Town Board, 11-29-2013
The discussion focused on the future disposition of the rear 70 acres and how that future use should be treated in both the rezoning resolution and the companion SEQRA Findings Statement. The applicant was not willing to voluntarily agree to donate the 70 acres to the town as a condition of rezoning and legally the town could not mandate the donation.
During the discussion Councilman Bianco stated that he supported the rezoning of the lower portion of the property but expressed concern about how best to protect the upper portion, especially if the property was sold after it was rezoned and the new owner wasn’t bound by any previous understandings. He pointed out that the SEQRA Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) clearly stated that the rear 70 acres of the site was to be left as open space. If we’re going to rezone the site, he said, let’s do it the right way.
After Mr. Capellini stated that his client was willing to modify the rezoning application to apply only to the lower portion of the 100 acre parcel, the Board reviewed two alternative scenarios for where the rezoning line would be. Ultimately, the applicant and Board agreed to a line that will rezone approximately 50 acres and will include the proposed right of way for a future Bear Mountain Parkway extension. (According to the EAF, the commercial development would disturb approximately 28 acres.)
Bruce Barber explained that while the rezoning resolution could not include certain conditions, because the accompanying Findings Statement will be based on the hypothetical site plan that was studied in the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF), there will be certain constraints on any future “real” site plan submission and that if a future site plan did not conform to the EAF, then the SEQA findings could be rescinded and a new EAF would have to be done. One such constraint would be that a maximum of 240,000 sq ft could be built on the site.
Supervisor Grace stated that while he did not want to see any development on the environmentally sensitive rear portion of the site, he wasn’t sure if the town should eventually acquire the land or have an easement placed on the land. He also said he hoped the applicant would change his mind and voluntarily agree to have the site included in the Sylvan Glen Forest Management Study and also that as part of any future site plan approval process, it was his hope that the applicant would do some mitigation on the rear portion of the site. Mr. Capellini indicated that the applicant would now participate in the study.
Staff will work on the wording of the rezoning resolution and Findings Statement and the Board anticipates a vote at the December 17 meeting.
Town Board, 11-19-2013
A decision statement on the rezoning request, shown in the Tentative Agenda, was pulled from the agenda by late Tuesday afternoon. No \explanation was given.
Planning Board, 11-18-2013
Ms. Kutter suggested that the paragraphs in a draft Board memo to the Town Board supporting the rezoning of the southern portion of the site be rearranged so that the Board’s concern about the preservation of the rear 70 acres get more emphasis. She said she was concerned that if that part of memo remained towards the end, Board members would not read that far into the memo.
The fundamental question was: would the Planning Board support the rezoning if the northern part of the parcel was not protected. The consensus was no.
However, after some discussion, the Board agreed only to put a bullet point at the beginning of the memo expressing its concern about the 70 acres and leave the rest of the memo as originally drafted.
Planning Board, 11-4-2013
After all agenda items had been discussed, the Board had an impromptu discussion about its memo to the Town Board regarding its recommendations on the State Land rezoning request. The Board continued to support the rezoning for the front part of the parcel but was concerned about how best to “protect” the rear 70 acres in the event that a future site plan application is submitted that proposes development on any portion of the 70 acres. The concern was based on the fact that once the entire 100 acres was rezoned for commercial use, a future applicant might be able to develop a portion of the 70 acres for commercial development “as of right” and that it would be more difficult to reject such an application.
Mr. Tegeder added, however, that because the EAF prepared for the rezoning did not include any development on the rear 70 areas, any future site plan that wanted to use a portion of the 70 acres would require a new EAF. And Mr. Kincart said that concerns about the rear 70 acres were best addressed when a site plan was submitted. He didn’t see any reason why the property owners should donate the land to the town now in the absence of any approved site plan.
Mr. Tegeder also suggested that part of the applicant’s motivation for wanting the entire 100 acres rezoned commercial now might be that once the 70 acres was zoned commercial, its value as a donation would increase.
Mr. Fon suggested the town consider the concept of “form based zoning” that he said had been successfully used in Yonkers. Under the concept, the parameters of future development are established ahead of time in the zoning classification.
Ultimately, the Board agreed that the best approach to protecting the 70 acres would be to draw a line north of the proposed Bear Mountain Parkway extension and that the land north of the line should be left residential. An amended memo will be sent to the Town Board reflecting this consensus.
As part of the discussion, Mr. Tegeder said that if the town was serious about wanting the future extension of the Bear Mountain Parkway, it was important for the town to continually make that point with the state; in the absence of any pressure and support from the town, he said the state was not likely to move ahead on the extension. To date, he said, he didn’t feel that the town had been aggressive in supporting the extension.
Planning Board, 10-21-2013
As a follow up to a 2012 memo indicating that the Board needed more information prior to issuing a recommendation on the proposed rezoning, Mr. Tegeder advised the Board that a “beefed up” EAF had been submitted. The only change in the revised submission was that based on the town’s reduced parking requirements, some square footage had been added to a second floor, leaving the building’s footprint unchanged.
The Board supported the rezoning of the front portion of the parcel for commercial use, noting that it was more environmentally sensitive than previous plans for either residential development or a differently configured commercial developed. As proposed in the conceptual plan, the rezoning also avoided the impact of any additional school children, it had less of a traffic impact, and it protected the habitat for several species by not chopping up the site.
The Board’s major concern dealt with the future of the “upper” portion of the site north of the proposed right of way for the Bear Mountain Parkway, or, as expressed by Mr. Fon: how to protect that area so as not to get burnt at some future date if and when a site plan comes in with a different configuration of buildings. The Board was concerned that rezoning the entire parcel to C-1 left open the possibility that a future site plan could be submitted that called for developing some of the “open space,” a possibility Mr. Capellini acknowledged could happen.
The Board’s attorney will look into the legal feasibility of attaching a condition to the rezoning that would require the future donation of the land to the town, an idea Mr. Capellini did not think was legal. An alternate approach would be rezoning only the lower portion of the site, including some “wiggle room” north of the proposed buildings to give the DOT flexibility for siting any future Bear Mountain Parkway. Mr. Capellini said that based on meetings with the DOT, there is no decision on where the future road might be.
John Schroeder, speaking on behalf of the Advisory Committee on Open Space advised the Board that his group was opposed to using any of the Sylvan Glen Preserve to the north of the site for any stormwater retention ponds. In response Mr. Capellini noted that that plan had nothing to do with the proposed commercial bjuildings and was an “extra” that the property was willing to do in response to a request from the town.
Town Board, 10-15-2013
(See prior meeting summaries for more details about the proposed development.)
After about 28 people spoke at the hearing, the Board voted 3-2 to close the hearing and leave open a 20 day period for written comments from the public and advisory boards. Voting against the motion were Councilmen Patel and Bianco who preferred to adjourn the hearing so that they could review revised information that they had only received earlier that day.
In support of the request to rezone the 100 acre site on the north site of Route 202 from four acre residential to a C-1 commercial zone, attorney Al Capellini explained that the plan before the Board was only “hypothetical” as the property owner couldn’t attract a commercial tenant as long as the property was zoned residential; once the property is rezoned and actual tenants lined up, then there could be modifications to the site plan which would be subject to Planning Board review and approval. (The Town Board would only be deciding on the rezoning.)
The hypothetical plan includes two buildings: 140,000 sq. ft. and 10,000 sq. ft. and parking for 600 cars on the west side of the side and a cluster of four buildings totaling 80,000 sq. ft. and 325 parking spaces on the east side. An enhanced stream would divide the two sections and a bridge would connect them. The single entrance is from Route 202 opposite Parkside Corners, although the applicant said he would try to get DOT approval for a second access. A traffic light would be installed at the entrance.
The state right of way for the future extension of the Bear Mountain Parkway would be relocated from its present location alongside Route 202 (where road widening is currently underway as part of a separate DOT project) to the rear of the proposed buildings. The rear 70 acres of the steep sloped site would be left open and given to the Town – if the town wanted the land.
Most of the speakers either opposed the rezoning or asked the Board to delay a vote until residents and advisory board had more time to review the latest submission from the applicant. Although the initial submission was made almost 1 ½ years ago, there was agreement among Board members that they had only received the latest revisions earlier that day. Arguing against any delay, Mr. Capellini said that the latest revision were based on one meeting with the Planning Board, three with the Town Board and nine meetings with town staff.
It was noted that reports based on the initial 2012 submission had been received from the DEP, Westchester County, the Conservation Board and the Advisory Committee for Open Space. There was no report from the Planning Board.
Issues that were raised:
Lack of information: Several speakers noted that the public generally was not familiar with the proposed rezoning and asked that the full Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) be made available on the town’s web site. Once the hearing was closed and this request was repeated, Supervisor Grace said that that was not possible as the submission had not been made electronically but Planning Director Tegeder said that his office would be able to make the EAF available online on the town’s web site.
Need for a full Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). In 2012, the Town Board decided that because two DEISs had been done for previous proposals on the site (a 400,000 square foot shopping center, and a plan for 27 homes), only an expanded EAF was needed. Several speakers said the previous DEISs, completed one and two decades ago, were outdated and/or insufficient and that a new one should be done.
Several speakers questioned the adequacy of the habitat studies done for the prior DEISs as well as the more recent one submitted by the applicant. The applicant, in turn, questioned the accuracy of some of the statements made by critics of the rezoning plan.
When rezoning supporter Bill LaScala questioned the qualifications of those who criticized the EAF, at least one of the critics objected to the characterization and later in the meeting Supervisor Grace said that in the future, he would rule personal comments such as these as inappropriate.
The plan calls for three independent stormwater plans, two of which capture and treat stormwater from the new buildings, and a third which would construct two detention ponds at the northern boundary of the property abutting the Sylvan Glen Nature Preserve.
The buildings to the east and west of the stream would each have their own stormwater plan which, according to the developer’s engineer, would exceed current standards and would reduce runoff from the site and reduce sedimentation and phosphorous. The two detention ponds would capture runoff coming from Sylvan Glen and would reduce the peak discharge coming from Sylvan Glen. According to the applicant, the three plans would help alleviate flooding problems south of Route 202. It was noted that these ponds were over and above what the developer would have to do to meet the site’s stormwater requirements.
Several speakers, including Walt Daniels speaking for the Conservation Board and the Advisory Committee on Open Space, had reservations about the two detention ponds, noting concerns about how they would be accessed and maintained, that they would destroy existing hiking trails and that using parkland for drainage purposes constituted an alienation of parkland that would require legislation from the state.
Bear Mountain Parkway
Although Phil Grealy, the applicant’s traffic consultant indicated that the DOT was excited about the future relocation of the parkway, even if funding for the project was a long way off , Mr. Daniels noted given the topography of the area, the relocation would require extensive cutting into the slope. Supervisor Grace said the DOT supported the relocation plan.
Hypothetical Rezoning Plan vs Site Plan
Several speakers addressed the uncertainty of the town not knowing what it would eventually get in the way of a site plan if the Board rezoned the property based on a hypothetical plan. But on at least two three occasions, the applicant reiterated the point that without the rezoning in place, he was not able to market the property to prospective commercial tenants, a position supported by realtor Bill Primavera and shopping center owner Bill LaScala.
Other uses for the site
Citing the 2004 Sustainable Development Study that recommended no additional residential development in the Route 202 corridor, Supervisor Grace ruled out the idea of a mixed use development for the site suggested by Babette Ballinger. And in response to the suggestion from Ann Kutter (speaking as a private citizen and not as a Planning Board member) that the town might consider acquiring the very sensitive site, Councilman Bianco said that that had been explored about seven years ago but hadn’t resulted in any agreement and Supervisor Grace said that under no circumstances would he support the Town purchasing the land.
Was the Board rushing the approval
In response to the comments from some speakers that there was no reason for the town to rush ahead with a vote on the rezoning request and that proper procedures should be followed, Councilman Murphy, who made the motion to close the hearing, said the Town had already waited 20 years and that there was a danger of “analysis to paralysis.” Councilman Paganelli supported closing the hearing arguing that he was opposed to any residential development of the property.
Town Board, 9-24-2013
After a brief discussion, and voting on a motion by Supervisor Grace, the Board set a public hearing for the rezoning application for October 15. Noting that the Mall public hearing was scheduled for that date and that two hearings might be too much for one meeting, Councilman Bianco suggested a November 19 hearing date.
Representing the property owner, attorney Al Capellini reminded the Board that the application, and long form EAF (Environmental Assessment Form) of about 200 pages had been submitted over a year and a half ago and that it was time for a public hearing. Supervisor Grace said there was no need to refer out the application as it had already been referred out last year.
Although the initial application was for a C-3 zone, Mr. Capellini said his client would accept a rezoning to C-1 if it included provisions that would allow for outdoor storage (permitted “as of right” in a C-3 zone but only with a special permit in a C-1 zone) for uses such as a garden center. Planning Director Tegeder explained that a C-3 zone permitted some uses, such as gas stations, that the town might not want. Also the C-1 zone required larger lots. Supervisor Grace asked about the applicability of rezoning the site to a CRC zone (regional shopping center) – the only zone that gives site plan approval to the Town Board.
The issue of the future alignment of the Bear Mountain Parkway was briefly discussed as the plan calls for relocating the right of way from the area abutting Route 202 further into the site and basically behind the proposed buildings. While Supervisor Grace said he thought that plan was ‘dead” as far as the DOT was concerned, Mr. Tegeder said the realignment was part of the 2004 Sustainable Study that included the Route 202 corridor.
Mr. Capellini said it was not possible for the property owner to interest a potential tenant in the property until the site was rezoned.
Planning Board, 6/11/2012
On a referral from the Town Board, this was the first time the Planning Board saw the rezoning application and the conceptual site plan. Joe Riina of Site Design Consultants re viewed the basic plan and Phil Grealy, the applicant’s traffic consultant, discussed the traffic impact.
Because only three Planning Board members were in attendance, the board decided not to take any action on a recommendation to the Town Board and instead continue the discussion at a future meeting when a full board was in attendance.
The following issues were discussed:
Drainage: Mr. Rrina explained that based on a preliminary review,he has determined that there would be a 30% reduction in peak runoff from the site if two detention areas were created to the north of the site on the adjacent town-owned Sylvan Glen preserve and that this would help alleviate flooding south of Route 202. He added that there were also other potential sites that could be factored in to a regional stormwater plan.
Traffic: Mr. Grealy said that the proposed development would generate approximately 800 trips per hour during peak afternoon hours, with 400 trips in each direction. However, he noted that only about 600 of those trips would be “new” trips and that the remaining 200 trips would be those who currently use the road. He also explained that the applicant would extend the scheduled DOT widening of Route 202 to four lanes further to the west and also construct a fifth turning lane. With the addition of the new lanes, he said, the wider roadway would be under capacity even with the new traffic.A traffic light is proposed at the entrance to the shopping center which will be across from Parkside Corners.
Sidewalks: In response to Mr. Flynn’s questions as to how the project could be made more pedestrian friendly, Mr. Grealy explained that the DOT plan calls for sidewalks on the south side of Route 202 beginning at the Chase bank but that he did not know exactly how far west the sidewalks would go. He added that his client was willing to construct a pedestrian crosswalk across from Parkside Corners.
Mr. Flynn also commented on the fact that the plan calls for retail buildings on both sides of the stream and that this would generate traffic going from one side to the other.
Residential development: In response to Mr. Flynn’s questions as to why the property owner wasn’t considering a residential use for the property, Mr. Grealy pointed out that a residential development would not generate sufficient money to pay for the traffic and drainage infrastructure improvements being proposed.Mr. Savoca also noted that a residential development would “eat into” the proposed dedication of half the site as permanent open space. He agreed that the residential use of the site was not practical and that the site was suitable only for commercial use. It’s that or nothing, he said. Planning Director Tegeder noted that an earlier plan to develop the site for 26 single family homes utilized most of the site.
Rezoning designation: Mr. Tegeder made two points. First, he noted that it was not in the town’s interest to rezone the entire 100 acres; he suggested that there was no need to rezone the roughly 50 acres that were to remain open space.On a more contentious issue, he suggested that a rezoning to a C-1 rather than C-3 as requested by the applicant was more appropriate based on what the applicant was proposing.He pointed out that the C-3 zone permitted some potentially undesirable uses such as gas stations and warehouses that were not part of the strictly retail plan that was currently being proposed. While Mr. Tedger explained why C-1 was more appropriate than C-3, Mr. Capellini said his client wanted the C-3 designation because it permitted outdoor storage, as in a garden center attached to a Loewes type use. In response, Mr. Tegeder said that the while the current C-1 regulations did not prohibit an outdoor use, the town could amend the C-1 regulations to specifically permit it. He added that he didn’t want to see the town disappointed in the future is an undesirable C-3 use was proposed for the site, such a butler building type warehouse with tractor trailer usage.
Appearance of Route 202 corridor: In response to Mr. Flynn’s comments that the town had “lucked out” in that the northern side of Route 202 had not been developed and had retained its open space look, Mr. Riina noted that because of the site’s grade, some of the natural vegetation along Route 202 would remain and that the buildings and parking lot would be about 15 feet above the road.
Other issues. The applicant, Charles Monaco, stated that the project would generate $1 million a year in taxes, plus increased sales tax revenue. Mr. Capellini referred to the proposed project as Yorktown’s “second crown jewel” noting that it will help with the overall redevelopment of the south side of Route 202. It’s the highest and best use of the property, he said. Mr. Capellini reiterated comments made before the Town Board that the property owner needed the commercial rezoning in order to attract a prospective tenant.In response to comments from Babette Ballinger about market share, he said that if Yorktown didn’t okay the shopping center, the market share would simply go elsewhere.
Several members of Yorktown Smart Growth expressed concern about the increased traffic that the project would generate and its impact on the quality of life of residents. Noting that the extension of the Bear Mountain Parkway was not likely to happen in our lifetime, he said that the board should be looking at the long term future of the town and not think of immediate concerns. In response to Jonathan Nettlefield’s comments as to whether the parking lot would utilize pervious pavement, Mr. Riina said that stormwater runoff from the parking lot would be stored beneath the lot.
Town Board, 4/3/2012
The board voted unanimously to refer the rezoning request from R-160 to C-3 to the Town’s advisory boards and appropriate outside agencies for review and comment. Prior to the vote and during Courtesy of the Floor, when Walt Daniels, co-chairman of the Advisory Committee on Open Space asked the board if any action had been taken on the request, he was assured by Councilman Bianco that established procedures would be followed and that the ACOS would have an opportunity to comment on the application.
Referring to earlier plans for the site which he described as “lousy,” Councilman Bianco said that the current plan “might work with a question mark” as it was more environmentally sensitive to the difficult site.He noted that the plan calls for the rear portion of the site to either be designated a conservation easement or donated to the Town.
Councilman Bianco praised the Planning Department for the book it has put together that illustrates the Town’s vision for an enhanced Route 202. The book incorporates the planning for Route 202 that was done as part of the Sustainable Development Study. A copy of the book was given to Senator Ball who is trying to get state funds for the project.
Town Board, 3/26/2012