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Neighbors Object to Proposal for Three Level Parking Garage on Overhill Road

OverhillParkingAnother battle about another parking lot is brewing in town. Earlier this year, Scarsdale Trustees tabled an ambitious proposal to develop the Freightway site to provide parking, residential units and amenities on the west side of the Metro North tracks. The plans were put aside after considerable opposition from residents who feared overcrowding in schools, traffic and the addition of up to 220 apartments to the Village.

That plan was proposed as a public-private partnership to replace the deteriorating garage and breathe life into Scarsdale’s downtown. This time, a private developer, Scarsdale Improvement Corp., is proposing the construction of a three-level parking structure with 135 parking spots on Overhill Road. The developer has applied to merge four lots into one in order to construct the parking lot. In addition, they plan to convert the basement of 30 Popham Road, which adjoins the site, into a 6,000 square foot health club. Unlike Freightway and Christie Place Garages, these spots will be designated for Scarsdale Improvement Corp's private tenants and will not generate parking fees for the Village.

However, the board of the Overhill Neighborhood Association, unanimously opposes the plan and a survey of neighborhood residents revealed that a very strong majority of the neighborhood is against the project. They oppose the project because it will bring more traffic to the area, for safety reasons, because it is not pedestrian friendly, does not meet the requirements outlined in the Village’s Comprehensive Plan, and calls for far more parking spaces than is required by the surrounding retail tenants.

Below is an initial position paper from the board of the Overhill Neighborhood Association.

On Wednesday July 29, the Planning Board will consider an application to:

(i) merge 4 lots into one, and

(ii) a site plan to build a three-tiered 135-space private parking garage on the open lot at 5 Overhill. The guidance found both in the Village Code and in the Comprehensive Plan does not envision such use of that property.

The Board of the Overhill Neighborhood Association is opposed to the approval of the application. We have reviewed the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Code, as it pertains to this lot, and we cannot find any justification for such a large parking structure. We are committed to sustaining the residential quality of our neighborhood in terms of long-term vision, safety, traffic tranquility, viewshed, and noise level.

The applicant before the board should be well known because they are the same applicant who came before the Land Use Committee in October 2019, with a broader plan to build a garage and 15 condo units. They now come with one part of that plan, implying that they have reduced their ambitions. However, as acknowledged in the application, the number of vehicles to be housed exceeds the needs of the applicants’ present and projected tenants’ business. The auxiliary parking needs at this site do not justify a garage of the proposed size. We can only conclude that this is but a segment of a larger plan yet to be revealed, providing private parking for other tenants of this developer not adjacent to this site. Therefore, the garage is not merely “auxiliary” to the building(s) for which it should serve.

Importantly, this site received special mention in An Update of the Village Center Component of the Village of Scarsdale Comprehensive Plan (The Plan) as one of three sites of opportunity in the Village Center. The Plan specifies the need to be sensitive to the residential character of the Overhill neighborhood, and its residents in any designs for this site (Page 40).

The Comprehensive Plan states the following about this site:

1) Parking solutions for this site are linked to the development of the Freightway parcel, in particular the opportunity to redesign the parking on the west side of Scarsdale Avenue. Nowhere is the construction of a large parking structure of three levels considered.

2) The Plan also affirms that “any development should adhere to the character of the Village Center, follow green design principles and the resulting height and design should be sensitive to the adjacent residential area on Overhill Road.”
How is a three-tiered parking structure “sensitive” to the adjacent residential neighborhood, including two single family homes across the street, and one single family home adjacent to the garage structure?

3) Another key point advocated in The Plan is the need for pedestrian arcades throughout the Village Center to provide access. It addresses a Village that is Pedestrian friendly. The existing configuration provides an arcade/walkway and outdoor dining at the side of Scarsdale Metro Restaurant and at the side of Moscato.

However, these pedestrian friendly amenities are absent in the application.
Further, if one examines the Village Code as pertains to this district one would find that it states that this district is for retail and service business purposes, and that:

Regarding Development Uses, the code states that principal uses for future development should be for “Retail stores, personal service establishments, restaurants and other places serving food or beverages (except fast-food restaurants), banks, professional offices, medical and dental offices, service stations, public and semipublic uses, real estate offices, travel agencies…”

Regarding parking, the code states that “Avoidance of more than one level of parking located at or above the ground-floor level along the building frontage in any VCR or VCO District”

Finally, we also examined some historical Google Earth satellite images over the last few years (2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019) during what appeared to be bustling times of the day in our Village Center. The images all showed well-occupied parking areas at Freightway, East Parkway, and Boniface Circle/Spencer Place, however, in all of the images that we reviewed we did not find a single example where the 5 Overhill lot did not have plenty of space available. Several residents in the Overhill Neighborhood confirmed these same observations, that sufficient parking currently exists.

Furthermore, Paul Diamond, the spokesman for the neighborhood association sent the following to Scarsdale10583 on July 19:

In addition to the critical points that are laid out in our initial position letter, we are discovering a number of additional factors that will also will weigh heavily as the Planning Board evaluates this application.

Here are just three examples:

1. Traffic/congestion/safety: we firmly believe that adding more congestion to Overhill Road where two parking areas sit directly across from each other will negatively impact the area both from a residential and shopper experience. It is know that the intersection of Overhill/Chase and Popham continues to be a spot where there are many accidents involving pedestrians and that sadly some have ended in death. Additionally there are two school bus stops --one at HSBC and one at 5-7 Overhill Road where children as young as 4-5 years of age are waiting for their bus, adding to both the safety and congestion concerns.

2. Environmental Impact: We are confident that a full environmental impact study will reveal substantial environmental issues for the Village and for the adjacent residential community.

3. Overbuilding: Finally, you may also find it of interest that the notes from the Village Planner (available on the Village drop box for the meeting) confirm that the developer seeks permission to overbuild: "The parking structure will include 135 spaces, where 69 are required pursuant to 310-70 of Village Code."

You can watch the Planning Board proceedings on Wednesday July 29 at 7 pm on Zoom here:

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