Phase two of ‘The Abbey’ sees site plan denied due to town code inconsistency
Russell Salvatore Jr.’s proposed phase two expansion of the mixed-use complex at 6449 Transit Road, dubbed “The Abbey,” received approval from the Planning Board under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, but was denied site plan approval at the Aug. 1 meeting due to its inconsistency with the town code’s density regulations.
Phase two of the project is set to include eight residential units within two buildings, but the project’s developers will first need a variance from the Zoning Board in order to implement eight units as opposed to the six allowed under the town code.
Jonathan Bleuer, assistant director of community development for the town, explained that the density calculation is site-specific and outlined in the town’s multifamily housing code. When a project comes before the town and includes a multifamily housing component, said Bleuer, town officials review the acreage of the site. Depending on a host of factors, every property allows for a different number of residential units under the code.
“There’s a bunch of things that go into it,” Bleuer said. “Is it mixed-use or stand-alone? The amount of commercial space the project has, how much of the property is zoned for business and for residential. Each case is unique.”
At the Planning Board’s meeting last week, board members were sure to reiterate to the project’s developers that the site plan, as it exists currently, is in violation of town code.
“I think you’re fully aware that your site plan does not meet the density code for the town,” said Planning Board Chairman Robert Sackett.
According to Chris Wood of Carmina Wood Morris, an architecture and design firm representing the project, developers just recently filed an application for a variance that would allow for eight units as opposed to six.
Since its inception, The Abbey has encountered a long series of bureaucratic and developmental hurdles, from potentially controversial tax breaks to residential concerns that the development will be an anachronism within the neighborhood. It again ran into some of those residential issues last week.
Allen Mann, a resident of Clarhurst Drive, told the Planning Board that the project’s impact assessment form is incorrect because it states that it will not result in adverse change to natural resources. Mann believes that it will, in that it does not follow the regulations stated under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which protects certain bird species from having their habitats disrupted. According to Mann, several species of hummingbird, northern cardinal and a red tail hawk inhabit the wooded area behind the site.
“There are many birds that live in these woods. This is a dense forest,” he said. “It looks like 100 feet of that forest will be taken for the new construction. Many of the birds in this forest are protected. It’s a federal crime to disrupt these habitats where these birds live.”
Yet, Bleuer said that during the coordinated review process with several state and federal agencies involved, the issue was not identified.
“When we send the project out for coordinated review, the DEC and the Army Corps of Engineers have the opportunity to raise questions relative to, whether it be wetland, archeological, habitat, and no such comments were raised,” he said.
Peter Warrell, a resident of Old Post Road West, expressed concern to the Planning Board that the new residential lots could cause water buildup problems for his property.
“There’s an easement at the bottom of our yard, and when we get heavy rain, there is water buildup,” he said.
Other residents raised flags about a potential variance being granted to a project that some say does not need one.
“We have density issues and zoning issues. Most times they [developers] get the variance, and then they build it,” said Martin Lougen of Clarhurst Drive. “If we have density requirements, we should stick to density requirements.”
Sackett shared the sentiment.
“We have a code, and that’s why we will deny the site plan this evening,” he said. “The authority to override that code rests with the [Zoning Board of Appeals].”