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Mixed-Use Project on Somers Golf Driving Range Debated

SOMERS, N.Y. - A proposed mixed-use development on the site of a longtime golf driving range in Baldwin Place will not be built if the buildings are restricted to two stories.

That was the contention made by Linda Whitehead, attorney for National Golfworx, during a sometimes heated exchange with Somers Town Board members Thursday night over several requested town code changes for The Green at Somers.

"If you guys want to kill the project just tell us now," an agitated Whitehead remarked. "We didn't ask to come here. The Planning Board sent us here. The world changes and sometimes you have to change zoning to meet reality."

National Golfworx has been before the Planning Board for several months with plans to construct four three-story buildings with primarily retail on the first floor and residential on the second and third stories. Approximately 72 rental studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units are proposed, with about half designated as affordable housing.

However, since the 11-acre property is zoned NS (neighborhood shopping), Town Board members expressed concerns about changing the code to allow a primarily residential development.

"The code is written for a reason. I never like to change the code lightly," said Councilman Thomas Garrity. "It's really doing a job on our zoning code. We would be allowing 95% residential and that's not what the NS zone is all about."

Whitehead argued what the developer was seeking and what the Planning Board unanimously supported was not a zoning code change.

"This is something you put in the code two years ago. The third floor was put in the code as an incentive to construct affordable housing," she said. "This project probably doesn't work economically if it's one story retail and one story residential. Without the third story you'll get half the amount of units. At 35 units, the economics don't work."

Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy maintained she didn't have enough information to make a determination.

"My concern is we're taking what is a neighborhood shopping district and we're basically making it a residential district in large part," Murphy said. "The requests being made are being made prematurely."

Murphy said she would contact the town's planner and Planning Board chairperson to pick their brains about the project and research hiring a professional planning consultant to assist the town and the developer on what might work best on the property.

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