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Housing Group Wants Conifer Plan Changed, Does Not Rule out Site

Jane Lindau, urges alterations for the proposal, dubbed Chappaqua Station, but feels the site is viable.

(Editor's Note: Below is a copy of a statement made by Jane Lindau, of the New Castle Task Force for Fair and Affordable Housing, at Tuesday's town board meeting. For more on our coverage of the Chappaqua Station proposal, click here).

I am here to represent a group of New Castle Citizens, some of whom are here with me today, who support affordable housing. We have been following the Hunts Lane development, also known as Chappaqua Station, closely. First I want to say that we agree in certain aspects with the local group that has been critical of Hunts Lane. Specifically we believe 1) the building is too large, is not in scale with the rest of the town, and at a minimum the fifth floor should be eliminated; 2) it is critical that the environmental review be completed very carefully, and that any contamination be completely remediated; and 3) that all safety issues be properly addressed. If these three issues cannot be addressed adequately we will not support the Hunts Lane project.

However, we are here tonight to implore the board not to reject the Hunts Lane site out of hand, because we believe that the site is viable and indeed may be the best available site for the development of affordable housing in town. It’s important to get the fact out there that not everyone in New Castle is opposed to Chappaqua Station – there are people who are for it, and others who have concerns, but are willing to compromise and see how the developer can address those concerns.  Not everyone is as vocal as the group of neighbors and other local residents who have come out against development of the site. 

We believe that the site deserves careful review for several reasons. Let me quote one of the conclusions from the Chappaqua Comprehensive Hamlet Plan of 2003:

“Throughout the planning process, Hamlet residents expressed the need for more diverse land uses in the downtown area, particularly affordable housing within walking distance to the train station and downtown shopping, school, library, community center, park, and athletic fields.  “

We agree that it is crucial that any affordable housing be built within walking district of the train station, and where there is access to sewer lines. While we know many people have suggested other sites in town such as the property where Bistro Maxime (also known as the Hakim site) used to be, there is one major problem with this and other sites that have been mentioned: they are all privately owned and none of them are available at a price that would make affordable housing feasible on those sites. It is simply not constructive to say that we want affordable housing but that it should be built at another site. One of the major reasons that affordable housing has not been built in many of the communities covered by the housing settlement is that it is not economically feasible to do so. The Hunts Lane site is available at a price where the building makes economic sense.

Over the past 16 years since we last built affordable housing in New Castle, several sites have come and gone: the Burden property, the Warburg site, and the Amsterdam property, to name a few. All of these properties faced neighbors’ objections, as does the Hunts Lane site. But none of these other locations were in the Hamlet, and none were on a sewer line. I also remind you that when the affordable housing was being discussed for Chappaqua Crossing, there were many comments made in this room by New Castle residents about how Hunts Lane was a much more appropriate site.

I remind you that Hunts Lane is proposed to be affordable housing, not low income housing. 20% of the residents of New Castle meet this income level, and it is an affordable level for work force housing. All applicants will have to have good credit ratings, and they can be turned down for inadequate credit or income. We believe the tenants of Hunts Lane will contribute to the revitalization of downtown Chappaqua. One of the attractions of the site will be that families can get by with one instead of two cars, and will therefore be likely to support the merchants in town.

It may be that if the scale of Hunts Lane is cut back, as most of us desire, it will not be economically feasible for Conifer, or that it will not pass environmental or safety reviews. However, if indeed these issues are dealt with adequately, we urge you to approve the Hunts Lane proposal at the appropriate time.

Andrea Klausner April 12, 2012 at 04:12 PM
I wholeheartedly endorse Jane Lindau's comments. Like Jane Lindau, I am an employee of Westchester Residential Opportunities. However, also like Jane, I am a long-time resident of Chappaqua and so we both have a stake in the responsible and appropriate development of affordable housing in the community in which we live. Too often, any proposal for affordable housing is dismissed out-of-hand because of misperceptions about who would be moving in and what the impact will be on schools and property values. What Jane, myself and others are saying is that affordable housing is a benefit to communities, not a detriment, and that we must be diligent in finding such opportunities so that the town may meet the housing needs of all of our residents.
Jason Kandolusk April 12, 2012 at 05:18 PM
I appreciate all of the good work that people like Jane Lindau do to advance affordable housing in Westchester. However, as a director of a government-financed affordable housing advocacy organization, I am not convinced that her views represent a 'silent contingent' in New Castle. Also, I don't believe that her approach would get us very far with Conifer given the cards at hand.
Matt Egan April 12, 2012 at 07:24 PM
I would like to thank Jane Lindau for adding her voice to this debate. I am glad that she agrees with several of our concerns regarding the Conifer proposal. That said, I don't agree with the contention that Hunts Place may be the best site for affordable housing in New Castle. The site does not meet the minimum standards set forth by the Federal Monitor, and it does not meet the County's own stated guidelines for development. Furthermore, I would like to stress that our group, Chappaqua for Responsible Affordable Housing, is not against affordable housing in New Castle. On the contrary, we have taken steps to identify alternative sites for smaller-scale, lower-impact development in town, and we have shared these ideas with Town and County officials. We believe that we can create a better, more responsible, more progressive solution for all parties.
Bassett April 12, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Jane Lindau's impatience with the lack of affordable housing in town is not a reason for this project, and it is a 'project', to be approved even with the caveats that she enumerated. This proposal was denied by the planning board in 2007 as not habitable for people. It was denied for very good reasons. What makes it viable now? While I agree that there are some people who would be against any proposal, they are a very small group. Most people that I know would like to see affordable housing in town. I do not think it helpful to create 'camps' to support agendas. It seems to me that there has never been a real proactive approach to achieve affordable housing by any of the town's boards. I have heard that our new Supervisor will be working with some of our local architects to find better alternatives to the Hunts Ln. site. Why doesn't Ms. Landau's group join them in this effort rather than championing such a poor location for anyone's home ?
Matt Egan April 12, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Here is the language from our petition. We clearly call upon our Town Board to explore alternative options based upon sensible criteria. ### We, the undersigned residents and business owners of New Castle, call upon our Town Board to reject Conifer Development's "special permit" application for housing at Hunts Place. The proposed five-story, 36-unit building is inappropriate for this location, excessively out of scale with its surroundings, and does not comply with the objectives of our Town Comprehensive Plan. We urge our elected officials to explore alternative options for affordable housing in New Castle, based upon the following: 1. A clear, open process that will incorporate input from citizens and local businesses 2. Smaller scale development that fits within our hamlets 3. Safe, healthy and pleasant development site(s) with access to public transport, shopping, recreation, and emergency services Please sign our petition to stop this irresponsible development and ensure a better future for our town. ### Please sign the petition here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/cfrah/

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