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Trustees, Mayor Shut Down Weaver St. Offer (update)

Developer F.S. Fish returns to the Board of Trustees after several attempts to purchase Village property; tonight, the committee met again with the development firm after a sword of Damocles moment set off by a Jan. 20th letter.

It took a cajoling letter, but development firm F.S. Fish finally got what it wanted. An audience.

It may have been more of an audience than they had prepared for.

More than 100 community members – many of them members of the Heathcote Five Corners Coalition – turned out tonight to listen to F.S. Fish Investment Company's reinvigorated effort to coerce the sale of a small wedge of property owned by Scarsdale to the development firm for a residential proposal at 2-4 Weaver St.

F.S. Fish's effort was less-than discreet (and ultimately surfaced in the Jan. 29, 2010 edition of the Scarsdale Inquirer): In a hand-delivered letter [link to PDF below] addressing members of the board and Mayor Carolyn Stevens, attorney Michael Zarin declared, "respectfully, it is time for your Board to take final action on F.S. Fish's offer to purchase this unused, awkwardly shaped sliver of Village land in accordance with the terms and prior discussions memorialized herein." 

The land referred to as unused currently operates as a parking lot and sits behind the old Heathcote Tavern – most recently a restaurant called Bistro Citron.

At tonight's meeting Zarin re-introduced the developers' position as outlined in the letter. And it just didn't fly.

"We have attempted for a number of years to come up to what we thought was an agreement in terms that we thought would benefit not only our client but that would mitigate the impact of this project on the environment as well," said Zarin when he took the podium earlier tonight. "We thought we had reached what was an agreeable arrangement on everyobody's part." 

But then he proceeded to outline the changes made to the earlier discussed parameters with the Village as to what restrictions could or would be placed on the development.  A crucial element talked about previously – age-restricted housing – had disappeared.

"The restaurant has closed since we last met, and the property is generating no revenue," said Zarin. "There is very little economic use [of this property right now.] We're trying to deal with a world and a reality that we know is upside-down."

  • Option A:

    14 units, a new building for parking on the first floor; 27,000 sq. ft. of residential on upper floors.
    Tavern:
    8,500 sq. feet of commercial retail.  No age restriction would be allowed.
  • Option B:

    16 units, 32,000 sq. ft. residential total, 27,000 sq. ft. on upper floors
    Tavern: Facade maintained, 5,000 sq. feet residential, 3,500 sq. ft. for commercial. New building would be attached to existing building creating a footprint "evenly spread" across entire site.

"Under both options we would require the age-restricted requirements be deleted," said Zarin. "It's almost impossible to get financing as it is, and it's even more difficult to get it with any encumbrance – as we've been negotiating that has become more real to my clients," he said.

Zarin also introduced the potential fate of the site if the Board knocked the offerings down: as-of-right development.

While making clear that it wasn't to be interpreted as a threat, Zarin stated, "It's a real option for us...if the first two options about purchasing the Village land do not come to fruition for whatever reason...we'll go back to the Planning Board where we started, seeking to make some economic use of this property."

One of the potential outcomes, he suggested, might be opening a 10,000 sq. ft. retail store, such as "a moderate-sized pharmacy or other use that pays rent. We're always looking for valuable space in an area like Scarsdale – obviously putting it all on the street would increase the profitability under the zoning." He also suggested they might "spread the retail out on various floors in the tavern."

After less than an hour, the Board had heard enough. It was clear they weren't convinced of the project's merit as the new proposals stood.

Trustee Sharon Lindsay, the Land Use chair, said she was not entirely convinced of the development's value with the flouted restrictions, adding, "I'm going to ask the board to reject both proposals," before opening the floor to the other Trustees.

"In my view the proposals are unacceptable, and I would join you in voting against them," said Trustee Richard Toder.

More to come on this late-breaking story on Thursday.

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