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Scarsdale Planning Board Considers 135 Space, Three Level Parking Garage on Popham Road

garage2At a well-attended virtual meeting of the Planning Board on Monday evening July 29, Scarsdale Improvement Corp. and their attorney from Zarin and Steinmetz presented their case to combine four building lots into a one-acre site to construct a 135 space parking lot on three levels at 30 Popham Road with the entrance and egress onto Overloook Road. The proposed lot would be on the site of the current parking lot behind Moscato and the Metro Diner.

According to the applicants the lot would be built to serve Scarsdale Improvement’s tenants, employees and customers and would help them to lease many vacant storefronts and offices in the Village. They claimed that this proposal was not a precursor to another plan to erect 15 residential units on Popham Road, which was presented in a larger scale plan in October 2019.

However, the Overhill Neighborhood Association, who opposes the project, questioned their intentions. They said that the current tenants require only 94 spots and that there is always room in the current lot of customers. They feared that the additional spots were actually being built to accommodate tenants of an upcoming development.

In response, DJ Petta from Scarsdale Improvement explained that due to the configuration of the current parking lot, they have to staff it with two employees to move the cars around to fit in everyone who wants a spot. Cars are often stacked two or three deep, and customers have to leave their keys in the car to allow them to be moved. He said, “The current lot is not practical and is inefficient. We often have a larger demand than the number of spots. We stack the cars using valets. People get blocked in. We have to have two valets working that lot. We want to have enough spaces without two guys running it. If we have excess parking spaces we would like to have some of our tenants use those. Prospective tenants need parking spaces for themselves and their employees. I can tell prospective tenants that there will be parking for their customers.”

Brad Schwartz the attorney for SIC explained that the plan also includes a 6,000 square foot health club on the basement level and that 18 of the extra parking spots would be used for the club.

Diego Villareale, a civil engineer retained by the applicant explained, “The property is 1.0 acres large. Access to the parking lot is from Overhill Road. There are currently 69 spaces. The new structure will be built over the existing parking lot There will be an elevator. There will be 135 parking spaces over three levels. There are a lot of green areas incorporated into this plan. We have a decrease in impervious area but we have built the green roof to compensate.” About next steps he said, “A traffic analysis is in process. We are at the beginning – we want to get your feedback and address those concerns.”

Architect Len Brandes explained his design, saying, “We will use antique brick, wood beams and stucco finishes to go with the Village.” He added, “We will have bicycle storage and charging stations for electric bikes and electric cars. There will be solar collectors and a green roof to soften the look from the ground.” About access to Scarsdale Avenue he said, “We are going to create a covered entry in front of the barber shop and a walkway next to Metro.”

The members of the Planning Board questioned the applicants. Chair John Clapp said, “You mentioned your meeting last October about residential development. Can you confirm this is a standalone project with no expectation that more development will occur on this site?”

The applicants responded that “Yes this is a standalone garage application.”

Clapp followed up, “The lot merger is so that the garage can be an ancillary addition to the site. If you did build residences – would these spaces be used for that?”

The replied, “The only way is if we can show there is sufficient space in the garage to support it.”

Board member Harold Porosoff said, “Perhaps a smaller garage would suffice?”

Porosoff said, “I am concerned – do we need a three story garage – would a two story unit satisfy the needs? If that storage unit was not needed. If you decided to do the residential, 18 spaces you have secured for the gym could be used.”

The applicants responded, “No we want a gym. Right now Zachys has a lot of employees – we would like to take those people off the street. Scarsdale Improvement needs more spaces to make their properties viable. “

Planning Board member Deb Pekarek said, “I am concerned about the visual from people who live on Overhill Road – especially 9 Overhill Road. My overall bigger concern is the traffic on Overhill. There is only one egress there – and the Village has received many complaints about that area. The site lines are not great and there are many pedestrians.”

Harold Porosoff asked the applicants to “Say a few words about impact on neighbors during construction.” Brandes responded, “Tenants can use the Freightway lot temporarily. 90% of the work will be on the lot – and not on the street. There will be noise but we’ll try to control the timing of noise and dust.”

Tim Foley asked questions about the calculation of the number of parking spaces and also asked if they could get an accurate read on traffic now, given that many are not commuting to the city due to the pandemic. The engineer replied, “Every traffic study we’re working on has the same problem. Were looking at prior traffic study and we do counts but we prefer them to record data.”

Overhill Neighborhood Association co-President Paul Diamond spoke on behalf of the 73 families in the association. He said, “I don’t believe that the full scope of the project is here” and he quoted from an article in the Scarsdale Inquirer which said that residential is under consideration.

He demonstrated why the proposed parking garage was not in conformity with the Village’s Comprehensive Plan. He said, “If you take a look at the plans you won’t be able to eat outside at Metro Diner or Moscato – it is an alleyway , not a pedestrian friendly arcade as required by the Comprehensive Plan.” He said the “135parking spots far exceeds current tenant needs. Current tenants only need 69 spots… Our contention is that the zoning code does not permit construction of a parking lot in order to create parking for another lot…. The principal use for this zone is retail and personal services. The plan also says a building cannot exceed the height of the principal buildings on the lot and they are all one story.”

Furthermore Diamond said, the plans prescribes, “avoidance of more than one level of parking located at or above the ground floor level along the building frontage. This is the case at Christie Place and at the CVS lot. Why does the application need to create more than the required spaces needed?”

“Our contention is that this is prohibited under the definition for an accessory building. It is incongruent with the Comprehensive Plan and requires more density than the code for this district provides.”

He continued, “Does the community want to urbanize this area with a high density private garage and condos? ….We have more questions than answers….We think this might be a $3-$4 million project. Who is going to pay for that? Current zoning does not support a three tier garage – it looks like it is part of a redevelopment plan…. They already can fit 75 cars there now. …. We feel this structure is not part of the Comprehensive Plan. It is not an auxiliary building.”

During public comments Roberg Berg of Tisdale Road said, “These are well reasoned concerns. Rush Wilson’s proposal cannot be taken at face value…I have never had an issue finding a spot in the existing lot….The stores and restaurants don’t need 135 spaces. I believe he wants to build residential as there is demand for it. I don’t see demand for stores or offices downtown. I think you should be skeptical of the proposal.”

Gary Friedman, co-president of the neighborhood association and a 25-year resident said, “It is out of place and does not belong there.”

Susan Douglas said she is the Chair of the Downtown Revitalization Committee of the Scarsdale Forum and they are studying the issues and will take opinions from all the stakeholders.

Max Grudin said, “We have looked at aerial views and the lot is never full.” He said, “I spoke to the attendant and people want to park there because it’s free.” He expressed concern about the traffic for people who are visiting the medical offices at 5 Overhill Road, saying, “they are sick and disabled.”

Anita Mann, who lives at 28 Overhill Road called the proposed parking structure “obnoxious and oversized.” She said, “We are concerned for the children of our neighborhood and seniors who enjoy walking. Overhill Road is narrow with a few blind spots. This will only make it more dangerous.”

Dorothy Levin of 11 Overhill Road said, “We came here 40 years ago. We found the most convenient neighborhood where we could walk to the train, the bank, two small supermarkets, shoes and clothing stores. Things change every year – including the traffic. This garage is contrary to the public good.”

The conversation was adjourned until the next meeting of the Planning Board on September 23, 2020.

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