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555 Stewart Avenue Project Inches Closer to Development

Village Board Grants Extension for Final Site Plan Approval

The Garden City Board of Trustees voted in favor of granting a second one-year extension of the final site plan approval for the townhouse development of the property located at 555 Stewart Avenue. This past June, the village board first granted a one-year extension through September of 2010 and advised the property owner’s attorney, Kevin Walsh, to return this August to obtain further extension.

During the most recent board of trustees meeting, Walsh formally asked the board for a second extension beyond September 2010. Walsh told the board that the owner of the longtime vacant property was in negotiations with a developer. “In terms of progress, it was only two months ago in the summer that I met with you but I will tell you that I indicated then that we were very close on a contract, we are even closer,” Walsh said. “I had hoped to have this resolved. I had expected that if we had met in the first week of September that we would be presenting a joint venture between the current owner and another developer.

“I have been asked that if this approval is granted that I will be moving ahead for final subdivision approval before your planning commission,” Walsh said. “I expect all things will be coming together this fall if the extension is granted,” he added.

The property at 555 Stewart Avenue is in the residential townhouse district of the village. According to Walsh, when built it will be the first development of that district since the board created the legislation for a residential townhouse district. “The proposal is for 25 townhouse units, a recreation room, including a pool on that site. There will be a center road going through it; it will remain a private road and it will be a residential development of a high quality in a nice gentrification from the industrial area down further on Stewart [Avenue] into the residential areas of this village,” Walsh said. The development of the property at 555 Stewart Avenue was halted due to the failing economy and there’s been no activity at the site since.

Trustee Dennis Donnelly inquired as to whether the fire and police departments had reviewed the plans for the site. “The plans were reviewed by the fire department and the village prior to the Planning Commission recommending site plan approval to this board. Nothing has changed in the applications, so I assume that would hold,” Walsh said.

Trustee Brian Daughney asked Walsh for clarification on whether the owner was selling it to a new developer but keeping the same plan. “We are required to keep the same plan, that’s the approved plan. In terms of selling, we would be joint venturing with a marketing developer who’s had a significant amount of experience in this area developing upscale houses. We’d be working together with them,” Walsh said. “My client would indicate if he were here that, regardless, if that contract were signed, that he plans on building this and developing it out, as per the plan,” he added. Superintendent of Buildings Michael Filippon informed the board that the developer in this joint venture is very experienced in construction of this type of housing.

Daughney further inquired as to whether it would take another year to “break ground.” Fillippon explained that a site plan approval, once initially granted, remains in effect for one year and then it expires. “Our code allows in the actual language for such an applicant to make applications to the board of trustees for a one-year extension. That has already occurred. What’s occurring now is they are now asking for a second one-year extension because of the obvious delays in financing and marketing conditions that led to the delay, so that otherwise if you were not to grant this extension, they would have to start from scratch and reapply all over again on the very same project. This all has to be accomplished before the building department would be in a position to issue a building permit” he said.

Filippon told the board that the building department has not yet received actual construction documents. “I don’t know if they are in the process of being developed, that takes a considerable amount of time as well,” Filippon said. Once the approvals are accomplished, including the subdivision approval, he said the village would be in a position to issue a building permit. “It gives them another year to get this all accomplished,” he added.

Trustee Andrew Cavanagh asked if the village law allows for more than one renewal. The language in the law only allows for one extension, but it doesn’t preclude the board from having the authority to grant subsequent extensions if they so choose, according to Filippon.