By CHRIS EBERHART
The construction of a proposed townhouse on Alden Place, which sits on the Bronxville and Mount Vernon border, appears to ignore zoning regulations and has drawn the ire of neighboring residents.
Robert Luiso, who is the chief executive of the developer RJ Luiso Industries Inc., is proposing a four-story townhouse with an additional level of parking on an existing green space, termed a playground, on Alden Place, which is a parcel of land he owns.
Alden Place is a historic Bronxville neighborhood that is compromised of three cooperatives—Standish-Bat, Bradford Hall and Brewster Carver—and a rental building at 9 and 10 Alden Place. The rest of the area is comprised of two garages, which were previously owned by Luiso until he sold them in 2011 to the owners of 9 and 10 Alden Place, and the Bronxville Presbyterian Church Cemetery.
The Mount Vernon line cuts through the proposed building, which would extend to the cemetery line.
Rose Carmellino, a resident of the Alden Place neighborhood, said Luiso attempted to develop the entire parcel of land in 2005, but his plans didn’t advance in the village because of public outcry and a number of issues with the proposal such as parking and density.
Now, Carmellino said, Luiso is proposing to build solely on the Mount Vernon portion of the property, which, according to Bronxville Administrator Harold Porr, creates jurisdictional issues.
Even though the proposed townhouse would technically be located in Mount Vernon, Porr said, the proposed parking would extend into Bronxville boundaries, which is why the village is demanding to have the proper environmental study completed.
“It’s a tricky situation, but it’s something we’re watching closely,” Porr said. “We’ve had our lawyers participate in asking questions. The proposal has an impact on us because the parking lot extends over our line, and we want to make sure it’s not going to harm our village or our residents.”
The most recent issues over the proposed townhouse began in 2013, Carmellino said, when the Mount Vernon Zoning Board of Appeals granted the developer variances despite public outcry and claims of zoning code violations.
“After many Mount Vernon Zoning Board meetings, the variances were granted, but we are not even sure what was granted as the plans kept changing right up to the last minute,” Carmellino said. “At the Mount Vernon ZBA, there was not one person who spoke in favor of these plans. All the people who spoke objected to the density issues, lack of parking, lack of open space and safety concerns of the residents.”
So, the neighbors hired an attorney, Leslie Maron, who compiled a list of zoning code infractions in a letter sent to the Mount Vernon Planning Board.
“There is not one overriding problem or issue with the proposed Luiso project on Alden Place, but a great number of legal issues which stand in the way of the proposed project,” Maron said. “The Zoning Board variance that was granted last year was defective and inadequate to permit the construction of the proposed building.”
At the time, neighbors raised concerns such as street and utilities access and decreased parking as outlined in Maron’s letter. According to Maron, Mount Vernon zoning code states the proposed site must be located on a public street. But, as Carmellino explained, Alden Place is a private roadway owned by the co-ops. The front portion of the roadway that leads to Midland Avenue is owned by the Bronxville co-ops while the back portion of the roadway that leads to Palumbo Place is owned by the Mount Vernon co-op.
And because Alden Place is a private road, Carmellino said, “entities don’t have the right to dig up the roadway,” without the consent of the collective property owners, which means otherwise there is no legal access to utilities, pipes and wires such as drains, sewers and underground electrical conduits.
Then there are parking concerns with the site plan, which Carmellino said is a practical issue because of the narrowness of Alden Place as well as a violation of the Mount Vernon zoning code.
The site plan shows parking along the front and the side yards, but zoning codes prohibit parking in a yard, according to Maron.
As far as decreasing the am-ount of parking spots, Maron states that there was an agreement by the owners of the Alden Place properties dated May 12, 1966—which is in the records of the Westchester County clerk—that states the owners will maintain at least 29 parking spaces along Alden Place, which is the current allotted number of spaces.
However, the site plan proposes to remove at least one space to allow the installation of a driveway on the property, according to Maron.
Carmellino said the process seemed like it was done backwards because the variances were granted before the building was approved. And despite the alleged violations highlighted by the neighbors’ attorney, Carmellino said Luiso continues to push ahead with his project.
Nick Veneziano, who is the attorney that represents RJ Luiso Industries, Inc., did not return calls for comment as of press time. The Mount Vernon Planning Department could not be reached as of press time.