The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York


Martha Stewart seeks new storage building


Bedford’s planning board this week requested a site visit and recommended some tweaking to plans before considering whether to approve a new 3,200-square-foot storage building on the Katonah estate of Martha Stewart.

After a 20-minute public hearing Tuesday night on the request to build the structure, the planning board withheld its vote on the application until chairman Dr. Donald Coe and other board members visit the site.

“We’ve been involved with plans several times on this rather large property, and we like to stay abreast of what’s going on there,” Dr. Coe said in calling for a walk-through.

Because the proposed building exceeds the 2,500-square-foot limit for accessory buildings set by the town for a four-acre lot, and at 27 feet, 4 inches high, would also exceed the maximum allowable height, the planning board would have to issue two special permits for the storage building to be constructed.

Although board members peppered Ms. Stewart’s architect, Patrick Croke, with questions regarding the specifics of the plans at the public hearing on April 10, they seemed generally supportive of the application.

But in addition to asking for a site visit to Cantitoe Corners, the celebrity homemaking maven’s 137-acre farm off Girdle Ridge Road, board members also raised some concern about whether the proposed layout of the building could potentially impact nearby wetlands, even though the structure would be built outside the required 100-foot buffer from the nearest wetland area.   

Although the new building would be accessed by an existing driveway, board member Deirdre Courtney-Batson and the town’s director of planning, Jeff Osterman, questioned whether the use of a second 14-foot-high door on the side of the building facing a wetlands area could encroach into the buffer.

“If you anticipate the possibility of producing a road similar to the one that exists for the main entrance, you’re going to need approval from our wetlands commission,” Ms. Batson said. 

Although Mr. Croke assured the board that there are no plans for a driveway or road for direct access to the second door, pointing out it would have very limited use, he agreed to having Bedford’s environmental consultant, Beth Evans, review the application.

Ms. Batson cautioned that the application might still need to be considered by the town’s wetlands commission, which is responsible for the implementation of the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Law, adopted by the Town of Bedford in 1973 to preserve and protect wetlands throughout the town’s three hamlets.

Board member John Sullivan suggested that the 40-foot-wide, 80-foot-long rectangular building be rotated 90 degrees, which he said would sufficiently address any concerns about one entrance’s proximity to wetlands on Ms. Stewart’s property.

“We’re certainly willing to look at any suggestions you have,” Mr. Croke, whose office is in Bedford Village, told the board.

The building, which Ms. Stewart’s representatives said would be used solely for “personal storage,” is proposed for a heavily wooded area along the southern line of the farm, approximately 660 feet from Girdle Ridge Road.  “It would be located on a clearing that’s used to store some landscaping items right now,” Mr. Croke said. “Most of the main buildings on the property are over on the opposite corner.”

Ms. Batson asked if there were plans for landscaping to minimize any visual impact on neighbors, but Ms. Stewart’s property manager, Mike Fiore, said the new building would not be visible from the adjoining property.

Mr. Croke added that the design of the building, including the color of the corrugated metal panel siding on it walls and gabled roof, are intended to blend in with the surrounding woods. “We want to make it as invisible as possible,” the architect said.

There would also be no exterior lighting except for a downward light above each door, as required by code, which would be equipped with motion sensors.

The planning board also asked that stormwater mitigation plans be included in the application.

There were no oral or written comments from the public at this week’s hearing, which the board closed Tuesday night. The date of the site visit has yet to be set.

The proposed storage building is the latest project undertaken by Ms. Stewart since she purchased the farm in 2000.   

Cantitoe Corners, the former estate of Ruth Sharp, is bordered by Girdle Ridge Road and Maple Avenue. The sprawling property is dotted with restored Colonial-era buildings, winding horse trails and carefully tended gardens.

Soon after purchasing the estate, Ms. Stewart proceeded with a multimillion-dollar renovation of the houses and property, including extensive work on the then 218-year-old farmhouse at 8 Girdle Ridge Road known as the “summer house”; a Colonial-style “winter house” built in 1929 at 32 Girdle Ridge Road; and a 1,496-square-foot tenants’ house, sometimes called the “teamster’s cottage,” built in 1897 at 49 Girdle Ridge Road. The fourth home in that same row, built in 1969, was also approved for a major makeover. Since that four-bedroom house was located within 100 feet of wetlands on Ms. Stewart’s property, a permit for any work on it was required.

Bedford officials gave the green light for that structure, which was described in an application in 2007 as a “dilapidated, contemporary-style home,” to be converted into a two-bedroom home, and to make it “a more historic-looking house.”

In 2001, Ms. Stewart was also granted a special use permit to construct a stone barn to use as a horse stable, a new office/garage, and a new carriage house.

In 2005, after some wrangling with the town over the plans, a 4,800-square-foot equipment barn was built on the site of a frame barn that was demolished on Ms. Stewart’s property.

Ms. Stewart has also added several greenhouses, four miles of carriage roads, an array of flower and vegetable gardens, stands of trees and a split-rail fence crafted from hundred-year-old materials to Cantitoe Corners.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

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Bedford Village

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Bedford Hills

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Mount Kisco

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Cross River

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APRIL 13, 2012