Irvington Village Board Solicits Views on Mixed-Use Plan for North Broadway

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by Barrett Seaman – 

Consistent with its Updated Comprehensive Plan, which was approved last year, the Village of Irvington is poised to rezone a stretch of North Broadway, from Strawberry Lane northward to Sunnyside Lane on the Tarrytown border. For years, the properties east of Broadway have been zoned for single-family homes on two-acre plots, but the lion’s share of the land is comprised of six large tracts currently used either by non-profits, such as Abbott House and the Holy Spirit Association (the Unification Church), or by commercial enterprises, such as the office park managed by KEF Holdings, previously known as the Carrafiello property.

It was the Carrafiello property that was the subject of a two-year deliberation by the village board as to whether or not to grant a variance that would allow Brightview to build an assisted living and memory facility on the eight-acre lot. Brightview eventually withdrew that application because of opposition to the size and scope of the project by Mayor Brian C. Smith.

The current proposal, which has been in a public hearing phase since May, would open the properties to a wide range of uses, including assisted living facilities, boutique hotels, full service restaurants, bed and breakfasts, places of worship, membership clubs, offices, including small medical practices, research and design firms or multi-family apartments or townhomes.

As broad and varied as the proposed uses are, the plan has plenty of restrictions on property coverage, Floor Area Ratios (FAR), setbacks and height restrictions, as well as the village’s ultimate control over the mix of uses. In the case of a multi-family or attached housing application, for example, the board would retain the right to require a portion to be dedicated to affordable housing units. It would also be unlikely for the board to approve more than one boutique hotel, private club or office park

At a June 3 public hearing, Smith assured residents, “We don’t want to have Rivertowns Square here,” referring to the large and almost urban mixed-use complex alongside the Saw Mill River Parkway in Dobbs Ferry. At a subsequent hearing, Smith said, “We don’t want to be reactive to the next Continuum,” referring to an earlier and even more protracted deliberation over a proposal to build an assisted living and memory care facility on the former 4.8-acre FEE property on South Broadway. That too ended in the withdrawal of the proposal.

Notwithstanding the dismal track record of assisted living proposals in Irvington, Seth Mandelbaum, an attorney representing yet another assisted living developer, Massachusetts-based LCB Senior Living, wrote a letter to the board and made an appearance at the June 3 public hearing at which he announced that his client planned to apply for a 100-unit facility on the four-acre lot, known as the Maxon Property. The property, which includes an allegedly haunted Gothic mansion, would face many of the same issues the Continuum application did in terms of the size of the proposed facility and its proximity to residential neighborhoods.

To date, LCB has not followed through on its plans. Village Attorney Marianne Stecich said she thinks “that’s on hold.” Another clue that LCB might have backed away from its plan was the appearance at the June 17 public hearing of Taylor Palmer, an attorney representing the estate of Stanley Rubenzahl, which owns the Maxon property. He asked the board to continue its hearings so that his client could more closely study the proposed re-zoning and make suggestions.

Village officials say such input would be welcomed, though so far, Maxon is the only one of the six large tract owners to volunteer ideas. As for village residents, public comments to date reflect a traditional wariness of any change that threatens Irvington’s essential small-town character, along with a cautious openness to new ideas that might avoid future contentious debates over each and every land use proposal. Mayor Smith said public hearings will remain open into September.

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