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Tuckahoe Residents Try to Stop Apartment Complex

TUCKAHOE, N.Y. -- Residents of the Tuckahoe School District have filed an Article 78 petition against the Tuckahoe Planning Board in an effort to prevent a 123-unit apartment complex from being constructed.

Mark Sweeney, an Albany based attorney from the firm Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna, confirmed that an Article 78 petition was filed on the deadline date of Friday, Jan. 20, against the Tuckahoe Planning Board for its decision to grant site plan approval to Glenmark Developers.

According to court papers, the Planning Board and Building Department staff failed to provide relevant documents to residents in a timely fashion, violated parts of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), violated Westchester County mandates and violated the village's own zoning laws.

The courts papers also say village officials failed to acknowledge its own code that mixed use of residences and businesses on a first floor are forbidden. However, the papers say, this was never addressed by planners and the matter was never referred to the Zoning Board, where a variance should have been sought.

Joe Pregiato, an Eastchester resident who lives in the Tuckahoe School district, was one of the residents who attended Tuckahoe Planning Board meetings regularly and tried to persuade planners to scale back the project. Pregiato attended a board of education meeting Monday night to notify members about the proceeding and seek support from the board in the matter.

"An Article 78 proceeding is a way for residents to fight City Hall," Pregiato said at the meeting. "We are not seeking money in this suit, we are seeking a reversal of this decision."

Before Pregiato spoke, Julio Urbina, the Tuckahoe board of education president, read a statement that the school board was unable to join the residents in the proceeding. Last year Urbina, who was then vice president of the board, and other members made several appearances before the planning board when the project was still under consideration. In a letter written to the planning board last May, Urbina maintained that the proposed apartment complex would increase the number of children who will attend the Tuckahoe School District, an increase, Urbina said, the district cannot afford.

After months of hearings, the planning board granted developers Glen Vetromile and Phil Raffiani site plan approval for the complex on Dec. 20. Last week Vetromile said the project is expect to break ground this spring.

"We are very pleased with the outcome after a very long and rigorous review," Vetromile said.

The Tuckahoe Planning Board granted approval for 123 one and two-bedroom apartments that will be divided between three buildings, which will be located on three vacant lots at the corner of Main Street and Midland Place. There will also be 3,500 square feet of retail space in the project.

The final project is different from one approved by village planners in 2008 that called for 81 condominium units. But soon after, Raffiani – the sole owner of the property at the time – won approval, the economy stalled and the project never got off the ground.

Last year, Raffiani paired up with Vetromile and the pair came up with an apartment complex and filed for an amended site plan approval through the planning board. Raffiani and Vetromile could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but Tuckahoe Mayor Steve Ecklond said he could not comment on pending litigation involving the village.

Sweeney said the village has until the first week of March to respond to the petition.

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