Monday, July 23, 2007

Shown above: Harbor View? New Rochelle developer Ofer Attia's contribution to Mamaroneck Village, 2025


The volume of residential development that had been approved for the Village of Mamaroneck by the time the Mayor's 2025 Committee started working on updating the village's 1986 Master Plan last year and the trustees enacted a residential building moratorium six months ago made those actions seem, at the time, futile exercises in what might have been, rather than movement toward what the village should look like 18 years from now.

However, a progress report on the planning update presented at the village board's July 9 meeting by Tom Yardley, of BFJ Planning consultants, seemed to offer more light than might have been expected at the end of the concrete tunnel.

Of the recommendations that Yardley said will come from the 2025 Committee, one of the most promising is that the zoning code be amended to restrict the heights and overall square footage of new one-to-three-family homes by reducing floor area ratios (FAR's), thus, in effect, inoculatlng the village against the spread of the current epidemic of gigantism in home construction now afflicting neighborhoods like Orienta and Rye Neck.

Yardley read out the definition of floor area ratio as "the sum of the gross of the horizontal areas of the several floors of the building or buildings on the lot, measured from the exterior faces of the exterior walls or from the center line of party walls separating two buildings" but excludng "roof areas, cellar areas used only for incidental storage or the operation and maintenance of the building and any area devoted only to accessory off-street parking or loading." He noted, however, that the trustees might want to follow the lead of other municipalities and enlarge the parking area included in the FAR to 50 percent of garage space.

In an R-6 zone, he explaiined, where building lots are required to be 6,000 square feet, a .55 FAR would limit house size to 3,300 square feet. A desirable range for FAR's across the village, he said, would be .45 to .52, adding the caveat that, in reducing FAR's, "you want to make sure you're not going to make too many of the existing houses nonconforming." For example, he said, if most of the houses in a particular neighborhood are at a .28 FAR, but the neighborhood FAR is .35, "then the suggestion is that you bring the FAR down to a .28."

"The goal of this," Yardley said, "is to basically reduce the number of oversize developments within certain village neighborhoods, which, based on comments from the 2025 Committee and at the public meetings, have been altering the character of a lot of these village neighborhoods."

Preserving the village's small-town character and quality of life, maintaining its diversity and protecting and improving the environment, are, he said, the central elements of the committee's vision of life here in 2025. However, the trustees will also be considering whether to rezone the Columbus Park area from an R-20 residential zone to allow some commercial use because the MTA is trying to sell the old Mamaroneck train station and wants to be able to entertain "a maximum range of uses."

Laying out the demographic changes in the village since 1986, Yardley said there had been a .5 percent drop in population between 1970, when it peaked at 18,870, and 2000, with the biggest dip occurring between 1980 and 1990. He confirmed Trustee Tom Murphy's observation that since 2000 there has been a seven-to-eight percent increase in population and went on to say that the number of residents is projected to rise steadily through 2025.

But, he added, "There's not an awful lot of land in the village" and then went on to list some of the 275 residential units already in the development pipeline, including a 17-18 unit building on Mamaroneck Avenue, near the Mamaroneck Avenue School; 95 units in the condominium planned for the former Blood Brothers site on Waverly Avenue; and a total of 20-to-21 townhouse units on the Boston Post Road, opposite Harbor Island Park.

There is also the Parkview Station condominium complex ($550,000 a unit) now under construction on Van Rantz Place, opposite Columbus Park. This too-tall and oh-so-drab-looking project was billed as a townhouse development but comes as close to that description as the facade of The Westchester mall.

And the Harbor View townhouses planned by New Rochelle developer Ofer Attia for two sites opposite Harbor Island, on either side of Heathcote Hill? That project received site plan approval many months ago, but, so far, has not progressed beyond muddy holes in the ground, filled with dank water when it rains, and fenced in by chain link sporting danger signs.

Indeed, the unexplained delay in construction has fueled speculation among some educated guessers in the village that Attia may have run into financial difficulties as the real estate climate has cooled and might, instead of building Harbor View and the Waverly Avenue project, sell the sites, with their approved plans, to other developers.

Attia was reached on his cell phone on July 17, but before anything more than the subject of the call could be stated, the call broke up, and a second call was not answered. Nor has there been any answer to a July 17 e-mail, which said, in part:

"The delay in construction of the townhouse development opposite Harbor Island Park in Mamaroneck has fueled speculation in the village that you may have run into financial difficulties and might, instead of building the project yourself, sell the site and its site plan approval to another developer.

"There has been similar speculation about the project that has received preliminary site plan approval to be built at the former location of Blood Brothers.

"Can you confirm that you intend to complete both projects?"

On the bright side, the delay in the Post Road construction has preserved, for a while, anyway, the harbor view of Heathcote residents who had fought the project.
Another positive is that the opposition to interrupting the vista from Heathcote Hill across the park and out to the Long Island Sound has resulted in a 2025 recommendation that the determination of building heights for infill housing in C-1 zones take into account the "visual sensitivity" of areas like Harbor Island.

Yardley noted that the residential building moratorium is likely to be extended, that subdivision regulations, which have not been "touched since the '60's," have to be updated "to more closely reflect New york State municiapl law," and that changes should be made to the village's zoning maps.

He stressed that his presentation covered only the first phase of the master plan update and said that the second phase, which is already under way, is "focusing on specificde areas within the village," like the industrial area, which has already had a makeover, and on flooding.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Let's spend a few years thinking about 2025, just like we did for the past few years, watching monstruosities adorn the landscape and realtors/developers/contractors rolling in the dough. Soon enough, it'll be 2025, and the issue will have solved itself. Let's just make sure we find more important things to do in the meantime like losing lawsuits.