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Somers Town Board Evaluates Zoning For Route 6 Housing

A public hearing Thursday discussed the Somers Green proposal for affordable housing off Route 6.
A public hearing Thursday discussed the Somers Green proposal for affordable housing off Route 6. Photo Credit: Katherine Pacchiana

SOMERS, N.Y. – A packed audience at Thursday’s public hearing heard developers, residents and board members discuss changing the zoning of the affordable housing project on Route 6, known as The Green.

The site currently is zoned NS, indicating business and retail on the ground floor and apartments on the second floor. The developer is requesting a change to an all-residential zone.

The change already has been approved by the Somers Planning Board, but the Somers Town Board still is weighing the issues.

If changed, the complex would provide about 70 units, roughly split between one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. The units satisfy part of the HUD settlement, requiring Westchester to build a total of 750 affordable housing units. It simultaneously would count toward Somers’ promise to provide 228 affordable units, as part of the Angle Fly Preserve agreement.

“Our town needs special help to get housing for single-parent homes, working families and all the people who have less than the county’s median family income of $90,000,” said resident Polly Kuhn. “We ask you to grant the zoning amendment and make this development possible.”

“An amendment would allow for a younger group of people to move in,” added resident Nancy Gerbino. We’ve done a lot for the seniors already.”

Heritage Hills resident John Keane said, “As the code is written, it allows residential apartments over stores.” But the site does not lend itself to retail use, he argued.

“It’s a wonderful idea to encourage local shopping, but I can’t see it working on this lot, in this location,” added resident Vicky Gannon.

“Frankly, it would be in our interest to include retail, if there were a market for it,” said developer Rick Van Benschoten, “But there is none. There are already 194,000 square feet of retail space vacant in Somers. It doesn’t help anyone if we flood the market with yet more retail space.”

Keane commended the developer for redesigning the complex to lower its height from 50 feet to 38 feet, making it more attractive and inconspicuous.

“Would there be any priorities for local applicants?” asked Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy.

“No, we can’t give priority to local people,” replied Van Benschoten. “It’s a lottery system.”

Van Benschoten added his organization has offered $400,000 toward a senior community center. “The county would add $625,000 to that. That money will be at risk if we don’t build this, whereas Somers could have a beautiful new million-dollar community center.”

After an hour of comments and discussion, the board passed a motion to keep the public hearing open until the next meeting March 14.

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