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Conifer Tweaks Chappaqua Station, Seeks Fewer Variances

State review board members (left) and Conifer's project team (right).
State review board members (left) and Conifer's project team (right). Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
State review board members at their Dec. 8 meeting.
State review board members at their Dec. 8 meeting. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

CORTLANDT, N.Y. -- Conifer Realty has revised its Chappaqua Station affordable housing proposal to include beefed-up safety measures.

The revisions were discussed at a Tuesday meeting of the Hudson Valley Regional Board of Review, the same body that voted in July to deny the developer seven of eight required state building and fire code variances. This time, Conifer is only seeking four variances, which pertain to code sections covering dimensions for fire-vehicle access roads and number of openings in a structure.

The announced revisions to the building include exteroir sprinklers on the eastern side near windows, automatic fire and smoke detection systems, two more fire hydrants, two fire-alarm control panels, elevator lobbies meant to be fire resistant and a different type of exterior material with a one-hour fire rating.

The building's size and unit count have not been changed, according to Gary Warshauer, who is serving as architect for the Rochester-based developer.

The 28-unit apartment building would be located at 54 Hunts Place, a site that has been measured at roughly one-third of an acre and that is near train tracks and the Saw Mill River Parkway. The building's footprint is proposed to be built out to the property line.

The proposal also calls for using the northbound off-ramp of the Saw Mill and the Quaker Street (Route 120) bridge as staging points for fire vehicles.

Use of the off-ramp didn't set well with some. Bill Maskiell, who is New Castle's building inspector and was said to have only had about a week for his review, noted the ramp measures 20 feet wide for its entire distance, less than the required 26 feet. He added that portions of the ramp were just 5 feet from the building, which is less than the required 15-foot minimum for staging firefighting vehicles.

Maskiell also warned against encroaching into the parkway's northbound lanes, calling the area a “heavily traveled parkway.”

Maskiell also was concerned about exiting from a pedestrian bridge that would connect the Route 120 bridge to the structure, referring to the access space vicinity as a "choke point."

Ed Frank, a vocal critic of the project, also is concerned about the off-ramp. He noted the lack of a decelaration lane and how the off-ramp is clogged with snow piles.

Frank also brought up Conifer not having easements secured from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the state's Department of Transportation (DOT), which have been sought. Responding, Randolph McLaughlin, an attorney for Conifer, supported making approval of the variances conditional upon getting the easements.

Another critic, Bill Spade, was concerned about the possibility for diesel train fires near the structure and of smoke getting in. Jeffrie Wilkinson, a fire-safety specialist representing Conifer, explained the windows could be opened.

Wilkinson also signaled Conifer's willingness to make more changes, including movement of the bottom-floor parking garage's openings from the eastern side to the western one (or even eliminating them), along with upgrade the building's siding on the eastern side to a two-hour fire rating.

Both the town and Chappaqua's fire district were given two weeks by the board to submit feedback by Dec. 31, with Conifer's team then given two weeks after receiving it to give its own reply. The state is expected to continue the hearing in February, according to the board's chairman.

The board's meeting was held at Cortlandt Town Hall in Cortlandt Manor.

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