A nationally known builder of luxury homes pitched the Pleasantville Village Board Monday on the idea of upscale townhouses replacing a long-shuttered Washington Avenue office park.
In what they billed as an “informal presentation,” executives of Toll Brothers Inc. outlined plans to build a 73-unit complex on the site of the former Saw Mill Office Campus. Short on detail and clearly meant to test official sentiment, the plans sketched a complex of two- and three-bedroom townhouses lining both sides of a single road running roughly parallel to Washington Avenue, near the Chappaqua border.
Any change from office use to residential would require, at a minimum, a rezoning of the 18 acres and trigger a series of other regulatory inquiries and public hearings. So, David S. Steinmetz, a White Plains land-use lawyer and the Toll Brothers attorney, made it clear that they were prepared to scrap the project if the village was opposed to it.
"No matter how much fun it may be to be here in the Village of Pleasantville," Steinmetz said, "we don’t want to waste your time, we don’t want waste their [the developers'] time, and money and effort." Since the project ultimately hinges on obtaining village board approval, he told Mayor Peter Scherer, "if your board is not interested in seeing this site developed in this fashion...we’d love to hear that [now]."
For his part, Scherer said residential development would be an ”appropriate” use for the property. “I am more than anxious,” he acknowledged, “to see this moribund site turned into something productive.”
In tentatively embracing the townhouse proposal, Scherer emphasized that he was speaking only for himself and that future disagreements with the developer were likely. Still, no one on the board openly opposed the project Monday evening.
Members instead remained largely silent as land-use lawyer David S. Steinmetz of White Plains and a lineup of company executives described Toll Brothers and its plans for the now-vacant land. Zoned CO (for campus office use), the acreage would need a change to multiple-residence zoning, “most likely R-4,” he said. Steinmetz said the builders might also seek classification as a planned unit development, or PUD, district. Since the village code restricts a PUD designation to tracts of 25 acres or more, qualifying the 18-acre office park property would require village board intervention.
Just over half of the units would be, in Toll shorthand, “first-floor masters,” townhomes in which a master-bedroom suite is located on the ground floor and one or two bedrooms as well as a second bath are on the upper level. The remaining units, just under 50 percent, would follow a more-conventional scheme, with all bedrooms on the second floor, said Dan Zalinsky, a Toll Brothers division president.
The “no-stairs” sleeping quarters presumably target what Zalinsky termed “a very deep market in the active-adult community.” While Toll has no plans to age-restrict the proposed townhouse community, Zalinsky said, it does expect to sell a number of units to people 55 and older. With their children out of high school, perhaps away at college, this marketing theory holds, they would be looking to downsize their living space.
These new digs, however, would hardly be small—and neither would their price tags. While the specific architecture and floor plans going into the Washington Avenue site have not been determined, the townhomes are expected to range from 1,900 to 2,800 square feet, another Toll executive, James Fitzpatrick, said. In response to a question from Village Administrator Patricia Dwyer, Fitzpatrick speculated that the finished units would sell for between $600,000 and $800,000. And in response to a question from Village Attorney Joel Sachs, he said 10 percent of the units would be set aside as affordable housing.
Asked by Planning Commission Chairman Russell Klein how many school-aged children the complex might produce, Fitzpatrick found it “tough to give you an educated answer.” Steinmetz said the number was likely be fewer than Klein might expect.
Toll Brothers, with headquarters in Horsham, Pa., has housing under way in multiple markets in some 20 states. The developer neither owns the Pleasantville office-campus property nor has it filed any type of formal application with the village. It has a contractual right, however, to purchase the land and on Monday evening company representatives said they will likely petition the village for a zoning change within 60 days.
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