Engaged Residents Speak Out at 11-28 Village Board Meeting
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
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There was lively public comment on the role of the Village Manager and the proposed building moratorium at the Scarsdale Village Board meeting on November 28, 2023.
Role of the Village Manager
The meeting opened with a public hearing on changes to Chapter 57 of the Village Code regarding the role of the Village Manager. In effect the change moves some of the code that was in an appendix into the actual Village Code. The new code clarifies the role of the Village Manager vis a vis the Village Board and establishes the Village Manager as chief administrative officer of the Village of Scarsdale and executive assistant of the Mayor and the Board of Trustees in connection with the conduct of the affairs of the Village. It says that the Village Manager’s authority is subject to the approval, direction and control of the Board of Trustees and lists his roles and responsibilities.
This change evolved after Village Manager Rob Cole was dismissed in September 2023 over a disagreement about his role in Village Government.
Former resident Robert Berg had lots to say on the issue. He said, “I’m in the Mamaroneck strip now renting but I've been a 22-year resident of Scarsdale until a little bit earlier this year. This proposed local law is an odd one right now. Since 1949, 74 years ago, the village has had a professional village manager and professional staff who've run the village on a day-to-day basis and they always reported to the Village Manager and served at the pleasure of the village board. These structures have been enshrined in the Village's code for decades. And it's set forth in the annual employment agreement provided to the Village Manager each year. And this structure has worked for decades and for dozens of Mayors and Village Boards.”
Berg continued, “And then somehow all of a sudden halfway through Mayor Arest’s term he awoke earlier this year with a nagging concern that he didn't quite understand the role of the Village Manager. So now we are proposing to change the law to really do nothing substantively. The resolution exists in the appendix and nothing is really wrong. There's no difference. So I don't know why we're tinkering with this. It strikes me as really an effort to sort of sweep under the rug the firing of Robert Cole earlier this fall which has never been explained to the public. It was reportedly some misunderstanding as to his role, which is not really conceivable since his employment agreement clearly stated his role, which is the same as reported in the appendix.”
So I don't understand why we're going through this exercise for something that has worked beautifully, except for this recent incident, for 75 years. It's unnecessary to do this. You shouldn't go around changing laws for cosmetic reasons or otherwise, and the public has a right to know what happened here. You have never explained what happened and why Robert Cole is no longer with us. He was fired by the Village. So something happened and the Village as a bond issuer has a public duty to bondholders to disclose material events and what happened there and so this was a serious issue. I have a concern that the public is not being properly informed as to the circumstances. Did he do something wrong or not? And this proposed law doesn't really accomplish what it's supposed to do. I mean, there's no reason for this law. And I urge the Village Board to come clean and explain the circumstances of his firing. And does he have a claim against the Village for wrongful termination? What's going on here?”
Additional comments were made on a proposed 6 month building moratorium that will be discussed at a public hearing on December 12, 2023.
Former Village Trustee Jonathan Lewis of 56 Words Lane said, “I want to congratulate the Board of Trustees and the village attorney for the excellent draft resolution on the proposed moratorium. Our community is at a tipping point. Unchecked development is overwhelming our infrastructure, destroying our environment and diminishing the precious heritage of our community. We need this moratorium to save our village and and it's good for property owners, property values and property taxes. Studies show that strong preservation codes combined with forward thinking environmental policies improve property values, yet, not surprisingly, negative rumors are being spread in the community about this excellent draft moratorium resolution. Let's beware when the rumors spread are by those who have a monetary interest in home sales. Subdivisions may inflate commissions. They also leave the taxpayers who live here with a permanent cost burden, more garbage to collect, more sewage, more runoff overwhelming our sewers, more flooding as our environments natural ability to absorb water is weakened by even more lot coverage. I encourage you as a board to educate the community about this excellent, well considered draft resolution. If you pass it, you will have six months to thoughtfully design policies and code to preserve our community well into the next century. That will be an extraordinary legacy for all of you.”
Myra Saul of 5 Lincoln Road said, “I appear here tonight in my personal capacity. I wish to thank personally the mayor and the trustees for listening to residents and for acting by proposing a six-month moratorium on new real estate development in the Village. This moratorium will give the trustees and the public the time to appropriately determine how our building guidelines can better reflect the needs of our community, especially in light of our shared infrastructure. Let's take this opportunity to look at each facet of the system holistically, not as a series of discrete decisions. I support this moratorium. It is undeniable that climate change is impacting our weather. We now seem to have a once in a century storm every six months. Our infrastructure was not made to sustain these assaults. A personal anecdote. I moved to Scarsdale 33 years ago and was told that I shouldn't have any problems with water in my basement because my house sits on a slight rise. I really didn't have any appreciation for that remark until the two so called unprecedented storms this year. I've experienced flooding and now expect it when we have an ordinary rainfall. There is no such thing as a free lunch. We all live in this community. Not every homeowner can have a pool. Not every homeowner can live in a mansion. We need to live together in harmony and in harmony with our environment and our infrastructure.
John Schwarz from Norma Place said, I'd like to applaud the board's willingness to consider this moratorium and have a look at the regulations going forward. As things have changed in the community as cited by several people who have made comments to you. There is one example in our neighborhood that glaring that I think maybe should be an example for this effort. It's nearly around the corner from us. A fence is up for demolition of this house. It's on roughly a third of an acre, a 2800 square foot house. It's proposed to be replaced by a 6800 square foot house. On this third of an acre being advertised as the potential for a pool as well but I'm not sure there would be room for that. The asking price for this house is not quite three and a half times what the company that proposes to build it paid to buy this house to demolish it. There is no house in the neighborhood that is close to the size. And it is an example of how things are changing in the village. And projects like this should be carefully watched.”
“The second comment relates to a proposed gift to the village to the fire department. From Fenway Golf Club. I'm sincerely hoping that this is an altruistic gift on the part of the donor who has repeatedly had issues with noise in the area, in the past and in the present as recently as three days ago. So I'm hoping that this is a generous, honest donation with the intent of having nothing to do with the noise issues surrounding the donor and the neighborhood. “
Bob Harrison had some questions about the proposed moratorium. He said, “How does this affect tear downs period? Or does it affect the entire community where residents want to make improvements to their homes? And I hope it doesn't include what residents should be allowed in their home that's not a teardown. It's an improvement to their home. Will there be a restriction in this moratorium on any homeowner to make improvements to their home that has nothing to do with a teardown? So I hope there's nothing in this moratorium that would affect every resident in Scarsdale who wants to do improvements to their homes and get a building permit to do it has nothing to do with the tear down.”
Mayor Arest replied saying, “If you're just trying to improve your house, whether it be on the exterior or the interior, the moratorium should not impact you unless you are trying to expand on your house.“
Board Meeting Minutes
Bob Harrison pointed out that the written minutes for the previous Board of Trustees meeting shows no details of the public comments from the members of the community who spoke at the last meeting. He said, “As has been done historically public comments of residents should be included in the public minutes as these comments often offer excellent ideas and suggestions and recommendations for the current future board and future village boards. So I hope that this process has been going on for years to include the public statement by residents to come to this might be totally included in the future.”
Mayor Arest replied that this was an oversight and that the minutes would be reissued to include public comments.
Trustee Ken Mazer discussed two upcoming events targeted for our seniors.
On Monday December 4 at 11 o'clock at the Girl Scout house there will be a get together to talk about fashion and style led by a experienced fashion consultant.
On Wednesday, December 6 at 11 o'clock there will be a crafts hour for seniors to use their hands to make a holiday gift for a friend or a loved one, also at the Girl Scout House. RSVP to Msilver@scarsdale.com to participate.
Trustees approved resolutions to permit Westchester Reform Temple to place a menorah in Boniface Circle from December 1 through 15 2023 as well as a resolution to permit Chabad to place a menorah in Chase Park from December 4-18, 2023 and a menorah lighting ceremony on December 10, 2023.
The Village Board approved a resolution to permit the police to tow cars parked in the street during times of road resurfacing, storm/drain cleaning and water system maintenance after attempting to contact the owners to move their cars. If the owner cannot be contacted in a timely manner the police will have the right to impound illegally parked cars.
The board approved a resolution to hold a public hearing on December 12 on a change to the senior citizen real property tax exemption that was discussed at a work session prior to the meeting. The code changes the definition of “eligible income” to be the resident’s adjusted gross income on their Federal tax return. The change is intended to make income requirements for eligibility more consistent.
Meals on Wheels
Trustees approved a resolution to provide meals to housebound residents at a cost not to exceed $12,000.
They accepted at $5,000 gift from Fenway Golf Club to the fire department to be used for the purchase of equipment to assist in the safety of the firefighters or the general public along with another gift for $1,000 for the fire department from Dr. and Mrs. Mittleman.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Mayor Arest reminded the community that there will be a work session on stormwater regulations on December 5 at 6 pm and a public hearing on the proposed building moratorium at the Village Board meeting on Tuesday December 12 at 8 pm.
BOT Proposes Six Month Moratorium on Building and Land Use Applications in Scarsdale
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
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No one was more surprised than Jim Detmer when he returned to Village Hall on November 14 to make a renewed effort to save a neighboring home in Edgewood, and to ask the trustees again to consider a petition he had presented to declare a moratorium on home demolitions and subdivisions.
Detmer had organized his neighbors in October to plead with the Committee for Historic Preservation to deny an application to tear down 27 Woods Lane. He said, “We know that precedent is our enemy here…. One goes, more are sure to follow … the old domino effect. It is critical that we prohibit demolition to preserve the integrity of the Woods, Edgewood and the Village.”
He also circulated a petition, that now includes 385 names, that says, “Our neighborhood homes are being systematically dismantled by over-zealous builders and contractors without regard to history, aesthetics, community and sense of space.” The petition urged the trustees to “impose a six-month moratorium on all development in the village and on all teardowns. During that period, we ask the Mayor and Village Board of Trustees to hold public work sessions on this subject, and to engage consultants and law firms as needed to modernize our codes and strengthen our governance to preserve our neighborhoods from overdevelopment.”
However, Detmer had not received much of a reaction from the Board when he presented the petition on October 26 and had returned to Village Hall to raise the issue of the petition again and to find out if the decision to save 27 Woods Lane had been appealed.
So when he got to Village Hall and found out that the Village attorney had drafted a resolution to impose a six month moratorium on all land use applications, he looked stunned. He also learned that to date no appeal had been filed to raze 27 Woods Lane.
Explaining the proposal for a moratorium at a work session previous to the Board of Trustees meeting, Village Attorney Nicholas Ward-Willis said that “The improvements, subdivision and redevelopments on single-family lots have created a number of pervasive adverse impacts including but not limited to the loss of the architectural and historic qualities and scale that helps define the fabric of our residential neighborhoods as well as negative environmental impacts such as increased flooding and the destruction of mature trees and natural habitats. These impacts are resulting from, among other things, the rapid pace of demolitions and replacement of older homes, additions being built on single-family properties, the construction of accessory structures, and the subdivision and redevelopment of residential lots. Such development activities create new impervious surfaces thereby diminishing the natural drainage and flood mitigation provided by mature trees and open space. Our natural resources are finite and fragile, and the Village’s infrastructure and other public resources are increasingly being tested by more frequent and severe storm events.”
It continues, “Moreover, new single-family developments are increasingly being built at the limits of our community’s minimum dimensional requirements for setbacks, while maximizing and, at times seeking variances to exceed the limits of floor area ratios, lot coverages, and other bulk requirements. This development trend also places greater challenges upon the Board of Architectural Review and Committee for Historic Preservation which are responsible for
maintaining and preserving aesthetic and architectural resources.”
Therefore, the resolution proposes a 6-month moratorium on “the acceptance, consideration, and approval of certain land use applications, such as applications for subdivisions, demolitions, building permits, site plan approval, and special permits.”
During that time the Village will study zoning and flooding regulations, building code and the land use approval process.
Later at the meeting the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to hold a public hearing on the resolution at their meeting on Tuesday December 12, 2023.
Coincidentally, the Committee for Historic Preservation was also holding their monthly meeting in Village Hall that night. In the third floor meeting room they were considering an application to tear down a mid-century modern home on almost an acre at 46 Lincoln Road.
Applications to raze the house had been filed and approved in 2008 and 2021, but the applicants failed to act and those approvals have now expired.
The developer is an emergency room physician who also has a business as a builder. Dr. Raj Krishnan who is in contract to purchase the house claimed that it was in terrible shape and that flooding had rendered the home beyond repair.
However, Committee Member Lauren Bender saw it differently. She said, “I voted against the demolition in 2018. It fulfills criteria number 4 of the preservation code, “That the building embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction that possess high artistic value.” She explained, this is a mid-century modern home, adjacent to the Heathcote School, that was built in 1954.” She noted that the school has been nationally recognized for its architectural style.
She said, “We seem to be losing our mid-century modern homes. There are only a handful left. The fact that it has been left to rot is unfortunate.” She counted the remaining mid-century modern homes on Brite Avenue, Tompkins Road, Overlook and the Breuer house in Quaker Ridge. She called the home, “Usonian,” and pointed out its dominant horizontal lines, low slung roofline, natural materials, stone base and the way it is built into the hill.
Neighbor Perry Shamsai who lives at 50 Lincoln Road corrected a claim by the developer that the house had been unoccupied since 2018. She told the board that the house had been rented until 2021. In 2022 there was a flood. She said, “We love the architecture of this house and the different layers of stone. Attention has been paid to the aesthetic of this architecture.”
Jack Miller of 45 Fayette Road said, “I live two houses away from this home. This is a death row reprieve for the house. I love this house – the way it is situated on the site – it looks different from different from vantage points – and in different lighting. It is on .97 acres and has beautiful plantings. It catches a lot of water from the entire neighborhood. The far end has an open watercourse and on a summer night you could hear the water moving.”
He contended that the home met criteria 4 for preservation, noting the materials, the railing on the deck, the varying roof lines, and the iconic front door. He said, “nothing is cookie cutter about this house.”
The developer framed his case as a public service. He said, “I build brand new homes to allow new families to come to Scarsdale. I am a doctor who builds homes to provide opportunities to experience Scarsdale.”
CHP alternate Amy Laurence responded, “But you could also say that you are denying a family the opportunity to live in a mid-century modern home.”
After more discussion, the committee voted to adjourn the decision in order to get input from architectural historian Andrew Dolkart.
Later many of the people from the CHP meeting joined the Village Board meeting downstairs where there were public comments on the proposed moratorium.
Ralph Geer of 38 Greenacres Avenue said, “I am standing in support of 27 Woods Lane. We all moved here for the aesthetic and perceived value of our community. Watching it being eroded through development is discouraging. Thank you for taking this on your shoulders.”
Jim Detmer from 29 Woods Lane said, “Thank you for listening to the community. I thought this was going to get kicked down the street and I am so happy it did not.”
Developer Eilon Amidor of 69 Morris Lane objected. He said, “This moratorium will cause a lot of problems for a lot of families. Think about young families coming here and trying to establish a house. People are not going to know if they will be in for the school year. The problem with 27 Woods is particular to that area. There are ways to mitigate that issue. Allow people to demolish homes and rebuild them in the same footprint. There is no reason to put in the moratorium. It will affect people who work in Scarsdale – we employ a lot of people.”
Raj Krishnan of 2 Continental Road repeated much of what he said at the CHP meeting. He said, “We are in the process of trying develop 46 Lincoln Road. We were not treated fairly based on the antidevelopment stance in Scarsdale. Scarsdale is a wonderful opportunity for development. The moratorium is going to stop people from moving here. I understand that there may be issues with the sizes and heights of homes. That can be dealt with. Our application was treated unfairly. It was approved for demolition in 2021. That’s a travesty and prevents someone from moving to Scarsdale. We have built several homes that allowed new families to move here. The moratorium will adversely affect buyers. If they can’t find a new house here they will go elsewhere. We are going to create history! I know the CHP wants to preserve history. The house is riddled with problems. My application was held over.”
Miguel Sostre, an architect from 13 Brook Drive Greenwich, had presented an application to the CHP to tear down 9 Ogden Road. He said, “Construction is the life blood of the town and allows the expansion of the tax base. It turns homes paying $30,000 into homes with a high tax base. There are solutions out there. It is not a moratorium.”
Benoit Hesnard who had recently moved to 44 Brewster Road said, “I moved here because of the Village. Six months is not enough time to find the right answer. Make it a year.”
Jack Miller joked, “The gentleman at 44 Brewster and I were separated at birth. I think it’s great there will be a discussion about Village board reviews. It should be streamlined to help residents and builders. There are lot of bright people here and it’s a step in a positive direction.”
Cynthia Roberts said, “The BAR and the CHP meetings are not Zoom accessible. If you can see it at home and comment from home it is a wonderful thing for many residents. When you have your hearings during the moratorium, look at the process because process is important for a community like ours.”
Also at the meeting, the Board addressed the following:
247 Nelson Road
The Board overturned the decision of the Committee for Historic Preservation to deny an application to raze 247 Nelson Road. The home was designed by Philip Resnyk and built in 1925. The CHP vote was 3 for and 3 against, and since it did not receive a majority vote it was not approved. The Board of Trustees found, “when viewed within this historic context, the Board of Trustees finds that there is not sufficient evidence to support a finding that the home located at 247 Nelson Road satisfies any of the individual criteria set forth in Village Code §§ 182-5(A)(1), (2), (3), (4), or (5), respectively, and thus is not historically significant within the meaning of Village Code § 182-5.
The Board held a hearing and approved new Village code on dogs. The code change amended Chapter 141 which prohibited dogs from areas abutting parks, playgrounds, schools or private property including sidewalks. This text was eliminated from the code. So, though dogs cannot be in public parks, schools or playgrounds, they can be on the adjacent areas.
Village Manager’s Responsibilities
Following the dismissal of Village Manager Rob Cole in September over a disagreement about his role in Village Government, the attorney has drafted revised code to clarify the job description and reporting structure of the Village Manager and his office. The function and duties of the Village Manager are not changing, but the board is adopting what is in the appendix of the Village Code and folding it into the code for best practice.
In brief, here is what the revised code says:
The new code clarifies the role of the Village Manager vis a vis the Village Board. It establishes the Village Manager as chief administrative officer of the Village of Scarsdale and executive assistant of the Mayor and the Board of Trustees in connection with the conduct of the affairs of the Village. It says that the Village Manager’s authority is subject to the approval, direction and control of the Board of Trustees and lists his roles and responsibilities.
The Board of Trustees agreed to hold a public hearing on this change on November 28, 2023.
The Village Board approved a law that will permit the police to tow cars parked in the street during times of road resurfacing, storm/drain cleaning and water system maintenance after attempting to contact the owners to move their cars. If the owner cannot be contacted in a timely manner the police will have the right to impound illegally parked cars.
The Board also reminded listeners that there is an overnight parking ban from November 1 to March 31 from 2 am to 6 am on all public streets.
The Christmas tree lighting and holiday celebration will be held in Scarsdale Village on Friday December 1 from 5- 7 pm. The entire community is invited to join the fun.
Dia de los Muertos and Seniors Celebrate Halloween
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 547
We’ve received more photos from readers celebrating the Day of the Dead – or the Dia de los Muertos and Halloween.
Mayra Kirkendall Rodriguez sent in these Day of the Dead photos, celebrated on November 2, along with a memorial to her father.
Seniors got into the act at a Halloween party sponsored by the Scarsdale Recreation Department, the Scarsdale Library and Scarsdale Family Counseling Service.
Here are photos from the Aging in Place program.
Bowman Fails to Denounce Anti-Semitism
- Written by Diane Greenwald
- Hits: 1341
(The following was written by Scarsale resident Diane Greenwald)
Open Letter to Congressman Bowman:
Your vote last week against the resolution denouncing campus anti-Semitism, HR 798, was wrong. It didn’t need your vote to pass, but you should have supported this bipartisan resolution. The resolution specifically calls out Hamas and Hezbollah as known terrorist organizations and enemies of the US, and it calls against rampant and increasing antisemitism on college campuses. Your voice on this would have been a welcome salve in this crisis time, but you felt the resolution was too flawed for you to sign on.
I understand that the pro-Israel organization, J Street, did not fully support the HR 798 measure as written, though they did support the Senate resolution. They got this wrong. It may be an imperfect text, but so are most. Grandstanding as a purist is not a successful approach to governance, in a body that functions only when there is compromise. Sometimes I agree with J Street, sometimes I do not; theirs is not the definitive voice and does not give you cover for this vote. ADL supported this resolution. All Jewish members of Congress supported this resolution, many who are also members of the Progressive Caucus. If they can abide it, so could you. When in doubt, stand in solidarity with their voices, like they often stand with yours.
You could have voted in favor of HR 798, and then voiced your nuanced thoughts about its issues. That is always an option when presented with a binary vote (you could have done that with Infrastructure too, as many have pointed out.) Perhaps you wished this resolution included others, such as students facing Islamophobia. Yes! Another, independent resolution could call out against anti-Muslim hate. This important work does not excuse your no vote on this resolution, HR 798.
I needed your solidarity, like you have had mine. When I stand up for Black Lives Matter, and I do stand up, and I will continue to, I do not stand for "All Lives Matter.” Of course, all lives do matter but not the point, is it? When I stand up for Black Lives Matter, I stand with the movement to combat systemic racism, to ensure we together end targeted police brutality, profiling, and wrongful mass incarceration of people of color. You could have stood with us for one moment.
And the fact is, you do not always insist a resolution be unflawed to support it. You were willing to co-sponsor a call for an immediate ceasefire, a deeply flawed, unnuanced resolution that sought humanitarian aid for Gaza, laudable, but did not require the return of the Israeli hostages, and that did not acknowledge the potential futility of seeking a ceasefire agreement from a terrorist organization, Hamas, committed to chaos, brutality and violence. It did not even make it to the floor. Wishing desperately for peace, a shared hope, is not the same thing as wading into complex foreign military strategy, but if you have viable solutions for protecting Israelis and Palestinians from Hamas terror without military action, that would be valuable insight to share. It was not included in that flawed resolution.
You should know by now that Jews, including 150,000 in your district, are not monolithic. In fact, we are defined by our constant wrestling -- with ideas, with ourselves, and our world. Israel literally means “to wrestle with God,” an intimate task taken on face-to-face, with our imperfections and each other, as lifelong learners. Little is simple, so we must work. And yet, Elie Wiesel believed that the common mission of the Jewish people, “has never been to make the world more Jewish, but to make it more human.” The beauty and simplicity in this statement is breathtaking. We have needed you to stand with us on this rare common ground in making the world more human – stand against terror, stand against antisemitism.
You claim in the press to be talking daily to members of your Jewish constituent population, but if that were true, then you would know that most Jews desperately want peace and to preserve innocent lives, regardless of faith. You would know how much Israel means to us, despite our ready criticisms of specific politicians, policies. You would know how afraid we are of real and rising hate, here and abroad. I know dozens who write you regularly but hear nothing from you. I write you and get no answers. The only calls I have ever received from you are to ask for contributions. You have alienated and dismissed over a dozen community Rabbis, each a unique and learned leader, who have repeatedly tried to work with you and finally resort to public outcry against your policies.
Congressman, this is personal for me. I have two children on different college campuses. One son is in Lewiston, ME, where a few days before he was placed on multi-day campus lockdown and terrorized by gun violence fears, he faced a swastika painted on a dorm. Your “no” vote on HR 798 tells me you think that is ok. It is not. Hate against Jews here cannot be excused by the geopolitical situation in Israel and Gaza.
Please wrestle with these many hard truths that require deeper learning and real humility. I do not expect you to be an expert in Middle East policy, a situation that confounds even the most seasoned thinkers and leaders. We are asking little else of you than this bit of work and solidarity. This is an extraordinary and diverse district where you could be a bridge builder, but you are just putting up walls. And I needed you, an educator and a leader and a lawmaker, to show my voting-aged college kids and me that there is a voice for them in the American government. Votes are your legacy, and you failed us in this vote.
Proud Jewish Mother, Patriot, Progressive, Feminist, Liberal, Advocate, and Ally.
Longtime supporter of fair but elusive solutions for Middle East peace.
I Stand with Israel. Bring home the hostages.
Residents Present Petition and Urge Trustees to Re-examine Preservation and Building Code
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 1009
An unusually large crowd turned up at Village Hall on Tuesday night October 24 to appeal to Village Trustees to enact a moratorium on tear downs and subdivisions. The group of about 40 residents, presented a petition, now with 386 signatures, to ask the trustees to re-examine the building and preservation code in order to stem the loss of Scarsdale’s homes, save green spaces and trees and prevent stormwater overflows.
The petition was spurred by an application to tear down a home at 27 Woods Lane that was considered by the Committee for Historic Preservation. After appeals from neighbors, the CHP denied the applications, but residents fear an appeal to the Village Board of Trustees.
Former Village Trustee Jonathan Lewis highlighted the issues, saying,
“I am here tonight to discuss the state of preservation in our village. The state is not good.
Our community is fighting a losing battle against developers. They invade our hometown with a battle plan: knock down homes, subdivide, build the largest most profitable homes possible, and then do it again.
They are well financed and they are destroying our town before our very eyes. Graceful architecture is replaced with cookie cutter McMansions.
Historic vistas are being irreparably harmed, our beautiful tree canopy is being clear-cut, and the aesthetic that defines us is rapidly transformed into something unrecognizable.
In the process, impermeable surfaces are replacing grass, root structures that absorbed water during a rainstorm are destroyed, and our aging infrastructure built for a smaller population and smaller water volumes, is overwhelmed. Developers leave with profits and we, the taxpayers, are burdened with decades of future additional taxes to make our infrastructure more resilient to climate change.
We must face the reality that no matter how well intentioned our previous code revisions may have been, we can see they don't work. Developers find gaps in the code, play committees off each other, and wear down the village through a process of appeals, costing us more money through staff time and attorneys fees.
That is why we ask you to adopt a 6-month moratorium on development and tear downs. With instructions from you tonight, the village attorney can draft a simple resolution to approve at your next meeting. Then, with the support of Keane and Bean, and input from Professor Dolkart, the village’s consultant on preservation matters, the leading experts in this field can be engaged to modernize our code wholistically.
At the same time it will be necessary to consider improvements in the committee structure we use, how our land use boards engage with each other, including mission, staff support, and reporting to the village managers office and the board. We need to make sure there are no gaps in structure or communications between committees and the board and staff that a developer could use to circumvent our code and undermine our community. It has happened before, this must be stopped. Penalties and fines need to be revisited as well. They must be financially material, a cost that will make a developer reconsider, instead of the parking ticket size penalties that make infractions a cost of doing business to them.
Yet, despite the challenges and the conflicts, there is news we can cheer. Our community is engaged. Our petition calling for a moratorium has attracted hundreds of signatures and represents a real mandate for change.
Even better everyone who cares about preserving our neighborhoods should be proud of our village Committee for Historic Preservation. Last week, Village Hall was packed with neighbors asking the CHP to protect 27 Woods Lane from demolition. The CHP listened and voted unanimously to preserve this gracious home that represents a unique period in Scarsdale history.
Sadly the experience of 27 Woods Lane is the exception, not the rule.
Please protect our community for future generations and revise the code so that our land use boards have the power to stop subdivisions, the ability to ensure no more McMansions are built, and legal authority to preserve the rich tapestry of our historic neighborhoods.
You have the power to save our community. Please use it.”
Jim Detmer, who lives next door to 27 Woods Lane presented the petition to the Board and spoke in support of preservation and the moratorium.
In addition to the house, he spoke about the trees surrounding Woods Lane. He said, “The geography and topography of an area are key contributors to the history of any locale. It is called Woods Lane for a reason! One of the likely casualties of this proposed demolition and development of 27 Woods Lane is the loss of four giant tulip trees and one large white oak. Those five trees are major allies in our battle against stormwater runoff."
“In fact a large white oak with a 25 inch diameter can intercept over 3000 gallons of storm water a year mitigating pressure on already over taxed drainage and sewer systems. Those trees together will intercept over 10,000 gallons of annual rainwater. Our neighbors on Southwoods, Eastwoods, and on Barry and Tunstall between Madison and the Hutchinson River know too well the effects of excess storm run off as they bail their basements after the annual 100-year storm.”
“We know that precedent is our enemy here…. One goes, more are sure to follow … the old domino effect. It is critical that we prohibit demolition to preserve the integrity of the Woods, Edgewood and the Village.”
“We are asking the BOT to uphold the unanimous decision of the CHP and reject the demolition of 27 Woods Lane. We ask the Mayor and the BOT to use all available resources as needed , both internal and external, to modernize codes and policies to make sure they are in lockstep with your constituency and community.”
Chris Piekarski explained that he moved to Scarsdale in 1985. He said, “Call me sentimental but they don’t make homes like they used to. 100 years ago .t They had a good thing going when they built the Woods neighborhood of Edgewood, which is a time capsule from 100+ years ago when the subdivision was initially planned and built. There has been no demolition of a home since then and doing so would cause permanent and irreversible damage to the landscape, neighborhood and sense of community. Once the decision is made to allow a classic home to be demolished it cannot be undone and sets a dangerous precedent for future demolition.
Another unique feature of our neighborhood is the large open front lawns. On any given afternoon one walking through the Woods will see children playing in their front yards. My children simply need to look out the window to see who is outside and immediately run out to join their friends. In a world where most play dates are now arranged on social media platforms this is a welcome and refreshing throwback to a simpler time. This contribution to the sense of community is lost when lots are subdivided and lawns are replaced by houses that max out their property lines. “
Linda Killian said, “Scarsdale is a classic railroad community that expanded dramatically after the electrification of the railroad. And I think that the zoning and planning and historic preservation needs to reflect that. The last time it was revised was 1994. I would strongly urge you to re-examine our zoning code. The guiding principle of re-examination should be ensuring that Scarsdale’s codes are in alignment with the residents of the Village and provide a secure basis for new generations of residents."
…Why was 27 Woods Lane spared for the time being, and that beautiful brick house on the corner of Crane and Church demolished? We need to eliminate inconsistencies on each of those four boards, but also inconsistencies among the boards and that really does require a thoughtful reexamination of the entire code.”
Cynthia Roberts of Autenreith Road said, “I want to throw old Scarsdale into the mix. Autenreith Road, and the surrounding neighborhood is the closest thing Scarsdale still has to a historic district. Many of our homes are in the Dolkart report. We have 6 or 7 homes built in 1910 and 1911 that have been lovingly kept up. We have one from the 1850 s that is in spectacular condition.
On October 2 the BAR considered an application to renovate a house that was built in 1911. The renovation plans did not have any of the charming aspects of the homes in our neighborhood. There were no columns, gables, appropriate porticos. The house had stained glass that was most likely not going to be retained…. The BAR did not grant approval for what I consider a horrendous application for renovation. The owner got up and said, “Well, fine! I'll just take it down. And so it is on the Committee for Historic Preservation agenda for November fourteenth. For demolition of this 1911 home.
I am concerned that these people are playing the committees off one another. I would like to echo Jonathan Lewis's request that the system is re-evaluated as a whole so that all of our codes and all of our important committees are working together with common goals.”
Ariana Greene from 10 Elmdorf Drive said, “My home was built in 1851 and completed in 1854. It was the original home, and the only home on the street, according to a beautiful plaque that came with the home when we purchased it. Mr. Henry Autereith lived in my home between 1893 and 1910.
I grew up off of Brattle Street, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where my mother had to go before the Historical Commission in order to change a door knob and had the paint color approved for the trim.
I will tell you that the homes in that area are only increasing in value for many reasons, but partially because it's a beautiful place to live, and remains that way because it's protected and that's taken very seriously.
As a younger resident I was drawn by the look and feel of Scarsdale, not cookie cutter McMansions. I think we should pause, reflect and unite these different committees…. The developers want to make a buck and see exactly how they can profit the most. Soon property values will decline and people are not going to want to move here because it's not charming anymore.”
Madelaine Eppenstein said she has lived at 18 Autenreith Road for 30 years. She said, “The house was built in 1911. It's charming. I have Lily of the Valley carvings around my windows in my foyer. Properties and homes are being compromised, even if they're not tear downs. Green space is compromised by the enormous size of new construction and unnecessary hardscape which contributes to intense runoff when trees are cut down. An example is 5 Heathcote Road. Just look at it from the street. There's not a tree left in that front yard. Someday we may regret the loss of our aesthetic and historic moorings in Scarsdale, but it really will be too late if we don't take action now. The Penn Station fiasco is one example that comes to mind. I support the moratorium initiative to re-examine the code and thank you for your consideration.”
Mayor Justin Arest responded but did not address a moratorium.
He said, “For everyone that came out to talk about land use and historic preservation, thank you. We really appreciate it. We always appreciate hearing from residents on a myriad of topics. This petition, if it can be emailed to me that would be appreciated because I would like to share it with the entire board.
Particularly because of recent events this is an area that does weigh on us. We had a meeting with the chairs of land use and development and many on staff to are just starting to discuss stormwater and our building code … things that we know are very important to our residents.
We’ve already committed to at least 2 work sessions before the end of the year, one on stormwater specifically, and another on building code and they certainly interrelate. But we think they're important enough to have two separate meetings on them.
I understand. It's not exactly what you came for, but I think that's all I have to comment on this for tonight. But we do want to work with all of you for ideas that you may have, and also with the development part of the community who have their own perspective and are important stakeholders because we want to make sure we have full information when we continue to look at this. With the storms we are getting we need to make sure we are prepared. This will be a conversation that will be continued in the coming weeks. So thank you again. I really appreciate you coming out.”
Scarsdale Pool Update
In other news from the Village Board meeting, the Mayor announced that the Scarsdale Pool will be open this coming summer. Work will not begin on a renovation before the summer.
The Village is examining expansion plans but they will not interrupt summer use of the pool.
Antennas are now being installed at Village Hall and cell coverage on Post Road and in Fox Meadow is expected to improve in 3-4 weeks.