Sunday, Apr 14th

TunstallRoad(Updated 1-4-24) The Scarsdale Village Board has released a revised draft of the proposed building moratorium, easing some of the restrictions in the original draft.

Terms outlined in the new draft will permit some renovations and building to proceed but with restrictions on the floor area coverage, building coverage and lot coverage to limit the size of projects and their impact on neighboring homes. The revised code rolls back the effective date of the moratorium from November 14, 2023 to December 19, 2023 which means that any applications filed before December 19 can proceed through the former application process.

For those wishing to renovate while not demolishing an entire house, the new language would assign the application to an interim review board for consideration. If passed it would be allowed to go before any necessary boards. The revision says, “For any demolition permit for less than a substantial part of a building (as defined in Section 182-3(E)(1) of the Village Code) or for a building permit, an applicant shall demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Interim Review Committee “three members with architectural or historic building experience, to be appointed by the Mayor) that any proposed exterior alteration will not impact the special character or special historical, cultural or aesthetic interest of the building proposed to be altered.”

These new terms address concerns of residents wishing to do additions or renovations of their homes, while limiting home size and bulk but also address concerns of those who were calling for limitations on teardowns and the size of new builds.

The law scales back the allowable square footage and coverage of projects to be approved during the moratorium as follows:

“Any application for new construction or an addition that increases the bulk or footprint of a building that demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Village Planner, Village Engineer and Building Inspector all of the following:

a. The proposed FAR, Building Coverage and Lot Coverage are less than 95%, 95% and 90%, respectively, of that permitted under the existing Zoning Code;

It also increases the required setbacks:

b. The proposed side yard setback shall be no less than the following for each Zoning District, (with any FAR Bonus permitted pursuant to Section 310-104 being measured from the revised set back listed below):

i. AA1 Zoning District: 33 feet;
ii. A1 Zoning District: 22 feet;
iii. A2/A2a Zoning District: 16.5 feet;
iv. A3 Zoning District: 12 feet;
v. A4 Zoning District 11.5 feet; and
vi. A5 Zoning District: 11 feet

Subdivision applications could go to the Planning Board but any project would have to be based on the reduced setbacks and other zoning limits as specified in paragraph 7L.

Demolitions however are barred during the six month period. The law is very clear on this provision and says, "No board, committee, agency, department, officer, employee, consultant, or agent of the Village of Scarsdale shall accept for review, continue review, hold a hearing on, continue a hearing, or make any decision upon any application for approval for a building permit or demolition permit to enlarge, construct, or demolish a one-family residential dwelling, accessory building or structure. All time periods set forth under state law or the Village Code for the processing and making decisions and all aspects of applications for building permit or demolition approval as indicated herein are hereby suspended and stayed while this local law is in effect.

It also allows for hardship applications.

The language can be reviewed here.

The Mayor previously said that a public hearing and a vote would be held at the Board of Trustees first meeting of the year on Tuesday January 9, 2024.

fallleavesThe prospect of a building moratorium in Scarsdale drew a full house to Village Hall on Tuesday December 12. The Village Board had proposed the moratorium at their November 14 meeting with the goal of giving the Village time to study zoning and flooding regulations, building code and the land use approval process. The resolution was proposed in response to residents’ complaints about tree loss, increased flooding, loss of neighborhood character and crowding due to subdivisions.

Prior to the hearing, Michelle Sterling from the Conservation Advisory Council gave an update on the Village’s tree policy which was adopted in 2018 and 2019. Several years ago the CAC did a study and found that Scarsdale has an approximately 50% tree canopy. However the data they have now shows that in 2021, 803 trees were removed with a permit but only 308 trees were planted to replace them. This count does not include the trees that were taken down without a permit. Sterling estimated that a total of about 1,000 trees are taken down each year. The CAC recommended stepped up enforcement measures to ensure that the trees were replaced. The report was timely as trees absorb water and stormwater mediation was a significant factor in the discussion about the proposed building moratorium.

Comments from the Mayor

Before opening the hearing on the proposed moratorium, Mayor Justin Arest thanked everyone for their letters and for coming and said that the draft legislation was created to begin the community conversation. He said no decision would be made before the end of the year and that the Board would consider revising the draft to limit its scope. An interim measure might be to limit construction to 85% - 90% of the current floor area ratio requirement, so if 10,000 square feet is now permitted, during the moratorium an 8,500 square foot home or addition could be built. In addition, there would be no hook ups to the stormwater system.

He added, “We must limit inflows to the stormwater system which is already overwhelmed.” He asked those who commented to make suggestions on how the code could be changed. He said that the Board plans to retain BFJ planning consultants to consider Scarsdale’s building and zoning code and said, “This review will be about the future. Passing incremental improvements may be satisfying, but we want to set up something that will work for decades.”

He noted that the Board had received two petitions: One with about 400 signatures in favor of the moratorium and another with 800 names against it. However the second petition only included first names and an initial for the last name. He asked for full names and addresses.

Comments from the Community

The first half of the comment period was dominated by many from Scarsdale’s thriving development industry, including architects, developers, tradesmen and realtors. They outlined the hardship the moratorium was already causing, including uncertainty among sellers and buyers, the prospect of decreased sales and eroding property values.

Most agreed that changes to the code were needed but contended that these changes could be made iteratively and that a moratorium should be avoided. They argued that newly constructed homes are required to include their own stormwater retention systems and they are drier than the older homes. They spoke on behalf of the tradesmen they employ and said they would have no work and risk their livelihoods.

In response to resident complaints about home bulk and crowding, architect Roz Young said, “I support new rules but not a moratorium. Updated codes on a new schedule can be set without a moratorium. It’s not fair to impose a moratorium because of a few egregious cases … If each board had clear guidelines they could follow them and there would be less bulk, more trees and more open space …. Give us new code today and we’ll design a beautiful Village for tomorrow.”

Some cited plans for renovations that did not increase the home footprint, such as the addition of a second floor, and the Mayor responded saying did not believe that these projects would be barred by the moratorium.

Realtor Zach Harrison reported that when Larchmont passed a moratorium in 2016 prices there declined 9.7%. In the same year in Scarsdale, where there was no moratorium, our prices increased 5.7% meaning there was a 15.4% difference between Larchmont which had a moratorium and Scarsdale which did not. Based on our average selling price of $2.36 million this year in Scarsdale, a similar 15.4% impact on the Scaradale market would result in about $360,000 in property value damage per Scarsdale homeowner." He said,"This is completely unnecessary and I ask that you reject this tonight.”

There were repeated comments about the spillover effect on other Scarsdale businesses. Realtor Dawn Handler said, “What about the plumbers and electricians who have built their businesses in Scarsdale. It might sound easy for them to go work in another town. The delis, food trucks; there is already concern on how this moratorium will affect them.”

Developer Eilon Amidor agreed. He said, “We can change the code without a moratorium. It is affecting the residents, workers and home prices. This will affect the cost of construction. Here we need a chain link fence on our job sites– it’s another $2,000. Other towns don’t have so many rules and regulations. It takes months to get a C of O here and that’s why it’s so expensive to build here.”

Paul Fontana, of the Cum Laude Group in Rye said he has “been working here for 23 years and is opposed to a moratorium.” He continued, “What is an intellectual problem for you is a real problem for me and my 42 employees. A moratorium is a blunt instrument. We can figure out the problem without shutting down the industry.”

Raj Krishnan said, “I am a doctor but we are builders and developers. I continue to provide opportunities for other families. We have built several homes at this point. These people share in that journey. It brings in diversity and I would hate to see that end. New homes bring diversity. The new homes are better and reduce our carbon footprint. We want more newer homes in Scarsdale. We employ a lot of people. We have tradesmen here and they will be significantly impacted. The aesthetic is changing. New families like that. It’s great to subdivide.”

Some younger residents with expanding families also expressed their objections. Kristen Cipriano of 81 Greenacres Avenue opposed restrictions, “especially on external renovations.” She said, “We need to expand our house. We planned with our architect to build this summer. It is unnecessary that renovations like the one I am planning can’t be accommodated.”

Cynthia Sanossian of 132 Brewster Road moved here five and a half years ago and three children with another on the way. She said, “We are working with an architect to plan the design. We will not max out our floor area ratio. The infrastructure is outdated and should be addressed. Drainage is a focus as we finalize plans for our addition/ A moratorium would solve nothing.”

Michal Levine of 54 Walworth Avenue said, “I moved here in 1967 with my parents. It is interesting when I find myself agreeing with Bob Harrison. I think the right thing is to not do the moratorium as drafted. It is too disruptive to many people. It is to blunt of an instrument.”

Also echoing objections to the moratorium were Bana Choura, You Zou, Joshua Lamberg, Randi Culang, Adrienne Price, Bob Harrison, Natalie Schroeter and Jeff Osterman.

However, some residents did speak in favor of the moratorium.

Mitch Seider said, “We support the moratorium. We have lived here for 22 years. It’s about community and balance.” About the previous speakers he said, “All of these people are here in their own best interest in the subdivision and tearing down of houses.” He quoted Jane Austen saying, “Tis because you are an indifferent person that your judgement might justly have such weight with me. If you could be supposed to be biased in any respect by your own feelings, your opinion, would not be worth having.” About the moratorium he said, “The negative impact would prevent the sale to a developer or a buyer who wants a new house on that property. There is nothing inherently wrong with restrictions. I could tear down my house and build a 3-story apartment building, but I am not allowed to do that.”

Mary Beth Evans of 16 Edgewood Road spoke in support of the moratorium. She said, “Our existing village code is failing to preserve the Village’s architectural character and scale and to maintain a Village in a Park. The development threatens to exacerbate stormwater issues. The size of new homes has been steadily increasing. The most recent trend is to build as much home as possible without regard to how the new home relates to the existing ones. In Edgewood we are now seeing 4,000 square foot homes, with 7 baths, and 9 to 10 foot ceilings on small lots. We are losing our tree canopy and subject to flooding. We need to weigh all these lasting costs against a single family housing policy. In the meantime there will be more construction that will take away from the quality of our lives.”pricepersquarefoot

Jack Miller of 45 Fayette Road offered contradictory evidence to the claim that the moratorium would decrease home values. He said, “A few years ago there was a movement to preserve Larchmont and they enacted a 6-month moratorium to allow time to holistically evaluate the stormwater code, tree laws, lot coverage and soils and excavation. They added a pre-submission conference for applicants. … We could use what they did as a playbook for the community. It allowed for the preservation of their entry level homes. When Larchmont unveiled the new laws both sides were unhappy which means both sides had compromised. Today homes in Larchmont are selling for $620 per square foot as compared to $582 per square foot in Scarsdale and the woman who led the moratorium, Sarah Bauer, is now the town’s Mayor.”

Helen Maccarino of Cushman Road said, “I am concerned about development in sensitive drainage areas. A moratorium would allow us to redo the code about what is built in the wetlands. They manage stormwater runoff. Parts of Scarsdale are soggy. It is not unusual to find water just 2 or 3 feet below the surface. You can’t put a cultec in a place where it will fill up immediately. This will allow us to reconsider variance proposals to encroach into wetlands that will have a significant impact. We can consider our infrastructure. I believe a moratorium would allow us to view the big picture.”

Lisa McIver from Branlee Heights said, “We have had overbuilding, overbuilding, over-building. The foundations of the new houses are all raised to create problems. They took down 5 homes and built 11 on Brambach. There must be consideration of the water problem… everyone is flooding.

Cynthia Roberts of 15 Autenreith Road said she has lived here for 24 years and her home is 112 years old. She said, “We consider it a privilege and invest heavily in maintaining the charm of Old Scarsdale. I am always looking for a carpenter or a plumber.”

To those who asked for incremental changes she said, “This is not normal. Our climate is changing faster than we ever imagined. We are hearing about residents’ homes flooding again again and again. One man couldn’t even go on vacation. The Village Engineer said if we spend $3-$12 mm this would not guarantee that there would not be flooding. It is already impacting the health and safety of our community… We need to step up and act as a community. I think misinformation has been spread. A lot of work could still be done.”

Claire Hunt of 44 Carman Road called and exclaimed, “So many builders and architects only work in Scarsdale? I think it shows what a building problem we have! I live in a small home – just 1,700 square feet. There are no small modest homes left in Scarsdale. The builders snap up the more modest homes, tear them down and build a home at three times the value. People don’t have the chance to come here and put in the sweat equity. We need to encourage people to renovate these greener homes. We need to work with what we have. Let these builders renovate these older homes.”

Jim Detmer of Woods Lane who started the petition for the moratorium said, “Houses are being built without regard to space, land use and aesthetic value. We are about to have a village of large white boxes on small lots. There are also the stormwater issues. In Edgewood there is raw sewage in some of our homes. One major ally in fighting stormwater is trees – this needs to be addressed. The moratorium provides the space and time to address these critical issues. Please discuss, draft and act on legislation that addresses the needs and values of Scarsdale.”

At the conclusion of the hearing, Mayor Justin Arest said, “I am in favor of the zoning and building code review. The iterative approach has not been effective. I am in favor of discussing a more limited moratorium. We are already moving forward on the land use review.” He added, “No decision has been made. I would encourage you to share your ideas on how to limit the moratorium should it proceed to have the least amount of impact for the most positive outcome.”

In response to speaker Adrienne Price who suggested that the trustee’s views might be affected by where they live, Trustee Karen Brew said, “We represent all of Scarsdale and we are trying to do what is best for the entire community. We factor in what we heard.”

Fall leavesThere 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 JonathanLewisFormer Village Trustee Jonathan Lewison 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.

Community Events

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.

Resolutions

Menorahsmenorahchasepark

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.

Overnight Parking

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.

Tax Exemptions

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.

Gifts

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.

Upcoming Meetings

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.

ChurchLaneConstructionIn response to concerns about flooding and land use issues the Scarsdale Village Board held two work sessions this week to gather more information.

On Monday they met with the people on the front lines of the Committee for Historic Preservation, the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Board of Architectural Review. These committees consider all applications for home demolitions, subdivisions, new construction, swimming pools and variances.

You can view the discussion online – but here were a few interesting observations and comments from the chairs.

The Planning Board considers subdivisions, which often result in building two homes where there was previously just one. The applicants submit plot plans that show the proposed lot lines but do not provide plans of the homes that will be built there. As a result, the board has no say in the size, setbacks or height of the new homes and often cannot envision what the final product will look like.

About the height of the new homes, a representative from the Board of Architectural Review, noted that the submitted plans are not required to report the height of the home at the peak of the roof, allowing them to tower over neighboring homes.

The Chair of the Committee for Historic Preservation, that provides permission to demolish homes said his greatest concern was that the preservation law was under attack in the courts. In addition, he said that many of the committee members have not received training and that the board lacks an architect. At the same time, the number of applications has grown exponentially.

A former BAR member said, “The Village is at a point where the application process needs to be more holistic. It would be good for the CHP application to include a plan for what is going to replace it. A house? A subdivision? In Mamaroneck there are signs on the properties to say there are applications to build there. People should be more transparent about their plans at each level of the process.”

The Planning Board Chair agreed. He said, “The developers know how to run through the system. It frustrates residents who are concerned as there are so many meetings and no one board is accountable. Perhaps the full application should be filed upfront. It would require a change to the code.”

Commenting on the new homes, a BAR member said, “The problem is not aesthetics – it is bulk. The design of the house is okay – for a developer. It comes down to bulk. We try to minimize the impact of bulk but it comes down to bulk guys. Height, floor area ratio (FAR), and setbacks are the tools we have to regulate bulk.”

He continued, “New houses are built to 95% FAR. The renovators are constrained by their budgets and the FAR. The developer houses are always maxed out. The private homes are not.”

Summarizing at the conclusion of the meeting, the main issues were identified as stormwater, aesthetics and bulk along with the lack of coordination and communication between boards. Also to be considered are tax incentives for maintaining historic properties or pre-designation of historic homes.

The Mayor said, “Bringing on a planning consultant should help our professional staff and help us to define bulk and use best practices to find the right balance.”

46LincolnRoad46 Lincoln RoadNo 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.27Woods27 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.

Take a look at the full text here.

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 8OverlookRoad8 Overlook Roadthe 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.

Dogs

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.

Overnight Parking

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.

Tree Lighting

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.

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