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.