top of page
  • Mamaroneck Observer

Hunter Tier Affordable Housing Update

by Cindy Goldstein -

 

While it’s sometimes hard to know exactly what motivates residents to show up at a Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting on any given evening, it’s clear that one item on the June 24th agenda was spurring their interest – the proposed affordable housing project at the Hunter Tier Parking Lot.  There was standing room only at both the Board of Trustees (BOT) Work Session and Regular Session.  See prior article HERE.

 

Richard Nightingale, President and CEO of Westhab, had also sent an email to urge supporters to attend the meetings.  See email HERE,

 

The Work Session Agenda included the item under New Business.  Item 1B called for “Approving a Preferred Developer for the Hunter Tier Affordable Housing Project” with Trustee Rawlings as the proposer.  See Resolution HERE.  Typically, the BOT discusses items at a Work Session until they are ready to be put on the agenda for a Regular Meeting where a vote would be taken.

 

Ethics Issue

Recently, Trustee Manny Rawlings received an advisory ethics opinion from the Village’s Ethics Board (see prior articles HERE and HERE). Despite that advice, Rawlings has continued to participate in every discussion and vote regarding the Hunter Tier project.

 

Ethics Board Urges Due Diligence

During the Work Session, Daniel Karson, Chair of the Ethics Board (EB), addressed the BOT and described the increase in both the number of requests to the EB for advisory opinions and ethics complaints around the Hunter Tier project.  The EB recommended (see memo HERE) that the BOT forestall any potential future litigation by doing background checks of both developers and their principals along with a questionnaire in order to “know your provider.”  The BOT accepted the recommendation and assigned Interim Village Manager Chuck Strome the responsibility to secure the outside professional services.


Trustee Young's Emails

Trustee Young sent an email on June 12 to the Village's recently hired consultant NHB Planning asking for their "read" about which of the two developers would meet the Village's needs regarding the Hunter Tier parking lot. (See emails in reverse chronological order HERE - start on page 5.)


The consultant, Nanette Bourne, responded clearly that it was premature to identify a preferred scenario because of missing critical information. This information includes an appraisal of the Hunter Tier lot, the best use of the property and the parking issues. Interim Village Manager Chuck Strome agreed. But Young persisted and on June 19th he tried again describing his concept of starting negotiations with just one developer now despite the lack of information.


Strome replied "We will have to agree to disagree."

 

A 3:2 Split

Most of the BOT discussion of the resolution was at the Work Session where no public comment is allowed.  As the evening progressed it became clear that the BOT was split with Mayor Torres and Trustee Lucas opposing the resolution and Trustees Rawlings, Yizar-Reid and Young insisting on it.

 

What’s the Rush?

The lengthy discussion among the members of the BOT never seemed to clarify the urgency of a vote on a preferred developer before the consultant’s work was complete and before an appraisal of the property was obtained.  Mayor Torres and Trustee Lucas argued forcefully that since none of the BOT members were experts they needed to rely on their newly hired consultant and other professionals to advise them.  Rawlings, Yizar-Reid and Young countered that negotiations had to begin before the data was available with Young stating that the Village couldn’t negotiate unless they chose one of the two developers.

 

The Village’s consultant, Nanette Bourne of NHB, pointed out that one of the developers - Luna -has an option to acquire the adjacent lot on Palmer for $7 million.  This lot is approximately one-third the size of the Hunter Tier parking lot.  (See pdf page 58 HERE.)  This underscores the need for an appraisal before decisions are made about private use and/or sale of a public asset.

 

Mayor’s Statement

Towards the end of the discussion, Torres read a statement (see HERE) summarizing the issues and laying out a rationale for not picking a developer prematurely and without data.

 

Advice of Counsel

Village Attorney Bob Spolzino offered an Advice of Counsel session to the BOT who agreed and when the Work Session ended, the BOT went into the back room to hear from their attorney.  Prior to this action it was clear that, if the vote took place at that time, there would be 3 members for it and 2 against. 

 

The Vote

Early during the Regular Session Rawlings made an amendment to his resolution to begin negotiations with both developers as soon as possible– rather than picking a preferred developer.  The BOT will list their top priorities and provide it to the consultant and Village attorney with a due date of August 12 for an agreement.  The resolution passed 5:0 and Torres thanked the board for coming to a conclusion that works for all.



Comments


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page