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State Board Denies Variances For Chappaqua Station

The Hudson Valley Regional Board of Review met Wednesday.
The Hudson Valley Regional Board of Review met Wednesday. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

CORTLANDT, N.Y. -- Conifer Realty was dealt a setback on Wednesday when a state board denied variances needed for its proposed affordable housing structure for downtown Chappaqua.

At a special meeting held at Cortlandt Town Hall, the Hudson Valley Regional Board of Review voted 4-0 to reject seven out of eight variances requested. The variances for the project, called Chappaqua Station, pertain to state building and fire codes.

Prior to the rejection, a board member brought up concerns about firefighter apparatus staging, a lack of alternative fire protection and fire safety of the exterior. In the case of the latter, the concern pertained to the fact that the structure, which is proposed to be four stories and have 28 apartment units, would be built up to property lines. The site, which about a third of an acre, is located at 54 Hunts Place.

The board also voted to uphold a determination from New Castle Building Inspector Bill Maskiell that variances were needed. Conifer both appealed the decision and sought the relevant variances, according to Maskiell, who was present at the meeting.

The one variance that was granted, according to Maskiell, was regarding bridge height, which he called a "minimal variance.” An overpass near the site was mentioned in the announcement of the board's findings moments before the approval.

The property is near Metro-North train tracks to the east, the Route 120 bridge to the south and a northbound exit ramp of the Saw Mill River Parkway to the west. It is also near an overpass from the parkway that goes over Hunts Place.

Edward Philips, an attorney for the town, confirmed that getting the variances is a condition for the proposal’s special permit. The permit was approved last September by a 3-2 vote from the New Castle Town Board.

Daily Voice and other local media outlets have reported about controversy in recent years over Conifer’s proposal due to its location, with opponents arguing that the site is isolated and expressing concern about safety. There is a pending lawsuit from a several individuals, which was filed in state Supreme Court, that seeks to overturn the special permit. Conifer, in March, filed a housing discrimination complaint the Westchester County Board of Legislators and Maskiell, Daily Voice previously reported. Randolph McLaughlin, Conifer’s special counsel, did not have an update on that item when talking with reporters.

Responding to reporters’ questions following the board’s votes, McLaughlin repeatedly reaffirmed Conifer’s support of the proposal.

“We have no plans at this time to abandon this project,” he said.

McLaughlin stated that the decision would be reviewed and a determination will be made about whether there are alternatives that can be proposed.  He did not rule out a reduction of the proposed building’s size or housing unit count, deferring to professionals working with Conifer.

New Castle Supervisor Rob Greenstein responded to the decision with a statement, which he emailed.

"The Board of Review's decision today simply confirms that Conifer has not adequately addressed the fire safety issues associated with this project site.  Today's decision had nothing to do with building affordable housing, which remains a priority for the Town.  The Town has approved the construction of 20 affordable housing units at Chappaqua Crossing.  We welcome the development of affordable housing in our community."

Greenstein also noted the variances being one of the conditions in the permit and added that Conifer accepted the conditions.

Previous Daily Voice coverage of Conifer's proposal is available here.

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