Banksville Road.
Some of the details of “Do’s and Don’ts” of the report for future site planning, streetscape and building-facade designs and materials, furnishings and signage include the following guidelines:
Do: Provide pedestrian public and private access; Create landscaped areas along street, sidewalks, parking and building; Locate parking in rear/sides; Keep curb cuts to a minimum; Share parking with neighboring buildings when possible; Enhance street parking; Keep asphalt to a minimum (use of alternative pavers encouraged); Use curbs to separate streets and sidewalks; Create and enhance pedestrian spaces; Allow for al fresco dining in front of restaurants; When possible, design for pocket parks between buildings; Articulate relationship between retail and residential use; Reinforce neighborhood architecture; 10'-12' minimum storefront height; Provide appropriate lighting for interest, security and depth; Avoid reflective glazing that masks interior activity and depth; Use natural and sustainable materials when possible; Color selections for storefronts should be used throughout the entire building, unifying upper and lower portions; Overall color schemes should be simple for walls and decorative features; Install underground utilities; Integrate awnings and canopies in a manner sensitive to the building and neighborhood.
Don't: Place parking in the front yard and set buildings to the rear of the site; Set buildings away from street; Provide only the code minimum for landscaping; Cross pedestrian and vehicular traffic; Hide main entrances from public view; Have a large area of a storefront with a singular design; Have new construction overwhelm neighboring buildings; Select materials incompatible with surrounding context; Use vinyl or aluminum siding, reflective or glossy finishes of mirrored glass and specify color palettes that use too many or uncomplimentary colors for exterior finishes; Obscure character-defining features.
The Town Board approved the original budget of $10,000 for the study. According to Town Clerk Anne Curran, the company had an agreement that they would advise the Town Board if there were any increased costs or overruns. Supervisor Bill Weaver said he was uncertain whether or not the approval or allocation of additional funds was accomplished at the initial agreement. Sullivan Architectural Consultants has requested an additional $5,000 for the report to date and anticipates an additional $2,000-to-$3,000 to complete the study.
Given the budget constraints for this year, Councilman Diane Roth said these studies produce a lot of expenses and while she appreciates all the effort put into the study, she is not interested in increasing the budget for this report.
The Town Board has agreed to pay the initial $10,000 for the report thus far and will review further costs and additional information required to complete it. Weaver said the Town Board should advise Director of Planning Adam Kaufman of any recommended changes to the original project. The total cost of the report was $15,745.