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North Castle Daily News

Wampus Mills

One Building Approved for 16 Senior Housing Condos on Old Mount Kisco Road

March 15, 2016

The North Castle Town Board adopted, by majority, the local law that proposed to develop one building on 3.2 acres situated between Old Mount Kisco Road and Route 128. At the Town Board meeting held on March 9, Developer Frank Madonna, Jr. showed new photographs of large residential homes on Riversville Road in North Greenwich which inspired the architectural rendering of the 16-unit age-restricted apartment building.

Supervisor Michael Schiliro and Town Board member Barbara DiGiacinto voted in favor of the project, with recommendations. Town Board members Stephen D’Angelo and Barry Reiter voted yeah, while Town Board Member Jose Berra was opposed.

The five members of North Castle’s Town Board are responsible for enacting laws and resolutions for the better of the Town’s residents. The reason we allowed a larger density of units in the senior age-restricted housing, said Supervisor Schiliro, is because it’s consistent with the Town’s Comprehensive Plan.

The Town Board had previously approved Madonna’s plan for 14 townhouses. While considering the alternative project of the one building for ten months, DiGiacinto said she lost sight of what was needed to be done in order to consider the single building, as opposed to the approved townhouses. The changes that coincide with the one building option would be to increase the perimeter setbacks distance to a minimum of 30 feet--with some areas providing a 50-foot setback--which is a significantly further distance than the 15-foot setback for the townhouses.

Schiliro said he is not comfortable with the current design. He asked about the kind of oversight or control that the Town Board could have in order to be sure that the building is aesthetically pleasing.

Adam Kaufman, Town Planner, said, the way the zoning is set up, the Town Board controls the perimeter of the district and the concept of either town homes or a single building. He added, “You have delegated the responsibility of the actual design of the building to the Planning Board and the Architectural Review Board (ARB).”

The Town Board intends to communicate, individually and in writing, about their concerns and support of this project to the Planning Board and ARB.

The Boards will take your concerns seriously, said Kaufman.

The Town Board’s indecisiveness about the exterior style of the building needs to be vetted out with the Planning Board and the Architectural Review Board (ARB), said Madonna. He is open to design suggestions for the single building.

DiGiacinto is the liaison, representing the Town Board, to the Planning Board and ARB, and she will attend the two boards’ meetings regarding this project.

We don’t want inappropriate influence, said Schiliro, but in this case, we have concerns. “If there is a better design than the proposed, we want to achieve that, if we can. If we make the decision to allow one building, we may not have responsibility of the Planning Board and the ARB to determine the design.” But he is concerned about the enormity of the building.

DiGiacinto said, “I’ve expressed my concerns about the massiveness of the single structure.” She agreed the one building is better than the townhouses as Kaufman has said from the very beginning. While the landscape proposal may not be adequate, DiGiacinto liked some of the Riversville Road homes that Madonna showed, which had frontage with stone walls, adorned by a white fence and gated entry driveway. Everyone agreed that a stone wall and the fence will break up the massiveness of the single structure. But that is not our charge, she added.

North Castle’s Planning Board is responsible for the review and approval of all applications concerning site plans. The Planning Board is assisted by the ARB which reviews all major residential buildings to make sure they comply with aesthetic and visual standards. The ARB is to ensure that the development of a new building will be harmonious with the established neighborhood.

“We’ve come a long way in making this a better-looking project,” said D’Angelo.

The public controversy of the project as designed as a single structure, and safety of the Route 128 access, is a concern to Berra. He said he just doesn’t see it fitting. While the size and style of the homes in the photos from Riversville Road are consistent with one another, Berra says his biggest problem is that if this large building is on Route 128, it’s inconsistent with what is there. “It will change the character [of the neighborhood] in a way that is not good.” He is also concerned about the additional traffic.

Between the two alternatives being considered, Berra prefers the townhouses rather than the one larger structure “that is not a clearly compelling better design.” He said the extra density of two additional units in the one building is unjustified. He is also concerned about the reduction from fee simple to condominium taxes which he says will cost the Town a relatively large amount of money. That is a significant negative that benefits the town less, he added. “Why would we want to do this without getting any extra benefit?”

Berra said he likes the idea of keeping seniors. But in a campaign email last year, he also said, “It is unfair and expensive for taxpayers like us, who are paying full freight, to be forced to subsidize the lower property tax rate.” In the email, Berra also made a good argument for condo taxes, saying, “Condo tax rates can be justified in limited circumstances where needed to achieve important Town objectives that are in the best interests of its residents. For example, a good case can be made that preferential condo tax rates are appropriate for our retired seniors who feel they must downsize. By making living here more affordable for them, we can retain residents who are an important part of the fabric of our community….”

Addressing a fee simple versus condominium taxes is not forever, said D’Angelo. Someday we will do a town wide re-evaluation of tax assessments and then we can adopt changes.

“When you do a re-evaluation,” added Roland Baroni, Town Attorney, “you have the option to adopt the Homestead Act which allows you to tax condos as fee simple. The more condos you have, the more difficult it becomes politically.”

Developer Michael Fareri disagreed with Berra and said there needs to be a variety of different types of housing in our community. The only other condos we have are in Whippoorwill Commons which he built and are near the library. Recent zoning for 30 condominium units has been approved for Fareri’s former lumberyard property. Madonna’s one building, which Fareri said he is favor of, offers a variety of different types of housing, which allows for an alternative with condominium taxes for zoning for senior citizens in two-bedroom apartments. “This provides an alternative housing for our seniors that our Town needs if we are to grow,” he concluded. He pointed out the slight down trend of the declining school enrollment.

The size of the proposed 14 townhouses is 2,500 to 3,000 square feet each. The 16 units, in the one building, are proposed to be 1,800 square feet. “To make the economics work with the smaller units, we needed a couple of more apartments,” said Madonna.

Old Mount Kisco residents have said they prefer the one building rather the plan for the townhouses for a number of reasons: location, setbacks and the building’s height, said Town Board Member Barry Reiter. He also said, “Adam Kaufman recommends the one structure, which is a better project and looks nicer. When he recommends something it’s not just because he likes it, there’s a reason behind it.”

There are some benefits to the municipality with the one structure, said Schiliro. We need infrastructure on Old Mount Kisco Road, where it’s been recommended to bring in public sewer since the 1980s.

Old Mount Kisco Road is a neighborhood of homes which were built between 50 and 150 years ago. The mix of the 18 two-story homes with an average footprint of about 1,000 square feet. They are all serviced by septic systems, some of which are failing. Madonna will subsidize the abandonment of all of the existing septic systems, and he will install new service connections to all the homes and tie them into the extension of Sewer District No. 2. He will also pay $20,000 to improve and upgrade the Route 128 pump station.

Armonk senior housing
Armonk Senior Housing
Old Mount Kisco Senior Housing Stirs Debate

February 9, 2016
For eight years Frank Madonna has been presenting plans for multifamily housing on 3.6 acres of land at 125 Old Mount Kisco Road, Armonk. His most recent plans require a zoning change from the North Castle Town Board--from the approved plans of 14 townhouses in five buildings to 16 two-bedroom units in a two-and-half story building. The new zoning amendment adds an additional two units to the 2013 approved plans. There is also an addition of half a story to the one large structure, while maintaining the same building height. Both plans include two affordable housing units.
The most recent plans for Wampus Mills is under review by North Castle’s Town Board as the project was discussed at a public hearing during the January 27, 2016 Town Board meeting.

This project meets the goals of North Castle’s Comprehensive Plan for a selection of different types of housing within the town, said Adam Kaufman, Director of Planning. Years ago, the Town Board created a new zoning district to provide  living areas for seniors. The specifics of what the senior floating zone looks like and where it is located is flexible, said Kaufman. The requirements for the senior living is that the zone be publicly sewered and have access to public water. “There are limited locations within North Castle that can meet this criteria,” Kaufman concluded.
In November 2013, the Town Board approved the zoning amendment for Madonna’s project of 14 townhouses in five buildings. Since then, the Planning Board has twice reviewed his more recent option to build 16 condominiums in one building. Both times, the Planning Board recommended the single structure option over the plan for multiple buildings.

The newer plans call for 36 underground parking spots and plus six more outdoor parking spots, plus handicapped parking. If the single structure were approved, this would be Armonk’s first underground parking complex.

There are several benefits proposed for the single structure. The one building reduces the ground cover from 24,000 square feet to 18,000 square feet. The single structure provides a further setback from Old Mount Kisco Road, from 15 feet to about 40 feet. Also there is less impervious surface of 23,000 square feet on the property with the plan of the larger structure, which would be reduced from the 33,000 square feet of the planned townhouses.

The 30-foot high single building is preferred by Craig Usted, who is the neighbor directly across from the proposed property. Usted said he prefers the further set back of the larger structure and its lower elevation, rather than the townhomes which would be built closer to Old Mount Kisco Road and therefore not as shielded from his view.  

Madonna’s property lies in between Old Mount Kisco Road and Route 128. The elevated height of Old Mount Kisco Road is approximately 400 feet. The second floor of the larger building, which dips in the center of the property, brings the second floor to about 403 feet high, or about 20 feet above the elevation of Route 128. The next level up, which is planned for two penthouses and storage, is another 10 feet above that.

The project’s ingress and egress is from Route 128, allowing the larger building to fit into the landscape of the business corridor continuing from the adjacent Town Center Shopping Center and David Chen Chinese Restaurant on Route 128.

Madonna has another proposed project on 10 acres at 805 and 809 Old Mount Kisco Road. Due to the property’s zoning and steep slope, the “as of right” to build there is only four homes. Madonna is in contract to purchase the property in the next few months. He proposes to build six private homes on one of the most beautiful parcels in downtown Armonk. If a bonus density is permitted to allow him to build six homes on the parcel, Madonna proposes to provide sewer hook-up for the remaining eight homes on Old Mount Kisco Road.

Kory Salomone, Madonna’s attorney, said one of the benefits to the single building alternative is not only the extension of the sewer district for his housing units, but to hook-up eight other homes and decommission all the septics systems on Old Mount Kisco Road, at Madonna’s expense. With the 2013 zoning approval, the public sewer was to be hooked up to only eight houses on the south side of Old Mount Kisco Road. “We view the sewer improvements as a win-win,” said Salomone.  Madonna’s two proposals adds 22 new homes to the sewer district on top of the 16 existing homes he proposes to hook up.

All 18 residents of Old Mount Kisco Road have signed a petition willing to have their homes hooked up to the public sewers. “But that doesn’t mean that I am happy about the project,” said neighbor Christine Eggleton. She added, “signing the sewer petition means if this project goes through, I want Madonna to pay for the sewer hook up.”

Another resident said she moved to Armonk from the Bronx to avoid city congestion. “I’m surprised to hear about the [option to sign a] sewer petition because that’s a form of bribery. ‘Don’t oppose this project and I’ll pay all expenses to hook you up to the sewer.’ My neighbors and I paid to go on the [public] sewer.” She added that she is concerned that the apartment building will decrease the value of her house and will add to the traffic congestion on Route 128.

Town Attorney Roland Baroni said to insure that the sewer hook ups occur, there should be an agreement that all the connections are made before the Certificate of Occupancy is issued for the buildings.   

In the 1980s, the Westchester County Board of Health recommended public sewers for four streets in downtown Armonk: Annadale, Old Mount Kisco Road, Orchard Street, and a couple of homes on Cox Avenue, said Supervisor Michael Schiliro. “For health reasons,” he added, “if there is an opportunity to tie in, they should have sewers.”

Several community members spoke about further concerns if the project is built as a larger building. Linda Fernberg, resident on Wampus Avenue, said she was concerned about a period of a year and half to build the project and another five years to grow the landscape which will screen the building. “You’re talking about seven years of an eyesore that has a skyscraper effect that we’ll have to drive by every day,” she said.

Within five years the trees are projected to be 16 to 20 feet tall. Landscaping details should be carefully reviewed by the Planning Board and perhaps they will require 16 foot trees to be planted from the start for better screening.

Fernberg also said she is concerned about the value of her home with the apartments of the single structure sold as condominiums.

Supervisor Schiliro said there are other condominium projects in downtown Armonk. The old schoolhouse across from the Armonk Library has 22 condominiums; 10 units are middle income and 12 are fair market. There are also 35 approved, but yet to be built, condominiums at the former lumberyard on Bedford Road near the Exit 3 ramp off of I-684. Also, while 73 Brynwood units were initially proposed as condominiums, their zoning was approved as fee simple residences.

Madonna’s project offers the town its only senior housing project where at least one homeowner must be 55 years old. That age limit was reduced from 62 years old when the zoning was set years ago. Madonna said the targeted market price for the average 1,900-square feet apartment is $800,000. Taxed as condominiums, he said the one building project would bring in approximately $150,000 in yearly taxes, compared to $220,000 for the 14 townhouses. The taxes for the original zoning for six private homes with children in the school district would have been $120,000 in taxes. He proposes there will be minimum number of children, if any, in the senior housing project.

Christine Eggleton prefers to see small houses on the lots, but said she knows that is not going to happen. Her concern is that once the public sewer is set, tear-downs and bigger homes on these lots will follow. She says this will change the character of the unique and historic block where some of the houses were built in the 1850s. Although none of the homes on Old Mount Kisco Road are landmarked, history shows the homes were part of the original Sands Mill settlement, said Eggleton, who serves on the Landmark Preservation Committee, The North Castle Historical Society, and the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee. Some of the Old Mount Kisco Road homes were former businesses such as a hotel, a shoemaker’s shop, a stagecoach house, a horse barn, a schoolhouse, a general store, an ice house, a butcher shop and a farmhouse said Eggleton.

The Town Board members weighed in on whether they favored a zoning change to accommodate the larger building. Mike Schiliro, Barbara DiGiacinto and Stephen D’Angelo said they were undecided; José Berra reiterated the opposition voiced by some of the concerned neighbors; and Barry Reiter said he was in favor. Adjourning the public hearing to a future date, they will have to make a decision whether or not to move forward with the changes.

Madonna said, “We have the support of the adjacent property owners, our town professionals, and we believe our local officials. What has taken years to put together in that area of town represents fiscal responsibility and solutions to problems that have been attempted to be solved dating back three decades.

“Hopefully soon we will be building one of the most beautiful buildings in town, and will be looking to proceed with one or the other [plan] come this summer.”


Amendments to Old Mount Kisco Senior Housing

November 23, 2015
The North Castle Town Board has set a public hearing on January 27, 2016 to review the zoning amendments for Frank Madonna’s most recent proposal to develop 3.6 acres along Route 128, that backs up to Old Mount Kisco.

Madonna’s housing project has morphed since he purchased the lots in 2008 to 2010. His most recent proposal is a single building of 16 two-bedroom apartments of 1,800 square feet each. The approximate square footage of the building has been reduced from 24,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet or 17,000 square feet including the outdoor decks.

Originally, the property was zoned for six single-family homes, each on a quarter acre. In 2013, the Town Board approved a senior multi-family dwelling of 14 apartments in six townhouse buildings. The Town Board granted approval of a bonus density for the 14 apartments as senior housing because it filled a void in North Castle’s housing market. Therefore, Madonna received an approval from the Town Board to amend the zoning from single-family (R-4A) to senior citizen housing age-restricted housing (R-MF-SCH) for residents 55 years and older.  
At its November 18 meeting, the Town Board unanimously granted that the one building of 16-apartments be permitted a public hearing in order to consider further zoning regulations for the altered project.

The changes to the R-MF-SCH zoning text that require consideration at a public hearing are as follows:
• Change from 14 units to 16 units
• Add half a story, which converts two stories to two-and-a-half stories, allowing for two penthouse apartments   
• Change the dwellings from townhouses to condominiums
• The footprint will be reduced from 24,000 to 17,000 square feet
• The setbacks for the one building from the property line are a greater distance, and the elevation is lower than the townhouse proposal
• Sewer infrastructure will be brought up to most of the homes on the street.

Another difference in permitting condominiums as opposed to townhouses is the taxation rate.
Madonna projects the yearly condo taxation to be $160,000, which is less than the $220,000 projected for the 14 townhouses, and more than the $120,000 projected for the six single-family homes.

If six houses were built with four to five bedrooms each, he said there could be 12 to 15 students in the school district with less tax revenue. The age restriction is projected to bring in less children than that, if any.
At its prior meeting on November 4, a majority of the Town Board had issues with the size and height of the new proposed building. They requested that Madonna present a visual aid to better show how the building would fit into the neighborhood. Most of the homes on Old Mount Kisco Road are small and some of them date back to the 1800s.  

Rob Aiello, an engineer with John Meyer Consulting, presented a 3-D visualization integrating the architectural model with the landscaping plan that was transformed into a digital view of how the building, known as Wampus Mills, would integrate within the property and its surroundings. This was shown from the perspective of traveling north on Route 128 and south on Old Mount Kisco Road.

The animated video showed the building concealed by evergreen landscaping five years after its completion. The two-and-a-half story building’s height will be 30 feet above ground, with an underground parking garage of 36 parking spots.

The driveway entry is shown from Route 128. This view reveals a courtyard in the front of the building. An additional landscaping design will be considered to better conceal the view from Route 128 looking toward the front courtyard and the atrium of building. The simulation also showed that the property’s topography limits the view of the mass of the building because the structure is tucked into the site. The property slightly inclines higher from Route 128 and then gently slopes down into a gully.

Town Board member Barry Reiter said the illustration puts the building in perspective, especially with the landscaping. He is in favor of the latest plan. In agreement with Reiter is Town Board member Guy Mezzancello, Director of Town Planning Adam Kaufman, and the North Castle Planning Board. The Planning Board has twice reviewed Madonna’s latest plans of the one larger building and twice they sent a positive recommendation back to the Town Board.

Town Board member-elect José Berra said although the building looks nice, there’s nothing else in the neighborhood that size. “I have a hard time seeing why we need to do something this big. It’s a dramatic change for this area as an extension of what we have going further north from David Chen’s Restaurant.”

Berra also talked about the difference in the tax rate of condos versus townhouses. During his most recent campaign, he said, “To be sure, condo tax rates can be justified in limited circumstances where needed to achieve important Town objectives that are in the best interests of its residents. For instance, a good case can be made that preferential condo tax rates are appropriate for our retired seniors who feel they must downsize. By making living here more affordable for them, we can retain residents who are an important part of the fabric of our community and who are among our most experienced and committed community volunteers. Furthermore, the costs we incur for these residents can be significantly lower since they do not have children in the school system.”
Considering the tax rate, Madonna said if the age restriction was lifted, he would consider fee simple taxation as townhouses.

Supervisor Michael Schiliro said there are some issues with respect to the mass of this building. But the presentation helped him visualize the size of the building and he is now more comfortable to schedule a public hearing.

Town Board member Barbara DiGiacinto said, “I’m not 100 percent in favor, but this has made it a lot easier to visualize,” as did the site walk she recently took.

DiGiacinto asked if Madonna was still willing to pay to upgrade the Route 128 sewer pump station as was discussed in July 2013. Madonna confirmed that he will pay the estimated $20,000 to address that issue. She also asked him about irrigation, and he confirmed he planned to bury cisterns for the irrigation system.

Madonna said that the 16-unit building is the right development for this property. “This project’s visual impacts, the age-restricted housing with new taxes that has the likelihood of fewer children, and the subsidized improvements of the infrastructure are greater benefits than compared to the other options.”

For cell phones devices you can watch the animated video here:

Planning Board Considered Options for Old Mount Kisco Road Apartments

September 29, 2015
At the North Castle Planning Board meeting on September 28, Frank Madonna presented changes in the age-restricted senior project on Route 128, Armonk. In November 2013, the Town Board approved the rezoning of the 3.6 acre, three-parcel lot to a senior housing floating zone to accommodate Madonna’s project of 14 age-restricted apartments for 55 years and older.  

The 2013 project had five separate buildings of about 20-22,000 total square feet. Madonna’s latest proposal, submitted to the Town Board in March 2015, was one large building that eliminated the multi-building option and reduced the single structure to 15,000 square feet.

In its May 12, 2015 letter to the Town Board, the Planning Board sent a positive 5-0 recommendation in favor of the larger apartment building. They said that plan would provide more screening for the surrounding neighborhood than the alternative of the 14 townhouses.

In an earlier meeting on September 24, the Town Board had concerns about the size and scale of Madonna’s plan of the one larger building. They wanted Madonna to return to the Planning Board to review three optional plans, said Kory Salomone, Madonna’s lawyer. The three options considered were: five townhouse buildings of 14-units; the single building plan of 16 apartments; and a hybrid plan of one larger building of 10 apartments on the Route 128 side of the property, plus three smaller buildings of two apartments each in the back of the property near Old Mount Kisco Road.

Once again, the Planning Board decided 3-0 (two Board members were absent) to send a positive recommendation of the larger building over the hybrid plan.

Art Adelman, the Planning Board Chairman, said that the Planning Board thoroughly explored the application and nothing has transpired to change him to favor the hybrid plan.

The Planning Board stayed with their previous recommendation of the single structure building at a lower elevation. In its May 12, 2015 letter to the Town Board, the Planning Board recommended that the Town Board consider to permit 2.5 stories on this project so the attic space could be converted to habitable space. The new plan requires a zone text amendment for the large building to go up another 1/2 story to accommodate two penthouse apartments on the third floor, totaling 16 two-bedroom units. That includes two affordable housing apartments. The proposed added 1/2 story is similar to a dormer attic that changes the roof line, yet is no higher than the elevation of a two-story building.

Madonna said the 16 apartments will each have their own 800 square foot backyard. The size of the apartments range from 1,740 square feet to 2,609 square feet of the two penthouse apartments. The elevation of the larger building will not only sit lower than the multiple buildings around the perimeter, there will also be a setback of at least 40-50 feet around the entire building. Each apartment will also have a two-car parking garage.

“Do you favor the one building which affords the maximum buffer?” asked Adelman, of the five neighbors who were present at the September 28 meeting.

Christine Eggleton, resident of Old Mount Kisco Road, said she likes the setbacks of the larger building; although the single building is big, it’s much nicer than previous designs. She said, “The existing zoning [in the area] is small residential, and this project is a large multi-family building. Visually, having a large building come after the Town Center Shopping Center as you’re heading towards Mount Kisco, extends the appearance of where ‘town’ ends. Based on those two things,” she said, “it’s a bad idea to have the single building.”

Looking at the new hybrid plan for the first time, Eggleton added, “The footprint of the hybrid plan feels bigger than it was before, since the earlier model had smaller units.” She favors smaller units along Old Mount Kisco Road to keep in the size and scale with the houses that exist there now. She said, “The larger building can go along Route 128. Even if you bring the sewer in, the tiny houses in the area will always be small because of the [building] sites.” She added, “The larger buildings of the hybrid plan are out of place.”

“There’s a question of marketability,” said Adelman. “Nothing will get built that the builder doesn’t have reasonable expectations that it will be salable. Bigger is considered better in the market these days. And if we demand things that are not going to be marketable, nothing will happen.”

Madonna said the sizes of the apartments of the two-family smaller townhouses of the hybrid plan are 2,600 square feet each, plus a garage. The setback of the smaller hybrid plan units along Old Mount Kisco Road is only 15 feet, but that is dependent upon the entrance into the complex which would be either from Old Mount Kisco Road or Route 128. But he said since he will not be able to get the hybrid plan engineered in an appropriate manner, so he’ll go with either the townhouses as approved, or the one larger building if he receives the zone text amendment allowing for 2 1/2 stories.

The size of the neighboring houses are restricted because of the limited sanitary sewer capacity said Madonna. All of his plans include a subsidy of a sewer hook-up for eight of the homes on Old Mount Kisco Road.

At the September 24 Town Board meeting, Madonna said, if the Town Board permits him an extra bonus density of his recent proposal to build six single family houses on the 10 acres that he is in contract for just north of Old Mount Kisco Road on Route 128 (four houses are permitted in that one-acre zoning area with steep slopes), he’ll extend the sewer into all of the eight remaining homes on Old Mount Kisco Road.

His intention is to build the sewer infrastructure of the two projects at one time. Ideally, he said, he would like to break ground in the spring.

“The architect did a fantastic job to minimize the impact of the three-story building,” said Steven Sauro, Planning Board member. The roof line of the 16-unit building is brought down to almost to the top of the first floor. The long lengths of the roof lines are broken up into smaller portions with Dutch gables as the second floor disappears into the roof line to mitigate a lot of the visual impacts. It’s tastefully done and is a much better fit, said Sauro.

Craig Useted, resident of Old Mount Kisco Road and former North Castle Superintendent of Highways, lives directly across the street from Madonna’s project. He said, “We are in favor of the one building. The townhouses or the hybrid project brings everything along the outside of the property with higher elevations.” In the one building, Uested said, not only are the setbacks better, but there will be open space when he looks out of his yard toward a nicely landscaped area.

The hybrid plan that Madonna presented combines a larger building with the three smaller buildings’ ingress and egress from Old Mount Kisco Road. The proximity of those three buildings that are shown to face Old Mount Kisco Road with three separate driveways would be a disaster, said Sauro. Even if the entrance would be from Route 128, the buildings on the perimeter would raise the elevation of the structures, and the backs of the buildings would face the neighbors.

Chris Carthy, Planning Board member, said, “The Town Board wanted us to review this hybrid plan and I’m not sure if we have critiqued it adequately enough in order to give them a reason to go with the single building at this point.”

“We have looked at this and have gotten valuable input from the neighbors,” said Adelman. “If we demand what is not marketable, then the builder won’t build it.”

Jeffrey Zahn, another abutting neighbor of the proposed project, also said he prefers the larger building.

Much of life is a compromise, said Adelman. The smaller buildings are in close proximity to the other houses on Old Mount Kisco Road. The bigger building’s setback allows for the ability to better screen the building.

Madonna revealed the different tax implications of the different projects. He said the taxes currently on the three parcels are $15,000. The townhouse plan is proposed to be fee simple and Madonna estimated those taxes to be between $200,000 to $220,000 per year. The six lots, if built as private homes that conforms with the original zoning, would be roughly taxed at $120,000. He estimated the single structure building of condominium apartments to bring in $150,000 in yearly taxes.  

Adelman said there’s a balance between the change of the neighborhood character and the benefits which that change may bring. The newer, bigger houses versus the existing older houses — that are typically tear-downs — benefit the neighborhood’s septic systems, especially with many of them failing. The block will get sewers. And the newer construction can prompt additional value to the area’s homes.

Madonna will appear in front of the Planning Board again in two weeks with a plan for the 10 acres just farther north on Route 128. He will present the development of six houses on the property that is in a R-2 zoning district.

Obstacles for Proposed Condos on Old Mount Kisco Road

April 9, 2015
At the April 8 North Castle Town Board meeting, property owner Frank Madonna presented revised plans for a residential multi-family development on the three-and-one-half-acre property of Old Mount Kisco Road and Route 120. In 2013, Madonna received approval to amend the prior one-family-zoned residential district to a family residential zone for senior multi-family dwellings of 14 apartments. The proposal was for age-restricted townhouses for residents 55 years and older.

At Wednesday's meeting, Madonna requested that the town board refer his reconfigured plan for a one-building structure of 22 condominiums for review by the North Castle Planning Board. Procedurally, if the project is referred to the planning board, the application would then come back to the town board for a public hearing, which, in turn, would then require a second site plan approval from the planning board.

Supervisor Mike Schiliro said he was not comfortable referring the new plan to the planning board because the planning board does not determine the change in zoning or density. In addition, he said that the planning board could not solve the tax issue of changing from fee simple townhomes to a discounted condominium tax rate. These are the responsibilities of the town board, said Schiliro. The planning board could perhaps address the size of the building, he added, but ultimately these decisions are the responsibility of the town board.

Madonna’s latest proposal is one building to house 22 condominium apartments, which would increase the size of the living space overall by 5,000 square feet, transforming the six spread-out townhouses of 32,000 square feet to one building of 37,000 square feet. The original as-of-right zoning for the site allowed six private homes. The town board granted permission for two times the additional allowed density in 2013. Madonna’s latest plan requests 3.5 times the allowed density, says Schiliro. The bonus density allowed for the 14 apartments was permitted because of the age-restricted housing that fills a void in the town’s housing market.

In addition, Madonna’s plan for a single building allows the expansion of the setbacks from 15-to-20 feet for the six townhouses, to the proposed 50-feet setbacks for the one larger building. That significant change in the setbacks would allow for more landscape screening and privacy to the neighboring homes.

Living directly across Old Mount Kisco Road from the proposed project, Craig Usted said that he was in favor of the one building with the further setbacks. Usted especially liked Madonna’s plan if the 22-unit building were approved; Madonna would provide a restricted conservation easement for permanent open space on two acres of steep sloped property which he owns that is located behind Usted's home. If single homes were to be built on that hillside, which is zoned for two or three single-family lots, Usted said there would be further water issues because the property is rocky and heavy rainfall flows down the hill. With the increased impervious surfaces that come with new construction, the result would cause more water on Old Mount Kisco Road. Usted also said that the proposed 37,000-square-foot building is huge, especially when compared to the surrounding small homes on the block, some of which date back to the mid-1800s.

Another condition of the zoning change in 2013, at his expense, Madonna offered to build and extend the infrastructure of North Castle Sewer District #2. Not only would there be public sewer to the new homes of Wampus Mills, he would also run the sewer lines to all 16 houses on the Old Mount Kisco Road. That is an increase from the approval of the 14 townhouses which he was to subsidize the sewer for only eight homes that are adjacent to the proposed project.

Furthermore, the design for the one building of 22 units would have a below grade-level garage, situated at the basement level under the building, with 44 parking spaces; additional visitor parking would be situated outside the buildings. The first floor would be 11 units with 80 percent being at grade level; the second floor would be another 11 units. The height of the building would be 30 feet. Each unit would be approximately 1,500 to 1,700 square feet, featuring two bedrooms and two bathrooms, with a market value of about $700,000 per unit. Within the mix of the 22 apartments there would be two mandated affordable housing condominiums of about 800 square feet. The prior plan of the 14 townhouses proposed the units to be 2,500 square feet, with a market value of $800,000 to $900,000, says Madonna.

Town Board Member Stephen D’Angelo said he wants Madonna to discuss the gross tax revenue for the 14 fee simple townhomes compared to the 22 condominiums with the town’s tax assessor.

Madonna said that the prior zoning for six single family homes would generate about $120,000 in yearly real estate taxes. He projected 12 fee-simple townhomes, plus two affordable apartments; a total of 14 units that would generate about $220,000 of yearly taxes. He said the revised plan for 20 condominiums, plus two affordable apartments, would generate about $170,000 yearly.

The smaller 22 apartments, although still of two bedrooms, would be less likely to attract families with school-aged children, especially with the 55-and-older age restriction, said Madonna.

"Yet, you cannot guarantee us that there will be no children living there," countered Town Board Member Barbara DiGiacinto.

Schiliro said that he had an issue with restructuring Madonna’s project from townhouses to condominiums because of the difference in the tax structure. This is despite the fact that the town board recently approved condominium zoning with an added bonus for density at Michael Fareri’s proposed apartment development at the former lumber yard. Schiliro said the discrepancy was that the two properties are located in different areas of the Armonk and he considers Old Mount Kisco Road more of a residential neighborhood than the former lumberyard area.

Town Attorney Roland Baroni said, “if one condominium association is tied to an agreement to pay fee simple and another nearby, on the opposite end of the village, is not, that might not be practically possible.”

The increased overall square footage of the building concerned Town Board members Barbara DiGiacinto, Stephen D’Angelo and Old Mount Kisco resident Christine Eggleton. Eggleton said that while she likes the further setbacks of the one building proposal, and prefers the single building to multiple townhouses, “The new configuration is just too big.” She added, "It doesn’t seem right. It has the feeling of a big downtown building.”

Director of Planning Adam Kaufman recommended the larger building over the individual townhouses; he said he found that plan to be a more cohesive development, one that was more in tune with the Main Street development. He said the concern that the size of the proposed building as being too big for the existing neighborhood is a valid point. He advised the town board to consider how the building would integrate into the neighborhood, and if the building could be adequately screened. “It’s important that you hear from the neighborhood if this is an acceptable development in that area,” said Kaufman.

Susan Shimer, the chair of the Landmarks Preservation Committee, said that Old Mount Kisco Road has some interesting historical buildings. Even though the homes have not been landmarked, she said that the impact of an obtrusive building will affect the appearance of the town’s history. "And that’s important for the town board to take into consideration," concluded Shimer.

North Castle resident Ed Woodyard suggested that the matter be taken under advisement by the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee which, among other things, will recommend possible zoning changes in the town’s residential areas. He said that there was precedence for such a recommendation, citing that the town board had previously referred the discussion to develop Armonk’s Elide Plaza to the CPSC. Woodyard also agreed with Shimer on the potential effects of the large structure on Old Mount Kisco Road, especially with regard to its impact on the historic dwellings, and a possible recommendation by the CPSC to give the area an historic designation.

Schiliro concluded that the idea of the one-building structure made sense to him; however, he said he needed more time to consider the new proposal since he was not prepared to say no at this time. Town Board Members Barry Reiter and Guy Mezzancello agreed with Schiliro. While D’Angelo wanted to review the tax variations, DiGiacinto said she was hesitant to refer the plan to the planning board, saying that she would like to see a smaller building. If she were to vote to send the application to the planning board, she said “in effect, I would be giving the planning board a green light, saying I’m okay with it, tweak it.”

Madonna’s attorney, Kory Salomone, disagreed with DiGiacinto. He said, "If you send the project over to the planning board, you are not making any commitment. The planning board explores the impacts and start the SEQRA process, he concluded. “They can make a positive recommendation to the town board and you can say no at that point.”  

Madonna said he plans to discuss the aspect of the condominium tax differences with the town’s tax assessor. He will also consider to redesign some aspects of the building to accommodate the town’s concerns.

Salomone says it’s a balancing act as Madonna tries to reconfigure the building in order to subsidize the sewer for the entire block. He also says they will likely request to be back on the town board’s agenda at its next meeting.

Luxurious Senior Housing Goes Back to the Drawing Board
Editorial By Michelle Boyle

September 26, 2014
The petition to rezone two properties of 10 acres overlooking Route 128 in Armonk for senior citizen housing was unanimously turned down by the North Castle Town Board at its September 23 meeting. Developer Frank Madonna was prepared for the Town Board’s decision and for the neighbors who spoke in opposition to the density of his proposed 18 townhouses.  

Madonna said he is not discouraged by the Town Board’s negative reaction to his project and will work on another senior housing plan that will include fewer units. Madonna went into contract to buy the properties on Route 128 this summer and says he will develop the 10 acres as one of three options; build four houses that are as of right in the two-acre zoning, or to apply again to rezone the property to one-acre zoning and build seven houses or 14 townhouses. If the property were rezoned to one-acre lots (similar to many of the properties in the area), the option to build seven 6,000 to 7,000-square-foot luxurious homes would duplicate the character of the houses in Sands Mill across Route 128. But if the one-acre zoning were approved, Madonna says he would prefer to build seven buildings of 14 townhouses for seniors 55 and older to fulfill a void in the Town’s senior housing market.

A proposal to build seven homes would include a public sewer system that would tie into downtown Armonk’s sewer district. Madonna says the option of seven homes would also provide sewers to eight homes on Old Mount Kisco Road that would not be tied into sewer from his other proposed senior housing project of 14 units on the same road, where there are known septic issues. Madonna says the option of building four homes in the existing two-acre zoning would not include public sewers.

If the Town Board were to approve the one-acre zoning, the SEQRA process would provide studies that would consider the proposals of building seven homes or 14 townhouses.

The neighbors who attended the Town Board's September 23 meeting expressed concerns about the impacts of cluster housing of the proposed senior project. Prominent in the discussions were the change in the character of the neighborhood, the density of the proposed 18 townhouse units, the increased traffic, more school children, and the negative impact on their home values.

One resident said that everyone is concerned about property values, but this reason cannot be used to prevent an application for any development that might affect personal gain. The issues of a multi-dwelling housing application must be reviewed based upon what is good for the entire town.

A preliminary projection for the seven homes suggested that they would sell for an average of $2 million each with an approximate yearly average real estate tax of $50,000, or a total of $350,000. The 14 townhouses would sell anywhere between $1 and $1.2 million and would have an approximate yearly tax of about $20,000 or a total of $280,000. The spread of $70,000 in yearly taxes is insignificant to the preference of one project over the other.

Let’s assume that the seven homes would most likely house between 21 to 35 people, including seven-to-21 school children. While the 14 senior townhouses would house between 14 to 31 people, with maybe at most three school children. The biggest difference between the seven houses or the seven buildings of 14 homes is the amount of school children there would be; the maximum amount for the seven homes would be most likely around 21 students versus approximately the three assumed students from the senior housing plan. Right now the school district can easily absorb the projected larger number of students, so that is not an issue. But if the zoning were to be changed by the Town Board, a traffic analysis would be done to compare seven single family homes with school children, which would most likely generate more traffic than the 14 senior townhouses. Increased traffic is a concern of the neighbors, but more traffic is unavoidable with any of the three options.

High-End Senior Housing by Route 128 Discussed by Town Board

July 24, 2014
A 10-acre site by Route 128 has been proposed for the construction of 18 high-end, age-restricted townhouses for people 55-years old and older. The project, known as Wampus Mills, was discussed at the North Castle Town Board’s work session on July 23. The projected price range of each of the 18 townhouses is $1 million to $1.2 million. 

Tony Veneziano, the lawyer for Frank Madonna, who is buying the 10 acres, presented preliminary plans to rezone the site and build nine 6,000-square-feet buildings, each divided into two townhouses.

Veneziano says the current two-acre zoning of the 10 acres allows for a subdivision with four building lots, with homes for anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 square feet using septic systems and wells. If Madonna is permitted to change the current two-acre zone to a one-acre zone, and if new sewer lines were brought into the area, then Veneziano says it is reasonable to permit seven building lots. With the highest elevation on the property over 600 fee high, part of the land has steep slopes that can not be built on. 

In 2006, the Town Board created a new “Senior Citizen Housing” zone and in 2013 they adjusted the required age for eligibility from 62 years or more, to 55 years or more.

Town Board member Jose Berra asked if senior housing is really needed in Armonk, and whether this should be considered part of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan. 

North Castle has an aging population, says Supervisor Mike Schiliro, and based upon studies dating back to 2005-06, there is a need for senior housing in the town.

North Castle does not have any dedicated senior housing that allows for aging couples or empty nester baby-boomers to downsize. At this stage of the town’s development, Veneziano says this application is ideal for this site because it plans for public water and sewer systems, which is an important part of any multi-dwelling complex.

The town’s Director of Planning, Adam Kaufman, says there is a “floating zone” in place for senior housing, and the Town Board has to determine whether this application is appropriate for that purpose and this property, and if so, what the density should be.  

The Wampus Mills project would provide public water and sewer systems not only for its 18 units, Madonna says, but would also construct sewer infrastructure from Route 128 to provide public sewers for all of the 16 private homes from Old Mount Kisco Road, where there is a known issue of septic problems. Indeed, all the residents there want the sewer lines hooked up. Madonna projects the cost of the infrastructure to be between $300,000 and $400,000. The lines are proposed to run from 14 senior housing units proposed on Old Mount Kisco Road that Madonna would like to build at the same time that he plans to build the proposed 18 townhouses at Wampus Mills.  

A major concern about the new subdivision is that it would add to the sewer district’s size. The town is improving the sewage facility in downtown Armonk. The town is also exploring the possibility of drilling another well in Business Park to increase Armonk’s water supply. 

Town Board member Barbara DiGiacinto says, “We have to be mindful that we have capacity that doesn’t go on forever and ever.”

“We are working to increase the sewer capacity by 100,000 gallons a day,” says Supervisor Schiliro. “We have to increase the capacity to let the downtown grow and flourish.” 

The Town Board members, and Mike Ackerman, a neighbor residing across Route 128, expressed concern about the impact of the 18 units in a residential part of town that has a mixture of multi-million dollars homes to the north and smaller historic homes to the south. 

Furthermore, DiGiacinto says, anytime we consider a change in zoning density, it will change the character of that part of the town.

How do the proposed 18 townhouses change of character of the neighborhood? The long length of the driveway up to where the nine buildings are proposed, says Veneziano, allows for a more than sufficient setback, so that the buildings will not be seen from the road. The topography and landscaping will create a natural screen. 

But the neighbor who spoke at the town’s work session says there will be a significant impact to the neighborhood’s character that will have a negative impact on the value of his and his neighbors’ homes. The view from his home, specifically from his bedroom window, he says, looks right at the development. 

Another concern is the additional traffic that the 18 units would bring to the area. The neighbor says the location of the proposed driveway off Route 128 would cause safety concerns because of a nearby curve along Route 128 and because of its proximity to the entrance to the neighboring community. 

Veneziano says that Dr. John Collins, a highly regarded traffic engineer, studied a proposal at the site for 24 units, but the higher number of vehicles showed a minimal increase in traffic. Collins also said there is enough distance between the driveway and the entrance of the nearest subdivision.

Veneziano compared the building of the already-allowed four homes versus building 18 townhouses. Four homes will generate 10 schoolchildren, where it is projected that the 18 age-restricted townhouses will generate zero to two children. In addition, he says, the projected property taxes from the four homes would generate $220,000 per year, while the 18 townhouses would generate about $450,000 in yearly tax revenues.

North Castle requires that any multi-dwelling project that has more than eight homes is required to  build 10 percent of the overall units as affordable-housing. Madonna proposes that rather than integrate the affordable housing within the 10-acre Wampus Mills proposal, that instead he  build the required affordable housing at the Old Mount Kisco Road property where he has already proposed to build another 14 townhouses. The affordable housing component of the 18-housing units would consist of one building with two smaller townhouses of 2,000 square feet each. 

Under certain circumstance it is appropriate to allow required affordable housing to be built off premise, says Director of Planning Adam Kaufman. 

Veneziano says he would like to see the Wampus Mills application move to the Planning Board to discuss its impacts, including the extra density that he says will not harm anyone because the project is tucked away at the top of the hill. The impact on neighbors is at a minimum, says Veneziano. The current proposal is a reduction from 36 units, and from the 24 units that were proposed to the Town Board earlier this year. Further discussions of this application will surely take place during future Town Board meetings. 


Developer Frank Madonna Introduces More Senior Housing for Armonk

May 27, 2014
Developer Frank Madonna’s latest proposed development, Wampus Mills, is 10 acres of property located off Route 128 in Armonk, situated west of the exclusive Sands Mills development. On Wednesday, Madonna plans, that were submitted to the Town Board, are on the Town Board meeting’s agenda. Madonna proposes to build townhouses for a second senior housing complex that includes nine buildings of 36 homes located at the peak of the 500-foot plateau.

Madonna has invited residents located below on Old Mount Kisco Road to the office of his lawyer Tony Veneziano to discuss plans to tie their homes into sewer extensions from North Castle's Sewer District #2. There are 16 homes of Old Mount Kisco Road; eight of them have been offered tie-ins to the sewer line he plans to build for the Old Mount Kisco housing project of 14 units for senior citizens of 55 years of age and older near School Street. He has proposed to hook-up the eight surrounding homes from the smaller complex on Old Mount Kisco Road into the town's Sewer District #2. The extension of the sewer line for the larger project of the 36 homes is to extend from Route 128.

Madonna’s senior housing project on Old Mount Kisco Road has met some resistance from neighbors who appreciate the character and charm of old Armonk. Some of the 16 houses on the block date back to the mid-1800s and early 1900s. There are known septic issues with some of these homes that the new sewer would address. As presently proposed and designed, some neighbors have argued that the higher density multi-dwelling units would not blend into the character of the neighborhood. Madonna says the neighborhood will change no matter what. As owner of over three acres of land, much of it wetlands, he says he is entitled to build six homes in the quarter-acre zoning of Old Mount Kisco Road.
The 10-acre property on the hilltop was once a pig farm with an apple orchard that dates back to the early 1900s. The farm is no longer there, nor are the apple trees. But the land remains untouched with the exception of a small, simple ranch home made of brick, with floor to ceiling windows facing the sunrise from the east.

At its last meeting, the Town Board created an Affordable Housing Ordinance which requires all North Castle property owners that plan to subdivide and develop a minimum of eight dwellings units, to build 10% of the total proposed housing as affordable units that would adhere to North Castle’s new affordable housing plan. If Madonna’s latest plans are accepted and developed, he will have to find a location for the five affordable units that are required for the 50 total houses between the two locations.

Madonna's affordable units are proposed to be on site; another possibility is moving the affordable housing to the old lumberyard property on Bedford Road where Michael Fareri has proposed to build an apartment complex of 24 units adjacent to I-684.

Fareri's project awaits site approval by the North Castle Planning Board which has given it a preliminary nod, but has yet to officially approve the site plan. Fareri's neighbors on Bedford Road have also agreed that anything is better there than the abandoned trailer and debris that have sat on the property for almost a decade.

Madonna also owns three lots on Cox Avenue, where he has razed one house in order to build three homes on the empty lot near the Old Methodist Church's cemetery, at the corner of School Street. Across the street he also is in contract to purchase an old Victorian house for which he also has an application with the Planning Board for approval of a three-lot subdivision. The property lots surrounding the Victorian house are quarter-acre zoned and the neighbors have expressed concerns about the plan to add two more houses on the block, one on either side of the driveway to the current home which he intends to renovate. Madonna also intends to improve the storm water system on Cox Avenue.

North Castle Planning Board Reviews Senior Housing on Old Mount Kisco Rd.

June 25, 2013
North Castle's Planning Board is reviewing a proposal for senior housing at Armonk's Old Mount Kisco Road. Frank Madonna Jr. proposes to develop twelve senior townhouses plus two middle income townhouses on 1.76 acres of a three-and-half acre property site that combines three lots owned by the Madonna family. The current zoning permits quarter acre property subdivisions for six single family homes.

A variety of multi-dwelling plans for the property have been presented by Madonna over the past five years. The latest plan is an attempt to build a community development that will compliment the topography of the land and integrate residential multi-family townhouses into the Old Mount Kisco neighborhood. Introducing a multi-dwelling project of this size is not an easy task because there are almost twenty homes on the block, some dating back to the late 1800's. The current plan is for 14 two-bedroom units in six semi-attached buildings. Twelve of the units will be somewhere in the $700,000 to mid $700,000 price range. The proposal includes 14 age-restricted units for people 55 years and older that will fill a void in the towns' senior housing. Two units will be middle income housing, as required by the Town's housing zoning law. Madonna would like the middle income units (MIU) to be considered either onsite or offsite. Keeping in mind that North Castle is obligated to assist with the HUD-Westchester County settlement, perhaps the required North Castle middle income units from Cider Mill, Old Mount Kisco Road and potentially Brynwood (if approved for as multi-dwellings) can be pooled together to fulfill the obligation.

Madonna's 3.5 acres is located between Old Mount Kisco Road and Route 128. There is .72 of an acre of wetlands, plus a town regulated-wetland buffer that is another .82 acres. The buildings are proposed to be outside the wetland buffer. The proposed entrance driveway to the complex will be off Route 128. The current plan shows a portion of the driveway in the wetland buffer zone. This driveway placement is the Town's Engineer's recommendation for better sight distance from the ingress and egress off Armonk's Route 128.   

The Town Board has referred the project to the Planning Board, which will complete an environmental review and make a recommendation to the Town Board. The Director of Planning, Adam Kaufman, said there are three main planning issues with the project that the Town Board controls: density, design and size, and lastly, how the project integrates with the neighborhood.

Attorney Tony Veneziano, who represents the Madonna Family, the owner and developer of the Old Mount Kisco Road property, says there are failing septic systems at some of the homes on Old Mount Kisco Road. As a result, there may be mandatory sewer hookup requirements if a sewer line becomes available. Madonna has proposed to connect eight neighboring homes to a public sewer line that will be built for the multi-unit senior development. Madonna says he would extend the project's sewer line to extend to eight homes and cover the costs of doing so, including the cleaning and shutting down of the eight homes' current septic systems.

Old Mount Kisco Road resident Christine Eggleton says she is concerned about Madonna's proposal. Eggleton says there are no more problems with neighborhood septic tanks than elsewhere in town when it rains. Eggleston also said the scale of the project does not fit with the older homes in the neighborhood. Eggleton says another concern is the additional traffic on Old Mount Kisco Road.  

But Veneziano, Madonna's attorney, says the Westchester County Department of Health should be the body that determines whether there are failing septic tanks in the area.

Westchester County's sewerage, sewage and refuse Article V111, Section 873.720 says that the sewage from habitable buildings and properties in Westchester County should be handled in the most environmental appropriate manner, and where possible the buildings should connect to public sewer systems.

A North Castle's Sewer Capacity Committee study from 2008 indicated that certain streets in Armonk should have public sewers if available. Old Mount Kisco Road is one of them, as is Orchard Drive and Annadale Street.

The estimated sewer capacity for the permitted six homes on the Madonna property is an average of 300 gallons for each home per day or a total of 1800 gallons per day. Studies of the sewer capacity of two other senior housing projects in Mount Kisco show that their  average capacity is 125 gallons per day. If multiplied by the 14 units proposed for the Madonna property, the new development would use just under the sewer capacity of 1800 gallons per day.  

The Town Board has commissioned a sewer capacity study by GHD (the same company that did the Windmill water study) for $18,000. The Madonnas will pay for the study. The North Castle Planning Board Chairman, Art Adelman, said at the June 17 Planning Board meeting that the Planning Board will not commit to the Madonna project until the study is completed. The study is expected to be completed within the next two to three weeks.

Adelman said he also wanted to wait to hear from the Westchester County Planning Board and learn its position on the fair housing act to consider reducing the senior age limit from 62 to 55. North Castle's senior housing floating zone allows the town to create a floating residential zone for seniors 62-years and older within 1,000 feet of a commercial zoning district. The Madonna project falls within the limits for senior housing near downtown Armonk's commercial district. Madonna is requesting a zoning amendment from the Town Board that would reduce the senior age requirement to 55 years old. A senior housing project has never been built in town and all of Westchester County's senior housing is for 55-year olds, not 62, says Madonna. The reason for starting at 55 years old is that the average household age of a North Castle resident is in the mid-thirties (with two kids). By the time the children grow up, says Madonna, the parents are in the mid-fifties, when the may prepare to downsize and buy a smaller home.

The Town's housing ordinance requires that 15 percent of a multi-unit development's floor area ratio (FAR) be for middle income units. The Madonnas are requesting that the middle-income requirement be based on 10 percent of the overall unit count, and that the middle income units (MIUs) can be located either on-site or off-site.

Westchester County adopted a model ordinance provision for local governments to adopt fair and affordable housing. It says, "that all future housing developments include no less than 10 percent of the units as fair and affordable units." Planning Board Chairman Adelman said he will wait to hear from the Westchester County Planning Board before making a recommendation on Madonna's proposal.  

Attorney Mark Miller, also of Veneziano and Associates, has asked North Castle's Planning Board to adopt a declaration at their July 15 meeting. At its July 15th meeting, the Planning Board will consider a "negative declaration" that Madonna's proposal will have no undue environmental impacts upon the completion of its study of all of the facts and the neighbors input, that the Old Mount Kisco senior housing project may not have an undue impact on the existing environment.

Residents in the neighborhood have expressed concerns about the proposed plan. Craig Usted, a retired North Castle Highway Foreman and resident of Old Mount Kisco Road, said he is concerned about using an existing well on the property to supply water for the development's sprinkler system. An irrigation system may use a lot of water, and this could negatively affect the neighboring well water supply, says Usted. Madonna says the conforming six homes would use more water then the sprinkler system for the 14 townhouses, and that the area is surrounded by a sufficient water supply.

Another Old Mount Kisco Road resident, Tana Bigelow, works as an urban planner and landscape designer, and deals with wetland issues. She says she is concerned about water runoff from the proposed additional impervious service and hopes to see this mitigated.

A New Plan is Proposed for Armonk's Old Mount Kisco Road

Updated March 14, 2013
The town of North Castle has a rich, historical background that often causes a clash when a developer proposes blending new development within an older, established neighborhood. Such a dilemma is currently under review for the Madonna project that was presented at a work session on March 11. The proposal includes between 14 and 18 townhouses to be built on Old Mount Kisco Road by Frank Madonna, the owner and developer of the property.

Families who live on Old Mount Kisco Road typically moved there for the historical character of the area. Everyone who lives here enjoys the quaint, old feeling of the block, says Christine Eggleton, who lives in a home that was built in 1839. “At night, when it gets quiet and the traffic slows down,” Christine said, “I walk to town and it feels like I'm back in the 1850's. It is not like anywhere else -- you see these little houses and they are not fancy,” she added.

Historical maps from David Rumsey's map collection, which date back to the late 1800's of the Old Mount Kisco Road area, illustrate that the road was originally the main street that came from the south through Kensico, through Armonk and continued north into New Castle. In the 1930's, Main Street was straightened and Old Mount Kisco Road, with its various stores, became a seperate street; where the shops were turned over to homes, says Eggleton, who is a member of North Castle's Landmark Preservation Committee. On the 1868 map, Eggleton's house was marked as a school, another house was marked as a Shoe Sh, and yet another was landmarked as S.KG. Mill Store. The 1868 map shows a mix of about a dozen buildings, comprised of homes, schools and stores. Now there are about 19 homes on the block.

Jim Mucker also lives on Old Mount Kisco Road, in a house that was built in 1842. Mucker says the type of development that Madonna is proposing is a mistake in an old neighborhood. "That type of development on the outskirts of town is wrong," says Mucker, “and it belongs in town."

Mucker said there are a few, old houses on the road and some are shabby and run down. But some homeowners have put a lot of work into updating the electric, plumbing and septic, enabling their homes to maintain their historic character.  

The 3.6-acre-Madonna property is along Route 128, backing up to Old Mount Kisco Road. The property is zoned for single-family homes. It is located on the edge of the hamlet of Armonk, just outside of zoning that allows three-to-five units per acre, said attorney Tony Veneziano. Veneziano represented Madonna at the March 11th work session with the Town Board and the Planning Board. Tony Veneziano said they are trying to understand the needs of the market, and the latest rendition of plans offers three options.

One option is to build six-private homes, which Veneziano said is an approximate number of homes "as of right". But Madonna really doesn't want to build individual homes because, Veneziano said, they would compete with the other 172 homes in town for sale. The estimated sales price of each four-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot home is $1,100,000, or a total of $6,600,000 for the six homes. Each home is projected to have two-to-three children residing.

Two options of townhouses were presented and neither was age-restricted. Both options have buildings facing a center court with ingress and egress on Route 128 and Old Mount Kisco Road. Both plans also call for over 30,000 square feet, but each is divided up differently. Both townhouse options were presented as fee simple, generating an estimated $231,000 in taxes for 14 units and $233,000 for the 18-unit option. The option presented for the 14 units has 12-three bedroom duplex apartments, each one consisting of 2,500 square feet, and two, two-bedroom, middle-income units, each one proposed at 1,200-square feet. Each of the 14 homes is expected to have up to two children residing. The estimated sales price the 14 townhouses is $850,000, with a total, estimated sales price of $10.2 million. But Madonna said he doesn’t want to build three-bedroom units because the market is already saturated with them.

The third option presented included 18, two-bedroom townhouses, of which 16 were proposed to be 2,000-square-feet each, and two, middle-income units at 1,200 square feet each. The estimated sales price for each of the 18 units is $700,000, or a total of $11.2 million. The benefit of this option is that it includes Madonna’s plans to hook-up the surrounding eight homes to the public sewer line. The number of children in these townhouses was estimated to be .5 to .75 for each unit.    

Mucker said, "I would be fine if he split the property and built three homes."

"Nobody is against what Madonna is allowed to build," said Eggleton. "But the town has no obligation to approve a zoning change," she added. “Also, a change in the zoning will decrease the value of the homes that are there now.”

Eggleton’s other issues relating to negative impacts are the clash of where the transition of the two types of homes, old and new, would meet. She said she is also concerned about the proposed buildings' elevated heights and scale; additional traffic; and the location of the units near a wetland area. Eggleton added that it would be useful to see a massing model so she could visualize how the structures fit into the landscape.

Veneziano said the wetlands on the property leave about three acres of useable land. The plans show the buildings outside of the 100-foot wetland buffer.  

The development of the project includes bringing in public water and sewer lines. Sewer and Water Department Head Sal Misiti said the sewer district’s capacity flow is limited to 500,000 gallons-per-day (GPD) and 24 units for the Old Mount Kisco neighborhood have been calculated into the upgrade to the 500,000 GPD limit.

Sal Misiti said downtown Armonk's Water District 4 supply is at its limit. The town is looking for an alternative source,  possible from existing wells that are part of the Whippoorwill Ridge subdivision that are offline and could potentially be rejuvenated, said Misiti. 

Mucker and Eggleton's homes are on larger lots, located outside of the area where the sewer lines are proposed; also, they are not considered part of the eight houses that are adjacent to Madonna's project, which he would like to include in the hookup to the public sewer.

Mucker said he replaced his septic system and doesn't want to pay the additional taxes for public sewers.

Madonna said that some neighboring homes on Old Mount Kisco Road have failing septic systems.

But Eggleton emphasized that if you go anywhere in Armonk that has density, you may occasionally smell an odor from the septic systems.

One of the homes on the block was the “Slater Hotel and Pool Room,” back in the early 1900's. It has an unusual septic system that may emit odors.

The Westchester Department of Health is the governing body that oversees problems with county septic systems. Veneziano said if sewer lines are brought in, regulations would require mandatory hookups for some of the homes on Old Mount Kisco Road: That is precisely why they are talking about hooking up the eight homes at the developer's expense.

Christine Eggleton said she spoke with other neighbors on the block and none of them wants the sewer.

One of the reasons you look at a density bonus, Councilman Mike Schiliro said, is that you provide something back to the community, such as the sewers; additionally, age-restricted units would be helpful.

“If a higher density of between 22 and 24 units were something that you would like us to consider as age restriction,” said Veneziano,” we could do that.”

Councilman John Cronin said,“ Of everything we have talked about concerning this project, the age-restricted housing is something that appeals to us because there is a need for it.”

Town Attorney Roland Baroni said the age-restrictive option would not include fee-simple taxes.

Condominium-tax rates are about fifty percent of the fee-simple rate of homes and townhouses.  

Adam Kaufman said there is a floating zone for senior housing and the control of the square footage, size and density is up to the Town Board.

John Nonna, North Castle's prior county legislator and former Pleasantville mayor, said when the Madonnas had built a development on Marble Avenue in Pleasantville, he considered them reasonable, reputable and competent developers. Speaking from experience concerning a similar, residential development at the Pleasantville Country Club, Nonna said the buyers tend to be people who want to stay in town and are downsizing, or young families who want to live in town because of the school district’s excellent reputation. These young families may consider upgrading after a few years.    

Member of the Planning Board, Christopher Carthy, said that having a master bedroom and garage on the first floor is essential in age-restrictive housing.

But if the units are to be age restricted, Madonna said he would build either 14 or 12, two-bedroom, tax fee simple units at 55-plus, along with two, two-bedroom, middle-income units. If he builds 16 units, they would have a-one-car garage, and the 14 units would have a-two-car garage. The other option is 14 three-bedroom units, with 12-units taxed fee simple at the full market rate, and two middle-income units. Madonna added that all of the age-restricted units would have a first-floor garage, and a first-floor master bedroom.  

Director of Planning Adam Kaufman said there are three important planning issues to the project: one is density, the second is look and size, and the third is how to integrate the development into the neighborhood.

This could help residents get a sewer hookup, as well as improve the value of their homes and quality of the street, said Councilwoman Diane Roth.

“It's very simple,” said Veneziano. "We are looking for some consensus of what plan makes sense to develop on this tough site, other than the as of right. It’'s one thing to spend a lot of money to get someplace and it is another thing to spend a lot of money and…."


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.