First hearing held on 307-unit development
By Jeff Simms
Nine people spoke out during a short but spirited public hearing on May 9 about a development of more than 300 apartments — it would be Beacon’s largest to date — proposed for land near the Metro-North train station.
Nearly all the speakers at the Planning Board hearing took issue with the density of the Edgewater project being proposed by Scenic Beacon Developments in a part of the city that so far has been relatively untouched by the residential building boom.
“The idea of this huge building is a huge nightmare,” Beacon resident Samantha Britton told the board. A moment later, she asked spectators to stand if they were opposed to the project. About two-thirds of the audience rose.
“There is a huge crisis in this city,” she said. “Families that helped build this city are being kicked out because they cannot afford to live here.”
Scenic Beacon has proposed 307 units on a 12-acre wooded site just northeast of the train station. Its plan calls for the creation of a walking path overlooking the Hudson River as well as a park in the middle of the seven-building development. Two existing buildings on the site would be demolished.
The company, managed by Rodney Weber, is also asking the Zoning Board of Appeals for several variances — for the number of units allowed per building, the space between buildings and stories allowed per building. The exceptions would reduce the construction footprint, explained architect Aryeh Siegel, who is working with Weber.
Members of the Planning Board have been critical of the proposal, particularly its size and possible effect on traffic. Citing public interest in the project, the board held a public hearing earlier in the process than is typical. Additional hearings are expected.
Beacon resident Donna Francis said the city should consider a moratorium on building in Beacon. “This is a small town; it’s five square miles — how much more can we cram into it?” she asked.
Justin Riccobono, who lives near the Edgewater site, said the project would add much-needed housing. “People can’t even find places to live” in Beacon, he said. “There is a supply-and-demand issue. I’m hoping that these projects throughout the entire city will help cool the market. When there’s more out there, the price comes down.”
But Meredith Heuer, a member of the Beacon school board who said she was speaking as an individual, cautioned that continued development could create a “huge hardship” on the school system. “At a certain point we won’t be able to fit the classes in the buildings anymore,” she said.
The final speaker, Mark Bobbitt, who also lives near the site, expressed concern about traffic, construction runoff and wildlife. “Where are these deer going to go?” he asked. “They’ve lived on this property for the 20 years I’ve been here.”
The public hearing will continue at the next Planning Board meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 13. In the meantime, the board has asked Scenic Beacon for information on the environmental and infrastructure impacts of the project.
“At this time we are very early in the local review process,” Weber, the Scenic Beacon manager, wrote in an email on May 11. “We are listening to comments from the public and taking a hard look at any potential environmental impacts. We will continue to work with the community and the board.”