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May 31, 2013

‘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    

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Housing settlement

Feds say towns discriminate


By DON HEPPNER

One of the big issues in Westchester County’s settlement is the charge alleged by HUD that the county practices “exclusionary” zoning to keep out poor people and minorities from some communities. So far, the county and towns deny any such practices.

However, representatives of the department of Housing and Urban Development appear to disagree. In a letter dated May 10, 2013, addressed to Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino, HUD cites the Town of Bedford zoning laws to illustrate exclusionary practices.

The letter, written by Vincent Hom, director of community planning and development for HUD, states: “Bedford illustrates the problem” in the county’s failure to put together a satisfactory analysis of impediments that would prohibit densely populated development.

HUD’s objection to Bedford’s zoning is the town’s minimum lot size, which in some areas is four acres.

In the letter, Mr. Hom said the housing agency was singling out Bedford only as an example of exclusionary zoning but did not intend to imply that Bedford was the only town guilty of alleged discriminatory zoning practices. 

The minimum lot size in Bedford, according to Mr. Hom, is 10,000 square feet, and those lots have a 1.4 percent black population and a 3.6 percent Hispanic population.

However, the letter states, when the lot sizes are reduced to 3,500 square feet the percentage of black people residing on them rises to 5.2 percent and Hispanic people to 6.4 percent.

Because of the disparity in percentage points between the lot sizes, HUD concludes that more than .07-acre zoning could be discriminatory.

The minimum lot size could be less than 10,000 square feet as Bedford has flexible housing zoning. “We have a floating zone,” said Ms. Roberts. “But they [HUD] were upset by our special use permits. They were afraid that it was a long, drawn-out process to get one.” 

She said that the special-use permit enables affordable housing to be built anywhere in town if the applicant wishing to build the housing comes before the planning board and meets all the environmental considerations such as structure size, wetland setbacks and septic system requirements.

“A lot of this is just a numbers game, and we try to do affordable housing whenever and wherever we can,” Ms. Robert’s said.

The town’s nonprofit entity, Blue Mountain, works on the creation of affordable housing. Blue Mountain meets every month and looks at every opportunity. “It’s an ongoing process, and has been for 30 years,” said Ms. Roberts.

Ms. Roberts said the town encourages affordable housing. “I think diversity enriches a community,” she said. “I don’t see discrimination in our community. I really don’t.”

But, Ms. Roberts said the town could have more affordable housing units except one of the stipulations in the agreement reduces the number that can be constructed. Affordable units must be new construction, and that provision causes the town to lose opportunities for converting existing apartments into affordable units.

“Does that stipulation help the cause for affordable housing?” she asked. “You can’t take an existing building and repurpose it and make it into apartments under the agreement.”

There are structures in Bedford that are underutilized or vacant that could be converted into affordable living space. “But we can’t utilize those; the units must be new construction,” she said.

“Affordable housing works best when it is dispersed and integrated into the neighborhood,” Ms. Roberts said and named several houses that were converted into affordable units. These include Bedford Lakes, where there are market value and affordable units. “The Doyle house across the street from the railroad station is an example of an older house being converted to four affordable units. A house on North Street has a rental unit in the backyard. A habitat house on subdivided land that we bought for a water tank. We have 796 Bedford Road that we build near a retail section of town so it is near shops and the bus line.”

“I think it works when the units are integrated into the neighborhood and they don’t stand out as the affordable units but become a part of a neighborhood,” she said. 

Ms. Roberts said she thinks there is a reason HUD insists only on accepting new construction in the settlement. “What they want is rezoning and new construction,” Ms. Roberts said.

She said another provision of the settlement making it harder to build affordable units is that they must appear similar to the market value units, which decreases the builder’s profit. “It’s tough, but I wish we could get it done,” she said. “I think the fighting doesn’t get us anywhere.

Ms. Roberts pointed out that new construction poses other problems. Septic water and other infrastructure are limited in northern Westchester, but the area is also missing characteristics that HUD could deem necessary for prospective lower-income residents, including mass transit, sidewalks and nearby shopping.

North Salem approved an affordable site called Bridleside offering 65 affordable homes.

In December 2011, James Johnson, court-appointed monitor of the settlement, and four or five representatives of HUD visited North Salem and the proposed affordable housing site.

Mr. Johnson suggested Mr. Lucas go to Mr. Johnson’s office in New York City, but Mr. Lucas suggested Mr. Johnson come to North Salem and look at what it has to offer in terms of affordable housing.

“I have no grocery stores, I have no hamlet area, I have one-quarter to four-acre zoning throughout the town, I have a lot of open land, whether it is DEP or county parks, I don’t have sidewalks, I don’t have bus transportation,” Mr. Lucas said to Mr. Johnson in 2011.

When the representatives visited North Salem, they asked Mr. Lucas a series of questions. “Where are the residents going to buy milk? What is the transportation in the area? Where are they going to go shopping? Where are the sidewalks?”

“I told them we don’t have those things in town,” Mr. Lucas said.

“They said that this isn’t the perfect site for affordable housing, and I said, ‘well there you go,’” he said. “I said, ‘If you don’t like the site, send me an email.’”

Mr. Lucas said the problem deciding where to build affordable housing is the housing monitor and the people from HUD don’t understand the northern Westchester communities.

“They don’t understand the watershed and they don’t understand that the DEP won’t allow the Westchester Department of Health to approve any newer-style septic systems that require less property to run on,” he said. “They really assume that we have sewers and central water systems, which we do not have.”

The affordable housing project is going forward, but Mr. Lucas said that HUD doesn’t understand what is involved in placing affordable housing in northern Westchester. HUD is saying that the area must create affordable housing, while the New York State Department of Agriculture is saying we must have open land that is not controlled by the town but the agricultural department.

“Eight percent of my town is off the tax rolls because they are in the agricultural districts,” said Mr. Lucas. “They can’t build in the ag district. If they do, they have to take those areas out of the agricultural zones and then they would be required to pay 10 years of back taxes.”

Mr. Lucas said there are other problems associated with building affordable multifamily units in the area.

“If you go to the department of health and ask how far the septic tank needs to be from my well and my neighbors’ well, the answer would be 150 feet,” he said, “When you start laying these out, you find that you can’t put homes on one-acre lots or two-acre lots.”

The cost of a sewer is about $67,000 per home, he said, “and that is expensive for a $100,000 home.”

Bill Balter, the developer on the Bridleside project, said he wanted to build 50 affordable units with regular subsurface septic. “The last thing we wanted was people living in the units not aware of septic systems and flushing everything down the toilets,” Mr. Lucas said. “What that site needs is a sewer system. And I asked him how many more units he needs to build the system, and he said that he needed another 15 units to pay for the system. We were afraid to have 50 units on one large septic system. Once it fails, what do you do?”

The county “basically” funded the sewer system, according to Mr. Lucas, so the Bridleside project will go forward.


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