Port Chester has cleared the way for the environmental review process to move forward for the proposed redevelopment of the closed United Hospital site, but village officials made it clear to the developers on Monday that they think the project needs to be scaled down.
The village Board of Trustees struggled over whether to approve a measure that sets the board as the legal "lead agency" in the environmental review required with any zoning change made for Starwood Capital to transform the 14-acre site off Boston Post Road into a mixed-used residential development. But after making it clear that the measure in no-way supports the current size and make up of the Starwood proposal, the board approved the resolution.
Starwood representatives said they needed the official start of the review process so they could launch environmental studies and seek official and public comment on their eventual designs for the shuttered hosptial site. However, the Starwood residents heard plenty about their previous proposals from village trustees and members of the public at Monday's Board of Trustees meeting.
Port Chester residents speaking during the public comments session of Monday's board meeting repeatedly spoke against the Starwood proposal as it has been previously been presented to the village, saying it called for too many residential units.
Proposed: 820 residential units in five- and six-story buildings, with 20,000 square feet of ground floor retail and commercial uses and 1,350 parking spots in surface and underground structures. The residential units would have a mix of sizes: 5 percent studios, 48 percent one-bedroom and 47 percent two-bedrooms.
To make the project possible, Starwood is seeking a zoning change from the site's current two-family residential designation to a special district that allows for a planned development. The project would demolish the old, unused hospital.
While the site is in a busy section of Port Chester with large shopping center just across Boston Post Road, the redevelopment of the site has become a major topic of disucssion among village residents because of concerns over its impact on the Port Chester School District.
Some residents fear the size of the project could worsen existing problems faced by the school district in providing services for the densely-packed village. Other residents have raised concern that the site should not be used for traditional housing at all - suggesting it be considered for a new medical facility, a hotel or an assisted-living complex to provide housing for the area's aging population.
The Village Board of Trustees meeting on Monday night at the Village Court on North Main Street saw the return of board member John Branca, who has been unable to attend meetings on a regular basis because of illness. He return to cast his vote on the Starwood resolution and on a resolution that cleared the way for Port Chester to buy a piece of residential property on Grace Church Street to expand and improve Edgewood Park.
Branca was among trustees who voiced concern that the Starwood concept of 820 residential units at the United Hospital site is too much. Branca expressed concern that traffic from a development with that many residential units would have a severe traffic impact on already congested roads.
Village Manager Christopher Steers told the Board of Trustees Monday night that passage of the "lead agency" resolution does not bind the village to anything other than allowing Starwood to move forward with an environmental review.