A site plan for the three-story building at 100 Main Street, on the corner of Elm, has been approved by the Dobbs Ferry Village Board, concluding a process that began in 2014.
In a 4-3 vote on Dec. 15, 2020, the trustees approved adding two duplex two-bedroom residential units to the two apartments that exist by creating a fourth story. The ground floor, which faces Main Street, is retail space.
Property owner L.M. Sutton Management of Riverdale agreed to repurpose a circa 1930s barn at the rear of the property as a garage, rather than demolishing it as was originally proposed.
The board granted a variance to add the fourth floor. The zoning code limits buildings in the downtown business district to three stories and 40 feet in height, but a revision to section §300-36 E. (1) gives the board discretion to approve a fourth story and height increase if the members judge that public benefits warrant it.
The code also states that in downtown districts, a fourth story’s livable floor area should comprise no more than 50 percent of the total floor area of the third. The variance allows 69.9 percent of the third story’s footprint.
Mayor Vincent Rossillo and Trustees Maura Daroczy and Christy Knell voted against the project. Daroczy acknowledged the site’s architectural challenges — the resolution approving the project noted the property’s slope, corner location, and the Village’s requirement to preserve the barn along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail — but was firm about observing the code’s original provisions.
“The codes are in place for a reason, and we must make sure we respect and obey them… I felt that we were open-minded about considering the fourth floor, but it had to meet the village code,” Daroczy told the Enterprise. “I don’t want that to become a precedent for downtown Dobbs Ferry.”
At the meeting, Trustee Donna Cassell, who voted for the project, emphasized the problematic issue of setting a precedent by granting the zoning variances. “If this does get approved, make it very clear, this is an extraordinary piece of property that has a lot of conditions and exceptions to it; this in no way sets a precedent for the board permitting a fourth story... It’s particular to this specific building.”
Village Attorney Lori Lee Dickson, who authored the resolution to approve, pointed out that the fourth story would be set back from the Main and Elm street sides of the building to modify the visual impact of massing. She added that the courtyard, facing Elm Street, retains open space.
The garage will accommodate four vehicles, and the developers will pay a $10,000 PILOP (payment in lieu of parking) for two off-site spaces, to meet the requirement of six spaces.
Daroczy noted that variances are supposed to improve the quality of life for residents and enhance housing diversity and affordability. She expressed concern about maintaining “a certain look and feel” in the village. “I did not feel that the development of the fourth floor was actually meeting those needs, so for me, the waiver was not actually in compliance with the code,” she stated.
The resolution deemed the plan compatible with the Village's design guidelines and Vision Plan, as “the condominium form of ownership would also provide further diversity by offering owner-occupied apartments and more affordability when compared to the singlefamily residence option in the village.”
The plan also was seen to meet Vision Plan goals and objectives by generating property tax revenue, adding vitality to the area, upgrading a residential building, rehabilitating “a dilapidated accessory structure,” and providing enhanced landscaping.
The original plan was presented in 2014 by Sutton’s representative, Paddy Steinschneider of Gotham Design and Community Development, who told the Enterprise, “The scope of the project has been significantly reduced since our initial submission. The first idea was a total of 12 units consisting of one- and two-bedroom units, with at least four of the 12, and possibly six, affordable units.” That project included no on-site parking.
The proposal was adjusted multiple times at the requests of the architectural and historic review board, planning board, and trustees before the new plan was presented at six public hearings between July and November last year.
Knell’s reasons for opposing the project aligned with Daroczy’s. “While it was in the [village] board's purview to approve a project that exceeded the size outlined in the code, I opposed the project in order to uphold the code as written,” she informed the Enterprise. Rossillo objected to the size of the fourth floor’s footprint.
Cassell voted for the plan because the developer is willing to rehabilitate the barn and agreed to retain open space as a courtyard.
“The barn isn’t historical, but Dobbs Ferry has an attachment to it… So many people wanted that barn to be preserved because it’s part of Dobbs Ferry history,” she explained.
Building the new apartments at the building’s rear would’ve decreased the open space, Cassell continued, so the fourth floor was allowed. “The other issue was if they brought that floor to 50 percent, the design of the building would have suffered considerably.”
Next, the developer must pay a $24,000 recreation fee, $10,000 PILOP, and all consultant fees, and submit construction plans to the building department before applying for a building permit. The planning board and/or trustees must approve construction plans. Normally a permit would be issued within six months, but Acting Village Administrator Ed Manley stated that the pandemic has slowed that process.