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Dobbs Ferry Residents Join to Oppose a Local Development Effort

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June 4, 2024

By Sue Treiman–

Dozens of Dobbs Ferry homeowners are seeking a moratorium on future development in an village neighborhood, the “Knoll”, where they claim new construction could harm wildlife, threaten nearby properties, worsen flooding, and set a precedent for similar projects.

Members of the “Save the Knoll” citizens group presented a petition signed by 273 residents at the May 28th Village Board of Trustees meeting requesting the construction delay

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In a note emailed to The Hudson Independent on Tuesday afternoon, Dobbs Ferry Village Administrator explained that the matter will now be considered by the village board. “ The petition is under review and evaluation so that the Board of Trustees will have the benefit of advice and counsel before reaching any decision,” wrote Robert Yamuder, Village Administrator.

Yamuder added: “Moratoria require careful evaluation because they involve suspension of private property rights and may involve protections under the US Constitution. The Planning and Zoning Boards have no role in decisions involving moratoria.

The citizens group launched months ago, after Dobbs Ferry-based Andrew Cortese Construction purchased one homesite and was about to acquire three more immediately alongside a long-standing woodland area.

Building the houses would require carving a new road, currently referred to as ‘Knoll’ street, between two existing front yards on Briary Street. The route has existed solely as a ‘paper street indicated by dotted lines on nearly century-old village maps. Forty-one additional paper streets are scattered throughout the village.

“Protect the Knoll” members have peppered the neighborhood with lawn signs, published an informational website, collected the dozens of signatures on the moratorium petition, and prepared for a possible face-off with the developer.

Chief among their concern is the potential impact development could have on the Juhring Estate, a 76-acre preserve purchased as open space by Dobbs Ferry in 1968. The estate was dedicated as parkland in 1996 and remains the village’s largest park.

Opponents say the development threatens the Juhgring Estate

 “Save the Knoll” members also claim that construction project could threaten wildlife and plants, interfere with water runoff in the area, and depart from the village’s previously stated intention to safeguard natural areas. Finally, they caution that They also caution that greenlighting a ‘paper street’ could set a precedent for the village’s 40 additional “paper streets.

 These roadways have existed as potential thoroughfares, apparently for tax purposes, but were never officially established. Some lie alongside and or run through homesites, on land locals long considered as part of their own property.

“This is not a case of a ‘not in my backyard’ campaign, but a situation where there are real implications for the neighbors and the village” says Daniel Werges, one of the founders of the Knoll group

The attorney for the Cortese company counters that this is a legitimate development project that has followed the letter of the law. He insists the project will proceed unhindered.

““Our client purchased subdivided lots that…. have the same development rights and constitutional protections as all the other lots developed in that neighborhood,” said attorney David S. Steinmetz, managing partner of Zarin & Steinmetz in White Plains. “Our Development Team certainly intends to protect and preserve the nearby open space and Nature Preserve – a true gem in the community,” he adds.

Knoll residents believe that that a go-ahead would fly in the face of the 2010 ‘Dobbs Ferry Vision Plan which concludes that the village should “take whatever steps to ensure that the formerly mapped streets remain off-limits to development.”

As one local developer noted, though, that plan was approved long before Dobbs Ferry, like its neighboring communities, faced a critical shortage of available housing that has spawned a tight real estate market and escalating home prices.

The status of the Knoll development is not yet clear. The “Protect the Knoll” group, working with attorney Andrew Shriever of Prince, Lobel, and Tye LLP of White Plains, has not yet received up-to-date documents following its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requestion.

For Adam Eggleston, who lives a few yards from as-yet-undeveloped Knoll Road, the problem is personal. If authorized, a new paved road will carve away a portion of his front yard and that of his immediate Briary Street neighbor. Both homeowners have maintained the area as part of their own property.

In early May, Cortese Construction sent workmen to survey both homesites without providing prior notification, an action the Knoll homeowners characterize as trespassing.

Lawn signs on Briary Road protest the development

“We are very concerned that the developer is not following the rules,” the group wrote in its introduction to the petition.

More than two dozen locals crowded the village hall to hear the read in its entirety. Among those making the presentation was Knoll homeowner David Santini. “If this (area is open to construction),” Santini said, “no place is safe from development.”

Cortese Construction says it has complied with all local laws and will continue to, pledging the company will complete the project with care.

“Our Development Team certainly intends to protect and preserve the nearby open space and Nature Preserve – a true gem in the community,” said Steinmetz.

In addition to the Juhring Estate, the Knoll borders the Ardsley Golf Course. Residents facing an already-annoying flood problem caution that paving over land would interfere with water runoff and worsen the water damage.

Meanwhile, the future of the homesites now rests with Dobbs Ferry village officials who have shared no specific timetable for their decision.

“The question is, will they take a moratorium request by almost 300 people seriously?” asks Werges.

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