Less commercial space, more senior housing in new Mountco proposal

| 30 Sep 2011 | 09:46

    Editor's note: The following story is corrected from the original, which misidentified the person who made the presentation at the planning board's June 15 meeting. The Chronicle regrets the error. But water and sewer service remains a problem for developer, By Edie Johnson CHESTER - The would-be developer of the former Camp LaGuardia campus in Chester has scaled down plans for commercial development while making more of the 907 houses planned into senior citizen residences. Carl Meinhardt, vice president of design at Mountco Construction and Development Corp, presented the revised sketch to the town planning board in the Mountco's first public presentation this year, saying they were open to hear what the community wants. “We think that we have a better understanding of the type of housing needed,” Meinhardt said. He said more than half of the 907 residences planned will now be senior citizen housing. The rest will be in “family buildings” four and five stories high. Meinhardt said aerial photographs they took show the existing LaGuardia central buildings as equivalent to a four-story building. They believe their family buildings would not be significantly more visible. They’ve also found much more wetland and farmland on the 258-acre property than they originally believed was there. The building footprint will therefore be limited to 78 acres, Meinhardt  said, with “some of the big huge wetland area can be used for activities such as jogging and ball playing.” “We expect the new 60 percent senior and 40 percent of family housing to have a positive impact on parking,” he said. The increased number of senior units will decrease the number of children entering the Monroe-Woodbury School District, he said. Still no sewer or water There still isn’t enough sewer or water infrastructure for development. Complicating matters for Mountco is a recent supreme court decision overturning the county’s expansion of Sewer District #1 to include the LaGuardia property, which the county currently owns. Rick Golden, the attorney for the applicant, said the county is obligated to provide infrastructure to Mountco. But the court nullified the expansion because of the lack of environmental review. The county is appealing. “So, now Mountco will go ahead and study the environmental impacts,” he said. Judge Francis Nicolai also denied County Executive Ed Diana’s request to dismiss the complaint filed by the original Harriman sewer plant users, who said a proper environmental review was not done, and that they should be first in line for any additional capacity at the plant. The court’s denial pointed out the county’s failure to consult town officials about the expansion and the likelihood of the expansion to cause odors and pollution downstream. Developer’s agreement Michael Zarin, a White Plans attorney who has represented other municipalities facing similar large developments, will coordinate a developer’s agreement with both Chester and Blooming Grove. “When faced with these kinds of large public/private ambitious projects, a developer’s agreement is the only way to get these types of projects right,” Zarin said. Mountco has been in a “pause,” he said, but “before we get into heavy duty SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review), we want to sit down and determine what is the kind of development that people will feel good about.” He said the town does not relinquish any rights by this kind of agreement. Rather, he said, it will serve to determine “who pays for what, time issues, details about number of buildings and their height, economic issues, grants and such. It becomes a document of good faith between the parties ... to have a conceptual plan or agreement, and assurance that the town won’t pull the plug on rezoning, or either party make a last-minute major change. We are optimistic that we can come up with a development you and Blooming Grove think will be good for the town.” Mountco will make another similar presentation to the public and town board at Blooming Grove in July.

    The latest Mountco plan Commercial/retail space will decrease from 180,000-square feet to two small two-story commercial buildings totalling 100,000 square feet 60 percent of the 907 units will be senior citizen residences. 40 percent of residences will be in “family buildings” four and five stories high. Family residences will be limited to three bedrooms per unit.