Memo

The following memo was read by Trustee Allegra Dengler to the Planning Board at its June 27th meeting.

This was the meeting at which the Planning Board granted subdivision approval to the Virginia Avenue development project, despite a petition [1] from the neighborhood (signed by 65 residents) requesting that the Planning Board make subdivision approval contingent on a full 'site plan review' (as required in Article XVII [2] of the Dobbs Ferry Code). Although Trustee Dengler had been told by Village attorney Kevin Plunkett that the Planning Board has the authority to require site plan review [see memo below], attorney Darius told the Planning Board that they were not 'PERMITTED' by the Village Code to do a site plan review in this case [3].

Trustee Dengler is the Board of Trustee's liaison to the Planning Board.


Memo to: Planning Board
From: Allegra Dengler - Trustee, Village of Dobbs Ferry
Date: June 27, 2002
Re: Subdivision and Site Plan review of Ashford Realty Property on Virginia/Ashford Avenues

There was considerable discussion at the Board of Trustees on Tuesday night about this. The Board of Trustees as a whole did not take a position on this issue. The Board has been seeking to find ways to improve traffic and safety problems that the residents of that area have been bringing to us, especially regarding cut-through traffic on Virginia Ave. We recently approved speed humps which are now under construction, as one measure to address the traffic problem.

We have also requested the County to install a traffic light at either Odgen or Lefurgy, but have not been successful at that. There are big problems with traffic volume on Ashford Ave at Lefurgy and Ogden.

I have been convinced by the residents of Virginia Ave that this site needs site plan review and so I am speaking on their behalf as well as the benefits to the village as a whole of an attractive development there that enhances the surrounding neighborhood.

Iím asking you to find a way to do a site plan review on this property and not just subdivide. Site plan review has to be on the whole property, not the individual subdivided lots. It doesnít do us much good to subdivide with no provision for a coordinated site plan review.

It is preferable to do the site plan review before the subdivision approval because once you draw the lines, many possible good solutions are ruled out. I met with the Village attorney Kevin Plunkett who told me you have the authority to require site plan review. Darius also said this at the Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night.

When you do the site plan review, then you can address the very real concerns that Trustee Delmerico and I share with the people living on Virginia Avenue. Those issues are traffic patterns, parking, neighborhood character, and safety for pedestrians and drivers, and especially children.

This block has a lot of children living on it and we need to look out for them. Two weeks ago there was an accident involving a child on Washington and Virginia, and all our planning decisions have to made with safety of residents in mind.

The village also has a concern re lawsuits. If we get into lawsuits everyone loses. No matter what the outcome, nobody wins. The developer gets delays and additional costs and aggravation. The homeowners get the aggravation and expense of a lawsuit and no assurance that they will win. And the village has the expense of a lawsuit and whatever is built is going to be the result of the lawsuit and not planning. Not the best way to get something that is good for the village while respecting the fact that the property owners have a right to rebuild. In fact, in this case, most people want them to rebuild. This is not a place to keep vacant, this is an important area in Dobbs Ferry that needs someone to come in and invest in Dobbs Ferry and build something good. The fact that the lots on Virginia Ave are proposed as residential is good news for the neighborhood. There is a need for redevelopment of the site.

But it needs the infusion of planning through site plan review. If any site called for planning, itís this one.

If for any reason you feel you must subdivide tonight, and I hope you donít, Iíd ask that you make it conditional on a consolidated site plan review. In other words, when site plan review for the first one of the new lots you create comes up, a site plan has to be prepared for all the lots, including Lots 7 and 8, the parking lot and the firehouse driveway.

An alternate possibility is to ask for cluster development, which requires site plan review. Cluster does not legally require townhouses or attached houses exclusively, it can also be detached homes. Clustering allows creative siting of the houses on the lots in order to minimize the number of curb cuts, improve visibility, create new opportunities to get parking behind the buildings and off the street.

Clustering also creates more latitude to create more attractive housing that would fit in better with the homes on the block. Because the two family lots created as currently proposed are very narrow lots. Two of them are only 46í wide. This creates tall and narrow buildings with a maximum width of 26í, of which half of that frontage would be a two car garage and driveway with parking for two more cars. It doesnít allow flexibility to create something more attractive that would enhance the neighborhood.

In closing, I hope that you will not approve subdivision before doing site plan review, and that all lots be included in this coordinated site plan review.