Citing Fraud, the St. Christopher’s/Jenny Clarkson School Sues to Restrict Development Near the Reservoir
Updated August 6, 2017 The St. Christopher’s/Jenny Clarkson School, a non-profit home on the border of West Harrison and North Castle that educates children and young adults with a wide variety of autistic disorders and special needs, has filed a federal suit on June 26 against Joseph Forgione and JMF Acquisitions, a New Jersey-based developer, to whom they are in contract to sell 22 of their 36 acres of land overlooking the Kensico Reservoir. The school claims that Forgione fraudulently amended the contract between them in order to build a much bigger and denser development than it had agreed to.
JMF Acquisitions presented an application for a residential property referred to as The Vue to North Castle’s Town Board at a work session on June 8, 2016. The applicant proposed a multi-housing complex of 200 luxury rental apartments; 80 one-bedrooms and one hundred twenty two-bedrooms, generally renting for a proposed amount of $2900 to $3200 per month.
The 22-acres are zoned in the Town of North Castle and with the right to build 11 single family homes, said JMF Acquisitions’s zoning lawyer, Tony Veneziano, of Veneziano & Associates of Armonk. On July 1, 2016, Veneziano & Associates filed a formal application with the Town of North Castle to change the property’s zoning to allow a 200 multi-family residential project with 400 underground parking spaces.
St. Christoper’s complaint says the 200-apartment application is “incompatible” with their operations, and also says St. Christopher’s initially agreement was for the construction of a rental development of low density, multi-family apartments with no less than 35 units, including parking, amenities, and apartments set aside for affordable housing.
St. Christopher’s says the school would “not have signed the contract if it had known that JMF Acquisitions had no intention of pursuing a low density project.”
St. Christoper’s claims that JMF Acquisitions, acting in bad faith, never intended to pursue approvals for a low density project. The complaint says that, “JMF and Forgione set out to dupe St. Christopher’s into amending the contract” fraudulently, with a change in the definition of the project’s terms. According to the complaint, JMF Acquisitions’ law firm, Mandelbaum Salsburg of Roseland, New Jersey, filed the amendment on March 4, 2016. But the complaint says that the amendment was only sent to St. Christopher’s Chief Executive, Robert Maher, for his signature on December 30, 2015, and was never sent to St. Christpher’s law firm, which was then DelBello Donnellan Weigarten Wise & Wiederkehr LLP of White Plains. The amendment never mentioned the actual number of units intended in the site plan, and the complaint says that the definition of the project was changed. “If JMF’s and Forgione had been forthright, the amendment would not have deleted the numerical references in the definition of the project but would have changed them instead. The number “200” would have replaced the number “35”, and the intention to build 400 underground parking would also have been disclosed.”
With St. Christopher’s lacking any legal advice during the signature process, and with the amendment concealing the true size of the project’s dramatic expansion, St. Christopher’s says it was duped.
In addition, JMF Acquisitions acquired an authorization to permit them to make a land use application to the Town of North Castle on St. Christopher’s behalf. But the complaint says Forgione sought out Ralph Herrara, St. Christopher’s Director of Facilities, who “does not have authority to sign important documents” like an authorization letter. Herrara signed the authorization letter, with text that was provided by Forgione and typed on St. Christopher’s letterhead. The authorization letter reads:
“We are the owners of the property located at 1700 Old Orchard Street, Armonk, New York. JMF Properties is the contract vendee of the property.
“The purpose of this letter is to evidence to you that JMF Properties is authorized to submit and process any and all zoning applications necessary for development of the property, including, but not limited to, zone text and map amendments, subdivision, and site plan.”
The complaint says that the “fraudulently induced amendment” and “deceptively procured authorization letter” were secured under false pretenses. In addition St. Christopher’s says, “Forgione offered to sweeten the economic pot by making ever-increasing economic offers.”
Before the Town of North Castle’s work session, JMF Acquisitions hired another law firm DelBello Donnellan Weigarten Wise & Wiederkehr LLP, the same firm that represented St. Christopher’s in the contract between St. Christoper’s and JMF Acquisitions. The complaint says that DelBello Donnellan Weigarten Wise & Wiederkehr LLP firm, agreed to be JMF Acquistions’s lobbyist for the project, and in doing so they breached its fiduciary duty to St. Christopher’s. The complaint also says that when St. Christoper’s complained, the law firm immediately resigned from representing Forgione. But, the complaint says that Forgione is liable for causing DelBello Donnellan Weigarten Wise & Wiederkehr LLP firm to breach its duty of fidelity to St. Christopher’s.
“As a consequence of this breach of the duty of loyalty, St Christopher’s is no longer able to utilize the DelBello [Donnellan Weigarten Wise & Wiederkehr LLP] firm in connection with the real estate transaction and has been forced to retain independent counsel to protect it interests at an unnecessary additional cost and expense in an amount nor presently ascertainable but which will be ascertainable at a trial on the merits.”
The complaint says further that when St. Christopher’s confronted DeBello Donnellan Weigarten Wise & Wiederkehr LLP, the firm resigned from representing Forgione, but they “did not voluntarily return what [they] had been paid; and [they] offered to do so only if necessary.”
The complaint also says that JMF Acquisition’s third lawyer, Tony Veneziano, attended a meeting with an acquaintance of St. Christopher’s Chief Executive Officer, Robert Maher, and Maher himself. The complaint says that Forgione deceived St. Christoper’s CEO into the meeting with his land use attorney without notifying St. Christoper’s independent counsel. At that meeting, according to the complaint, Veneziano made a better offer for “St. Christopher’s consent to the high density project.”
“The driving force behind this lawsuit,” the complaint continues, “is Forgione’s refusal to accept that St. Christopher’s objections have nothing to do with money.” “St. Christopher’s mission to help the autistic, individuals particularly sensitive to light, noise and disruption.”
Finally, St. Christoper’s claims that JMF Acquisitions and Forgione kept the application for the higher density project a secret from St. Christopher’s. St. Christoper’s said they made it clear to JMF Acquisitions and Forgione that they oppose the larger project, claiming that Forgione made repeated offers to increase the purchase price, all of which were rejected.
The complaint concludes that the “court should declare that St. Christopher’s was fraudulently induced into executing the contract and that, as a consequence, the contract is unenforceable.”
In addition, St. Christopher’s claims if the 200 units of the proposed project of The Vue were to be developed as presented, St. Christopher’s “would be irreparably injured because of the materially negative impact that a high density residential development will have on its ability to maintain an environment suitable for the purpose of aiding and assisting individuals with wide spectrum autism disorders who will be residing and living in close proximity to the large scale.”
St. Christopher’s complaint concludes by demanding judgment of “damages in an amount not presently ascertainable but which will be ascertainable at a trial on the merits and punitive damages of no less than $1,000,000 and for such other and further relief as to the court seems just and proper, including interest, and disbursements.”
St. Christopher’s also says it will perform whatever action, if any, the Court determines must be performed.
Multi-Housing Complex of 200 Units Proposed for North White Plains
June 15, 2016 At the June 8, 2016 North Castle Town Board work session, JMF Properties, New Jersey-based developers, presented a preliminary application for 200 luxury apartments in North White Plains. JMF Properties is contracted to purchase 22 acres of the 36-acre campus of the Jennie Clarkson Campus at Old Orchard Street and Route 22. The area is densely wooded with the closest portion of the proposed building of The Vue to be about 140 feet from Old Orchard and around 500 feet from Route 22. The proposed complex is situated adjacent to the Kensico Reservoir, Cranberry Lake Preserve, and BOCES Campus. The proposal is to develop 12 acres with another 10 acres considered for a conservation easement with perhaps a deed restriction for parkland.
The Vue’s design calls for 200 multi-family one and two bedroom rental apartments to appeal to “bookend generation households” who are either tenants profiled as empty nesters, 65 years and older, or young professional people, 35 years old and younger, who are making a minimum income of about $95,000 per year and can afford $3000 a month rent. Eighty units would be one-bedroom apartments, renting for about $2800 to $2900, while the one hundred twenty two-bedroom units would rent for about $3100 to $3200.
Jeff Otto of Otto Evaluation Group reviewed the viability of the real estate need for a multi-family community complex like this in North White Plains. Otto said the households would mostly be childless because of the design restraints of the property with no three-bedrooms apartments. The demographics of North Castle housing is about 55 percent without children under 18 years old. Otto said this very large group of residents are forced to move out of town when they want to downsize because of the lack of this type of housing. He concluded that the lack of this type housing also causes large employers such as General Electric, who is looking to hire bright young people, to relocate as well. Otto said another significant benefit of The Vue is that the targeted residents are commonly referred to as “walking wallets” and they spend their money in the community.
The proposed development of The Vue’s four-story single building with two wings is connected by a canopied area with an open public space over an underground parking garage. The ground-level apartments have gated outdoor private patios. There will be many amenities, including a fitness center and other common areas.
Dean Marchetto, architect and planner of Marchetto Higgins Stieve Architects of New Jersey, said JMF Properties is known to design custom fit luxury housing into the surroundings such as this topography of a hillside in a wooded area overlooking the Kensico Reservoir. The materials of the architecturally modern styled building is stone, brick and wood. The project requires that 10 percent of housing units be affordable housing.
The property is currently tax-exempt as a school, and is zoned for R-1 and R-2. As-of-right, Tony Veneziano, JMF’s attorney, said the property could be developed into eleven single family homes of 4,000 to 5,000 square feet, with four to five bedrooms.
“We have to anticipate what the future impacts are of any zoning changes that we may consider,” said Supervisor Michael Schiliro. “Rezoning is not taken lightly.”
Children of North White Plains households attend the Valhalla Union Free School District. About 70% of the tax revenues proposed for The Vue will go toward the Valhalla School District.
Based upon the proposed designed of the one and two bedroom apartments, an accepted standard planning practice from the consultants projected only 12 school aged children in the 200 units. This projection raised a loud cackle from the audience.
We must be conscious of new developments and how this development would affect or benefit the school district, added Schiliro.
There are 1,504 students currently enrolled in the Valhalla Union Free School District at the educational cost of $29,000 per student. The projected yearly real estate taxes from The Vue would generate about $1,250,000. The Town of North Castle and Westchester County would be relatively portioned for about $175,000 and $225,000 of those yearly taxes, while the Valhalla School District would be proportioned for more than $850,000 per year.
Perhaps there would be a two to two-and-a-half year process before the applicant would be able to break ground for construction, said Roland Baroni, Town Attorney--that is, if the application is received and accepted for review by the Town Board. If received, the procedure of the application is that the Town Board would declare its intent as the lead agency under the environmental review act. A draft environmental impact statement would be prepared and a public hearing would be held for that document as well for a zoning petition. If the zoning amendment were adopted, then the petition would be referred to the North Castle and Westchester County Planning Boards for a site plan review. Next would be a public hearing at the North Castle’s Planning Board.
If the application were to be accepted, further approvals would be necessary to extend the public water system from the Westchester Joint Water Works and the sewer district of Harrison. These would also require public hearings.
The applicant has already done a lot work on the proposal and Schiliro said he has had the opportunity to informally review the project over the past several months. The work session allows other Town Board members to view the application as well as the public. “We as a board can now determine if the application progresses and in what way, shape, or form,” said Schiliro.
Schiliro compared the application process of The Vue to that of Brynwood Golf Community’s application, which took six years with a lot of input from residents. Members of the Residents of Windmill (ROWI) attended and spoke at every public Brynwood meeting. The ROWI members were well informed, worked with the Town, and were dedicated to minimize the impacts of Brynwood and maximize the benefits for Windmill Farm, whose water district was extended to accommodate Brynwood’s water supply. Byrnwood’s project went from 243 condominium units on what was zoned for 49 single homes to the approval of 73 condominiums and cottages taxed as fee simple homes. In addition, there was a substantial dedication of 120 acres as a conservation easement and over $1 million was given toward North Castle’s capital improvements.
In other words, Schiliro said, The Vue’s project could evolve if it gets past the early stages. Although a work session is not typically a venue for public comment, Schiliro allowed a few questions from the many North White Plains and West Harrison residents who were in attendance.
Karen Schultz, who lives in Harrison, has been a conservation advocate for the Kensico Reservoir area for years. She said that in 1996 she remembered the controversy as a member of the North Castle/West Harrison Citizens Association when a water bottling company wanted to tap into 100,000 gallons of water a day from Cranberry Lake. Back then “with our scientists and engineers, it was found that any building on the watershed would be a danger to the water supply of 9 million people,” which the Kensico Reservoir serves.
A big hurdle for the application will be the approval from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) for the design of the stormwater management system.
But first, the Town Board must determine if the application progresses. If the application is formally received, the environmental impact would be considered as part of the environmental statement. In the New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) process all the public’s questions must be addressed, said Schiliro.
Rich Pierson, the project’s traffic engineer, prepared a traffic study to evaluate the impacts the project would have on the surrounding roadways. The traffic patterns studied were along Route 22 and Old Orchard Street, Route 22 and Hillandale Avenue, and the Route 22 intersection with North Broadway. Peak-hour delays commonly occur at the intersection of North Broadway and Route 22. Pierson said the NYCDEP has near-term plans to improve the intersection of North Broadway’s southbound approach which will be expanded to two lanes.
North White Plains residents have been concerned for years about the pass through traffic on North Broadway to Route 22 from the Bronx River Parkway to I-287 and vice versa. Over the years there have been discussions of the possibility for an alternative route from the Bronx River Parkway to I-287. The concept is to divert the traffic from North Broadway and Route 22, with a ramp constructed to connect the Bronx River to I-287. The cost of this plan has been prohibitive, but perhaps with the development of the 200 units by JMF Properties, they can help finance a new ramp, allowing North White Plains to become a more appealing hamlet of residential and commercial areas with less volume from pass-through vehicular traffic.
If The Vue’s application is received, it is likely that interested residents will form a new group similar to ROWI to be sure to explore the many impacts the proposed project would have on the community.
Fareri Offers Options at the Former Lumberyard
Updated December 16, 2015 The structures at 162 Bedford Road, the site of the old lumberyard, have been demolished. The abandoned field of 1.26 acres sits at the dead-end street of Bedford Road, backed up to the exit ramp of 3 South off of Interstate-684, which is adjacent to the H.C. Crittenden Middle School.
162 Bedford Road is owned by 170 Bedford Road, LLC, and managed by Michael Fareri. For almost ten years, he has presented several plans to develop the property. His two lots on Bedford Road were merged in October 2015. The former lumberyard property was purchased for $1,850,000 in March 2007. 156 Bedford Road was purchased for $999,700 in November 2014.
In a December 10, 2015 letter addressed to Supervisor Michael Schiliro, Fareri said if he is granted the approval by the Town Board, he will move the required component of the six Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) units at the former lumberyard property to 37-41 Maple Avenue. He would then build only 30 market rate units at 162 Bedford Road.
Prior to this housing plan, Fareri’s proposed one building of 36 apartments at the former lumberyard with 30 market rate units, combined with the required six AFFH units. The proposed three-story building was to be 49,000 square feet.
In 2010, the North Castle Town Board created the Residential Multifamily-Single Structure (RF-MSS) zone to apply to the lumberyard property. That plan had a density of 24 units on only 8/10 of an acre.
Prior to that, the property was zoned as a Roadside Business District (RB) with approved plans for a 10,000-square foot building with 6,000 square feet of retail space and 4,000 square feet of offices on the second floor. Before Fareri bought the building in 2007, the property was approved for a 32,000-square foot single structure.
Fareri says the latest proposal helps with what he “intended to do all along which is to turn the two projects into the best two projects they can be for the Town and for our community.”
If the AFFH units were developed separately at 37 and 41 Maple Avenue, he says they will be more affordable to the buyer. Fareri bought 37 Maple Avenue in 1999 for $415,000. In 2008, he bought 41 Maple Avenue for $892,500.
He said that combining 37 and 41 Maple Avenue into one building of six units will be a more aesthetically pleasing structure that provides a uniform alignment with the fronts of the adjacent Armonk Square buildings. “But more importantly,” he adds, “the AFFH [option at Maple Avenue] eliminates the present deficiency of 31 parking spaces.”
Fareri asked if the Town Board cannot support either of his suggestions:
1. 36 units in one building at the lumberyard, combining 30 market rate and six AFFH; or 2. 30 market rate units at Bedford Road and six AFFH on Maple Avenue
Then perhaps they would consider another alternative: a plan to refurbish 41 Maple Avenue where it stands now; leave 37 Maple Avenue as is; and then change the lumberyard to all 36, or more, AFFH units.
Fareri asked to be placed on the Town Board’s agenda for either January 13 or January 27, 2016.
Armonk Commons: Multi-Family Apartment Building at the Former Lumber Yard
July 19, 2015 Plans for a 36-unit apartment building at the former Armonk Lumber Yard and the Green property, located next door, adjacent to the Exit 3 ramp from I-684 South, have been amended and approved on July 13 by North Castle’s Planning Board. The development of the residential apartment building on 1.26 acres was presented by Michael Fareri. Fareri has owned the former lumber yard property for 10 years and recently purchased the neighboring Green property. On the application, there is a different owner for the two lots. 154 Bedford Road LLC owns 156 Bedford Road and Giocondo Dipietro owns 170 Bedford Road.
The Planning Board held a public hearing for the 49,000 square foot, three-story building that will face Bedford Road. There will be two studio apartments, 15 one-bedroom apartments and 19 two-bedroom apartments. Six of the 36 apartments will meet the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Westchester County’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) requirements. Thirty of the apartments will be marketed at fair value.
The housing regulations for AFFH in North Castle is that any new multi-family dwelling residence build 10% of their units as AFFH. Armonk Commons is required to build 20% of the units as AFFH apartments. The reason that the AFFH requirement is doubled is because in 2010 North Castle’s Town Board permitted Fareri a higher density bonus than would normally be acceptable on a lot that size when he agreed to build 35% of middle-income units (MIU). In May 2014, the Town Board changed the housing law from MIUs to AFFH requirements. Since then, Fareri’s AFFH requirements were reduced. This development will adhere to North Castle’s AFFH local law that was adopted in May 2014. There are more than 30 existing MIUs in Armonk that were built by Fareri at Whippoorwill Commons on Whippoorwill Road East and Agnew Farm in Whippoorwill Hills. The Town Board created the Residential Multi-family Single Structure RMF-SS Zoning District to provide for a variety of affordable housing types in North Castle to meet the needs of various income levels.
The Armonk Commons’ six AFFH units will be three one-bedroom and three two-bedroom apartments. Fareri said the AFFH units will be sold in the range of $208,000, which is comparable to the projected market rate of the two apartment buildings of 10 AFFH units being built on Old Route 22. Fareri also said the construction costs of his AFFH will be between $400,000 to $500,000 each. To provide these affordable units, he said he is providing the Town with a subsidy of approximately $1.5 million.
All of North Castle’s AFFH units must remain subject to affordable regulations of affordability for a minimum period of 50 years. Armonk Commons’ AFFH will be available for sale or rent. They will be marketed in accordance with the Westchester County Fair & Affordable Housing Affirmative marketing plan.
Fareri said it will take time for Westchester County to work through the AFFH aspect of the project. In order to be able to begin construction before the winter, he said he would like to get the project started now. He asked the Planning Board to direct the Building Department to issue several permits prior to Westchester County’s issuance of a restrictive covenant on the property for required AFFH. Fareri requested a demolition permit for the existing structures, and then to be able to start construction, he requested an excavation permit and a foundation permit while he works through the County issues.
Westchester County’s restrictive covenant must be on record before a foundation permit is issued, said Roland Baroni, Town Attorney. The demolition can be done, but the construction cannot be started if Fareri were not to agree with Westchester County’s restrictive covenant.
The delay with Westchester County’s covenant is that Fareri wants to negotiate a deal. He said if the County can’t provide a purchaser within six months of the issuance of Certificate of Occupancy (C of O), he wants the County to agree to buy the units. “Why should I be obligated to sit with $3 million worth of inventory that I can’t sell?” asked Fareri. When those six units are built, and Westchester County is not able to provide six purchasers or renters for those units, Fareri says his money will be at risk. He said he is not sure what he’ll do about this.
In the meantime, the three sitting Planning Board members approved the request for a demolition permit and a tree removal permit. The site plan shows the removal of six Town-regulated trees.
The Planning Board waived the requirements for all the units to provide private outdoor space through the use of decks, terraces or patios. Adam Kaufman, Director of Planning, said the code requires that each unit is to have a private outdoor space. But some of the units accommodate decks, while others do not.
Fareri presented a recreation area of approximately 5,000 square feet on the building’s rooftop. The space will include a play area, a barbecue area, sun protection, tables and benches, and landscape at a cost projected to be about $200,000. He proposed that the roof to be tressled with a high safety fence.
A recreation payment to the Town of $96,000 ($3,000 per 30 fair market apartments and $1,000 per six AFFH apartments) for the multi-family development is required. The money is to be placed in a trust fund to be used by the Town Board exclusively for a neighborhood park, playground or recreation purposes. The Town plans to develop the new Wampus Park South at a nearby vacant lot at the corner of Bedford Road and Maple Avenue.
In this particular development, Fareri said he didn’t think a recreation fee was warranted since he proposed a recreation facility on the roof.
But Baroni said, “The Planning Board has to determine whether or not the proposed recreation area is suitable. That determination should be done with the Town’s Recreation Advisory Board who would review the proposal. They would then recommend if the recreation area fits the needs of the 36 residents, as well as the community.”
This determination would have caused a delay of the Planning Board’s approval of the project’s amendments. Therefore, Fareri negotiated a reduction to pay $93,000, as credit was given by the Planning Board for the three existing buildings on the property that will be demolished.
Fareri agreed to pay the $93,000 recreation fee in four installments: 1. After signing of the site plan 2. When the building permit is provided 3. After the temporary C of O is issued 4. After the final C of O is filed.
The proposed height of the apartment building at 34 feet exceeds the Town’s maximum permitted building height of 30 feet. Fareri obtained a four-foot height variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals on July 2, 2015.
The plans show 78 parking spaces. This includes 36 outdoor parking spaces and 36 garaged spaces divided in half between 18 individual garages that will be located under the apartment building and 18 connected garages in a separate building that backs up against the adjacent middle school property. There will be two land-banked spaces that will be developed at a later date, if needed, handicap parking and off-site parking spaces on Bedford Road.
Armonk Commons’ proposed AFFH units do not meet the minimum size requirements set by the Town’s code. The proposal includes a row of 36 connected outdoor storage units which will be situated in between the garages in the rear and the large apartment building. This storage space will be counted toward the minimum size requirements for the AFFH.
The complex’s water and sewer will be public as the sewer connection has been granted by the Westchester County Department of Health.
Retail & Affordable Apartments Proposed by Fareri at Maple Avenue
September 11, 2015 Developer Michael Fareri proposed a combined retail and residential 9,200 square foot building at North Castle’s Planning Board meeting on September 10. His intention is to replace his buildings located at 37 and 41 Maple Avenue with plans to demolish 41 Maple Avenue and make alterations to 37 Maple Avenue, transforming the buildings into one lot.
Fareri said there is a saturation of retail space in Armonk and, therefore, his most recent plan for 39 Maple Avenue is for seven small affordable housing apartments with a small portion for retail. The apartments should be a welcome addition to the ten rental apartments in the neighboring Armonk Square.
The 39 Maple Avenue plan combines the first floor as retail and two two-bedroom residential apartments, and five one-bedroom apartments on the second floor with an elevator. He proposed 831 square feet of retail on the first floor, with the two two-bedroom apartments of 1,305 square feet each. The five one-bedroom apartments on the second floor range from 770 square feet to 1,068 square feet.
Fareri said he currently pays yearly taxes of $25,000 for the two buildings since 41 Maple Avenue is unoccupied. He estimated if he built the new proposal, the tax amount would more than double.
Fareri proposed to transfer the affirmative furthering fair housing (AFFH) requirements of 20 percent on the 36 apartments for his application of the proposed building at the former lumberyard on Bedford Road. He received a bonus building density from the Town Board for the lumberyard lot in agreement to double the required 10 percent of the AFFH component. At the Planning Board meeting, he proposed to reduce that Bedford Road proposal from 36 apartments, which included six affordable apartments, to build 35 market-rate apartments. He then proposed to build the 20% of the required affordable housing apartments, or seven units, at 39 Maple Avenue.
Fareri said there are several delays in the approval for the 36-unit building at the former lumberyard. One delay is that the Westchester Health Department is required to approve a 10-foot public waterline extension that is needed for the building on Bedford Road.
Fareri said the application process is cumbersome, timely, and costly. The professional fees to the Town alone for the required public hearings are estimated to be $14,000.
It’s anticipated that the application will require four public hearings between the various Town governing bodies. Roland Baroni, Town Attorney, said he recommended several steps.
• It will be necessary for the Town Board to require a State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). A public hearing will be held to consider a change in the legislation of the zoning text that limits the 40% requirement of second-floor residences in the Central Business Zone (CB). The second public hearing would involve consideration for a special use permit for the two residential apartments on the first floor in the CB-zone. The Town Board will also have to consider a resolution to relocate the affordable apartments from the building at the former lumberyard.
• The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) must consider 39 Maple Avenue’s .71% second-floor residential increase for the Floor Area Ratio (FAR). As well, they must review the variance for shared parking for the retail and residential apartments.
• The Planning Board must review the site plan for an approval at a public hearing. They would also have to hold a public hearing to reduce the amount of apartments on Bedford Road from 36 units to 35 units.
Due to the proximity of Route 128, the application also requires a review by the Westchester County Planning Board.
The Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of the new proposal exceeds the maximum permitted residential space in the allowable FAR of the CB District. Fareri will need to seek a FAR variance from the ZBA.The CB Zoning District is governed by the CB-A Zone, said Adam Kaufman, Director of Planning. The CB-A zone permits residential use of no more than 40% of the total floor area within the CB-A District of multi-family dwellings to be located on the second floor.
The two existing buildings currently have a deficiency of 31 parking spaces, said Fareri. The combined plan for residential and retail may qualify for a 25% reduction in shared parking as was applied to the neighboring Armonk Square project.
Art Adelman, Chairman of the Planning Board, speaking for himself said, “All the things you mention are positive. You have to convince the Town Board and the ZBA to do a few things for you. But you can make a compelling argument. It’s clearly an improvement from what exists.”
Fareri said in 2008 he received an approval from the Planning Board to combine the buildings, that he proposed to build mostly retail and offices on the second floor. But the economic climate stalled him from moving forward until now with a different plan.
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Fareri Proposes 34 Apartments, Including Affordable Housing, at the End of Bedford Road
Updated July 30, 2014 The former lumberyard property at 162 Bedford Road has been considered for a number of different site plans over the past decade. The latest plan proposed by the applicant, Michael Fareri, is for two new buildings on an expanded building site; one of 20 market rate units located on the adjacent lot of the old lumberyard at 156 Bedford Road, which Fareri is in contract to buy, and a second building of 14 apartments with eight market rate units and six affordable Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Units (AFFH) as condominiums to rent.
Michael Fareri presented a new petition to the North Castle Town Board to change the zoning and the density of the two property lots, from the zoning as a Roadside Business District (RB) to a Residential Multifamily-Single Structure (RF-MSS). At the July 23 North Castle Town Board meeting, Fareri said the lumberyard property, which is owned by Giocondo DiPietro, was rezoned from RB to RF-MSS in June 2010.
“On May 19, 2014, the Planning Board,” said Fareri, “approved the site plan of a single structure building of 24 apartments.” In 2010, the Town Board created the RF-MSS zone to apply to Fareri’s property with a density of 24 units on an 8/10 of an acre property lot, with the requirement that he build 35% of the building’s apartments as middle-income units (MIU). Since then, the Town Board introduced a new legislation that requires new multi-family housing developments in North Castle of 8 or more units to adhere to Westchester County Fair and Affordable Housing mandates.
The prior RB zoning approval was for a 10,000 square foot building at the lumberyard with 6,000 square feet of retail and 4,000 square feet of office space on the second floor; however, that plan was scratched when the economy fell in 2008, says Fareri.
In May of this year, when North Castle’s new affordable AFFH legislation was put in place, Fareri negotiated the building requirement to 20% to meet Westchester County’s affordable housing requirement as opposed to the requirement by North Castle that the property be 35% middle-income units. The configuration presented was 19 market rate apartments, plus five affordable AFFH apartments. Fareri said he would not build the project with a 20% requirement of affordable AFFH because it would be too difficult to finance the mixed use of the market rate and AFFH apartments; he said that he plans to personally finance the project.
At the July 23 Town Board meeting, Fareri proposed a new plan to build two buildings; one would be with 14 apartments, six as affordable AFFH apartments and eight at market rate in a two-story apartment building in the building on the part of the lumberyard property that is adjacent to I-684. The building plan presents four three-bedroom apartments to be located at the two ends of the building’s two floors; the building would also have 10 two-bedroom apartments between both floors. The second building proposed consisted of 20 apartments on half-acre of the Green property.
Director of Planning Adam Kaufman says the affordable AFFH town code requires a total of all the housing units to be calculated into the percentage of required AFFH units. Fareri is proposing 34 total apartments between the two buildings and therefore 20 percent or seven units should be affordable AFFH apartments.
Fareri said that to calculate the percentage of required AFFH units, the AFFH units would have to be withdrawn from the total housing count. He would deduct five AFFH units from the total of 34 between the two buildings, leaving the requirement of 20% of 29 units, or six AFFH units, plus the eight market rate units in the smaller building. “The subsidy of these programs is borne by the developer," said Fareri, "not by the community.”
He estimates it will cost about $300,000 to build each unit -- and the AFFH units would sell for only about $150,000. The estimated cost to build the larger building is about $6 million. Fareri said he is presenting the AFFH apartments as rentals because the market of potential buyers might not have the required 10% down payment, making them ineligible to qualify for a mortgage.
Fareri said he intends to build the 14-unit building as a modular construction. He also said that he could “sell the old lumberyard lot (the lot line is proposed to shift to divide the two buildings on two separate building lots) to a developer who does nothing but fair and affordable housing and then it becomes a financeable product.”
There is a potential to convert all of the 14 units to affordable AFFH apartments, unless the Town Board were to consider setting a ceiling on the AFFH component of the building.
Fareri then asked, "How many fair and affordable housing units does the town think they are willing to have; 10, 50, 100?"
Fareri says he will build the second building of 20 units after the first 14-apartment building is completed.
There is also the possibility that Fareri may look to buy more property adjacent to the Green property and therefore change the configuration of the 20 proposed units of the second building.
Fareri said of the former lumberyard, “This location is the most ideal location in all of Armonk to have fair and affordable housing because it is serviced by public water and sewer, is also serviced by [nearby] public transportation and is in walking distance to downtown Armonk.”
Furthermore, Fareri said that an advantage to this development, if approved, is when future development of Armonk is considered with the development of eight or more multi-family homes as part of their projects, the developers can consider purchasing apartments in the 14 affordable AFFH apartment building to meet the mandated town requirement of multi-dwelling AFFH homes.
"In terms of the affordable housing, what percentage has to be adhered to?" asked Town Board member Barbara DiGiacinto.
"The density for middle-income units was 35% [of the initial 24 units]," said Town Attorney Roland Baroni, "and that’s how Mr. Fareri achieved the initial density that he got 24 units on 9/10 of an acre. When we switched it to AFFH, Fareri said this doesn’t seem fair because the [selling] pricing is less and at his request we reduced [the requirement] from 35% to 20%.”
“If you adhere to the 20% rule, [20% of 34 total, requiring seven AFFH units] I’ll have to reconsider because I don’t know if that is a doable situation,” responded Fareri.
“Where else in town do you get 27 market rate units and seven AFFH units on less than two acres?” asked Roland Baroni. “Where else in this town gets that density? Not even remotely close. You get that density because of the affordable requirement.”
The Town Board brought Fareri down from 35% to 20% because of the change from MIUs to AFFH; however, Fareri is trying to negotiate that figure down further because he says it is a difference of $500,000.
“That doesn’t seem quite fair,” says Baroni.
Fareri argued and Baroni agreed that the required 20% should be calculated by the market rate apartments which are a total of 28 units and therefore require only six AFFH units. The affordable apartments were never put in the equation before and then backed out of the percentage, said Baroni. "It should be the percentage of market units.”
Fareri agreed to 28 market units and six affordable AFFH to "get the project going".
Fareri also asked, "How many dollars are the taxpayers willing to pay for the affordable AFFH housing that requires them to subsidize the school children’s education in the Byram Hills School District?" He continued that because the individual additional students' costs would not fully covered by the yearly real estate taxes of the affordable AFFH units, North Castle taxpayers would pick up the difference.
Fareri has built all the existing 34 middle-income units in Armonk; 24 out of 150 townhouses in Whippoorwill Hills are middle-income; 10 apartments out of 24 in Whippoorwill Commons were required to be built when he received approval to build the 55 homes in Whippoorwill Ridge.
Fareri requested the application for the two buildings to be referred to the North Castle Planning Board so that they can consider the application and make a recommendation back to the Town Board at the Planning Board’s August 4 meeting.
While the number of AFFH units still has to be worked out, Fareri said that he wants to fast track the development so he can begin building by September in order to get the foundation enclosed so that construction crews will be able to work indoors through the winter.
The Town Board declared its intent to be lead agency in order to start the environmental process in a 4-1 vote; the exception was Jose Berra who cited his concerns about giving a condominium taxation that requires a big subsidy from town taxpayers and that’s “not something what we should be doing.” He said that he would prefer not to move the application ahead.
Supervisor Michael Schiliro said that he finds the project acceptable and is comfortable to move it forward because of the location. He also said that the proposal is similar to other multi-family developments in Whippoorwill Commons and at Whippoorwill Hills where there are other housing subsidies.
In a second 4-1 vote, Town Board members Steve D’Angelo, Barry Reiter and Barbara DiGiacinto, along with Supervisor Schiliro, approved the motion to refer the change of zoning to the Westchester County Planning Board and the North Castle Planning Board for their August 4 meeting. Berra did not approve this motion either.
There was also an additional issue regarding the project. Years ago, the owner of the Green property chose not to be part of downtown Armonk’s water district; subsequently, Fareri must petition to extend the water district at a public hearing. Although both properties can be serviced by both public water and public sewer, the higher calculations of 14 units as opposed to the current four units located now on Green's property were never considered for the public utilities when raising the unit count for both properties from 28 to 34 homes or from the prior approval of the 24 units proposed at the old lumberyard.
Kaufman was directed to draft a statement that would require a separate public hearing in order to change the Town’s Comprehensive Master Plan to show the high density residential area in downtown Armonk if the Town Board rezones the property to RMF-SS.
At its August 13 meeting, the North Castle Town Board plans to consider scheduling a September 10 public hearing for the project.
Fareri Proposes Multi-Family Condo for the Old Lumberyard Site
Updated July 29, 2014
Developer Michael Fareri is proposing condominiums for the 8/10 of an acre where the old lumberyard stood at the dead end of Bedford Road, backing up to I-684 and the H.C. Crittenden Middle School soccer field. Fareri, who owns the property, appeared before the North Castle Planning Board on March 31, 2014. The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on Fareri’s proposal on April 21.
Fareri bought 170 Bedford Road property about eight years ago when there was an approved building plan for a 32,000 square foot structure that had been only partially completed. The property is zoned for commercial business. Fareri applied for and was granted approval to build a 12,000 square foot structure with 8,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor and about 4,000 square feet of office space on the second floor. “Then the market dried up and it didn’t appear that a commercial or retail business at that location made sense at that time,” said Fareri.
In 2009, Fareri presented plans for 18 luxurious residential units in a multi-family single structure similar in appearance to other buildings that he has developed, including the brick building, Whippoorwill Commons, that he converted from a school house on Whippoorwill Road East and the brick Boies Building that he built on Main Street, near Route 22.
At that time, the Town would only permit residential multi-family - single structure (RMF-SS) zoning if 35 percent of the units were middle income units: a total of seven middle units, leaving eleven market-rate units. Fareri said it was economically unfeasible to comply because the rent from the middle-income units is significantly less than from the market-rate units. Fareri’s plans also included two penthouse units. Fareri originally planned to live in one, but instead split the penthouse apartments into four and presented plans for 18 units.
Fareri initially planned to have all the parking underneath the building, but this became costly. Fareri says, “the market does not support that kind of construction today.” Fareri’s engineer for the project, Dan Holt, presented the latest plan, which eliminates the underground parking garage and replaces it with a plan for above-ground garage with 11 indoor spaces in a separate parking structure envisioned behind the apartments, along the schoolyard. A total of 54 parking spaces are proposed. The Planning Board has agreed with the concept of a separate parking garage.
In Fareri’s latest plans, the apartment building has less square footage but more units. The number of proposed units grew from 18 apartments to 25 apartments, including studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. Joseph Crocco, the architect for Fareri’s application, says the current building plans are a redesign of the building plans that were presented in 2009. The floor area of the building has been reduced from 9,274 square feet to 8,397 square feet. The building, originally approved to be 80 by 120 feet is now 70 feet from front to back and 123 feet long. This makes the building 10 feet narrower, three feet longer and one-half story taller than it was previously approved. The approved building was also 26,666 square feet, while the latest proposed plans have 25,284 square feet. Fareri has also proposed that the new apartments be rentals due to the “soft real estate market”. Fareri says his possible options are to convert the rental apartments into condominiums.
Fareri also proposes that the exterior of the building be done in siding rather than brick, which would conform with the other two commercial buildings on Bedford Road across the street. But the appearance of the building must be worked out with the Architectual Review Board.
The new proposal not only eliminates under ground parking but reduces basement space to 4,400 square feet, from 8,600 square feet. The proposed basement will include the utility rooms and storage areas for tenants. The building will also have a third floor with dormers sloping from the roof for aesthetics only.
Fareri says he is concerned that the Town Board is thinking about rezoning his property to have federally-regulated affordable housing rather than town-regulated middle income units. The differences involve economics management, monthly requirements and who controls the pool of potential renters: Westchester County or the Town of North Castle. North Castle currently has 34 middle income units. Ten units are in the 22-unit complex, Whippoorwill Commons, across from the Armonk Library on Whippoorwill Road East. There are also 24 middle income units in three buildings in Whippoorwill Hills.
The Town may convert ten middle income units that remain to be built as affordable housing units in order to fulfill the Town’s obligations to Westchester County’s Fair and Affordable Housing Act. Eight of these units must be provided by the Cider Mill complex and two units must be provided by Armonk Square. Where these units will be built is uncertain, but the proposal by Westchester County to build these units on Old Route 22 was met with great resistance by neighbors in the past, during Supervisor Bill Weaver’s administration.
Some of the details for Fareri’s multi-family structure must still be worked out: the height of the building, the possibility of having affordable housing units rather than middle income units, or some other option that Fareri may propose.