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Desperately Seeking SEQR

The Village's Conservation Advisory Council reviews what measures it can take - including SEQR enforcement - to halt Weaver St. development

The recent plans by developer Ron Paisner to initiate construction on a 20-year-old Planning-Board-approved subdivision have the conservation-minded in the community looking for loopholes in what appears to be an as-of-right 9-unit townhouse plan. 

The Conservation Advisory Council, which met last night in Village Hall, settled on a letter strongly urging that the Board of Appeals require the development - which includes plans for one single-family home, and four two-family homes - ensure that the work complies with the State Environmental Quality Review process, or SEQR.

SEQR ensures the "consideration of environmental factors into the existing planning, review and decision-making processes of state, regional and local government agencies at the earliest possible time" by mandating that all agencies determine whether the actions they directly undertake, fund or approve may have an impact on the environment.  If the impact is determined to be an adverse one, they must supply an impact statement, estimating a measure of the impact. Because SEQR did not exist at the time the original plan was submitted in 1990, the plans would not normally be subjected to it. (SEQR was added to state law in 1995.)

The site for the proposed development which will be called Heathcote Manor is located near 14 Weaver St. just south of the Volunteer Ambulance Corps. building.

Paisner's firm, Pais Built Homes, which is based in Pound Ridge, bills their work as "custom luxury - defined" and claims to place a strong emphasis on environmentally conscious design and construction. The company's website claims to have built over 100 single-family homes, and subdivisions of up to 21 units.

But the moniker many Scarsdalians have given it is simply "the Berlin Wall" for the chalky, characterless retaining wall that is the only visible sign of work at hand.

Eventually the lot will feature one standalone house and a row of four attached townhouse-style homes, centered around a cul-de-sac that would require nine curb cuts. The retaining wall would be obscured by plantings, according to the planners.

"All of us are shocked by the wall, and in particular, for it be placed so close to Weaver Street," said Bart Hamlin, chair of the council.

Citing an e-mail he received from Trustee Sharon Lindsay, the chairwoman of the Land Use committee, Hamlin said: "We're told that it is a state road, and because Scarsdale has no particular jurisdiction on that, they couldn't do anything about it."

"You can't pretty that up with bushes - or trees," said Eda Newhouse, a veteran community member and conservationist. "It's just an affront to our village to enter from the east and have to see that wall. It is just really terrible."

Hamlin said that Village leadership had implied there was no permitting process required by the developer because the plan had been rubber-stamped in 1990 by the then-ruling Planning Board.

The council discussed whether or not it was appropriate and in their interests to request an overthrow of the decision in the Board of Appeals.

"How is it possible this can be built? How can this even be legal?" asked Newhouse. "How can we prevent this from ever happening again?"

Because construction is only just starting at the Heathcote Manor location, the CAC is hoping to urge the development be required to go through SEQR before the foundation work begins.

The group did not make a decision as to whether or not they will appeal the plans.

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