NEW CASTLE, N.Y. – The developer of a proposed 28-unit affordable housing development in New Castle has had a special permit approved by the town and funding denied by the county, and now awaits a decision by the state on eight variances it needs to be built.
The developer, Conifer Realty, received local approval to build Chappaqua Station at 54 Hunts Place in September 2013 after a lengthy and contentious process.
In December, the county Board of Legislators rejected resolutions to borrow $1.27 million to acquire the 0.38-acre parcel, and another $1.55 million to fund construction and improvements to the area. The property would have then been given to Conifer. The nine of 17 legislators who voted no cited the same safety concerns brought up throughout Conifer’s application process starting in 2010.
“We’ve never had a project, in my opinion, that is as challenging for safety,” said Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers), chairman of the Board of Legislators, who voted against the resolutions. His district includes New Castle.
Like Kaplowitz, many residents have voiced concerns about the project’s location on a dead-end street and tucked in between the Saw Mill River Parkway off-ramp and the Chappaqua Metro-North train station. An assistant chief with the fire department has testified that the location could pose a problem in an emergency situation.
“I don’t want to put anybody in harm’s way,” Kaplowitz said.
Kaplowitz told The Daily Voice he expects the matter to come back to the county board for another vote after the state Board of Review issues its decision, likely in February.
The 28 units would count toward the 750 units Westchester County is required to build under the 2009 fair and affordable-housing settlement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. However, Kaplowitz said this project is an example of how that settlement is working against its goal of promoting affordable housing.
“We built 2,700 units in the previous 10 years, and in this seven years, we’re struggling to build 750,” he said. “We built where we could afford to build, where the developers came forward, with the cost of land, the infrastructure, the transportation, all the rest. This was an artificial jerry-rig of trying to make sure that it was going into certain communities.”
While the county is ahead of schedule in meeting the 750-unit requirement, it lost $7.4 million in federal grants from HUD in September and could lose $10 million more this year. In order to comply fully with the settlement, HUD required the county to revise its analysis of impediments to include a report that says seven municipalities have exclusionary zoning.
County Executive Rob Astorino has refused, maintaining none of those communities’ zoning laws prevent equal access to affordable housing.
He plans to challenge HUD again this year before it reallocates the $10 million in grants, which are used to help the needy.