Cold Spring-based Unicorn Contracting is proposing to build a mixed-use project with 148 residential units distributed among 12 structures on a parcel in Yorktown Heights. The development is known as Underhill Farms and it would be located at 370 Underhill Ave. on the former 13.8-acre campus of the Soundview Preparatory School. Unicorn says that It intends to renovate the Underhill House on the property, a mansion that originally was built in the 1800s for one of the families that founded Yorktown.
The development’s residential units primarily would be intended for senior citizens. There would be about 300 parking spaces and 11,000 square feet of commercial space.
The Yorktown Town Board reviewed preliminary plans for the project at its Feb. 22 work session and referred the matter to the town’s Planning Board. Complete site plans had not yet been submitted by the developer.
The developer wants to apply Yorktown’s recently-adopted overlay zoning to the project. Creation of the new overlay zoning for the hamlets of Yorktown Heights and Lake Oseola was expected to aid in attracting new developments while not overcrowding the town with traffic and overburdening local schools.
Unicorn is headed by Paul Guillaro and began operating in 1984. As a developer of luxury custom homes, it constructed an estimated 300 homes in Westchester and Putnam. In the 1990s, it branched out to include commercial developments in New York and Florida. Unicorn completed medical office buildings in Cold Spring, Cortlandt, Yorktown, White Plains and New Fairfield, Connecticut. In 2020, it expanded to develop mixed-use projects.
Documents on file with the Westchester County Clerk’s Office show that Underhill Soundview LLC, which is located at Unicorn’s address, purchased the site of the proposed development from Soundview Preparatory School on Oct. 15, 2020, for $2.85 million. The school had closed and filed for bankruptcy and the property purchase was approved by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.
The development property is part of what once was the 240-acre Underhill farm. Abraham Underhill and his son Edward were responsible for building the mansion on the property. In the early 1900s, the farm was purchased by the Beaver family, which ultimately sold off most of the land and turned what was left into the Gilbert Beaver Conference Center. Soundview Prep subsequently acquired the property.
Yorktown Supervisor Matt Slater said, “This is the first application going through the overlay zoning process and I look forward to the Planning Board’s meticulous review.”
Yorktown had asked the Westchester County Planning Board for its comments on the initial proposal. County Planning Commissioner Norma Drummond noted that the developer was proposing to provide a total of 165 units with 85 rental apartments and and 80 for-sale units that would consist of 30 apartments and 50 townhouses. The total number of units was subsequently reduced to 148.
Drummond said that the materials that were submitted did not indicate whether any of the units would be set aside as affordable housing and she urged that no less than 10% be dedicated to the affordable category.
Drummond raised concerns about the effect the development would have on the intersection of Sawmill River Road and Underhill Avenue. She raised questions about the location of parking lots and provisions for pedestrians, cyclists and the disabled.
James Glatthaar, serving as town attorney, pointed out that the attorney for the developer had disagreed with the county’s criticisms and that there would be ample opportunity to discuss the issues as the review process continues.
Glatthaar said that applying the overlay zoning to the project would reduce the lot frontage requirements, lot coverage, lot area and minimum floor area.
“In essence, they’re concentrating the buildings toward the center of the site, except for the historic house, which is not proposed to be changed except to be adapted for re-use,” Glatthaar said. He said the Town Board should not be at all hesitant to refer what has been submitted to the Planning Board for review under the town’s overlay zoning regulations.
Councilman Sergio Esposito said, “We’re at the infant stage still. It hasn’t even gone to planning yet where it’s really going to be scrutinized and looked at. I think we move this forward.”
“The root decision here is: Does it meet the criteria under the law? And it does,” said Councilman Ed Lachterman.