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New Castle Ethics Board Clears Town Supervisor Carpenter

The New Castle Town Board approved a special permit for the Conifer affordable housing project, 3-2.
The New Castle Town Board approved a special permit for the Conifer affordable housing project, 3-2. Photo Credit: File Photo

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- The New Castle Ethics Board has cleared Town Supervisor Susan Carpenter of any ethics violations over her votes on the Conifer affordable housing project.

Carpenter had asked the board to look into the matter, because Conifer's lawyer, Alfred DelBello was a supporter and member of the board of Westchester Land Trust, a Bedford Hills-based conservation organization where Carpenter has worked part-time for 17 years. While Carpenter was on the Planning Board, she recused herself of any applications DelBello was involved in.

On Tuesday, the Town Board voted 3-2 to approve a special permit for Conifer's project. Carpenter voted in favor of the permit, along with Deputy Supervisor Elise Mottell and Councilman Robin Stout. Councilmen John Buckley and Jason Chapin voted against it.

Conifer is looking to build Chappaqua Station, 28 units of affordable housing at 54 Hunts Place.

In an Aug. 21 letter to Carptenter, Ellen Hexter, chairperson of the Ethics Board, cleared Carpenter of any improprieties.

"As Mr. DelBello no longer has a formal position on the board of directors of the land trust and his charitable donations do not appear to be unusually large...Mr. DelBello's involvement does not appear to rise to the level that would require your recusal," Hexter wrote.  "We do not find any violation of the New Castle Code of Ethics."

Critics of the Conifer project had brought up Carpenter and DelBello's involvement over the summer. As a staff member, Carpenter reports to the executive director, which reports to the board. The board meets four times a year.

"Questions have been raised about whether I have an existing conflict in this matter," Carpenter wrote to the Ethics Board. "My only role in regard to the Board of Directors has been provide information the Executive Director has requested."

According to Carpenter, DelBello has not been involved with the Westchester Land Trust for three years and she does not have a personal or business relationship with him.

Conifer first proposed the project in December 2010 and the town has been formally reviewing the proposal since February 2012.

The project has become divisive in the town, with residents criticizing the location, near the Saw Mill River Parkway and Chappaqua Metro-North Station and size and scope of the project.

“If the town approves this project, it’s totally insane,” said New Castle resident Steven Lavine at a public hearing. “Experts speaking on behalf of the applicant should be required to live there for three years to experience what they’re supporting.”

Proponents, including the Town Board, have expressed the need for more affordable housing in the town.

With the approval of the special permit, Conifer will purchase the property.

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