Rendering of the 50-unit residential building proposed for 120 North Pearl St. looking north.
Rendering of the 50-unit residential building proposed for 120 North Pearl St. looking north.
A 28,000-square-foot property at 120 North Pearl St. which was previously approved for a 20-unit residential development has been sold. The new owners, AGD North Pearl, LLC, have proposed a building with more than double that number of units. To make the plan work, the owners
are looking to take advantage of Port Chester's new density bonus program.

Philip Fruchter from Papp Architects in White Plains described the five-story, 50-unit building his clients would like to build on the site to the Planning Commission at their Mar. 31 meeting. It would have a lobby that is two stories high with four levels of residential above it.

"The grade from Pearl Street slopes up which creates opportunities for some terraces and open and recreational space in the rear of the property," Fruchter said. The building would have terracotta cladding and a tower in the southeast corner.

The current building on the site, which houses 4 Star Auto Glass, would be razed to make way for the new structure. Two large billboards and a parking lot also occupy the deep lot, located near Pearl Street's intersection with King Street.

Fifty units are proposed, but they would only encompass 20% more floor area than the previous plan, "so it is not like they doubled in size," Fruchter said.

The plan is for 15 studios, 26 one bedrooms and nine two-bedroom apartments. It would have 46 parking spaces internal to the structure although none are required in the C2 zoning district where the property is located.

Luxury amenities would include a lobby lounge, fitness facility, outdoor patios and a wading pool.

According to the methodology proposed, the building is expected to generate 3-4 school-age children.

Because of its downtown location near the Port Chester train station, this is considered a transit-oriented development, one of the categories the village board is concentrating on in its recently-adopted strategic plan.

"We expect residents will be commuters," Fruchter said. "We are looking to attract the commuter demographic."

Density bonus program still being fine-tuned

Thirty-eight units are permitted as of right, so AGD is seeking approval for 12 additional apartments under the bonus program. Bonus eligibility requires new construction on a minimum 20,000-square-foot lot, about half an acre. Besides floor area, bonuses can also be given for building height.

"This is our first case of what is a newly adopted density bonus," Director of Planning and Development Chris Gomez said to the Planning Commission, "which is a bit of a misnomer." This development as proposed exceeds required lot area per dwelling unit of 750 square feet.

A special permit from the Port Chester Board of Trustees would allow AGD to build 12 more units, lowering the lot area per dwelling unit to 575 square feet. The special permit would be "in exchange for providing a designated community benefit," according to the new zoning provision. That would come in the form of a payment to the village's open space fund, housing rehabilitation program or downtown public parking garage fund.

The amount of the payment for the bonus floor area, to be determined by the village board, would be "a minimum of 15% of the assessed value of the bonus floor space, as determined by the village assessor," according to the code.

During an Apr. 12 work session of the village board, it was recommended by outside counsel Steven Barshov with Sive Paget & Riesel out of New York City to add "or units" after "bonus floor space" to this section of the zoning code, which the board expects to act on posthaste.

"I would anticipate somewhere in the neighborhood of 15%," said Tony Gioffre of Cuddy & Feder in White Plains, attorney for the applicant, to the Planning Commission. "If the Board of Trustees starts talking about 95%, this case is dead in the water."

At the workshop, which was attended by the assessor, both Gomez and Trustee Sam Terenzi said the word "minimum" was key to give the board flexibility.

"If you are going to go above 15%, you have to have some criteria," Barshov said. He said the board could have a different percentage for residential and commercial.

"What if it gets set at 15% with this project?" Gomez said. "It sets precedent." He added that "other developers are watching."

Terenzi said he had roughly calculated a $250,000 payment in the case of 120 North Pearl, based on a $1.7 million assessment.

"If you are not investing the money into taking down extra units, you are just buying yourself trouble," he said, "if you are not using the money to alleviate overcrowding."

Assessor Denise Knauer asked if she should be basing the assessment on building costs, adding that "the sale approach is unreliable for commercial property."

"To determine the assessed valuation," Barshov said, "you can ask them to give you the raw data."

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"If we're giving someone a bonus, they better have a nice package," Terenzi stressed.

"You want that bonus? This is what your costs are going to be," Mayor Neil Pagano said. "We get that before we give approval."

"If I'm a developer, I don't want to be left open," Terenzi agreed, later concluding that "we'll give them some parameters."

"I think this is a program you would want to encourage," Barshov said.

Other considerations

The Pearl Street lot is within 500 feet of what is now a two-family zone. Planning Commission member Kevin Pellon was concerned about how this proposed development was going to affect the neighbors. "If I owned one of the houses next door and it is a one-family home and all of a sudden we get this towering building next door, maybe we should address shielding. Imagine a house right up against the party pool."

"We have an evergreen screen, dense evergreen bamboos," Fruchter said. "I understand that will come up when we have the public hearing."

No affordable units are required because the village's provision does not apply to the C2 zoning district, Gomez explained.

A minimum distance variance is required from the Zoning Board of Appeals. The application is expected to be in front of the ZBA for that on May 15.

Because of the needed variance and bonus provision, the application was referred to the Board of Trustees and the ZBA.

"The hurdle is now up to the Board of Trustees to determine this and then it's back to Planning," Gomez said on Apr. 12.