By CHRIS EBERHART
After an 18-month standoff over the Summerfield Garden senior housing proposal, the Eastchester Planning Board voted unanimously to close a public hearing on the matter during its Feb. 27 meeting, which left opposition to the project fuming.
DELV Development’s proposal calls for a five-story, 92-unit apartment building for seniors 55 years or older to be built at 151 Summerfield St., which is the current location of Ted Hermann’s Auto Body. The proposal would sit in a one-to-three-story, commercial neighborhood and would require 11 zoning variances; among the most scrutinized are three height variances—maximum building height, maximum number of stories and maximum number of units.
Under Eastchester’s current zoning code, a building in the area can’t be larger than four stories and 45 feet with 46 units. The developer is proposing a five-story, 55-foot building with 92 units.
Residents of the neighborhood say the proposed building would be too large for the area and sanitary sewer pipes underneath the proposed site wouldn’t be able to handle the stress of a 92-unit apartment. Residents have held steadfast to their position that the developer should have to adhere to the town’s zoning requirements and should not be permitted to build the project.
Frank Sweeney, opponent of the project and the president of the North Eastchester Civic Association, an informal group of north end homeowners, questioned the marketability of the site.
“I ask myself, could I put my mom and dad in this apartment? And the answer is no,” Sweeney said. “It’s a tough area to get around. The quality of life would not be good. Where can they get exercise? It’s just not a senior-friendly area.”
David Steinmetz, the attorney for the developer, disagreed.
“I think the project is a terrific project because this is precisely what Eastchester needed in its community,” Steinmetz said. “This is a niche type of product that’s not being built elsewhere in the county. There’s data that says there is a large market for this type of housing.”
At the board meeting, Steinmetz called for the closing of the public hearing and requested a determination on the project, citing SEQR law, which states the agency, in this case the board, “must expedite all SEQR proceedings in the interest of prompt review.”
“I think, after 18 months, it’s time for a determination of significance,” Steinmetz told the board. “New York State law says you cannot make a decision based on generalized community oppositions.”
Although the Planning Board closed the public hearing, it made no determination of significance, which concludes whether the impact of height and infrastructure will have a significant effect on the environment. Therefore, the proposal will remain in front of the board until the time that such a determination is made.
Town Planner Margaret Uhle believes a decision will likely be made either during the March 27 or April 24 Planning Board meeting.
But Sweeney said the residents felt the public hearing was closed prematurely.
The issues unresolved in the eyes of some area residents revolve around the height of the proposed builiding and the pipes underneath the site.
During the Feb. 27 meeting, the developer drew the line in the sand and said it couldn’t lower the height of the building any further for fear of the project becoming economically unviable.
Yet, the current dimensions of the proposal exceed zoning limitations.
“It’s like trying to fit 20 gallons in a 10-gallon hat,” Charles Galanek, an opponent of the project and vice president of the North Eastchester Civic Association, said.
As for infrastructure, John Meyer Consulting, which studied the area’s sanitary sewer system for the developer, said the sewage pipes that flow from Montgomery Avenue, which is the proposed connection site, is nearly full at certain points.
According to the study, the pipes running from Ewart Street down Harney Road are at 85 to 90 percent of its maximum capacity now, and in times of rain, “the system seems to be at its maximum capacity.”
And that percentage will reach closer or exceed capacity with the replacement of Ted Hermann’s Auto Body shop for a residential building.
According to the consultant’s study, which was obtained by the Eastchester Review, the auto body shop produces approximately 675 gallons of water per day, while the proposed project is estimated to generate approximately 14,650 gallons per day, which would increase the flow by about 2 to 3 percent.
Uhle said the consultant’s numbers have not been confirmed by the town’s Civil Engineer, Evans Associates Environmental Consulting, Inc., which is currently conducting its own study of the sewer system below the proposed site and will provide an independent analysis of the sanitary system prior to the March 27 Planning Board meeting.
When talking about the numbers provided by the developer’s consultant, Sweeney said, “Is it reasonable to assume these storm and sewage lines, which are already almost filled to capacity, are capable of handling 92 units? I don’t think it is.”
Sweeney added, “I’ve been living here for 44 years. I see the manholes by Woodruff and Scarsdale avenues bursting every time there’s a heavy rain.”
Hector DiLeo, Eastchester superintendent of highways, confirmed that the area Sweeney referred to—the intersection at Woodruff and Scarsdale avenues, which is down the road from the proposed site and part of the route that the sanitary sewer pipes follow—is a trouble spot for the town Highway Department during a heavy downpour because the manhole covers pop off.