North Castle Approves Zoning for Hotel, Townhouse Project – The Examiner News


Zoning amendments were granted to the developers of a proposed hotel and 72 age-restricted townhouses last week on a parcel formerly owned by IBM in Armonk, clearing a major hurdle for the project to proceed.

After about three years of proposals and negotiations between the applicant and the town, the North Castle Town Board granted Maddd Madonna LLC the zoning modifications last Wednesday evening for the project known as Eagle Ridge at 3 North Castle Drive.

The board approved the findings statement and resolutions that included modifying a section of the town code to amend the principal use in the Office Business Hotel (OBH) district and to reclassify 21.9 acres of the 32-acre property to allow for multifamily senior housing in the OBH zone.

Supervisor Michael Schiliro said the project is in line with the Comprehensive Plan and would provide a long-sought hotel for the town and much-needed housing for empty-nesters and retirees looking to downsize.

“When you talk to any business owner in town, and I canvased them all, property owners and business owners, they embrace this development because it provides more people,” Schiliro said.

“We’re not a hub, but when we add development, it’s smart development so I’m comfortable with that,” he added.

Maddd Madonna LLC now heads to the Planning Board in hopes of obtaining site plan approval for the townhouses and a 115-room hotel.

Until recently, it wasn’t clear that there would be enough votes among the board’s four voting members to approve the zoning since Councilman Saleem Hussain recused himself from the application because he works for IBM. Councilwoman Barbara DiGiacinto said she repeatedly grappled with the project because it had more density than she wanted but realized the town’s critical need for a hotel and housing for older adults.

“I think the townhouses are fairly important, but I think the hotel is very important,” DiGiacinto said, “and I think the hotel is tied as tightly as one can tie it to the townhouse project.”

Frank Madonna, one of the principals for the project, had said throughout the hearings that without the housing component it would be economically unfeasible to build the hotel.

The town and representatives for Maddd Madonna agreed on a $5 million escrow agreement to ensure the hotel will be built. The parties also entered into a Community Benefits Agreement that will see the developer contribute a $500,000 parking fee to help the town build additional parking in downtown Armonk. The agreement also requires the applicant to donate a parcel acquired on Business Park Drive to ensure the project has enough water and to serve other municipal needs.

Councilman Jose Berra, the dissenting vote who had been critical of the project throughout the process, said he was troubled by the housing density at the site, the hotel’s impact on the ridgeline and on sightlines from Route 22 and condo taxation for the townhouses.

He reiterated concerns that the town has approved or is weighing multiple projects in Armonk that could overwhelm the hamlet. There are well over 200 units in that category, not counting the proposal for an additional 170 units and another hotel at the MBIA property.

“I want a hotel, the problem is density and I’m not sure how we agreed, or the rest of the Town Board, agreed on this amount of density, and it’s problematic for me,” Berra said.

Prior to the vote, Berra pressed for revisions that strengthened the Community Benefits Agreement and escrow agreement.

Councilman Barry Reiter said he also had issues with the density, but the hotel was a good tradeoff.

“The hotel is a key issue for me and I believe you guys are going to do it and it’s going to be a good project,” Reiter said. “I look forward to it.”

Schiliro said the initial proposal in 2018 called for about 150 residential units and the board was able to cut that number significantly.

Despite her reservations, DiGiacinto said there is always change as a community evolves.

“I see this as a new chapter,” she said to Madonna and his representatives. “I have such faith that you’re going to do as you say and I certainly hope that you live up to my expectations.”