Friday, Jul 12th

Residents Present Petition and Urge Trustees to Re-examine Preservation and Building Code

7 TylerAn 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 preservation27WoodsLane27 Woods Lane 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.”

23AutenreighRoad23 Autenreith RoadCynthia 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.

Cell coverage

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.