Dear Better Larchmont Supporters:
Happy New Year! As we begin a new decade, we have an update for you on the Centro Project.
To recap, Centro’s original proposal was presented to the Village Board in April 2019, for a five-story, 27-unit building extending across the Chatsworth frontage and all the way back to Wendt Avenue, with an attached two-story parking deck on Wendt. Over the summer, concerns were raised by the Larchmont Planning Commission, the Larchmont Architectural Review Board, and the County of Westchester Planning Commission. In the fall, concerned Village resident coalesced to form Better Larchmont, and over 500 people signed a petition opposing the Centro Project as proposed for a host of reasons, including size, scale, traffic, safety, schools overcrowding, environmental issues and more. Preserve Larchmont also voiced its concerns about the project.
After several months of hearing overwhelming concern expressed by residents who registered their opposition through Better Larchmont and Preserve Larchmont, displayed anti-Centro yard signs, and attended monthly Village Board meetings in large numbers, as well receiving several additional consultant reports confirming those concerns, the Village Board informed the developer, Elk Homes, at its November 18th Board meeting that: 1) the parking garage should not be constructed after all; and 2) the scale was still too large, with some Board members recommending four floors instead of five.
At the December 16th Board Meeting, Elk Homes proposed a third version of Centro, which is significantly reduced from its earlier proposals. They have declined to provide new plans or renderings until the Village Board indicates its willingness to move forward with this revised proposal, but have provided the following details of the revised project in a letter to the Village Board dated December 17, 2019:
Elk Homes has asked the Village Board to pass a modified Zoning Amendment to allow this scaled-back project to proceed to the next stage. The Board has instructed the Village Attorney to prepare a new version of the Zoning Code Amendment that incorporates the parameters of this revised proposal and includes the option to grant the developer all five floors as requested.
This new Proposed Zoning Amendment will be on the Agenda for the upcoming February 25th Village Board Meeting -- NOTE this is a TUESDAY NIGHT -- when there will be opportunity for public comment. The meeting will be held in the Village Center behind the Library at 7:30 pm.
While Better Larchmont supporters are encouraged by the significant modifications to the Centro Project, it continues to advocate for a PLAN for the commercial district that will enable consistent and appropriate development for the long-term to protect our Village’s character and avoid preferential zoning.
Meanwhile, we urge concerned residents to attend the February 25th Village Board Meeting to express your views about the latest Centro Proposal and make sure the Board knows that we are closely monitoring the Centro Project and continue to be concerned about future development in and adjacent to our Village.
Late Notice Consideration of Centro Project has been POSTPONED from Tonight's Board Meeting --No Need to Attend
Consideration of the Centro Project has been postponed from tonight's Village Board Meeting (December 12th). The Village Board has indicated that they are now in favor of a slightly smaller building without the parking garage, and are working on a revised special zoning law. Once this law has been drafted, it will be placed on the Agenda at a future Village Board meeting for consideration and we will have the opportunity to study it and comment on it. We will send you an update as soon as we have one.
While Better Larchmont supporters are encouraged that the Village Board has finally acknowledged that the Centro Project should not proceed in its currently proposed form, we continue to urge the Board to approach revitalization in our commercial district in a thoughtful and methodical manner, i.e., by creating a plan for the commercial district that can serve as a template for well-planned future development rather than granting piecemeal zoning exemptions every time a developer comes along.
Meanwhile, thank you for your continued concern and support. It has brought GREAT RESULTS to date, and will continue to be crucial in the new year as this process continues.
Happy Holidays to all our Larchmont neighbors!
PLAN TO ATTEND
Tomorrow night, Monday, 11/18 at 7:30 (at the Village Center behind the Library) is the next Village Board meeting at which Centro will be discussed, and the developer is putting a lot of pressure on the Board to approve the Special Zoning Permit at that meeting so that the project can move to the Site Plan phase.
Your presence at tomorrow night's (11/18) Board meeting will continue to send the message that the Village Board should slow down, step back and approach revitalization in our commercial district in a thoughtful and methodical manner, i.e., by creating a plan for the commercial district that can serve as a template for well-planned future development rather than granting piecemeal zoning exemptions every time a developer comes along.
Please plan to attend and bring as many friends and neighbors as you can – the Board must continue to hear our voices and see our strength. Your support and attendance truly make a difference!
See you Monday night!
PLAN TO ATTEND
Dear Better Larchmont Supporters:
Here is our update on where the Centro Project stands since our last email on October 27.
In spite of the very strong opposition to the Centro project expressed by dozens of citizens at both the September 18 and October 21 Board Meetings, the Village Board and the Developer appear to have doubled down on their determination to push this project through with a piecemeal Special Zoning Permit tailored exclusively for Elk Homes to allow them to build the hulking Centro project. Better Larchmont renews it call that the Village Board slow down and take the time to properly consider an overlay plan for the commercial district that will create a vision for what we want our Village to look like ten to twenty years and beyond.
At a Board “work session” on November 4th at which the public was allowed to observe but not speak, the Developer presented a revised proposal for the project which reduced the project by two apartments and provided for additional setbacks on the fourth and fifth floors, as well as some modifications to the exterior. However, the revisions did little to contain the overall height and bulk of the massive project, and failed to fully address the continuing concerns voiced by residents of the Village.
During the course of his presentation, the Developer made direct reference to Better Larchmont and its website materials and public comments at the Board meetings, calling them “disingenuous” because in his view, he has answered all of the objections, questions and challenges put to the Board about this project. However, while he may have submitted additional reports in some areas, these reports have not been independently assessed by the Village Board and independently retained experts, and they still do not eliminate specific and serious concerns raised about traffic, safety, infrastructure, taxes, schools, groundwater and stormwater and other environmental issues. The Board is REQUIRED to take their "hard look" at the developer's assertions and studies and present their findings to the public BEFORE granting the Special Zoning Permit.
At the end of that meeting, the Developer demanded that the Board approve the granting of the Special Zoning Permit at the November 18th Board Meeting so that they could proceed with the project. They said it “wasn’t fair” to them to make the do any more work until after they get the Special Permit and go to the Site Plan review process, suggesting that all the remaining concerns about all the issues raised by the public can be further addressed during that process. They said they have made all the modifications they are willing to make with respect to height and bulk, and that reducing them any further is off the table.
Since then, this week, the Developer and the Mayor embarked on a media blitz to persuade residents that this modified version of the Centro project should be approved. The Mayor gave print and video interviews to LoHud touting the benefits of the project, and the Developer has taken paid advertising in a local on-line newspaper.
In an article in the Journal News, the developer condescendingly dismisses the concerns of residents with this comment: “In every community there’s typically a small group of individuals who feel passionately about their community and we understand that passion. They have a view about change and they’re generally resistant to change so we’re not surprised by it.” In other words, they’re just a handful of local yokels who can be ignored.
Better Larchmont is not opposed to responsible, planned development. The commercial district needs a boost and a properly-scaled, mixed use retail/residential building with green space could be a plus for the district. But first we need an overlay plan to ensure consistent and appropriate development.
Your presence and participation at the November 18th Board meeting will continue to send the message that the Village Board should slow down, step back and approach revitalization in our commercial district in a thoughtful and methodical manner, i.e., by creating a plan for the commercial district that can serve as a template for well-planned future development rather than granting piecemeal zoning exemptions every time a developer comes along.
Dear Better Larchmont Supporter:
At its October 21st Board Meeting, the Village Board continued the public comment period for the special zoning for the proposed massive Centro apartment building. Over 135 people were in attendance, and Better Larchmont was extremely well-represented at the podium, with more than a dozen speakers who spoke in detail about the many negative aspects of the Centro project.
THANK YOU to everyone who answered the call to attend the meeting - the packed room made a strong statement to the Board about the strength of the opposition to this project as proposed.
The main focus of BetterLarchmont’s comments was directed to the idea that the Village Board should slow down, step back and approach revitalization in our commercial district in a thoughtful and methodical manner, i.e., by creating a plan for the commercial district that would serve as a the template for well-planned future development rather than granting piecemeal zoning exemptions every time a developer comes along.
Kate Bialo from BetterLarchmont presented the Board with a Petition from an additional 250 residents – a total of 500 at two public hearings – expressing opposition to the proposed zoning change and the Centro project it would allow. She said “The responsible way to approach it would be to create a plan for the central business district, those couple of blocks around the intersection of Palmer and Chatsworth. We need a VISION for what ALL OF US would want the heart of our Village to look like in 10, 20 or more years from now. Because without a plan, without a vision, the Board is selling the heart, selling the soul of our Village to the first, and then the next and the next developer that walks in the door.”
BetterLarchmont is not alone in recommending that the Board create a zoning plan for the commercial district. Jennifer Gray, an attorney from the firm of Keane & Beane of White Plains with expertise in environmental and land-use law, spoke on behalf of Preserve Larchmont and Better Larchmont. In her remarks, she noted that the County Planning Board suggested strongly that a plan should be made first, and development to follow in accordance with the plan.
The speakers pointed out in detail the adverse effect that the looming Centro buildings would have on Village character and many other critical issues, including aesthetics, environment, traffic, safety, parking and school overcrowding. In doing so, the speakers questioned the developer’s studies on several of these issues, and urged the Board to live up to the spirit of its legal responsibility to take a completely independent “hard look.” Adam Kaufman showed how the developer’s assertions of property tax benefits to the schools and Village were wildly exaggerated, possibly by “more than 100% too high.” Syrette Dym, a Wendt Avenue resident and a municipal planner by profession, pointed out that current groundwater and stormwater flooding would be exacerbated by the proposed massive building and excavation for an underground garage. Kelly Brock discussed the possible impact of additional children from Centro tipping Chatsworth School into re-districting.
After nearly three hours, the Mayor adjourned the meeting, to be continued at the Village Board meeting on November 18th.
Better Larchmont and all who question the wisdom of this special zoning and massive proposed Centro building should use the next four weeks to let the Mayor and Village Board know it should slow down and do the right thing – make a plan for the commercial district that will allow for coherent, not piecemeal development. We urge you to keep spreading the word to your neighbors and friends in Larchmont and beyond to visit BetterLarchmont.org to get more information on the project, sign up to express opposition and e-mail or write the Board to express your views.