By ASHLEY HELMS
In order to better showcase the impact of the proposed Summerfield Gardens senior housing facility in Eastchester’s north end, the town’s land use boards conducted a balloon study Aug. 17 to demonstrate the anticipated height of the building to neighbors.
But some residents felt that the study should be postponed until after Labor Day, since many people are on vacation during this time of year, making the study inaccessible for some.
The building is set to be located at 151 Summerfield St., the current location of Ted Herrmann’s Autobody.
The test was done by attaching balloons to the second story of the autobody shop, which were then extended upwards to the proposed height of the building, which is slated to be approximately 60 feet high.
The senior housing project is being developed by DELV Development.
“The top elevation of the balloons will be equal to the top elevation of the proposed parapet. The base elevation will be based on the existing site survey,” said Margret Uhle, Eastchester’s Director of Planning.
Frank Sweeney, who leads the North End Civic Association, an informal group of north end homeowners, said the civic association received very short notice of the study and it gave residents little opportunity to gather together those who would be most affected by the study.
Uhle sent the email announcing the study on Aug. 12.
“This is the height of the summer vacationing season and many of the residents are away or were planning on leaving this weekend,” said Sweeney, who was also away in California during the study.
Sweeney said the study was planned for a couple of weeks and, even though the study was done at an inconvenient time, the planning and zoning boards wanted to move ahead before meetings start up again in the fall.
“A lot of people couldn’t be there, but the Planning Board wanted to move ahead and get the ball rolling,” Sweeney said.
In a presentation to the Zoning Board of Appeals in January 2012, DELV Development requested 11 variances from local zoning laws, which bothered some residents in the north end. The code states that 40,000 sq. ft of space is required for a building of such size, while the developer is proposing 32,500 sq. ft. The building was originally going to include six stories as opposed to the maximum of four stories, an excess of 50 percent. Some other variance requests sought to exceed Eastchester’s zoning laws by as much as 100 percent.
Those who live in Eastchester’s north end, where the building would be located, feel the project’s developer is looking to change the zoning laws, rather than just merely apply for variances, and would like the company to follow town laws already established.
The senior housing project does not count toward fulfilling affordable housing development requirements that Eastchester and other municipalities in the county are required to adhere to following the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s settlement with the county to construct 750 units of affordable housing over a seven-year timeframe. Complying with the terms of the settlement will ensure that Westchester will be able to hold onto millions of dollars in federal aid.
The Summerfield Gardens project is privately funded and exempt from this regulation due to its senior component. For an affordable housing project to meet the requirements of the county’s affordable housing settlement, no more than 25 percent of the units can be occupied by seniors.
Sweeney said that opponents of the project, which is expected to have about 90 units, are still somewhat apprehensive at this point because of the proposed size of the living facility. The civic association and nearby residents will be discussing what the next steps will be next month.
“We still think [the project] is too large; we won’t know the final plan until September when they submit a finished product,” Sweeney said.