By PHIL NOBILE
Continuing the town’s quest for downtown revitalization with new buildings and sleeker storefronts, a new plan by a local real estate group that includes Harrison Planning Board members is before town officials.
Planning Board Chairman Thomas Heaslip and board member Chuck Spano, partners in the Harrison Real Estate Group LLC, have purchased 241 to 247 Halstead Ave. intending to turn the current storefronts into a new mixed-use facility with a set of stores and apartments above. The real estate group submitted its initial filings with the New York Department of State in September 2013.
According to Harrison Town Code, any town official “who has a direct or indirect financial or other private interest in any matter before the [Town Council]…shall publicly disclose on the official record of the [council] the nature and extent of such interest.”
Those concerns were addressed in a March 4 letter by the group’s attorney, which was attached to the submitted plan for approval. The letter states that Heaslip and Spano have a “pecuniary interest in the proposed project” and says that the two Planning Board members will recuse themselves from all future actions to be made on the property.
The application, requiring site plan and environmental review and special use permit, is scheduled to come before the Planning Board after press time on March 25.
Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont, a Republican, said Heaslip and Spano would remove themselves from the project, saying they “know [they] have to do that: it’s a no brainer.”
“It will be treated fairly,” Belmont said. “[Planning Board members are] held to a higher standard as a result; more than anyone else.”
The attorney for the project is Frank McCullough from the White Plains firm McCullough, Goldberger and Staudt. McCullough, who represents PepsiCo and other projects that go before the Harrison Town Council and town land use boards, could not be reached for comment as of press time.
Although the board members have submitted their plan to the town, the new property owners have yet to notify the current tenants of their intentions, according to one of them.
Brenda Maeda, owner of Hair Creations, said the Harrison Real Estate Group has yet to introduce itself and its plans for the building, leaving the future of her salon and the other businesses in limbo. Maeda has a lease for her salon space for more than two additional years.
“I have not met the new building owner and do not even know his name,” Maeda, owner of the salon for more than five years, said. “I should have, because I assume a sale of this nature would take up to a year.”
With regard to the lack of communication from the Planning Board members, Belmont said it was something that should have occurred. According to Belmont, Heaslip and Spano will offer “first dibs on the new storefronts that come in” to the current tenants.
“It’s unfortunate they were not notified earlier; that’s all on [Heaslip and Spano’s] shoulders,” Belmont said. “Hopefully we can move forward and get some kind of resolve.”
Councilwoman Marlane Amelio, a Republican, echoed the mayor’s sentiments. She said the failure to notify current tenants at the 241 to 247 Halstead Ave. property was “not how business should be conducted in Harrison.”
“I believe there is responsibility involving new ownership,” Amelio said. “In the future, I would like to see that when a building is sold, the new owners make it known immediately to those operating a business within the building as to what the intent of their ownership entails.”
As for Maeda, who recently closed her Rye location in favor of focusing exclusively on her Harrison shop, she said she would have never left her Rye business behind if she knew of the redevelopment plans in Harrison and she worries for her business and employees.
“I have 14 families of employees who depend on this business and a large community of people who come from all over to invest money into this town,” she said. “This is my livelihood and my heart.”
A request for the property to be referred to the Planning Board for a recommendation and to declare the Planning Board as lead agency was on the March 20 Town Council meeting agenda, after press time.
Multiple calls to the Harrison Real Estate Group LLC and Heaslip were not returned as of press time.