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

 

By ANTHONY R. MANCINI

Tensions heated between operators of a historic Bedford residence and its neighbors over a set of recommended restrictions authored by planning board officials at a public hearing Tuesday night.

Bedford planning board officials voted to approve their drafted list of restrictions for historic home Stepping Stones as an attempt to compromise with residents surrounding the site who are unhappy with the home-turned-museum’s hours. The restrictions are nonbinding and only serve as a list of recommendations to the Bedford town board, which has the ultimate authority on how to restrict Stepping Stones.

“We tried to reduce the impact on the neighbors and we tried to set up steps for future communication. We tried to be as fair as we could,” said planning board chairman Donald J. Coe at the public hearing. “Compromise is not a dirty word in Bedford.”

The issue of the historic home’s business hours came to light when Stepping Stones Foundation sought approval from the Bedford government to construct 13 new parking spaces on the house’s 8.5-acre property on Oak Road. Stepping Stones’ executive director Annah Perch said the new parking spaces are meant to replace an older lot that was torn up after the museum built a new welcome center. Stepping Stones’ attorney Whitney W. Singleton said in a statement to the planning board that the construction of the new parking spaces does not indicate an expansion of business.

Stepping Stones belonged to Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and author of the 12-step rehabilitation program, and his wife Lois Wilson, when the two moved there in 1941. In 2004, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The museum offers regular tours Monday through Saturday and holds other events somewhat regularly, including an annual picnic.

After much debate with Mr. Singleton, the planning board voted to recommend that the museum only be open on Sundays once a month. The board recommended only one museum event be held a weekend with a max of three events per month — two if they are large events. The board also recommended a restriction to five such large events per year and one nighttime meeting per month, limited to 20 guests.

The board defined a large event as any coherent gathering of 50 or more guests on the site, with a maximum of 200. The only exception to the 200-guest cap is for Stepping Stones’ annual picnic, which attracts many more guests.

Additional recommendations approved by the planning board include prohibiting any vehicle longer than 28 feet from entering the museum property and limiting business hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with noon to 3 p.m. hours encouraged. Stepping Stones advertises its regular hours as noon to 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Originally, the planning board wanted to restrict any Stepping Stones business on Sundays. The museum currently takes guests on Sundays by appointment. Mr. Singleton objected to this measure.

“We’re averaging on Sundays less than one person a day. You want to shut us down on a weekend, which is when most of our business is,” Mr. Singleton said at the public hearing. “We will need to shut down under this protocol.”

Mr. Singleton said that he disapproved of the board strengthening his proposed limits on the property’s use.

“We did nothing more than propose mitigation measures,” Mr. Singleton said. “The traffic associated with this site is less than a single family home.”

Ms. Perch said at the public hearing that Stepping Stones might consider withdrawing their application for permission to build the new parking spaces because of the board’s recommendations. Planning board officials said the restrictions they have voted on are not necessarily what the town board could enact.

Even though Mr. Singleton’s appeal to the planning board resulted in a lessening of the restrictions for Stepping Stones, the museum’s representatives said they do not approve the recommendations. Many of the museum’s neighbors did not approve of the compromise measures either.

“Everything about it is a compromise from the neighbors’ side,” said Oak Road resident Diane Briganti at the public hearing. “You’re compromising our neighborhood. You’re compromising our living, our life, the values of our home.”

Ms. Briganti said Stepping Stones should not be negotiating with the planning board because she says the museum failed to acquire zoning approval for philanthropic use in 1990 when Stepping Stones organized as a nonprofit organization.

“They really don’t have any rights,” Ms. Briganti said. “They are illegal. They are not grandfathered. They are not pre-existing.”

Ms. Briganti said she wrote the town attorney about her concern, but did not receive a response.

“It’s as if my neighbors opened their doors as a Dunkin’ Donuts,” Ms. Briganti said. “You don’t think the town would be in there to shut them down immediately?”

However, Ms. Perch said Stepping Stones was zoned for its current use in 1979 and said the zoning does not change when there is a transfer in ownership. Stepping Stones Foundation took over the property from Ms. Wilson after she died in 1988.

“She was operating the house the same way as we are operating it today,” Ms. Perch said.

Ms. Briganti also had concerns over nighttime use of the property.

She said, “The neighborhood does not think there should be any nighttime meetings because they will be turned into AA meetings.”

Ms. Perch said at the public hearing that nighttime meetings are reserved for the museum’s board of trustees, which are usually held biannually.

Ms. Perch said she did not agree with a board recommendation to notify Stepping Stones’ neighbors in writing 10 days before the museum would hold a large event. She said sending out emails to neighbors would invite complaints to the museum, and that many of Stepping Stones’ events would go unnoticed by neighbors if they were not aware they were happening.

“I work in this industry and I can tell you that this is only going to make things worse,” Ms. Perch said.


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.

HOME     |     SUBSCRIBE     |     ADVERTISE     |     NEWSROOM     |     CONTACT

The official newspaper of the towns of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

NEWSSTAND LOCATIONS

Single copies $1.00

ARCHIVES

SEPTEMBER 14, 2012

Bedford planning board reaches ‘compromise’ over historic Stepping Stones

‘Pops, Patriots and Fireworks’

Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    


Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    


Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


Katonah

  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road


Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    


Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

The Record-Review is available

at these locations: