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Neighbors Object to Proposed 7-Eleven Move to Scarsdale Avenue

7-ElevenRenderingWill the Scarsdale 7-Eleven move from Garth Road to Scarsdale Avenue? Not if residents of the Overhill Neighborhood Association have their say. At a meeting of the Scarsdale Planning Board on Wednesday night April 19, the Planning Board heard applicants who hoped to move 7-11 to the previous site of Bodyfit on Scarsdale Avenue.

The owners of the Bodyfit building, a Florida LLC called "858 Scarsdale Avenue Associates and 7-Eleven Inc. have applied to renovate Body Fit and turn it into a convenience store. Their attorney and engineer attended the meeting to apply for a parking waiver and show their parking plan and a rendering of the proposed redesign. The neighbors behind the building on Overhill Road are concerned about the potential commotion from a 24-hour retailer and have raised concerns about the traffic and parking at the busy intersection.

7-Elevent the meeting, a discussion ensued about the number of parking spots that were required. Speaking after the meeting, Village Planner Elizabeth Marrinan explained that back in the 1980's when the original zoning was done, a retail spot like this would have required 19-22 spaces. At the time, there was a gas station on the site. However the Village quickly realized that it would not be possible to include 22 spaces and gave the owners a waiver to allow them to open with 11 parking spots. On Wednesday night, the applicants for 7-Eleven put forth a plan for two curb cuts and nine parking spaces perpendicular to Scarsdale Avenue. Cars would enter at one side and exit on the other.

In response to questions about traffic at this very busy intersection,bodyfit the applicants referred to a study they had done; however they had not shared it with the Planning Department. The residents raised concerns about deliveries, which are often made in large trailer size trucks. Where would these large trucks park? The applicants claimed that big deliveries would only be necessary once a week and that box trucks would make smaller deliveries.

More questions arose about the square footage of the parking lot and the possibility of a buffer between the parking lot and the street to allow a safe byway for pedestrians. Questions about whether or not the design of the façade needs to conform to standards for Scarsdale Village will be referred to the Board of Architectural Review.

At the end of the meeting, the applicants asked that consideration be held over to the next meeting of the Planning Board on May 24 to allow them time to rerun the traffic report.

Here is the statement from the Overhill Neighborhood Association, as read by the association Vice President Richard Pinto:

The Overhill Neighborhood Association is concerned about the recently announced plans for 7-Eleven to relocate from Garth Road to the Bodyfit building on Scarsdale Avenue. The Overhill Association (which I will refer to from now on as simply "the Association") believes that granting 7-Eleven its requested parking waiver so that they may effectuate this move is a mistake and request that the Planning Board deny the waiver tonight. The Association only learned about this proposed relocation recently and would like to formally note some points for consideration.

In its current location 7-Eleven is part of the commercial fabric that runs along Garth Road; as such it is isolated from any single-family homes. If 7-Eleven were to relocate to Scarsdale Avenue, it would immediately abut the backyards of lower Overhill Road. Since there are currently no 24/7 retailers immediately abutting a neighborhood of single-family homes anywhere in Scarsdale, the Association feels strongly that this would create a bad precedent.

This introduces one of the specific concern the Association has – a 24/7 retailer is likely to introduce noise at late hours in an otherwise quiet area. The shape of the land here is a slope up from Scarsdale Avenue to a high point on Circle Road; noise will be scooped up that slope. All other businesses along Scarsdale Avenue are closed by 11p.m. It is easy to imagine car doors slamming and car engines revving in the late evening, people inadvertently speaking loudly, groups of teens congregating there because it's the only establishment open at those hours – it is not difficult to see that this concern of a late-hours retailer is realistic.

Similarly, there is a legitimate fear for the potential for increased incidences of crime in our neighborhood. It is important to note that the residences along this stretch of Overhill Road and Circle Lane are 100% occupied by families with either elementary school-aged children or senior residents. While we laud the Scarsdale Police for their recent excellent work, we understand that they will be operating in a reactive mode. We are not concerned whether the Police will respond to any and all complaints – we trust 100% that they will; however, the nature of these complaints will be such that by the time officers arrive on the scene, the issue will have gone away – but the residents will have been disturbed already. Again – we are talking about a dozen elementary school-aged children along Overhill Rd and Circle Rd, as well as senior homeowners – these are demographics that do not typically keep late hours and will be most affected immediately.

Another point: this relocation would increase traffic to Scarsdale Avenue, an area that is infamous within our village for traffic. Problems at the intersection of Scarsdale Avenue and Popham Road were acknowledged by Chief Matturo himself at the April SNAP meeting. Again, it is not difficult to imagine how a retailer whose business model relies on a large volume of customers to make frequent stops will quickly become a significant headache. If we circle back to the issue of requesting a parking waiver, please imagine where cars will park to pop into the store for the proverbial gallon of milk – especially when you consider that the site is immediately adjacent to two gas stations that often have lines of their own that stretch onto Scarsdale Ave.

Finally, the Association would like to state plainly and clearly: we are concerned about a drop in the property value of our homes.

Further: it is not simply the Overhill Association that is concerned by this proposed relocation. A quick (and unofficial) survey of merchants along Scarsdale Ave today showed 100% solidarity against the relocation. This is at least partly because such a retailer is not in line with the broader vision of the Village Center Comprehensive Plan.

In 2010, the Comprehensive Plan envisioned a "restaurant row" for Scarsdale Avenue. New retailers – food and otherwise – joining Metro and Moscato (as well as the Eastchester establishments to the immediate south) were to be of a certain kind. From the report: "Any development should adhere to the character of the Village Center."

Now, the village government and concerned citizen groups have been working diligently to revitalize our center and to ensure that it be pedestrian-oriented and replete with the sort of retailers that are attractive to Scarsdale residents. Scarsdale Avenue is part of that central business district, and with a fifteenth store that has just closed in our village center, there is no disrespect intended when we say that the Association does not feel that relocating 7-Eleven into the Bodyfit building fulfils that vision.

Bringing this full circle, because the Association does not think that a 7-Eleven is what this report envisions, nor is it in fact a restaurant at all, no consideration should be given or effected towards any relaxation of parking restrictions.

In closing: if the Planning Board chooses not to deny the parking waiver tonight, we request at a minimum that the vote be held until a future date so that we, other neighboring communities, and other interested parties can have more time to examine how safety, traffic, noise, retail balance, home valuation, and other issues will be affected by this proposed relocation.

We thank you for your consideration of our concerns.

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