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Developer Sues Tarrytown over Stipulation to Assess Historic Structure

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March 5, 2015

Brace-CottagePAGE-4| by Elaine Marranzano |  

The fate of historic Brace Cottage in Tarrytown may be in the hands of a judge. Toll Brothers Inc. has filed a lawsuit against the Village of Tarrytown claiming the Planning Board’s decision to require the developer to conduct an additional study of the 106-year-old cottage to determine its significance before demolishing it was “arbitrary and capricious.”

The cottage, a caretaker’s residence for the former Brace family estate, is slated for demolition so Toll Brothers can build the last of 14 homes it has been working on at Wilson Park since 2011. But at a meeting in October, the Tarrytown Planning Board declined to approve the site plan for Lot 2 that included the destruction of the cottage and, instead, asked Toll to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that addresses the cultural, historical and architectural significance of the Brace Cottage.

Toll Brother’s legal action hinges on its contention that the cottage was already studied during the environmental review process for Westchester Estates at Wilson Park and that the subdivision approval indicates the cottage “is to be removed.”

Preservationist Mark Fry, who is assisting Tarrytown in preparing its response to the lawsuit, disagrees.  “The building form describing the cottage was not filed until after the findings statement detailing the environmental impact of the subdivision was issued,” he said.

The law requires that all environmental impacts be given a “hard look” before site plan approval.

“Legally, the developer must identify all the potential impacts and include them in the analysis of the property.  It wasn’t done,” said Fry.

In addition, it was recently discovered that the Brace Cottage was surveyed in 1974 and was determined at that time to be eligible for listing in the National Register by the New York State Historic Preservation office.

Brace Cottage is the last remaining bit of a once-grand estate known as Braceholme. Built by Charles Brace who made his fortune as the founder of the Denver Chemical Manufacturing Company in Boulder, Braceholme was one of three mansions demolished in 1984 when the land was sold to a developer.

The lawsuit was filed in the New York State Supreme Court in Westchester, which is expected to rule on the case this month.

“We’re hoping that Toll Brothers will come to the table and work out a voluntary agreement,” said Fry.

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