In a packed second public hearing over proposed zoning changes for Larchmont’s central business district Monday night, slow-growth activists began offering outlines of what kind of development they might find acceptable in the Village.
At issue is the planned Centro Larchmont development of 26 luxury condos (including 3 so-called “affordable” units and street level retail) on the site of the grim stretch of vacant storefronts along Chatsworth Avenue just south of Palmer.
“It’s too high,” the critics all seem to agree when discussing the five story red brick building so “reduce the height,” is a suggestion being offered.
Jennifer Gray of the newly formed Better Larchmont coalition even suggested an additional top floor set back to soften the building’s visual impact from street level.
The plan offered by the developer, Elk Homes, already has such an upper floor setback on the Wendt Ave side of the project. Elk Homes Developer Gary Hirsch has also made the case that Centro, as proposed, is actually lower than several nearby apartment buildings.
Kelly Brock, the founder of an anti-development group called Preserve Larchmont, suggested the building simply be shifted to “high end office space without children to impact the school.”
“The school,” of course is Chatsworth Elementary, a charming but dated primary school further down the avenue, within easy walking distance of most of the 1 square mile village. Brock said if there has to be new housing on the Centro site, she would like to see “an ironclad ban on school aged children,” perhaps insisting the occupants be 55-or-over.
Chatsworth Elementary is one of four elementary schools in the Mamaroneck School District and the only one not currently at full capacity. School overcrowding is a genuine fear among many homeowners in the village who feel Chatsworth is the draw that makes young families willing to foot the crushing property tax bills Larchmont is known for.
“It’s just not something we feel comfortable rolling the dice with,” she told the Board.
Elk Homes maintains that based on the population of school-aged children in its other residential buildings in the area, the net gain of children at Centro would be between 2 and 5.
Resident Kate Bialo offered more of a stop-and-study reaction to the proposed zoning change. “We want planning before zoning,” she told the trustees. Bialo says she has 500 signatures advocating a comprehensive plan for the entire area around the Metro North Train Station rather than piecemeal rezoning.
In a recent letter to the community, Larchmont Mayor Lorraine Walsh underlined that the proposed zoning change would simply enable projects like Centro Larchmont, but stressed actual approval requires multiple hearings and reviews.
photos: Lou Young