Neighbors whose homes encircle the site of a proposed Katonah housing development challenged key provisions Tuesday of a draft report on the project’s pros and cons.
For more than an hour, they voiced concerns about traffic, water runoff, noise and myriad other details of the environmental impact statement, or EIS, submitted in support of a 23-home cluster development planned for the former Bailey Hall property.
The land—more than 26 thickly wooded acres largely untouched for a quarter-century—lies north of Harris Road and borders the property of numerous Katonah residents. Some three dozen of them filled the second-floor meeting room, spilling into the foyer, as the draft EIS met its critics.
Fifteen speakers questioned a number of assumptions, projections and conclusions contained in the EIS, already in its second iteration. Still considered a draft, the statement is “probably many months” away from formal approval, planning board Chairman Donald J. Coe said. “We are nowhere near approvals,” he said in opening the meeting.
Perhaps reassured by Coe’s remarks, the speakers delivered a critique of the EIS that was spirited but remarkably free of the rancor that can accompany a discussion of one’s home, a subject almost always profoundly personal and most often financially crucial. In addition to their comments Tuesday, the residents submitted a 2,700-word, 55-signature impact statement of their own, a document Coe called a “well-reasoned report.”
The proposal by developer Cosimo Tripi, first presented to the planning board last October, would cluster 23 homes on about half the available land and link them with a 30-foot, lighted loop road. The subdivision would be reached via New Street, with Harris Road providing an “emergency-only” backup access.
Like a number of speakers Tuesday, the neighbors’ impact statement challenged both the EIS’ projections of future traffic and adequacy of the designated artery. The neighbors’ report contends that the applicant is “seriously underestimating” the project’s likely population and traffic impact and asks, “Why is New Street being asked to shoulder the entire traffic load?”
Speakers at the public hearing suggested the street cannot, and will not. “I apparently just foolishly moved to New Street,” newcomer Eileen Sullivan said. “There’s no possible way [to use it as a subdivision access] . . . I just can’t see it working.”
Skeptics offered one answer. “You know they’re going to use Harris Road [for regular, not emergency, access] eventually,” said Nick Dillallo, who lives on that narrow, winding street. A number of residents sought assurances that Harris Road would not become that de facto second way to enter the complex. “How will Harris Road be closed [at the emergency route access]?” asked one woman, who was told a breakaway gate would control entry.
Laurie Lewis, who wrote the extensive neighbor report and spoke only briefly Tuesday, said she wanted to underscore every point the statement makes. “My biggest question is about the traffic and how that would be mitigated,” she said.
If traffic—both construction vehicles as well as the daily residential flow—was the No. 1 concern expressed Tuesday, water—both runoff and septic—was a close second. Leonard M. Episcopia of Pleasant Street, armed with photos and a poster, was the first of several neighbors to address the issue, warning that stormwater runoff, already pooling in the property’s valley, can only worsen as trees are cut down to clear building lots and septic fields.
Developer Tripi and James and Adelade Murphy own the 26.5 acres on which the Bailey Hall Boys’ School once stood. The school served mentally challenged youngsters from 1921 to 1987.