Dobbs Ferry Village Hall was standing room only at a special board of trustees meeting Monday night to discuss residents' questions and concerns about the proposed Development.
Initiated by a group of residents who call themselves the—most of whom live on Ogden Avenue—the meeting was intended to be a forum in which people could express specific reservations and suggest how developers could amend their plans to benefit people who live and work nearby.
Unlike previous meetings, Monday's was civil—tame even. Speakers were less concerned with bashing the project as a whole, and instead came prepared with lists of recommendations and modifications to scale back the developers' ambitious goals.
"The relationship between the residents and developers is by nature adversarial," said Ogden Avenue resident and lawyer Vincent Rossillo. "They want to build, build, build and make money, money money. Our job is to stay on guard and fight back."
In a Board of Trustees meeting last week, the mayor and board declared a positive SEQRA for the project. Mayor Hartley Connett spent much of Monday's meeting attempting to dispel many residents' misunderstanding that a positive SEQRA declaration meant the board had approved the project. The phrase "positive SEQRA" actually means the trustees found cause to require an environmental impact study on the project. That means developers will need to present an in-depth analysis (Environmental Impact Study) of how they will mitigate the potentially harmful effects they project may have on issues like traffic, the environment, public safety and school district enrollment.
"As the Board of Trustees, we can't presume to lean one way or another; we need to study all the impacts before making a decision ," Connett said. "As a board, we have collectively 175 years living in Dobbs Ferry. That is a large number of years experience and we are dedicated to the welfare of this village."
Dobbs Ferry village Attorney Darius Chafizadeh reminded residents that the board is legally bound to review applicants' proposals as unbiased arbiters. He pointed to a .
The land owner, Dobbs Ferry Capitol Partners LLC., and developers' currently include a residential apartment complex, retail stores, a 70,000 square-foot supermarket and a hotel.
Key issues that arose from the discussion were: the scope of the project, traffic, environmental impacts, fear of overtaxing local police and fire departments, the threat of overcrowding Ardsley schools and crime.
David Gralnick, also an Ogden Avenue resident, pointed out that the village's recently approved discourages further development that will add traffic congestion "on narrow and hilly" streets. "Our neighborhood fits that description," Gralnick said.
He also expressed distress over the possibility of a hotel whose clientele might detract from the character of Dobbs Ferry.
Developers' attorney Mark Weingarten later responded: "We're not putting in a homeless hotel; it's not in our interest either. We won't be able to rent out our residential units if we put some schlock outlet there."
Roxana Alvaros requested that the size of the area studied be increased from one-fourth of a mile from the site. "Being realistic, the impacts will reach much further," she said.
Bill Crawford expressed concern for public safety. "Our fire department is only volunteer," he said. "How will the fire department, EMS and police service this area? If someone in the village has a heart attack and police are responding to a incident at Rivertowns Square, will the person die?"
Crawford also pointed out that hiring one more police officer would cost upwards of $140,000 per year, which eats into the developers' projected tax revenue for Dobbs Ferry of $500,000.
Matt McCormick said he hated to think of Rivertowns Square as a "test case" for the commercialization of local parkways. "I recently rode down the Saw Mill today in the passenger's seat and looked out at Chauncey Square," he said. "It didn't look too good. I don't want the Saw Mill to look like Central Ave."
Referencing a k, " McCormick asked rhetorically: "Do we really need another bank there? I worry about crime!"
Two Ardsley residents—including school board President Joanne Sold— spoke out about the potential of overcrowding the already cash-strapped Ardsley school district.
"Ardsley is already sending letters to district employees that they may not have jobs next year," said Ardsley's Saul Fishler. "With the potential for students from these proposed units, we're looking at much larger classes."
Though developers continue to assure that occupants of their rental units will be strictly "empty-nesters and retirees," Gralnick disagreed.
"I'm an accountant, and I see first-hand that we're in a different economy than we've ever experienced. People starting families will want to live in apartments just like what's proposed," he said.
Constructive suggestions posed for how developers could "give back" to the community were construction of a municipal pool and creation of additional athletic field.
Once everyone had spoken, Weingrten thanked the board and residents for the civil tone of the night's discourse. "All we can ask is that you keep an open mind," he said.
There is a special scoping session planned for March 29 in which residents can express specific impacts of the project they would like studied.
Items residents wish to be added to the Environmental Impact Statement should be posed in writing and delivered to village hall attention "Board of Trustees" before March 29.
See more info on Rivertowns Square on the Dobbs Ferry village website here.
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