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North Castle Awarded Grant to Build Additional Parking

Updated December 2, 2015
The difficulty of parking in downtown Armonk has been obvious since March 2014 with the completion of Armonk Square. "That’s a good sign," said David Buchwald, New York State Assemblyman, at North Castle’s Town Board meeting on November 4. "This means that people want to engage in commerce and enjoy the opportunities in Armonk, but at the same time it puts pressure on the system and its residents."

By the authority of the New York State Assembly, the New York State and Municipal Facilities Program (SAM) has granted North Castle $250,000 to be used for the construction of two parking lots at the Hergenhan Recreation Center, one new and the other to be expanded. "The new lot will add between 60 to 70 spaces, depending on the aisles, at the cost of $285,000," said Adam Kaufman, North Castle director of planning. He said that he would like to build the higher number, but he "will have to convince the town engineer."

The new parking lot will extend from behind the Hergenhan Recreation Center and will run adjacent to the back of Armonk Shopping Center where CVS Pharmacy is located. This area is non-parkland and is an open field of mowed grass that has been under-utilized. It is "just one piece of other parking improvements in Armonk," continued Kaufman.

Between Wampus Brook Park and Hergenhan Recreation Center, there is an existing gravel parking lot, which will be paved and expanded to get an additional four more spaces. The lot has an embankment that drops down to Wampus Brook Park near the walkway of the pond; this area will be regraded and expanded with a retaining wall at the cost of $160,000. Kaufman said that there should be no park space affected by the reconfiguration of this lot. 

The $250,000 grant covers only a portion of the cost for the two parking lots that will total $445,000. The remainder of $195,000 will be funded from the general fund balance says Joan Goldberg, North Castle's Town Administrator.

"The new parking will be considered for long-term parking for employees of downtown businesses," said North Castle Town Supervisor Michael Schiliro. "This will open up more spots for consumers to park closer to the shops."

The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) is the administrative branch of state government responsible for the grant. DASNY ascertains that the intended use of funds granted for projects are used as authorized and are located in the State of New York for the benefit of New Yorkers. The grant restricts spending funds for capital costs only. The work connected with the project must be completed; the costs must be incurred, invoiced and paid before North Castle would receive reimbursement of the grant funds. The grant requires additional paperwork that Kaufman will process. Once he completes the grant’s application, acceptance and approval should be finalized by DASNY. After that step, the grant money will be available with a provision which requires the construction time frame be completed within the deadline of three years.

Kaufman said that the time frame should be sufficient to finish both parking lots. He added, It’s a good use of excess land to serve multiple purposes, which will provide parking for downtown Armonk's overflow, as well as serve as parking for Wampus Brook Park, which currently lacks sufficient parking, and the Hergenhan Recreation Center.

Added Schiliro, "Securing funds to improve our parking will provide a good experience as we provide urban planning to supplement the off-street parking which business owners provide."

Further potential improvements to downtown Armonk’s parking includes an additional 20 parking spots in the future extension of Wampus Brook Park South at the corner of Maple Avenue and Bedford Road.

Another potential area for a parking lot is located on Town-owned property off of Kent Place, adjacent to Amore Pizzeria and the Armonk Library. Kaufman said that this lot has the potential for 40 parking spaces.

Schiliro said that the grant application for this parking lot is still pending.

"The $250,000 grant will go toward making a reality for a broader vision of downtown Armonk," said Buchwald. “It was my pleasure to have spearheaded the grant and to gain the approval in the New York State Assembly for what’s going on in Armonk.”

OSHA Fined Contractor and New Gazebo Proposal Presented
By Michelle Boyle

October 4, 2014
On June 25, North Castle’s Wampus Brook Park Gazebo in Armonk was under renovation when it collapsed. Immediately following the accident, the Town contacted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to determine the safety issues. Inspectors


from OSHA reviewed the situation and on September 26, OSHA issued a fine of $2,800 to Prime Home Improvements of White Plains for a serious violation for preparatory operations in unsafe working conditions.

The Town initially hired Prime Home Improvements for a renovation of the gazebo, which included a replacement of the deck. The original cost to renovate the gazebo was $34,000. As the work was in progress, the contractor discovered that five of the six columns holding up the gazebo roof were rotten at the base. The Town Board approved the additional work to replace the columns for $17,000.

The gazebo was originally built in 1967, and it appears that since then, only one of the columns was replaced and the other five needed to be replaced. The one most recent column was made of steel and was hollow, as were the other five columns, but the original five columns were filled with cement, supposedly to reinforce the steel, but the cement had corroded through the steel at the bottom of the columns after almost fifty years.

From my own observation, prior to replacing the columns, a construction brace should have been put into place. I did not see a brace at the gazebo construction site. During the renovation, the weight of the roof collapsed the entire structure and the roof landed onto the back of the contractor’s pickup truck. Fortunately, no one was hurt.  

The Town intends to build a new gazebo to replicate the original structure. Armonk resident Bob Romano suggested that the new gazebo be named after the late Councilwoman Becky Kittredge. The Town Board will take that suggestion under consideration.

Sullivan Architecture’s proposal for their services to replicate the original structure are estimated to be over $20,000. That proposal includes: construction documents, engineering services to replicate the original design, approvals (including any wetland permits), bidding, and contract administration to oversee the construction. Sullivan’s proposal will be considered at the Town Board’s October 8 meeting. According to a Sullivan Architecture document, the materials proposed for the new gazebo are “long lasting, minimal maintenance products such as Azek.” In addition, electrical connections will be added for a sound system and lighting.

Town Administrator Joan Goldberg says the Town’s municipality insurance company will cover the cost of replacing the original gazebo, as well as the costs to use a temporary stage for Wampus Brook Park events.

Mariani Cafe Expansion Clears Planning Board Hurdle, Moves on to Public Hearing

August 7, 2013
North Castle’s Planning Board has determined that the planned expansion by the owners of Mariani Gardens (Mark Real Estate) will not have a significant adverse effect on the environment.

This determination, known as a negative declaration, allows for less restrictive and additional uses in the Nursery Business Zoning District. The owners are proposing a new accessory wine bar and cafe in place of the existing accessory cafe.

The owners will now present their proposal at a public hearing to be held during the next North Castle Town Board meeting on August 14. In an unusual move, at the July 24 Town Board Meeting, prior to the receipt of the Planning Board’s recommendation, the Town Board voted unanimously to schedule the public hearing. They were acting on a request by Mariani’s attorney, P. Daniel Hollis, lll.

Mariani’s proposes changes in the Nursery Business Zone including the expansion of the cafe from 1,000 square feet with 16 seats to 3,500 square feet with 72 seats, waiter service, carry-out service, and alcohol service. Additional proposed changes will be increased hours of operation of the cafe and the removal of 25 percent gross- floor ratio, which is limited to the accessory cafe. Mariani's has eliminated its proposal to use the main retail structure for social functions.  

The owners also seek permission to continue to sell home furnishing and accessories. They are currently in violation of the Nursery Business Zone for those sales, and have been served a notice of violation from the Town’s Building Department.   

Included in the proposal are limited physical changes to remove the existing gravel area in the back of the property to add four parking spaces. According to the Planning Board’s negative declaration, there are no other significant site modifications.

Located at 45 Bedford Road, Armonk, Mariani’s is across the street from North Castle Historic District #1, which includes St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. Members of the church have opposed Mariani's prior plans to hold indoor and outdoor social functions. Mariani's proposed changes to the rear of the property will not be visible from the Historic District. They will be required to install appropriate acoustical mitigation to reduce sound transmission to the outdoors.

The Field Services Bureau of The New York State Office of Parks and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) in a letter to the Town of North Castle Landmarks Preservation Committee and North Castle Historical Society dated July 30, 2012, stated that in its opinion, Mariani's "does not possess the potential to significantly disturb or have a substantial negative result upon historic properties." The Planning Board agreed with the OPRHP stating, "the Proposed Action will not create significant negative traffic impacts or significant negative noise impacts."

The addition of 56 seats in the cafe will use an estimated additional 1,960 gallons of water per day. The town has permission (based upon a prior approval condition) to monitor the site's water usage and require that the applicant use water trucks for irrigation if necessary. This restriction allows for flexibility of the North Castle Water Department to make adjustments if needed.

North Castle Town Board
North Castle Beautificiation Committee
The Armonk Eagle - a Symbiotic Relationship between the Town and Private Corporations
 
April 29, 2014
North Castle was reminded of the Town’s 1976 Bicentennial celebration when the old wooden eagle at the entrance to town was lowered on April 24, 2014. The second of the Town’s iconic figures was replaced by a newer, sleeker model made of metal. The exact replica, painted in a shiny coat of red, white and blue, sits perched below the American flag, craning its neck up to the sky, its profile being seen from afar.
 
This occasion also serves as a reminder of the late war hero, Walter Ray Bell Jr., who lived in North Castle since he was a young boy. Bell served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and received two Purple Hearts, among other declarations.
 
Becoming a poet after he was honorably discharged in 1945, Bell is best remembered for the poem, “Old Glory”, that he wrote in August 1995. The honored veteran wrote of two patriotic symbols: the Armonk Eagle and the American flag.
 
“Old Glory”
 
Isn’t she grand flying high in the sky?
Dreamt as a boy someday there she would fly.
Up on our hill, just out of town
from any direction, ’tis here she’ll be found.

First came ‘Our Eagle’, that large bird of prey
worshipped by some in a spiritual way.
Then came ‘Old Glory’ in troublesome time,
born again, born on each Fourth of July.

A patriot son, he once went to war,
fought for ‘Old Glory’ on a tropical shore.
Wounded in battle, but wounded no more,
proud to have served for his country and Corps.
 
Windward she blows, can’t be denied,
what a wonderful sight as she flies in the sky.
Weathered by day or weathered by night,
may she always be flying as she’s flying tonight.
 
The new eagle was raised above the grassy knoll and the award-winning garden at the intersection of Main Street and Route 22, and once again welcomes everyone to Town. “What’s great about this town,” said North Castle Supervisor Michael Schiliro, "is the history, the generations of families and organizations like the Green Acres Garden Club and the American Legion that put time into the town and now the eagle.”

The timing of the eagle’s face lift coordinates well with the revitalization of downtown Armonk, as the last store of Armonk Square opens soon. The New England architectural facades and brick-laid promenade are aesthetically pleasing and the Square has quickly become the heart of the Town.

It’s an new era for Armonk. The Town is experiencing the typical growing pains of added new retail space, but with proper planning, Armonk should be able to maintain its small-town charm. As Supervisor of North Castle for 44 years, Jack Lombardi, was quoted in 1964 as saying, the Town Board is "the salesman of our community." Let us take a chapter from history and work together as salesmen of our community. Let us enjoy the flourishing reputation that is being built by our stellar school district, and our fine restaurants. As the new eagle was supported by corporate private funding from Engel Burman’s Bristal Assisted Living of Armonk, Steven Krieger, one of the Engel Burman’s partners, says, "Thank you for welcoming us to your community, we are happy to be here."

Let’s continue these private-public partnerships by encouraging companies to invest in our town and allowing them to thrive by supporting the local businesses.

The Armonk Eagle is quickly coming to symbolize the Town of North Castle itself, in the new design of the Police Department patch which also appears on the lectern at the Town Hall Meeting Room.

Former Town Councilwoman Diane Roth played an important role in asking for support of the Armonk Eagle from Engel Burman. Roth says she would like to find a sponsor to present to the Beautification Committee for two smaller versions of the eagle — similar to the size of the eagle sitting in front of the American Legion — to be located at the Miller Park in North White Plains and Winkler Park near the Banksville hamlet of North Castle.

Armonk Parking
Armonk Parking
Town Board Considers More Parking for Downtown Armonk

February 24, 2014

Anyone driving in downtown Armonk recently knows that parking spaces have become a commodity with the addition of Armonk Square’s stores, apartments and DeCicco’s Supermarket. 



Although it is inconvenient, a parking issue is a good problem because it means the commerce on Main Street is increasing. This is good for retailers, but not so good for shoppers or residents who may be in a rush. How many times have you had stop on Main Street because of someone in front of you is parallel parking? How many times have you pulled out of your lane to pass a car parking in front of you, or seen someone do so, rather than wait? And while you were doing this, did you know that it is illegal? While parallel parking on Main Street does slow down traffic, Director of Planning Adam Kaufman says that this is a good thing because “we want to create a low-speed, pedestrian-friendly block.”  



Options for additional downtown parking have been discussed for decades, and at the February 19 North Castle Town Board work session, Kaufman presented specific parking options for the Town Board to consider. North Castle owns two pieces of vacant property, one behind the Hergenhan Recreation Center and the other on the west side of Kent Place, near the library in downtown Armonk.



Three storefronts in Armonk Square have not opened yet: Chase Bank, and two restaurants, “Bowls” and a yogurt store. There are also three storefronts vacant on Main Street between Bedford Road and Whippoorwill Road East. John Poniros, the owner of Olive Branch Plaza, says a new coffee shop will open at Olive Branch. The other two empty stores are across the street on the west side of Main Street, one next to the Cherry Blossom market and the other a few doors down at 381 Main Street, where there is a notice of eviction on the door dated Dec. 11, 2013. 



Given that these buildings are likely to be occupied soon, the Town Board needs to determine how to handle the need for additional parking, where the best locations are to expand parking, and how to fund the additional parking. 



Options for financing new municipal parking were outlined by Kaufman. A parking district can be created that allows commercial property owners to pay a fee in lieu of parking requirements. Another option is to install parking meters as a revenue stream, or to pay for the parking expansion from the town’s General Fund, which is supported by tax revenue. The prior administration was in favor of creating a parking district. However, if it is located behind the stores on the west side of Main Street, that existence of the district would be entirely up to the commercial property owners. 



A parking lot can be built with “fees in lieu” of parking spaces. One option discussed is to build a parking district that would have the Armonk Library and downtown businesses to share a parking lot that would be available for long-term parking, with a mix of retailers and restaurants that would use the parking spaces at different times of the day. A parking district would allow commercial businesses to pay for debt service costs that make parking improvements possible. This option would let commercial property owners to expand their use of off-street parking.

Several limits to consider when commercial uses expand are parking, water and sewage. Intensive parking users, such as restaurants, require more parking than a retail store does. So zoning laws that cover different buildings' uses have different parking regulations. For example, reduced parking in a mixed-use parking lot can lead to less restrictive code requirements because of the different parking demands at different times of the day. A parking district would allow new businesses to operate on Main Street that may have otherwise been restricted due to limited amount of parking spaces owned by the building.

If a parking district were formed, a business could pay fees to the parking district, which would ease restrictions when a change of use is put forward. Such changes could make it easier to have new tenants in some of the empty buildings downtown, or additional floor space during by the redevelopment of a lot, perhaps for new apartments. 

If a parking district fee were levied, for instance, then a proposed restaurant in a space that doesn’t have adequate parking could pay the parking district. This fee, which could be over $10,000, would be determined by the Town Board, as it is in other municipalities such as White Plains and Scarsdale that have shared parking locations. The shared parking fee would cover the cost of financing more parking.

If a parking district is considered, a majority of the property owners affected by the district would have a say in determining whether or not to create a parking district, says Town Attorney Roland Baroni. There are two ways to form a special parking district, but only if agreed to by a majority of these property owners. One is for the Town Board to have a public hearing. If it is done this way, Baroni says, the Town Board must listen to the opinions of the property owners who will be affected by the district. The other option is to have the majority of property owners who would be affected by the parking district to sign a petition. 



The Town Board’s consideration of shared parking in Armonk’s commercial district may ease the zoning laws’ commercial parking requirements by permitting commercial property owners to pay a fee for the required parking if they don’t meet the standard requirements. For example, Director of Planning Kaufman says, when a business is required to have 100 parking spaces and it can change its zoning to a Central Business-A (CBA) zone, as Armonk Square did, the parking requirements would be reduced by 20 percent to 80 spaces, and the additional 20 spaces could be paid for by a pre-determined fee, one that would benefit the town by financing a new parking area.

Other parking options that are less likely include parking meters that would provide a revenue stream, or directly budgeting for new parking from the General Fund, paid for by the taxpayers. 



The most likely area to be considered for parking expansion is behind the Hergenhan Recreation Center. Kaufman urges the Town Board to consider this area because additional space here can not only be for downtown, but can also be used for the recreation center and for Wampus Brook Park. The Town owns the property behind the Hergenhan Center and had a parking plan drawn up when they discussed expanding the parking for the Armonk Shopping Center and for the
A&P Supermarket expansion. However, the plan met with opposition because developer Michael Fareri wanted to build a supermarket on Old Route 22 at the time. Subsequently, the A&P closed in 2012 and a CVS Pharmacy is taking over the space. When CVS finishes reconfiguring their parking lot, they will remove the fence at the cut through from the back  of the Hergenhan Recreation Center, that will become a one-way exit out from the Hergenhan Recreation Center through the CVS parking lot. The property behind the Center parking lot is relatively flat, and would provide at least 50 parking spaces, says Kaufman. It’s a deep lot that goes back behind CVS building. Kaufman also envisions this site for long-term parking for Main Street’s merchants, freeing up prime spaces on Main Street for the convenience of shoppers.  


Although the green space behind the Hergenhan Recreation Center parking lot is Town land to be used for general purposes, the land is not dedicated to the Recreation Department. Even so, the Town Board’s liaison to the Recreation Advisory Board, Steve D’Angelo, has indicated that he will restart a conversation with both the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board and the Recreation Department to see if they are inclined to support additional parking behind the Center. 



The parking areas behind the stores on the west side of Main Street — from the new location of Amore Pizzeria on Kent Place to TruGrace at the corner of Whippoorwill Road East — are privately owned by the individual building owners. At the work session, Baroni explained the history of creating an easement from all of the parking lots in the early 1990’s. At a minimal cost, the town improved Kent Place by making it one way, adding striping for angled parking, installing street lights, and removing curb cuts from the different parking lots behind the stores. In return for the Town’s parking improvements, the property owners agreed to allow the Town to have cross-access easements to provide public parking. This area excludes the Post Office, which has a fenced parking area. Kaufman says the goal is to create a parking district where the town can improve the aesthetics and infrastructure, provide screening and lighting, and regulate the time for parking.



While Kent Place is a town-owned road that extends from Main Street, near the corner of the Shell station, to the new location of Amore Pizzeria, the extension to the library is privately owned. The town’s property extends straight across the brook, west of Amore. This open space is also being considered for additional parking. Kaufman says, “The goal here would be long-term parking for merchants to free up more prime spaces on the west side of Main Street for the convenience of shoppers.”



If the Town Board chooses, it can assign the Planning Board to consider the development of a parking area off of Kent Place. Planning Board member Christopher Carthy says that the parking area along Kent Place is “seedy and not as attractive as it should be. The area can use some improvements." Carthy says he is concerned that the condition of the parking lot may discourage people from using Main Street. 



For now, the Town Board is more likely to move forward with the Hergenhan Recreation Center lot, since that option is easier and less costly. However, the Town Board should also determine how likely it is that a Kent Place lot can be built, says Baroni. He said a study should determine how many spaces there can be and what they cost. The wetlands in this area are regulated by the Town, not New York State, says Kaufman. He added that if the lot adjacent to Kent Place were used, the brook would most likely require a culvert.

Another option the Town Board is considering is Verizon’s fenced parking lot and their additional open space adjacent to the south and west side of the Armonk Library. Kaufman will initiate a conversation with Verizon to determine if they would agree with the town to lease the property to expand the area for new parking from Kent Place. Verizon’s lot could also potentially become access to the wooded property that is owned by the Town on the west side of the brook. Baroni said that in the past, Verizon considered giving the Town a long-term lease for parking there if the Town hooked the building that Verizon owns on Whippoorwill Road East to a public sewer. However, due to the property’s elevation, a hook-up would have required a pump station. It is uncertain if Verizon is still looking for a sewer hook-up or if they are interested in leasing the property.

The Town Board agreed with Kaufman to have the Town Engineer, Kellard Sessions, determine the cost of a feasibility study for parking in order to learn how many spaces can be paved in the different locations. The Town Board agreed to a proposal to have the plans drawn up to provide further information about which potential parking areas can be built, and at what cost. Baroni says that when the Town Board considers the proposal, it can also consider adopting a resolution that says that whatever dollars are spent in advance on the parking plans can be recouped from the new parking district, if a district is formed, which would allow the General Fund to be reimbursed. But, the Board did not discuss how the study would be paid for if the parking district were not formed. Regardless, of which parking options will be considered, new spaces will not be built right away.

In the meantime, drivers in Armonk should slow down and be patient when looking for parking downtown.

Park Development, Sidewalk Improvement and More on Armonk's Bedford Road

January 24, 2014
At its January 22, 2014 meeting, the Town Board gave approval to get bids to complete the sidewalks on Bedford Road in front of Elide Plaza, and in front of the Wampus Brook Park South. In the 1990s, funding from the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) was designated to improve sidewalks on Main Street. But by the time the money was allocated, one side of Main Street was already completed, and the opposite side was recently finished as part of the Armonk Square project.

Director of Planning Adam Kaufman said the $68,000 from the New York State Department of Transportation remains available because the DOT amended the project scope allowing use of that money for sidewalks anywhere in the Armonk hamlet.

The Town Board's approval to get bids for the Bedford Road sidewalk improvements will also include other sidewalk areas that may require funding from the capital improvement project fund, according to Town Administrator Joan Goldberg.

Students from the middle school frequently walk from the school to town and the lack of a continuous sidewalk on Bedford Road is a safety hazard.

Other sidewalk improvements to be included in the bid are locations in front of the library on Whippoorwill Road East; the area adjacent to the Hergenhan Recreation Center on Maple Avenue; and 20 to 30 feet of sidewalk that should be redone around the Olive Branch Plaza on Bedford Road near Main Street.

The North Castle Parks and Recreation Advisory Board has extended an invitation to the public to attend its meeting on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 6:15 p.m. at the Hergenhan Recreation Center at 40 Maple Avenue, Armonk. The meeting’s agenda includes the Wampus Brook Park Task Force's plans for the Wampus Brook Park South property.

Last year, the Advisory Board's recommendation that the park area be turned into a dog park was met with loud opposition, especially from neighboring residents. Now the Advisory Board is seeking the community's input for the future of the park. The DOT has signed off on transferring ownership of about half of the lot to the Town of North Castle for $1. The park grounds have been cleared of the fallen trees from Superstorm Sandy. Funds from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were used toward the cost of cleaning up the area. The property remains barren, except for a few trees along the Route 22 corridor, and along Bedford Road. There is also a sewer district pumping station in the back of the lot near Route 22.

Also, there is vegetation along the banks of the brook that runs parallel to Maple Avenue. Last year’s plan for the brook to be cleaned up and lined with riprap was scratched. There was never an application submitted for work to be done in the wetlands.

In 2013, former Town Board member John Cronin presented a landscape drawing that featured trees around an open area for event performances. Before that, in December 2012, preliminary plans for a dog park included plans for two-dozen parking spaces. Although parking was never presented in the park plan in 2013, there was some discussion of using the parking lot in the adjacent Elide Plaza Shopping Center. But the task force is once again considering a parking lot in the Wampus Park South Park.

At a Town Board meeting last year, long-time resident Norma Hill said the owner of Elide Plaza had discussed the possibility of building apartments on a second-floor addition to the two buildings of Elide Plaza. At the time, then-Supervisor Howard Arden confirmed that one of the Elide Plaza property owners had mentioned adding the second-floor apartments, but nothing further was discussed. 

Three years ago, Westchester County was prepared to buy the Cockren property along Old Route 22 in Armonk to fulfill the County’s requirements for affordable income housing from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A plan was approved to build middle income housing units on the Cockren property to satisfy the Town’s housing ordinance that required ten middle income units for the multi-dwelling residential developments of Cider Mill and Armonk Square. Several residents opposed Westchester County’s housing plan, including Howard Arden, who owns an office building on Old Route 22. Elide Plaza is an alternative location to consider for the affordable housing.

Gas Leak Closes Main Street in Armonk



Updated December 3, 2013
The North Castle Police Department received a phone call at 1:49 p.m. today, reporting a strong odor of gas on Main Street. A gas line had broken on the west side of Main Street, as a result of excavation work. 

Labriola Construction Company, located in Armonk, was removing the sidewalk curb and replacing the curb and pavers with a handicap access at the newly relocated pedestrian walkway; the walkway is now located in front of Armonk Square’s promenade. The gas leak occurred in front of Houlihan and Lawrence Realtor’s office.



Shortly after the call, Main Street, between Maple Avenue and Bedford Road, was closed. The gas service along Main Street was interrupted, in an attempt to make the necessary repairs. About 10 buildings along Route 128 were evacuated, and businesses, including Bank of America and the Armonk Post Office, were temporarily closed.



Con Edison quickly responded and recapped the broken pipe. Shortly after 3:00 p.m., Main Street was open again for pedestrians, traffic and businesses.



The standard depth of an underground gas line is three feet. Con Edison's preliminary review shows that Con Edison was not contacted to mark-out the gas line before the digging work began, says Con Edison's spokeswoman D. Joy Faber. We have contacted the contractor, Michael Labriola, but he has not returned our call as of this publication.



At 5:00 p.m., a Con Edison subcontractor arrived to turn on the gas at the Houlihan and Lawrence office. At that time, the gas leak was fully repaired, and the gas line was covered underground. But the ground remained dug up, with pavers stacked; in addition, a large part of the curb was lying inside a construction fence along the sidewalk.



This was not the first time that a gas leak occurred on Main Street. There had also been a gas leak during sidewalk construction on the west side on Main Street when Fareri and Company was repaving the sidewalk in 2004. In that situation Developer Michael Fareri says the gas line was improperly marked.


Con Ed Offers More Reliable Power in Armonk, in Exchange for Permission to Cut Down Trees

November 21, 2013
The North Castle Town Board held a work session on November 14, 2013, during which Con Edison representatives updated residents on the progress to prevent extensive power loss by cutting down trees, tree pruning, adding switches and new power lines, and the addition of new polls in Armonk neighborhoods. Con Edison is in the process of reinforcing the power lines of the Armonk Loop that serves about 1,000 customers from three-and-a-half miles of electrical power lines that start on School Street; up to Cox Avenue; to Route 22; north on Route 22; to Banksville Road; and to the end of Long Pond Road.


Armonk and Riverdale will be Con Edison's first areas targeted for the tree-cutting program and reinforcement of the existing electrical power lines. It has cost millions of dollars to clean up our area after some of the more recent storms. Con Edison's Chief Construction Inspector Christopher Farago says Con Edison's engineering department identified the Armonk Loop as one of the first targeted areas that needed to be strengthened, due to the number of storms, outage frequencies, and most importantly, the duration of the power outages in these areas. Armonk has a mature forest, and downed trees during storms cause frequent power outages. Residents in the Armonk Loop were notified by mail in April that some trees had been identified for removal. There were only about 20 responses to those letters and not from residents on the "backbone of the main feeder of the loop.”

Con Edison's tree-clearing began with a Con Edison arborist who identified trees in the Armonk Loop. A visual inspection of the canopy of the trees and a survey of the tree hazard assessment in and out of the immediate area of the power wires was carried out; this included identifying trees that could potentially strike the power lines, if they came down during a storm, and accordingly, were considered target trees. A five-million dollar budget was created to cover the necessary equipment: over 1,400 trees to be removed, powerline and switch changes, and pole replacement. The cost of Con Edison's captial program is covered by the transmission and distribution portion charge of its customers' bills, says Chris Olert, spokeman for Con Edison. 

The plan calls for installing over 150 new, 50-foot high poles that are more capable of withstanding higher winds. This method is less costly than burying the lines, which would cost seven-million dollars per mile, according to Christopher Farago.

Con Edison Field Operations Planner Allan Douglas says Con Edison met with the Town to discuss the program after sending letters to Con Edison customers in the spring. Then Con Ed started knocking on resident’s doors to ask permission to remove trees. Town Board member John Cronin says there were concerns expressed by residents at prior Town Board meetings about the lack of communication with regard to the project.

Con Ed representatives have gone door-to-door daily, explaining to homeowners what Con Edison would like to do with the trees that have been identified for removal and then asking permission to remove them. "Homeowners can deny or approve the tree removal on their property," says Douglas. If a homeowner is not home, Con Edison will leave a card and the homeowner can call them to set up an appointment for them to return to discuss the options. So far they have identified 774 trees to cut down, says Farago; 523 have been approved, 196 have been denied, and 55 are pending permission. As of November 14, they have removed 295 trees, with 228 still remaining. Initially, there had been 1,464 trees identified by Con Ed's consultant along the main section of the Armonk Loop that had been identified for removal. But due to the high percentage of permissible tree removals, the overall tree removal evaluation is being reconsidered, says Farago.

"It's up to the resident: If they want it out, we take it out, if they don't, we don't take it out and go on to the next house," says Farago. Sixty percent of the landowners have agreed that the trees identified by Con Edison can be taken down, a higher percentage than he anticipated. Con Edison has a consulting arborist, and there’s also an arborist working with the contracted removal crews.   

Kerry Kasak, Chairwoman of North Castle's Open Space Committee, asked a number of questions at the work session: What is Con Edison’s vision for doing this, and how is the hazard-tree assessment determined?

Allan Douglas answered Kasak’s questions, explaining that there is more work to be done; he added that they are satisfied with a 60% positive response to the trees identified for removal.

Farago explained, a visual assessment is based upon a 12-point scoring or ranking system that is based upon several factors: the proximity of the tree to the wires, if the tree is touching the wires or not; the health of the tree; the type of tree; the canopy; the stem; the base; the tree age; and condition."

A map was drawn, displaying where Con Ed has been and where they need to go. Farago said there is a limited number of tree removals recommended in some areas where additional tree pruning will be done as needed. These streets include Limestone Road; Barnard Road; North Greenwich Road; Day Road; Sterling Road South; Hadley Road; Douglas Road; Yale Road; and Creemer Road. Pruning will also be performed on trees located on Whippoorwill East and Orchard Drive, to Main Street; Old Mount Kisco Road; Route 128; Maryland Avenue; and Hillandale Road.

The North Castle Police Department has been sending advisory messages to residents through the NIXEL System, such as the one sent on November 20, 2013: “ Long Pond Road Closure on 11/21 - Tree Removal. The North Castle Highway Department will be performing tree removal work on Long Pond Road on Thursday, November 21, between the hours of 9 AM and 2 PM. This work will cause Long Pond Road to be closed between Banksville Road and Pond Lane. Please drive slowly and with caution.”

Kasak says she noticed the trees were marked one block at a time and asked about how the trees were marked. Farago said they initially started to mark trees with ribbons before they spoke to customers. But people moved the tape and put it on other trees. As a result, Con Ed switched to paint, and people then painted over the painted spots with brown paint.

Kasak asked if there are there were any plans to address outages for people who aren't located in the Armonk Loop.

Farago says the overall effect of the work being performed will strengthen the loop and allow multiple contingencies when the power goes out. North Castle's power feeders come from Pleasantville and Mount Kisco. There will be additional switches added to Armonk Loop that will allow electrical power to be rerouted around isolated power outages; in this way, power can be restored to other customers on the feeder lines, while repairs are made to the isolated area. There are several other power loops in Armonk, including the Windmill Loop, Wampus Loop, and Business Park.

Con Ed is also working with the Town to remove trees located on town property. Farago says the Town is no different then the landowner: they have the right to approve or disapprove tree removal. The Town has not approved cutting down every tree. After the trees have been marked on town-owned property, General Highway Foreman Jamie Norris inspects the Town's trees that Con Ed has designated for removal, and if acceptable, the Town provides the tree permits on the town-owned property. The permits are issued by street, and to date, there have been four permits issued on School Street, Cox Avenue, Banksville Road and Long Pond Road.

The Town has formed a new committee, and any questions can be directed to the newly formed tree committee’s member Town Administrator Joan Goldberg, other members are Lt. Peter Simonsen, Foreman Norris and Parks Foreman Don Brandeis. The committee visits the questionable sites to collectively determine whether or not the tree should come down. Con Edison has permits allowing trimming of trees on New York State-owned property. Still, Con Edison's recommended tree removal on the state-owned property along Route 22 will require approval and a permit.  

As Farago said, in response to Kasak's question concerning the proof of the success of this approach, time and nature will tell and there may be adjustments as they go along. Farago says they expect the work to be completed in either March or April of 2014.

“Con Ed is not here to take down all the trees,” said Farago. “We are looking to keep you in power. But there has to be a middle ground because all the trees can't be taken down. We're in a defensive mode right now to accomplish our task as easily as possible.”

Con Ed's goal is to have all customers with power at all times. With a substantial investment, they are working diligently to make that goal a reality for Armonk residents.


Water for Downtown Armonk

August 9, 2013
Downtown Armonk's Water District seeks more water and more water storage, according to North Castle's Director of Water and Sewer Operations, Sal Misti. Director Misti spoke with allaboutarmonk.com about North Castle's Water District #4.

The Water District #4 includes customers in Whippoorwill Hills, Whippoorwill Ridge, Wampus Close, and downtown Armonk's commercial accounts, a total of about 370 accounts. There are an additional 117 homes in Whippoorwill that are in Water District #5, which are supplied by Water District #4.

Water District #4 uses four existing wells. The two wells located in Armonk's Community Park are in good shape. But because of the close proximity of these two wells, they can only be run efficiently one at a time. During peak usage periods, other sources of water are needed. Monthly water usage over the past three years, at peak times such as in July 2010, was recorded as 600,000 gallons per day. During the summer, irrigation systems put a strain on the water supply.

The two other District #4 wells are located on School Street. These original wells were built in 1991 by the US Environmental Protection Agency. One is in bedrock and the other is a gravel-packed well. They are located next to each other, but draw from two different aquifers. The gravel-packed well is developed with a screen in the bottom of a column with a pump inside packed with fine sand. The gravel filters the incoming water which develops into the water supply. The wells have a limited yield because they require treatment due to the presence of iron and magnesium in the water. The treatment limits the wells’ production to about 100 gallons of water per minute from both wells.  

The underground water quality in the District’s property has been tested for possible future wells to increase the water supply to downtown Armonk. But building new wells for public water sources requires a significant amount of regulations and conditions for approval from Westchester County's Health Department. Misti explained, "It is quite a task to get a municipal well approved, it takes years."

There are two wells in the Whippoorwill Ridge area on Old Route 22 that were taken out of service about 12 years ago because of high iron content. These two will require some treatment, but could add about 45 gallons per minute. The hydrologists recommend bringing the Whippoorwill Ridge wells back online to add much needed water to the system. Months of work is required to fix them; a request for proposal is required for the necessary work to surge and clean the wells, change the filters, and check the pumps.

IBM built its own wells at Business Park field in 1960s. The IBM infrastructure was approved and then turned over to Water District #4 to become part of the distribution system. IBM donated the park property to the town's water district and extended the water main infrastructure to Maple and Bedford Road. The main line was continued to Whippoorwill Ridge on Old Route 22, across Route 22 and up to IBM's facility. Public water became available for the Old Route 22 area.

Over the past three years, the two Business Park wells were reconditioned and completely rebuilt with good water quality and supply, including new pumps and well screens. The wells are gravel packed. They are of equal depth, but can’t be pumped simultaneously because they are both drawing from the same aquifer. Alternating, one well puts out about 350 gallons per minute, and the other puts out about 400 gallons a minute.

A single water tank supplies the entire Water District #4. Toll Brothers built the Water District's water tank when the Whippoorwill Hills subdivision was approved. The water tank is located at the highest point of the system and has the capacity of one-million gallons. The District needs a site for another water tank for additional water storage. In about five years, the District's sole water tank will have to be taken out of service to be reconditioned. Another storage tank is needed in the system at an elevation that works, preferably a permanent solution with a narrower tank.

New development in Armonk may require both an expansion of downtown Armonk's water supply and an extension of North Castle's sewer district #2. The recent development of Armonk Square and Engel Berman's assisted living facility has added to demands on the water supply and sewer capacity.

The water supply for the proposed Old Mount Kisco Road senior housing has to be worked out, Misti concluded. One of the viable proposals to expand downtown Armonk's water supply is to rejuvenate the two wells built as part of the Whippoorwill Hills and Whippoorwill Ridge subdivisions on Old Route 22.


DeCicco’s Family Market is
Worth the Wait


May 10, 2013
Armonk's DeCicco's Family Market will open mid-to-late-June, says John DeCicco, Jr. This will be the fourth store that is owned by the second generation of the DeCicco family; the second-generation family, consisting of two brothers and their cousins, follows the first generation of three brothers. DeCicco's started out in a tiny storefront location in the Bronx in 1972.

Armonk is the eleventh DeCicco’s branch store in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam Counties, collectively. Every store  gets better than the last, says John, Jr. They opened a new store  in Harrison six months ago. "Every store we open we try to make better than the last one, constantly improving everything. We try to top our previous one."

As you walk through the catty-cornered entrance, you can see the interior starting to come together. There are stations placed throughout the first floor that are surrounded by a muted, rose-colored trim, with doors that match the rose-speckled, cement floor, which resembles granite. The attention paid to architectural detail can be seen in the back walls of the bakery, as well as the seafood sections, which are lined of walls made of off-white, stacked-stones.

The standard offerings of fresh cheeses are large, and the fresh, local mozzarella cheese is made in the store. DeCicco’s plans to carry soups; chicken; quiches; a hot-and-cold salad bar. Organic, natural and grass-fed meats will be available, some from an upstate-New York farm. Organic, natural and conventional delicacies, consisting of produce meats, prepared foods, seafood and freshly baked goods, are offered with only the freshest, most natural ingredients, both organic and conventional.

DeCicco’s, whose prepared food is all made on premise, will also sell brick-oven pizza and fresh sushi. When you walk inside, you’ll notice a fresh-roasted coffee bar and handmade gelato. You can smell the freshly cut flowers and enjoy the many other culinary treats, such as prepared seafood and a large selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, both  organic and conventional. There is even an extensive beer collection; DeCicco’s has partnered with local breweries and is known for its extensive premier beer selection from breweries in the tri-state area.

DeCicco’s is involved in the community. They anticipate employing more than a hundred people in our area. A job fair will be held in Armonk for Decicco’s, for those ages-16-and-older, on Saturday May 18, from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. 

Is Armonk’s Destiny to Become a Shopping Destination or Remain a Small, Charming Town?

Updated May 16, 2013
The hamlet of Armonk is unique, as it doesn't have any chain stores. Its character reflects a small-scale architectural design that is unique to this area, being situated next to a historic district. But the vision of what downtown Armonk looks like has been piecemealed together over past decades.

Main Street’s latest addition, Armonk Square, will be completed over the summer. The welcomed changes include the removal of the fence on the east side of Main Street and a new, paved sidewalk to match the other side. Armonk Square will include a pedestrian walkway for shoppers and a large parking area with approximately 160 spaces.

Armonk Square Developer Dom DioGuardi confirmed that retail operations are expected to open over the summer. He also confirmed that Armonk square will include the bank, JPMorgan Chase; a small, family, franchised supermarket, DeCicco Family Market; and the real estate office of Douglas Elliman.

There will also be a restaurant, Fortina, and about six to eight other retail stores. Finally, plans are set for ten, second-floor, one-bedroom apartments.

After the property is developed, there may be a need to change the traffic patterns of town-owned roads, Center Street, which will go through the Square, and Maple Avenue. If more parking is needed, the town can consider readdressing concerns with the empty lot that is adjacent to and owned by CitiBank; and additional parking can also be considered as an option behind Main Street and adjacent to Kent Place, with access from the Verizon property near the library.
 
The Concerned Citizens of Armonk (CCA) originated when the Werber Brothers, who own the A&P Supermarket property in Armonk Shopping Center, tried to keep the supermarket open during Bill Weaver's administration. As the situation evolved and the A&P Supermarket closed over a year ago, the CCA coalesced around that issue; as a result, over 2,000 people were among a group of property owners and residents who signed the anti-CVS Pharmacy petition, said Greg Lane. Lanes specializes in land-use policies and works with the Concerned Citizens of Armonk.

After a lengthy review, the Planning Board approved the application for a site plan to establish a CVS Pharmacy and associated improvements to the Armonk Shopping Center on October 22, 2012. CVS Pharmacy has been approved with certain conditions to occupy the 17,389-square-foot space of the previous A&P Supermarket building, with a pharmacy drive-through window, an additional 2,500-square-foot retail space, along with landscaping and pavement upgrades. In August, 2012, an Article 78 Petition of Civil Practice Laws and Rules was filed by CCA against the Town of North Castle, the North Castle Planning Board, the developers of CVS Pharmacy and the property owners of Armonk Shopping Center. AJ Barbato, of Gershman Brown and Crowley, the developer for CVS, said the CVS Pharmacy special use permit was appealed and "we’re hoping the judge rules in our favor on our motions to dismiss the appeal of our special use permit brought by the CCA – that is the holdup to the project." Barbato said the construction typically takes about four months and then after construction, there will be a five-month orientation. It should take between seven and nine months to finish the project.

"You cannot restrict a particular business, nor can you tell CVS Pharmacy they are not allowed to come to town," stressed Lane. "Any business can come to Armonk, as long as they meet the zoning criteria. But you can tell chain stores they cannot come to town because they could impact the character of the community."

CVS Pharmacy is coming here not because they expect to make a lot of money, but rather, to protect their turf, according to Lane. If they do not come to Armonk, a Walgreens or Rite Aid will take a percentage of business from CVS' other, more successful stores. The market will determine if they operate at a loss in Armonk (which they might be willing to do), or if they put local stores out of business.

During the CVS application process, the CCA started to consider what their objective was and how residents define the character of the community. The Comprehensive Master Plan is out of date, said Lane, and has inadequate zoning ordinances. The type of businesses that want to come to town are completely different from those that were interested twenty years ago. The days of visiting Armonk in the country on a Sunday afternoon to wait on line for the melt-in-your-mouth, homemade doughnuts from Schultz's Cider Mill are gone.
 
Greg Lane said the sole objective of the CCA is having the town update the Comprehensive Plan or at least put together a master plan to promote the vitality of the Town's business districts. They also want the town to update the zoning ordinances to make sure the character of the community is preserved and the infrastructure is developed, in a fashion that supports the economic downtown development. The zoning laws of North Castle's three hamlets are inconsistent.  

"All land use is political to some degree," said Lane. But, he added, there are certain towns that regulate land development well. For instance, New Canaan regulates development with tight zoning regulations. Greenwich has the same situation. Their application process may be lengthy, but the laws and restrictions are set in stone. North Castle is more like the “wild west,” Lane added, and the planning seems to take place when the applications are filed.

Armonk is an attractive destination because it is an affluent community. But even so, Armonk's smaller retailers have been struggling in a weak economy. Lane commented that the high-end boutiques should be in good shape when the economy recovers, if the commercial zoning laws are properly regulated.

"The Town Board could prepare itself," Lane said, "rather than have a knee-jerk reaction to say we are going to do whatever any developer wants to do because of the economy, and we need the business." The Town can prepare itself for the recovery with a clear vision of the commercial districts in town and decide if it makes sense to preserve the community character.

The community character appears as the facade, the streetscapes of a New England or colonial-New York style. The vision of the design guidelines needs to be determined. The Beautification Committee is currently working on designing the look of the "Welcome to North Castle" signs. They first need to define a cohesive style, including the aesthetics of color, materials, and lighting. Afterwards, they can decide if the style should be a colonial look with an eagle or a more-modern, New England look. FP Clark executed a planning and design study of Armonk's Main Street in May, 2001. These planning objectives have to be clearly defined and the guidelines need to be put into place in the Comprehensive Plan.

Perhaps the Town Board will decide they don’t favor small-town charm. If Armonk, instead, were to become a retail destination, with a Sam's Club, Lowe's, or another box store located in Business Park, we may be able to attract people from as far as Putnam County. This is a decision that should be defined in the Comprehensive Plan and available for everyone to see and understand what the objective is, said Lane. It would entail a public hearing with public input. The timing committed to changing the Comprehensive Plan depends upon how extensive the review is.

The boundaries of downtown Armonk also must be determined, according to Lane, because it is open to interpretation; it should be defined in the Comprehensive Plan. Should the Mariani property be included in downtown? Residential plans are being considered for the Madonna property on Old Mt. Kisco Road as a multi-dwelling development; should the Madonna property be included in downtown? These two properties have prime locations. The consideration of zoning changes should not be based on the property owners, but rather, should be analyzed for the property itself. A property zoning change requires studies, such as what the economic impacts would be. What would the traffic impacts be? The Town is under no obligation to allow any changes in zoning. Accordingly, every application, including Brynwood Golf & Country Club’s application (which is currently under consideration for 88-condominium units), must  go through a process that includes a thorough study and a public hearing.  

Armonk is at a crossroads. Do we want Armonk to be a destination spot with big box retailers at the entrance of town? Do we want to turn Business Park into retail, to help it be successful? But we must keep in mind that there is a good chance that retail in Business Park could negatively impact downtown: the stores that would move into Business Park may be chain stores that could draw people from other towns, as well as a certain percentage of shoppers from Main Street.  

A large portion of Bedford Road, between the dead end at the lumberyard to Maple Avenue and Main Street in Armonk, is underdeveloped. There have been unconfirmed discussions indicating that the American Legion is for sale and there are new, prospective buyers for the United Methodist Church. The town’s prime property is the Highway Department and the municipal departments, which are located in Armonk near the corner of Route 22 and Main Street. Perhaps this area is slated for redevelopment? But the rezoning of individual properties cannot only benefit a few. If we are going to rezone property, the economic impact is the most significant issue that needs to be studied.

For instance, if Mariani Gardens were to be sold, if their 15,000-square-feet of retail is rezoned, or if it is permitted to become a catering hall, how can we determine whether or not it will hurt retail businesses on Main Street? If it can be proven or presumed to negatively impact Main Street retailers, this might influence the zoning decision. At the March 13 Town Board meeting, Mark Real Estate LLC., requested to table Mariani's public hearing date of April 10.

The CCA wants to make sure that Armonk preserves its small-town feeling and also ensure that Main Street does not have big box stores everywhere, said Lane. The hamlet of Armonk has a finite population of about 1,800 families, with about 4,000 residents. The population will not change dramatically. The retail outlets may draw a few customers from out of town, but for the most part, shoppers will be Armonk residents. The pie is only so big, and new retailers will divide the shoppers into smaller slices of the pie.

One of the most important decisions made by the Town Board is to discuss the opportunities of development and to lay down the foundation to ensure that commercial development occurs successfully. As residents, Town Board members may have special interests, and unless they recuse themselves or reveal possible conflicts of interests, the public may be blind to these interests. But business owners may also have special interests. So where do we draw the line when voting from the pool of candidates who are running for office? Residents should engage in conversations with individuals who are considering running for Town Board and understand their positions on Armonk’s development.

Supervisor Howard Arden has already said he plans to run for a second term. Councilwoman Diane DiDinato Roth and Councilman John Cronin said they have not decided if they will run again. We have heard that the Chairman of the Ethics Board, David Simonds, is considering running, but he has not returned our call yet. Co-Chairman of the North Castle Coalition, NC4, Barry Reiter, is also considering running. Also in contention are commercial-property owner Barbara DiGiacinto and Town Pharmacy co-owner Charlene Jacobi.
 
There should be a means of evaluating whether or not potential candidates are able to separate their own personal interests and maintain a broad perspective. The Town Board should not be funding studies that serve their needs, and they should not be manipulating information to their advantage. But when the Town Board makes their most important decisions, they should ask whether or not the community wants more commercial development. Does the community want cluster housing? What are the options, keeping in mind the tax base? In any case, Armonk seems destined for at least some changes in its character in the near future.

Editorial: Submission Of Multi-Dwelling Units In Armonk
By Michelle Boyle 

June 19, 2012
There are currently eight projects with multi-dwelling residences under consideration for development in Armonk. Developers have presented over 200 apartments that are in the planning stages for residents. North Castle's zoning laws require variances and special permits in order to build multi-dwelling units.

At this time, there is little open space available in Armonk to build new single family homes. The limited space for development, along with the sluggish economy, has prompted developers to look for alternative housing in the hamlet of Armonk, with its current population of more than 4,000 residents. And accordingly, if there were to be a population growth in Armonk, it seems likely that future development would involve multi-dwelling units.

The Town of North Castle is notorious for requiring lengthy site approvals for any development; in fact, most of the eight projects which involve multi-dwelling units and have already been presented still have many hurdles to overcome.

Of the proposals that are presently under consideration by North Castle's Planning Board, Town Board and Building Department, Armonk Square is the only one moving full steam ahead after 30 years in planning. They already have a waiting list for the ten 1,000-square-foot, one-bedroom apartments that will be located on the second floor of their two Main Street buildings.

The Armonk Square property is currently being built by the property's fourth owners, Armonk residents and developers Dom Dioguardi and John Dioguardi, who are brothers, and partner Alan Zaretsky.

Any new multi-dwelling housing unit is required by the town's housing regulations to  build 10 percent of the total units as middle-income units.

Westchester County has been waiting for North Castle to present a plan (North Castle is legally obligated by receipt of issued grant money from the county) to build affordable housing apartments in town to help the county fulfill the 750 units that they are legally obligated by the Federal Housing Authority (HUD) to build.

Last year, Westchester County proposed buying property to build 10 affordable housing units at the Cockren property on Old Route 22 in Armonk. This location was intended to fulfill the requirements of the Crabapple Properties LLC, which needs to build eight middle-income units for the Cider Mill Complex and Armonk Square (Armonk Square, Cider Mill and Cockren Property are all owned by the Dioguardi's and Zaretsky).

There are many objections to the affordable housing to be shoehorned-in at the Cockren property, including one from Supervisor Howard Arden, who owns an office building on Old Route 22.

An alternative location to the Cockren Property is being considered in Armonk to help fulfill the County's required, affordable housing units.

The second set of plans for the proposed luxury condominiums and golf villas at Brynwood Golf & Country Club on Route 22 will be presented soon; they consist of less than half of the original 243 condominium units on Route 22.

In its initial proposal, Brynwood offered to update Windmill Farm’s water system, since they currently receive their water supply from North Castle’s Water District No. 2 , along with Coman Hill School and Armonk Tennis Club. But when there were strong objections expressed by Windmill residents, Brynwood claimed that their option to dig their own wells was more viable.

However, with the recent study demonstrating Windmill Farm's need to revamp Water District No. 2’s underground water main lines, Brynwood may be willing and able to assist in financing some of the cost (the cost is projected to range from $13 to $19 million) to revamp the system that supplies water to 372 homes in Windmill Farms. This could cost over $2000 per year, per household in the water district for a 20-year bond.

Additional objections to the Brynwood project maintain that it is still too dense and would add school-aged children to the system, as well as increase traffic to the already congested morning rush hour on Route 22.

Although Brynwood projects only a handful of children will live in the condominium units, they are still required to build middle-income units, which they’ve said will be built off-site. The middle-income units would be able to house residents with school-aged children.
Still, given the recession that resulted in banks’ tightening their mortgage lending, it’s been difficult to sell the middle-income units in town that already exist.

Multi-family dwelling units in Armonk are subject to the limits of public water supply and sewer capacity. North Castle has zoning requirements for water and sewage facilities for all attached, semi-detached, detached and multi-family dwellings. The code states that they should be "served by public water and sewerage treatment facilities, and no certificate of occupancy shall be issued until all dwelling units are connected to approved and functioning public water and sewerage treatment systems."

The Town's zoning code says, "Where, in the opinion of the Planning Board, connection to or establishment of public water facilities is not possible, or not warranted, a central water supply system shall be designed and constructed to serve all dwelling units in accordance with the standards and subject to the approval of the Westchester County Department of Environmental Conservation. Such central system shall be designed and located in such a way as to readily permit its connection and/or conversion to an off-site system, at such time as it is constructed.

"Where water supply for a project is predominantly dependent upon water drawn from such property and, in the opinion of the Planning Board, the geology of an area is such that wells of large capacity will adversely impact existing wells on nearby properties, individual water meters for each dwelling unit shall be installed; this impact will be studied in an environmental impact statement and sufficient measures as directed by the Planning Board shall be taken by the applicant to prevent such adverse impact or to indemnify the owners of such impacted wells and/or, where feasible, an offsite source of water supply shall be developed."

The latest multi-dwelling proposal was presented at the June 15 Town Board's work session. It’s the third proposal for development at the Lumber Yard on Bedford Road, directly off I 684. Developer Michael Fareri first presented a 10,000-square-foot retail space. After the economy suffered a downward spiral, he presented an apartment building for the property. The latest proposal is for five-multi-dwelling residential buildings with a total of 12 apartments at the location.

The Town Board would have to consider a new zoning law for the lumber yard property, since the .7 acres of property may not be a sufficient area to adhere to the current zoning code for open space and recreation area of multi-dwelling units. It is "that at least 50% of the gross area of the site shall be preserved as permanent open space, free of buildings and parking area, and shall be landscaped or left in its natural state in accordance with the provisions of  213-14M.”

The public sewer and water already are in place to be extended to that section of Bedford Road. And the units are already considered in the usage of 450,000 of the 500,000 available gallons per day of sewer capacity.

Another proposal in front of the Planning and Town Boards is the Armenian Seminary; it is currently located in New Rochelle and its owners would like to relocate to Armonk. They’re in contract to buy over five acres of property across Route 22 from Congregation B'nai Israel. The pending sale requires site approval for the proposed plan from the Town Board.

The Seminary plans to add new buildings, as well as renovate some of the existing buildings on the premise, to accommodate students for Armenian theological studies. They presented a plan for a maximum of 19 residents.

At the June 13 Town Board meeting, several residents voiced their opposition to the project. The concerns expressed involved the issue that as a religious operation, they would be exempt from property taxes. It was mentioned that there may be school-aged children, such as one of the Dean's children, residing in the complex. Resident Lydia Epstein asked how the district's educational costs of any of the Seminary's school-aged children would be covered. She suggested the possibility of a tuition fee required for students residing at the Seminary who would attend Byram Hills.

Another objection that was raised was the zoning variance required for the Seminary. The concern was understanding how the community would benefit from permitting the change of use from a single family dwelling.

What if the Seminary were to tie into the sewer treatment facility south on Route 22 in Business Park? Perhaps that would allow other residents along Route 22, including Brynwood Golf and Country Club, to tie into the public sewer system.

138 beds in studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units are planned for the senior assisted living facility of Sutton Place at 90 Business Park Drive. The proposal has not created any public objection because it appears to be a good fit in the Business Park location, directly off  Route 22 and the southern entrance ramp of I 684.

However, it is anticipated that the senior assisted living facility will add emergency calls to North Castle's volunteer fire departments. This may necessitate the Armonk Fire Department to put some firefighters on the payroll.

Even so, the proposal for the assisted living project appears to be acceptable and close to receiving town approval. At their last presentation to the Town Board, there was a request to further reduce the required town's recreation fee of $1000 per assisted living unit. The consensus is that the senior residents will primarily use the onsite recreational facilities. But the principal owner of Engel Berman, Steven Kreiger, who is presenting the Sutton Place proposal, has requested a further deduction to $300 per bed. With 138 beds, it represents a change from $138,000 to $41,400.

But keep in mind that the senior citizens would be welcome to join all community events, including the free, summer-outdoor concerts at Wampus Brook Park; the concerts are presented by the Small Town Theatre and are sponsored by the North Castle Parks and Recreation Department. In addition, they could use North Castle Public Library's facilities for its many programs and reading and multimedia materials.

One of the latest housing submissions calls for 50 apartments with 20-senior-housing units, either for rent or sale at Hillside Terrace on Old Mount Kisco Road. There are also plans for 30 luxury condominiums at Byram Gardens on the west side of Route 128, just north of School Street.

As a quid pro quo, the developers, father and son Frank Madonna Jr. and Sr., have proposed extending the public sewer and water systems of downtown Armonk's district to the 50 apartments, as well as to existing homes on Old Mount Kisco Road. They have also proposed building public sewers to Annadale Street and Old Orchard Street and offering them at a discounted rate. Lastly, they have proposed building a sidewalk connecting David Chen's Restaurant to Whippoorwill Road East.

The Town Board and Planning Board have yet to publicly review the project to determine its impacts upon the area. Keep in mind that for planning purposes it is projected that each person uses about 100 gallons of water per day. But there are areas in Business Park that are under consideration for expanding downtown Armonk's water district by adding more wells.

North Castle's current population is approximately 12,000 residents. The current enrollment of Byram Hills School District is 2,652 students. The district is projected to have declining enrollment over the next several years. According to Superintendent of Byram Hills School District Jackie Taylor, the school system's largest enrollment to date was 2,817 students in 2007. She says the district would be fine with enrollment at 3,000 students. As a result, it appears there will be ample room to accommodate more students in the district from a population growth that would result if all the proposed multi-dwelling residential units were developed.


Main Street Armonk
Hat Trick on Main Street

March 20, 2012
Armonk residents Lori and Billy Ceisler opened Armonk's Hall of Scoops, a candy and ice cream shop located on Main Street, in July 2011. The Armonk couple has rented two more stores on Main Street that will replace Loaf, previously Cafe Norma, and VIP Video Store.

Supervisor Howard Arden says, "Someone that wants to open three businesses on Main Street shows great confidence in our town."

"It's fun and exciting to open up new stores,” says Lori, an interior designer. Hall of Scoops' interior is white and open, with a wall display of multi-colored candy. "There is nothing better on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon than seeing a family with the kids and the dog, sitting outside on the bench on Main Street and eating ice cream."

Billy Ceisler grew up in Armonk and is a graduate of Byram Hills High School’s class of 1987. He is a New York-based sports agent. The couple has three young children and wants to operate family-oriented retail, "something welcoming that we can be proud of,” Lori said.

Hall of Scoops has four tables inside, and a bench along the wall. Lori said she would like to put in a few more chairs; she is hoping for between 8-and-12 seats, depending upon what is feasible and what can fit. She is also interested in outdoor seating. A license for outdoor seating costs $500 annually and is contingent on the provision of adequate space for pedestrians to walk on the sidewalk.

In the old Loaf location, the Ceislers intend to open a 1,600-square-foot sporting goods store that would also offer food service. They are aiming for a grand opening around Memorial Day. Lori said the back of the shop will have fast-food counter service with “pick your own toppings” for burgers, hot dogs, chicken and vegetarian dishes. The front of the shop will display sneakers and high-end sporty, athletic wear, with seating near the front window. The intention is for the retail shop and restaurant to draw the kids in for fast food and to create a night life, with outdoor dining behind the store. "We want to create a place in Armonk where the teenagers and high school kids can come and have a place to hang out at night," Lori explained.

They are also proposing indoor music, and possibly, a beer and wine license. The Ceislers would like to have 25 seats inside the restaurant area, and the outside area would have a permanent tent structure. The approximately 400-square-foot area would accommodate seating for 25. Finally, the Ceislers’ proposal calls for back-and-front store entrances, similar to those in many Mount Kisco stores.

Arden said to Lori Ceisler, “It is great that you are changing the concept of Main Street's streetscape, and we need to look at the whole picture.”

Councilman Diane DiDonato-Roth would like the carry-out legislation expanded to allow more seating, beyond the maximum of eight. She also wants the outdoor-seating fee lowered, when the carry-out legislation is reviewed. Lastly, she recommends performing a parking study for Main Street that would create an immediate solution: interim parking that allows more seating for the retail/restaurant and more seating at Hall of Scoops. Roth said the long-term goal is to create a parking district in the back area of Main Street.

Arden pointed out that there will be a parking district across Main Street at Armonk Square. He added that discussions with Verizon seem to be moving forward; if successful, the town may be able to rent the Verizon parking lot, located near the library.

Loaf, and previously Cafe Norma, was allowed only eight seats, and neither restaurant could survive. The seating for Main Street restaurants is determined by the parking calculations; it is a ratio of retail space, based on the property lot size.

A Main Street parking study would calculate the number of parking spaces available in town and the number of parking spaces each store uses; the analysis will include seating for restaurants that have a slower turnover. The parking figure is determined by the amount of property of the building. Hall of Scoops' property, as well as the old Loaf’s, is small. Armonk Country Kitchen's (ACK) property is a larger piece of land that goes back to the front of the library in an "L” shape. Therefore, ACK can have 26 tables, based on the current parking calculations of one space for every 200-square-feet. DiDonato-Roth said she believes that although the parking spaces behind Main Street are individually owned, they are communally used; therefore, it appears that a shared parking district already exists.

"But until we have the study, we would like you assist you with additional seating at Hall of Scoops," said DiDonato-Roth. They need to sit down with the town planner to iron out the details.   

North Castle's town code allows for an accessory cafe, defined as an establishment similar to a restaurant, but limited to the extent that the accessory cafe is not the sole, primary use of the store. The accessory cafe code further states that waitress/waiter service and carry-out service would not be provided. In addition, an accessory cafe is limited to a maximum of 16 seats and is restricted to 1,000-square-feet of floor area.

DiDonato-Roth said the town board should help small businesses survive, since they are the fabric of our community. "We want to do everything we can do to help you, and in my opinion, giving you eight more seats for your place-- so be it. Sometimes the small gestures that government does to help the little businesses make a big difference."

Mixed Use At Mariani Gardens

December 5, 2011
Attorney Daniel Hollis, representing Mariani Gardens, initially requested a referral from North Castle's Town Board to the Planning Board at the Planning Board's October 12 meeting and again at the November 21 meeting.
Hollis asked the Planning Board for a recommendation to the Town Board for an amendment to the special use permit of Mariani's on Bedford Road in Armonk. It is currently zoned as the only property in town which is a nursery business (NB).

Mariani is looking to rent out some of its space to another retailer, although Hollis said they are not aware of any perspective tenants at this time. The request was made for the approximately 14,000-square-foot retail building at Mariani's to be permitted to have other compatible retail stores operate in the space. Hollis proposed that the Town Board require a review for each prospective applicant that intends to use Mariani's retail space, regardless of the tenant’s square footage, and that Mariani's have a requirement that the retail uses, other than a nursery, be determined as compatible by the Town Board. The nursery business must remain on the premise. The Town Board would have the final approval of the tenant, whether it is a specialty grocery store for cheeses or vegetables or other uses, such as an art gallery, a lawn store or a furniture store.

Planning Board member Jane Black said she would prefer to see the space used to hold special events, rather than a cheese or vegetable shop, which would conflict with Armonk's Main Street businesses.

Hollis said he has already heard complaints of retail uses at the Mariani's site, and doesn't follow the geographical distinction and usage from Bedford Road to Main Street.

Planning Board member Steve Sauro said letting the market dictate what the retail space can be, along with the discretion of the Town Board, should be sufficient.

Town Attorney Roland Baroni said the Planning Board may set a percentage of the property, perhaps a percentage of 60 - 70%, that should be recommended as reserved exclusively for the nursery business, and ultimately, allow businesses compatible with a nursery. Baroni doesn't understand how a food or wine store or a spa is compatible.

Hollis said he would not have a problem if a percentage of the 14,000 square foot building were reserved for the cafe and nursery division of the business where garden accessories are sold.

Mark Miller of Veneziano's and Associates said they have been retained by the DiGiacinto family, who own retail property on Main Street, to work with the Mariani’s application, and the town to assist so it works for everyone.

Jeff Garson owns the Armonk Town Center, where he has had a fourth retail vacancy in 18 months, due to the downsizing of Kira Sushi. He wants to maintain the character of the town and to avoid filling the vacant spaces with big box stores. Garson said considering the additional retail space at Moderne Barn, the added retail space of Armonk Square, and the fact that we have vacant stores in town, why would we want to add any retail?

“It will be almost impossible for the board to control what goes on over there,” said Garson. "He (Mark Mariani) will say I can't make a living with this, I got to put that in, and before you know it, it could become something like a Patio.com, and it would be impossible for the Town Board to refuse it. It is very difficult for people to agree to what should or shouldn't go there. It is a privilege to work in this town; it is a great town. But it is overbuilt with retail. If we want to keep the character of a small town, you have to say no; enough is enough.”

Hollis objected to Garson’s comments about his client. He said zoning should develop a plan for our town and this property is the architectural jewel of the hamlet. "The client is willing to have restrictions and we ask to give us our chance in front of the Town Board to consider it fairly."

A recommendation was made by the Planning Board for the Town Board to have the discretion to control the additional retail application, limiting the use to the 14,000 square-foot-building on the Mariani's Gardens property. The Planning Board passed the motion, voting three in favor and two opposed.

A public hearing regarding the rezoning of Mariani’s Gardens will be held in the near future.
Downtown Armonk's Transformation

July 21, 2011
Downtown Armonk is undergoing a transformation. There is a nightlife on Main Street that hasn't been seen for decades. At 10:00PM there are cars on Main Street. Customers are eating at restaurant north, families are at the new Hall of Scoop for frozen yogurt, the library holds evening programs of plays, movies and concerts, and there is a series of public and privately-sponsored outdoor concerts and movies in the evening at Wampus Brook Park.
A 2001 study of Main Street reveled just two vacant parcels for future development (see map): the northern portion of the Citibank property (which could also become a parking lot), and the 3.5-acres of Armonk Square. The study suggests that future building will have to entail the redevelopment of existing properties, with buildings having to be significantly modified or even removed. We are currently seeing this in some stretches of retail spaces on Main Street.

At the Olive Branch Plaza, restaurant north appears to want to expand (this is unconfirmed) into the adjacent hair salon. Salon Bellezza owner, Debra Zuzolo, says she sees the writing on the wall when she receives not-so-subtle hints from the landlord such as having no hot water or air conditioning for a few days. Restaurant north also may expand into the clothing store, S&S Boutique, which is closing and relocating to Manhattan. LaGravinese Jewelers is also moving from Olive Branch Plaza to the newly-renovated building on Main Street and Maple Avenue. The owner of the Olive Branch Plaza, John Pineras, says he is renting LaGravinese's space to a New York City jeweler.

Additionally, work is being done at the building on the northeast corner of Main Street and Maple Avenue where LaGravinese Jewelers is moving. The building also includes other businesses of GLR Realtor and a hair salon.

Dale Hisinger works with a newly formed group, Concerned Citizens of Armonk, that spreads the message of "Main Street, Not Chain Street". The group met with the Town Board, and Hisinger says the board opposes a moratorium to give the town more time to consider the applications of retail tenants in buildings in excess of 8,000 square feet, as was suggested in legislation that was proposed by the group.

By far the biggest concern about the change to downtown Armonk is that CVS is replacing the A&P Supermarket. Weaver says a moratorium wouldn't prevent CVS from moving in because they have signed a 25-year lease for the A&P space. There is no action required from the Town Board, or required permit of any nature. Weaver says "CVS can move into the space tomorrow."

In 2002 the Town passed legislation that regulates the size of stores in North Castle. The law requires a special permit from the Town Board for new retail spaces in excess of 5,000 square feet, but CVS is grandfathered under the same use permit that the A&P has.

At the June 22 Town Board meeting, North Castle Supervisor Bill Weaver said the town has hired an architectural firm to study the design of the three hamlets of Armonk, Banksville and North White Plains. They will be working with the Town Board and a newly-appointed Hamlet Review Committee to review the design criteria of what we want our town to look like. The hamlet design meetings are open to the public and will be listed on the Town's website.

In 1996, the Town Board started the process of updating the town's Comprehensive Plan in coordination with the Planning Board. Focus groups were formed to study each hamlet. Town attorney Roland Baroni says amendments have been made to the Comprehensive Plan over the years and at some point, although he doesn't think we are there yet, it has to be redone.

A 2001 study of Armonk's Main Street by Frederick P. Clark Associates, Inc., stated "A Main Street environment that has an aesthetic pleasing character will contribute to creating a sense of place that people want to visit, rather than a place people have to visit in order to get their mail or essential goods and services." The following statement from the study still holds true today: "Creating such an environment is fundamental for the long-term economic vitality of Main Street and for its businesses to compete with growing retail and service uses elsewhere within the area and region."

Hisinger has requested that the Town Board hold a public discussion or work session to discuss the economic viability of the Main Street. She asks, "Where do we want the town to be in five years?"

Councilman John Cronin says we can review the issues of how the town is to be developed, and the town's residents input is welcomed, but the process is already under way in the Hamlet Design Committee.

Councilmen Mike Schiliro also welcomes discussion about updating the Master Comprehensive Plan as the blueprint for town's future development.  

The Town Board did not favor the proposal by the Concerned Citizens of Armonk to hold a public discussion of downtown Armonk's economic future. Although Becky Kittredge says she doesn't have a problem holding a meeting, it would not prevent CVS from moving into town.

The pharmacy part of CVS is regulated by New York State, and Charlene Jacobi, part-owner of Armonk's Town Pharmacy, says there will be a strict  inspection before the state gives its approval.

Town attorney Roland Baroni says the attorney for Werber Management, which  owns the Armonk Shopping Center where the A&P is located, has sent a letter to the town stating that they are not sure if they want to improve the parking lot with landscaping and sidewalks if the community's opposition to the CVS continues.

Because CVS has signed a 25-year lease, Supervisor Weaver says that there is nothing that the Town Board can do to prevent its opening.   
                    ________________

Survey Results

AllAboutArmonk.com ran a survey asking "Do you want CVS in Armonk?" from 5/23/11 to 7/15/11:

The results are:

225 voted no - 65.4%,
103 voted yes - 29.9%,

 13 undecided - 3.77%.

There were 341 responses.

Notes:

1]  We specified there could only be one response per computer, and deleted multiple responses from the same IPO address, with only the first vote counted from any duplicated addresses.

2]   We asked only Armonk residents to vote, but there was no way to confirm if the question was answered by an Armonk resident.

3]   We sent out more than 4,500 emails weekly, over several weeks, with the question “Do you want a CVS in Armonk?” The emailed question linked back to the survey on Allaboutarmonk.com. Our emails are sent to a majority of North Castle residents, businesses, and a few nearby residents. About 30%, on average, opened our email.

4]   341 responses is a small sample.

5]   The survey did not appear anywhere else besides allaboutarmonk.com.

6]   The margin of error in this survey is ±10%.

Cocobolo Interiors
FP Clark Formula Business Study
North Castle
Town Comprehensive Plan Updated 1996
Living & Breathing Town Comprehensive Plan

A town master plan was first adopted in 1957, updated 1967, 1974 and 1996.
Click to view Town Comphrensive Plan Update 1996 Town of North Castle, Westchester County, NY.

Petition Opposing the Request to Amend the NB Zoning District

January 20, 2012
We, the undersigned, are either Main Street business owners and/or commercial property owners who support responsible and well thought out development in the hamlet of Armonk. We recognize that we are in a down economic cycle. We support the development or leasing for permitted uses in the CB (Central Business) or SC (Shopping Center) districts and applaud the Town Board's prudent approval of Armonk Square, a project we know will strengthen the hamlet.

As a general precept, additional retail rezoning on the fringes of the hamlet can only work to undermine the strong retail base we have at the core. In contrast to supporting core development, our group is extremely concerned with Mark Real Estate, LLC's request to amend the NB District in order to allow 14,000 square feet to be used as if it were sound CB or SC. The justification for the pending amendment to the NB Zoning District is to permit greater flexibility in a tough economic market. If approved, therefore, Mariani Gardens would like the on-site nursery use to remain but also desires other compatible uses "to include, but not limited to, restaurants, spas/salons, gourmet food markets, wine shops, art galleries, furniture stores, and other retail stores and shops."

At this time, and as an interim position, the Main Street business community cannot support increasing the types of uses at this nursery, which would make this property direct competition for the Main Street  community. While we support competition within the hamlet, expanding the hamlet adds stress on the hamlet, as is being played out in the hamlet and at the Garson Center simultaneously. Fourteen thousand square feet of new retail space would most certainly hurt and/or destroy existing stores and personal service businesses.

We want to wait for a final decision sometime down the road and after this economy  sorts itself out. It seems more productive to wait for the Armonk Square project to settle in and determine how a new major chain drugstore will impact our fragile Main Street business district before considering this NB proposal. Certainly reviewing a specific use would make this request more palatable and our evaluation of its impacts more certain.

Until then, now is the time to vote no to amending the NB Zoning District and to allow the hamlet to grow and absorb the approved projects and morph into the next generation of the hamlet, before we expand it recklessly.

The petition above is signed by some of Main Street's business community that is made up of a group of 73 individual business and property owners dated 12/14/11 to 12/20/11.
Op Ed - Maintaining Main Street
By Michelle Boyle

May 13, 2012
Armonk's Main Street could use a face lift. There is a mishmash of architectural facades, two sidewalks lining Main Street from Bedford Road to Maple Avenue that don't match, and a bunch of utility lines that run down the east side. The downtown looks worn and not especially inviting, and needs a more cohesive look.

Many see our downtown as one block starting at Bedford Road and ending at Maple Avenue. But downtown Armonk's commercial property and restaurants extends from Old Route 22 north to David Chen's Restaurant, and includes Maple Avenue, Bedford Road, MacDonald Avenue and Kent Place.   

Financial responsibility for improvements to public property can sometimes be with the adjacent property.  When a property owner requests a change in use or another action that requires the building department's or another body's approval, the town can request improvements from the building owner. This happened recently when Chris Santomero, the owner of the buildings at the northeast corner of Maple and Main Street, renovated the buildings and relaid the adjacent sidewalks. It is a great improvement.

At some point, Armonk Square is going to rebuild the sidewalk along the east side of Main Street to match the pavers on the west side. Hopefully the sidewalk pavers will be extended around Maple Avenue to match the future paved entrance to Armonk Square. But it is still to be determined who will pay for improvements to the sidewalk along the town property that will lead to Armonk Square's entrance along Maple Avenue, the property owners or the taxpayers.   

CVS's most recent application for site approval has included improvements to the sidewalk along the Armonk Shopping Center. Once again there won't be any continuity to the sidewalks. Instead there will be a checkerboard effect. Some will have pavers, some will be asphalt, and in other locations there will still be nothing but grass to the edge of the road.

At the May 9, 2012 Town Board meeting, the Town Board presented an amendment to a legislation that requires downtown property owners to clean, maintain, snow-shovel, and de-ice the property in front of their stores. The Town Board opened a public hearing to discuss amending Chapter 175, the local law for Streets and Sidewalks. The Town Board's proposed amendment included the "removal of snow, ice, dirt and the obstructions from a sidewalk and the repair of a sidewalk by property owners adjacent to a sidewalk."

The Town Board received several emails from downtown property owners about the burden if they are to be responsible for the town's sidewalks.

Jerry Hendricks, a partner of Maple Court Realty Associates, the owners of 414-420 Main Street and 5 Maple Avenue, wrote a letter to the Town Board that was read out loud and seemed to sum up the sentiments of the property owners.  Hendricks pointed out how poorly Armonk's sidewalks have been maintained for decades, and said a requirement for property owners to maintain the sidewalk is an abdication of responsibility by the Town Board. "It is an overly burdensome,
ill-conceived, impractical and an unworkable proposal and whoever is promoting this idea is apparently out of touch with reality."   

Most property owners complained about the lack of prior discussion and requested that the Town Board reconsider its intention to pass the new legislation.

Supervisor Howard Arden pointed out that many municipalities do not provide sidewalk maintenance. But as was true 20 years ago, when the topic was brought up last, according to Town Attorney Roland Baroni, the maintenance of the  downtown's sidewalk will probably remain the responsibility of the town's Highway Department.  

Hendricks said, "The maintenance of public sidewalks has always been and should always remain the responsibility of the municipality. This is one of those fundamental services governments provide on behalf of the citizens."  
There are certain services that residents are willing to be taxed for and certainly  snow removal on Main Street is one of them. Let's not repeat the mistake of eliminating leaf pickup without a place to discard the leaves, which cost the town a fortune and continues to be an unsolved problem.  

As Arden says, it is unfair to some commercial property owners that some storefront sidewalks are cleaned by the town while others are not. Perhaps the Town Board can consider it a fee-based service, but either way the cost will be passed on to the residents either through taxes or through retail price increases. Price increases would further hurt business on Main Street.

If the goals of North Castle's Town Board are to keep Main Street clean and encourage more visitors to stroll and window shop, then the appearance of the storefronts and the surrounding area has to be more appealing.

The completion of Armonk Square, with new sidewalks and with the removal of the fence along Main Street, will be a step in the right direction. The property owners have to bear some of the costs of their building improvements, and should  consider it an investment to increase their property value. But the town must provide the best possible maintenance of its sidewalks and street appearance.

Letter to Editor

North Castle Town Board Approves Armonk Main Street Study
By Concerned Citizens of Armonk

August 2, 2011
The North Castle Town Board unanimously approved a planning and zoning study to evaluate the impact of formula stores and which actions the Board could take to maintain Armonk’s unique small town charm and the diversity and vitality of downtown.

The Formula Business Planning and Zoning Study will provide the Town Board a detailed design framework with special emphasis on identification and description of the planning and design elements that serve to integrate both existing and planned development into a cohesive, diverse, and identifiable downtown. The objective of which is to reinforce:

• Village Center
• Main Street
• A sense of community
• Visual focus
• Consistent streetscape
• Architectural character
• Retail diversity and vitality

Identification of well-defined downtown planning and zoning ordinances to orchestrate the delivery of economic development that will shape Armonk’s downtown, as envisioned by the study, is imperative. The Formula Business Planning and Zoning Study will contain recommended guidelines to amend the North Castle zoning ordinances. The new ordinances are for use by citizens, boards and committees, applicants, and Executive and planning staff in the review of new retail proposals.  

The process generated considerable interest and enthusiasm. A work group was appointed by the Town Board to gain an understanding of the community’s perception of the downtown’s future and provide ongoing advice during the study period. “The ongoing involvement of the Armonk community is an important opportunity for the community to express its vision of downtown”, said Charlene Jacobi of the Concerned Citizens of Armonk. “The Armonk Hamlet’s Main Street is the economic engine and the core of the community. We share Supervisor Weaver and the Town Board’s view that the vitality of Main Street requires sound planning and zoning policies to ensure its success. We look forward to being actively involved in the planning of this area.”

State Grant Money from 1990 Will Provide Armonk Sidewalk Improvements

July 9, 2013
At the June 28 North Castle Town Board work session, Director of Planning Adam Kaufman said a recent discussion with New York State determined that state funds consisting of $69,000 granted in 1990 during Jack Lombardi’s administration may still be used for sidewalk improvements in North Castle. The Town of North Castle had intended to use the funds to improve the west sidewalk of Main Street in Armonk.

The Town Board decided at the June 28 work session to recapture the state funds that are still available. The $69,000 will be used to build a new sidewalk from Elide Plaza on Bedford Road to as close as possible to the corner of Maple Avenue. The Town will also ask the owner of Elide Plaza to contribute to the sidewalk improvement cost.  

In 1990, Developer Michael Fareri said the Town could not agree on which hamlet to allocate the funds to for sidewalk improvements. In turn, Fareri rebuilt Armonk’s Main Street on the west sidewalk, he said, "for nothing in return.”  

However, a 2004 New York Times article entitled "Profile of a Land Deal" said, "In March 2002, the Schultz family, a well-liked clan of farmers who had owned the Cider Mill business for 51 years, sold the property for $3.6 million to Michael E. Fareri, an energetic developer who has built hundreds of homes in this fast-growing town. In October 2003, Mr. Fareri sold the land to Antares for $13.4 million, as well as a $300,000 fee for building sidewalks in town."

Furthermore, the article stated, "Mr. Fareri asked the Town to give him an easement to drain the Cider Mill land through the gully [between Old Route 22 and Route 128] in exchange for $300,000 in downtown-sidewalk improvements from the developers. (Antares later paid for the work as part of the Fareri-Antares sale, hiring Mr. Fareri's firm to do the work).”

Antares sold Armonk Square and Cider Mill to partners Alan Zaretsky of AZ Reservoir LLC and Dom and John Dioguardi of Poughkeepsie Development LLC.

Armonk Square will rebuild the sidewalk along the east side of Main Street. The sidewalk will wrap around the corner of Maple Avenue and connect to the sidewalk in front of Fortina Restaurant.

North Castle Town Board Tackles Parking in Downtown Armonk

July 3, 2013
At the North Castle Town Board work session on June 28, members of the town board in attendance discussed parking issues of downtown Armonk. "The where and how much has to be determined by need," says Supervisor Howard Arden.

With the additional traffic of DeCicco's Family Market and the partial opening of Armonk Square, the question remains, “Is more parking needed?” The Town Board is considering a parking analysis of downtown Armonk to determine what the parking needs are, and if necessary, where to build the additional parking area. “Is there a parking issue or is it a perceived parking issue?” asked Director of Planning Adam Kaufman.

Armonk Square has about 170 parking spaces. Since the supermarket opened, the employees of DeCicco were using the parking lot across Maple Avenue at the future CVS Pharmacy-parking lot. Al DeBello, attorney for Eden Enterprises, who owns the CVS Pharmacy property, says a letter was sent telling them to remove the cars to avoid being towed. The CVS Pharmacy is still in the planning stage with approximately 15-site-plan issues to be resolved, including required easements for the construction and maintenance of Maple Avenue driveway improvements and the Hergenhan Recreation Center access. Before issuing a building permit for CVS Pharmacy, a New York State Department of Transportation permit must be obtained for the Main Street - Route 128 right-of-way. AJ Barbato of Gershman Brown Crowly said, "We have filed our plans for our building permit and they are currently being reviewed by the Town. I don’t have an exact start date but we plan on starting work once we receive our permit."

In 2000 a parking study was conducted by Kellard Sessions, the Town’s engineering consultant. For years the Town has been considering additional parking in downtown Armonk. In fact, more than 200 parking spaces are under consideration for the downtown area. The issues include the following: how to pay for the additional parking areas, working around the wetland areas, and in a few locations under consideration, the Town must work with private-property owners.

The most important area considered for additional downtown parking, says Kaufman, is the Verizon parking lot located behind the west side of Main Street, near the library. This could offer prime parking spaces, as well as long-term parking. A field study must be done to review the wetland areas. Kaufman estimates this lot affords about 60 spaces. The plan includes moving the garbage dumps from Kent Place. Also, the lot is owned by Verizon and 11 spaces would be dedicated exclusively for their use. Last year, Verizon was agreeable to a lease, says Supervisor Howard Arden.

“An additional 45 parking spaces could be constructed at the end of Kent Place on town-owned land, separate from the additional spaces that can be constructed with the Verizon property,” says Kaufman. “Since we have to cross a stream, an Army Corps of Engineers permit would most likely be required at this location.”

There is also a vacant piece of land adjacent to Citibank, which offers the possibility of leasing or buying the property to create about 37 parking spaces. This area is a consideration, with a separate entrance from Citibank, although the property where Citibank is located is not actually owned by Citibank; it’s owned by an Irish bank, says Kaufman.  

There are also plans under consideration for more parking spots to be added to the north side of Main Street, from the corner of Maple Avenue to the CVS Pharmacy driveway in a parking district behind the Santomero, Tolish and Stone properties. The parking-lot layout is not complete, says Kaufman, but he estimates there may be between 30 and 40 spaces, if not more.

“There is also room behind the Hergenhan Recreation Center to expand parking to a minimum of 24 spaces," says Kaufman. "This is a good location," but the issues here are dealing with the wetlands, which necessitates a discussion with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to understand what would be acceptable. Although the Town of North Castle owns the property, they need to obtain a permit from NYSDEC for construction within the regulated adjacent area, says Kaufman. There are some concerns about taking away the open space of this area and converting it into a parking area. Kaufman says the Town Board will have to take this into consideration when reviewing the proposed location.

Added to the list of potential Armonk parking locations is Wampus Brook Park, specifically the area that had been under consideration as a dog park near Elide Plaza. Kaufman says this area could serve as a parking location with at least 24 spots for multi-purposes, including events in the park, as well as long-term parking.  

"The potential zoning allows for a significant more commercial floor area in downtown," says Kaufman. “But given the current off-street parking requirements, new downtown Armonk construction is limited.”

Adam Kaufman says there are several options to pay for Armonk's parking improvements. One option is taking money from the general fund. But should Banksville and North White Plains’ taxpayers partially fund parking in the hamlet of Armonk? A second consideration to fund the parking is to form a parking district, define how much additional commercial and residential space can be built downtown, and subsequently, build the parking areas, while requiring the district-property owners to pay for these improvements. Another potential plan is to require people using the parking areas to pay for parking improvements. This is typically carried out through parking meters. Another possibility for raising additional revenue, says Kaufman, is to set up a fund for situations when property owners propose new development in the downtown area that they cannot get approval for, due to lack of required parking. In lieu of the parking requirement, the applicant would pay a fee toward downtown parking. Many municipalities already do this, says Kaufman. And lastly, parking fees can also be collected during the application process for a change in use, if a parking district is not created.

North Castle Serves a Violation to Mariani Gardens

June 12, 2013
Mark Real Estate LLC, also known as Mariani Gardens at 45 Bedford Road,  was served a notice of "violation of the code of ordinances" on May 29, 2013. The violation is for sales of items are not permitted in a Nursery Business Zone. The Town's Nursery Business Zone permits the sale of nursery and greenhouse stock, nursery accessories, birdseed, candles and other household decorations, and hand garden ornaments and supplies, as well as the use of management and landscape design offices, greenhouses and storage buildings, and an accessory cafe.

In a letter to the North Castle Planning Board dated April 10, 2013, P. Daniel Hollis III, an attorney for Mark Real Estate, LLC, said Mariani Garden's has submitted an application for amendments to the North Castle Zoning Code that governs the Nursery Business Zoning District.  

Hollis' April 10th letter also requests expanded retail uses in the garden market building, including "garden and nursery accessories and supplies (such as indoor and outdoor planters and statuary)", "home furnishings and accessories (such as patio and sunroom furniture, side tables, consoles, chairs, topiaries and silk flower arrangements, vases and terrariums, coffee table books, pillows, bowls, candles and diffusers, tabletop settings)," and "luxury lifestyle accessories (such as soaps and lotions, jewelry, and women's accessories (i.e., scarfs, sweaters, wraps)."

Although the particular items for sale at Marianni's were not mentioned in the violation, luxury lifestyle accessories and women's accessories, plus the home furnishings and many accessories sold by Spruce, a subtenant at Mariani Gardens retail space, are beyond the permitted uses of the Nursery Business Zone.

A town violation notice orders anyone who is served a violation to correct the violation immediately, and the violation requires an answer or correction to the alleged violation that satisfies the Building Inspector within 10 working days. North Castle has not had a building inspector since Rich Fon resigned in 2011. But there are two Assistant Building Inspectors: Michael Cromwell and William Richardson. Cromwell said he inspected Mariani Gardens on May 29, 2013, the day the violation is dated.  

Section 213-64 says, "Failure to reply, or to correct the alleged violation to the satisfaction of the Building Inspector within the time limit, constitutes an admission of a violation of this chapter."

June 12 is the tenth day from which the violation notice was served. We asked Dan Hollis if his client intends to answer the notice and have not yet received a response.

Section 213-64 also outlines the consequences of a misdemeanor. "A person who violates the provision of not responding is liable for a fine for the first time not to exceed $1,000. The section 213-64 says that each week's continued violation constitutes a separate additional violation. If such violation does not cease within such time as the Building Inspector shall specify, which shall be not less than five days, he may institute such of the foregoing actions as may be necessary to remove the violation. Such notice may also be served by posting on the premises."

The Town is working with Mariani's to amend its zoning and does not appear to be taking any action to withdraw the violation. Instead, on May 21, 2013, the Town Board, by a majority of votes from Councilman Diane DiDinoto Roth, Councilman John Cronin and Supervisor Howard Arden, referred the Mariani Gardens application to the Planning Board for recommendations on the zoning amendments. Councilman Michael Schiliro and Councilman Steve D'Angelo voted against the referral to the Planning Board.

Mariani's application is to expand the scope of its retail activities, as well as the size and hours of its cafe, and to serve wine and beer there. The application also requests permission to have a 200-person catering hall. Mariani's application will first go through a process of review and a recommendation by the Planning Board before the Town Board holds a public hearing.

Mariani Gardens Zoning Amendments Referred to Planning Board
By Alice Levine and Michelle Boyle

May 27, 2013
Mariani Gardens had applied for a zoning amendment and was granted a referral to the North Castle Planning Board. Mariani Gardens wants to have an unlimited amount of events with up to 200 people with non-amplified music. In addition, Attorney Daniel Hollis, representing Mariani Gardens, said the nursery also wants to have 12 social functions a year for 75 guests with amplified music, and 10 functions with amplified music for up to 125 guests. Mariani Gardens also is looking to expand the accessory cafe from 1,000-square-feet to 2,800-square-feet so they can accommodate 60 seats, an increase from its current 16 indoor seats. Finally, they also would like to extend the cafe's operating hours to between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. and to include a wine bar that would serve wine and beer.  

At the North Castle Town Board meeting on May 21, the issue of Mariani Gardens was the hot button topic of the night. This proposal is vehemently opposed by St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and the Landmarks Preservation Committee, as well as by some residents who do not want the character of the area to change.

Former Town Justice and Chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Committee, Susan Shimer, spoke against the Mariani proposal. “You know that nothing has really been done, other than a citation, despite numerous violations. You know that the Town is not equipped to supervise adherence to this law, yet you are willing to send this amendment to the Planning Board. Why even have ordinances at all if they are not going to be enforced?”

Longtime Armonk resident and St. Stephen's parishioner Ed Woodyard also brought up Marina's lack of compliance with the existing zoning ordinances and expressed concern with allowing the amendment to be sent to the Planning Board. "Doesn't a business have to be in compliance with the town zoning ordinances first before it can proceed with asking for a change in the zoning?"

Mariani Gardens received a notice of violation from the North Castle Building Department that it is not in compliance with the Town's ordinance in the nursery business zone.

At the May 16 Town Board and Planning Board Work Session, Dan Hollis said, "The purpose of every zoning ordinance is to bring properties that are not compliant, compliant. So what they are seeking to do is to find a way to have the property be as compliant as possible and get its use to be appropriate to the circumstance."  

Supervisor Howard Arden said, "We had a discussion in an executive session and they had a way to bring this in compliance and we decided to go in this direction. They could have gotten a market license, the same as was done in Banksville, and this would have brought them into compliance."

Neal Baumann, another longtime Armonk resident and parishioner of St. Stephen's Church, asked that the application for the referral of the amendment to the Planning Board be voted down. There are so many problems with this amended application, said Baumann. "Who will the St. Stephen's parishioners call when our church services are interrupted? Who will we call when our parking lot is filled with party goers? Who will be there to enforce noise violations?”

Although Mariani has already been cited for numerous violations for not complying with the current nursery business zoning ordinances, a majority of the Town Board, nevertheless, voted to refer the zoning amendment to the Planning Board.

While Mariani has not yet applied for a liquor license, many residents are concerned that they will do so in the near future. Mr. Hollis denied, in no uncertain terms, that his client was considering serving hard liquor.

The zoning amendment referral to the Planning Board was put to a vote by the Town Board, with the following result: Councilman Stephen D’Angelo and Councilman Michael Schiliro voted against sending the application to the Planning Board, while Supervisor Howard Arden, Councilwoman Diane DiDonato-Roth, and Councilman John Cronin voted in favor of sending it to the Planning Board.

Councilman D’Angelo said he was concerned about the Town’s lack of ability to enforce any possible infractions by Mariani, while Councilman Schiliro said he was uncomfortable with Mariani's proposed use of the space for social functions and for additional retail space.

A Closer Look at Armonk's Business Park

October 5, 2012

At the September 28 work session of the North Castle Town Board, Director of Planning Adam Kaufman and the Town Board members, excluding Councilman Michael Schiliro, (who was not in attendance) considered the possible changes of use in Armonk's Westchester Business Park.

Business parks nationwide have a high vacancy rate, said Supervisor Howard Arden. And Armonk is no different, as more people are working with portable devices from home, reducing the need for business offices.

As everyone is looking to repurpose the business parks for higher tax revenues, the Town Board is investigating the options available to fill the vacancies in Business Park. The acceptable uses in the Planned Light Industrial (PLI) district of Business Park include the following: motels; business and professional offices and studios; warehouses (excluding truck storage); recreation centers; taxi and limousine facilities; day spas and assisted-living communities. Retail use is not permitted.

Adam Kaufman has explored the changes proposed for mixed use in the development of the business park areas of White Plains and Harrison. The reference to White Plain's business areas includes office buildings along Mamaroneck Avenue that are zoned as a Campus Office District of about 2.8 million square feet of office space, with a minimum of 10-acres lots that were built between 1950 and through the 1980s. Taking into account the vacancy rate of almost 19 percent in White Plains from 2008, Kaufman said that White Plains is proposing the creation of a floating zone which would allow a mixed use of retail and residential that will require a legislative act to change. A portion of the office buildings in Harrison’s Platinum Mile is bound by I684 & Route 287. They are considering allowing changes of the leases to include retail and multi-family housing.

“I'm not sure if I envisioned residential as part of the Corporate Park,” said Supervisor Howard Arden. Councilman John Cronin added that he did not want to see any residences in the Business Park, with the exception of the assisted-living facility.

However, Harrison and White Plains differ from Armonk since the location of their business parks are farther away from their core retail areas. In Armonk, the downtown area and Westchester Business Park are within a mile of each other. The biggest concern related to the proximity of the two locations, which are separated by Route 22, is the impact on Armonk's current retail operations, added Kaufman.

The Town Board needs to determine the best possibilities to expand the uses in the business districts of North Castle: Should they continue to review each application when it is presented or revise the Master Comprehensive Plan? There are concerns indicated in several provisions of the Town's comprehensive plan that point to not expanding the core, developed areas of retail in the hamlets of Armonk, North White Plains and Banksville, said Kaufman. But he added that some of the policies in the comprehensive plan which deal with the industrial zones date back almost fifty years.

North Castle must determine if they want to follow in the footsteps of Harrison and White Plains and allow mixed use in Business Park; in turn, they need to consider how that will impact Armonk's downtown. Currently, retail operations are not allowed in Business Park and Kaufman emphasized if any zoning changes are made, they must be done in accordance with the Master Comprehensive Plan and with community input.

The next steps to review the uses in Business Park, said Kaufman, are to look at the specific chapters of the Comprehensive Plan as it relates to all commercial property, soliciting comments from the Town Board, Planning Board, business owners and the community. Kaufman suggested that the first option in regard to reviewing the Master Comprehensive Plan may start with a task force.

The work sessions are open to the public, but typically, the Town Board does not allow input from the public. Business Park property owner Michael Fareri said he has an empty building in Business Park and has engaged in conversations with Trader Joe’s and Marriott Hotel. He added that he cannot wait for the review process that can take well over 30 months. Kaufman said an application for the permitted uses in the district can be submitted and reviewed at anytime. If there is an application for a change of use, it is considered case-by-case; for instance, the Planning Board is now reviewing an application for the requirements of a site plan with medical uses at 130 Business Park.

After the work session, allaboutarmonk.com spoke with Business Park property owner Ed Lashins. Lashins said that the Town has to solicit comments from the business owners and residents to determine what is considered appropriate development in Business Park. "Ultimately, any application should come under town scrutiny as a special-use permit and the application is to be judged on how it affects the downtown area."

Kaufman said he will outline the process that encompasses a list of the possible uses in all of North Castle's commercial zones, as well as create a budget over the next several months. He added that a “Request for a Proposal” (RFP) will be issued to study Armonk’s Business Park and other industrial zones of North Castle, in order to quantify the square footage and vacancy rates. This process will help determine if there are any problems and whether or not  any amendments are necessary.