Board opens door for developments

Preliminary plans nailed down for new housing subdivisions in Woodhaven, off Merrick Road

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A pair of key housing projects are continuing to work their way through the city’s Planning Board with hundreds of potential new homes in the offing.

The board, which met Tuesday night, approved a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for the first phase of a major subdivision off Merrick Road and Charles Anken Boulevard with the review finding no negative environmental impacts.

Meanwhile, a SEQR was tabled for the Woodhaven Redevelopment Area — but a Preliminary Plat Review for that project — as well as the Charles Anken Boulevard subdivision — were unanimously approved. A plat is defined as a map, generally of a subdivision, delineating the location, boundaries and ownership of individual properties. Approval of a preliminary plat by the Planning Board involves a determination that the subdivision conforms to the regulations and to the lot-size requirements of the zoning district.

Buck Group

Buck Construction has proposed to build 65 residential units as part of a major subdivision off Charles Anken Boulevard. Steven Buck, president of Buck Construction, LLC of Whitesboro, gave additional details of his plans to build 65 single family residences and townhouses as part of the subdivision, which will also include a clubhouse with such amenities as a pool, basketball court and tennis courts for the community’s residents. Planning board members said Tuesday that Buck would need to apply for a special use variance with the city Zoning Board to construct the clubhouse, as the property is not zoned for such a use in that district.

The first phase of construction would include the 65 units total, with plans to later build an additional 25 units for a total of 90.

Tuesday Buck reviewed Phase I of the project, which he called the “gravity sanitary conditions” of the property. Buck said he is in discussions with Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo about the construction of another section of road for access to the single-family houses that are part of the development plan. Phase II would include revision of the Merrick Road site, he said.

“Right now for construction season, we’re planning on trying to get Phase I approved so we can get out there building,” said Buck. “If everything works out with the grades, we also want to get over on the other section of single-family (homes) so we can start building the patio homes coming off of Merrick.”

Buck said he was also trying for approval of Phase II of the project in case there were any gravity sanitary issues during Phase I, which also includes construction for all the duplex townhouses. There are about 50 units that are part of Phase I, and Buck said he planned to construct 15-20 per year “instead of overbuilding for that market. We want the single-family home market and to start on the patio homes in the other section.”

Buck Construction plans to show the townhouses for sale before the patio homes. Right now Buck said his construction company has the finances to build 36 units. Buck said he is also “close to finalizing a contract” on land sale as plans develop for the next phase of construction in a section of the property heading out to Merrick Road. For the first year of
construction, Buck said for “absorption purposes” he would build 15-24 units total.

Buck said during construction if there is an issue with the sanitary slope, he can put in a pumping station, but that is the worse case scenario and he wants to avoid it. He said he already had wetlands flagging done on the next parcel, and the State Historic Preservation Office archaeological study on the property has been conducted.

If granted Plat approval, Buck requested the board or city give him something in writing that he can present to National Grid so their crews could get started on designing the underground gas and electric service.

Planning Board Chairman Mark Esposito described the subdivision as “a great project for the city, and I’m hoping you continue, and that we continue to see great things.”

Esposito said local resident Ralph Ortiz and another resident of Jervis Avenue wrote in to ask for more details about the project, how it would affect traffic on Jervis Avenue and Turin Road, and whether there would be consideration for preservation areas.

“Now we’re not going out to Jervis” as far as construction, Buck said.

As for the wooded area at the south of the project, despite some units lost, it will be retained, he said. Buck said there are also plans to put a trail around the perimeter of the property.

As for possible traffic issues and for construction purposes, Buck said he would like to make a construction access road so crews don’t need to use Charles Anken Boulevard.

“I hope to have a connection off Merrick Road,” he said.

Planning Board member David Troutman asked about rain overflow and possible standing water that could cause problems for mosquitoes as the rear of his own property is close to the property line of the subdivision.

The plans “have scheduled there be a rain sewer overflow right behind my house, how close will that be to my property line?,” Troutman asked. Buck said while that was “well into the future” of the project, it would be located 100 feet from Troutman’s property. He also assured Troutman that, “we’re not going to develop any more wetlands that exist now. We’ll probably always have water in the detention pond, but we don’t anticipate it would be a mosquito trap. But that’s something we would turn over to the city. I’m not sure if they (the city) have some sort of storm water retention.”

During comments by Garret Wyckoff, planner with the city Department of Community and Economic Development, he said the SHPO letter of no impact had not yet been received, although findings were considered to be unlikely. He also said in addition to the clubhouse needing a variance prior to construction, the townhouses would also need a variance because of the way the district is zoned.

Wyckoff said although the SHPO letter was still needed, which is expected to be received in no more than a few weeks, it was his department’s recommendation that the Planning Board approve a negative SEQR on the project, meaning it would have no environmental and historical impact on the area. The Preliminary Plat Review included the necessary and complete utilities layout, cross roads, street design requirements and infrastructure for pedestrian accessibility.

The board then unanimously approved a motion and vote for a negative on the SEQR, followed by unanimous approval for the Preliminary Plat Review.

Woodhaven Ventures, LLC

Woodhaven Ventures, LLC was seeking a SEQR Review for a 37 lot first phase of a 250 lot total major subdivision in the Woodhaven Redevelopment Area bounded by Floyd Avenue and transected by Park Avenue.

Also under consideration was a Preliminary Plat Review.

Elizabeth (Libby) Coreno, real estate development attorney for Bonacio Construction, Inc., of Saratoga, briefly reviewed plans for development at the former Woodhaven neighborhood, which at one time had served as Griffiss Air Force Base housing.

Coreno noted the success seen with Air City Lofts at Griffiss Business and Technology Park — where all available units are fully occupied — so as for the Woodhaven project, “We think it’s the right development at this time because the single-family market is in high demand with incredibly low inventory.”

She explained that the overall concept plan would include 250 homes, with hopes to start construction this summer or fall, and to start selling in 2022.

“We have a 10-year estimated sell-out,” Coreno said.

Asked if the houses would target “disadvantaged groups” or be open market, Coreno said they would be sold on the open market, but that Bonacio will “not try to build something that’s over-priced for the market.”

There are plans to tear down all the old base housing and clear the site.

“This is a tough site, so we’re looking at this in a series of development phases,” said Coreno.

She said Phase I of the project would include the construction of 37 single-family homes.

“We want the product available for advertising and putting out on the market in 2022,” said Coreno. “There is a subdivision review process, and we may be nearing this from a codes standpoint.”

Homes to be built on the site will range from 1,600 and 1,400-square feet to 1,260 square-feet and range from two to three bedrooms.

While no environmental impacts are anticipated Planner Wyckoff recommended tabling the SEQR on the project. The Planning Board then voted unanimously to table the SEQR, however voted unanimously to approve the Preliminary Plat Review.

“I think you have the right team here, and thank you for working with the city and all interested parties, and getting this far” on Woodhaven, said Chairman Esposito.

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