GLENMONT — About a dozen residents spoke about a proposed development on Feura Bush Road during the Town Board meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 8. Called The Reserve at Feura Bush, the project would add 48 condominiums next to Glenmont Plaza between Beacon and Feura Bush roads, with an entrance facing Fuera Bush.
In order for Amedore Homes to build the development at that location, the Town Board must approve its application to rezone the site as a Planned Development District (PDD), which would allow for the density of dwelling units proposed. Under current zoning, only single-family detached homes are allowed.
Residents have repeatedly spoken out in opposition to the project since it was initially presented to the Town Board in March. Concerns have been raised about the pace of development in town, traffic impacts, loss of open space and wildlife habitat, additional demands on infrastructure and impacts on the school district. A group called the friends and residents of Glen Manor presented the Planning Board with a list of concerns and a petition opposing the project.
After reviewing it on three separate occasions, the Planning Board voted, 3-2, in early October to recommend that the Town Board approve Amedore’s application. Members who were opposed to the project felt the results of the Route 9W Corridor traffic assessment, which was then still underway by CHA consulting, should be understood before moving forward.
Residents still opposed to the project said they simply didn’t trust the results of the traffic study when it was presented to the Town Board and residents on Nov. 8, prior to the public hearing on the potential rezoning.
The assessment, which was paid for by Amedore and four other developers proposing nearby projects, looked at the cumulative traffic impacts associated with all five developments, as well as projected growth within that corridor. It included the intersections at Route 9W and Feura Bush Road, Wemple Road and Feura Bush, and Elsmere Avenue and Feura Bush, in addition to certain intersections along Route 9W between Feura Bush and Clapper roads.
The CHA study used traffic data along the corridor from 2005, 2011 and 2017 and projected out to the year 2026. It also identified potential improvements to mitigate future traffic impacts, to which developers are expected to contribute funding. “I don’t expect this level of growth to happen by 2026,” said Planning Director Rob Leslie, who explained that the study assumed that all possible development under current zoning were to take place. “But, at some point, as development continues to occur, these improvements are going to be necessary.”
According to Leslie, the Feura Bush project would add approximately 33 vehicles to the roads during the evening peak traveling hour, between 4:45 and 5:45 p.m. He said that is a fraction of the trips that are likely to be added based on current projected growth, which he suggested will eventually be closer to 4,000.
Several residents said there are traffic delays in that area at other times of the day and they felt there were factors that the study may not have taken into account. Others commented about the use of roundabouts to mitigate traffic congestion, pointing out that they make it difficult for pedestrians to cross the street. Many lamented the loss of trees and local wooded areas and some even asked the town to invest in the property and preserve it as open space.
David Greenwood, of Feura Bush Road, said that he examined the zoning restrictions in his neighborhood before moving there, to ensure he could live with any future development in that area. “What’s the point of having a zoning plan if you throw it out the window every time a rich developer throws money at you,” he asked.
“Is code variation allowed,” asked Patty Beeler of Dover Drive, “just because somebody has the right to sell?” She argued that the landowner who is selling their property doesn’t benefit from allowing greater density developments.
Beeler also implored board members to revisit the comprehensive plan and, subsequently, constrain development to the resulting vision, a request that was repeated by a number of residents.
Former Town Supervisor Sam Messina, who lives a few blocks away, said he drives that corridor most days. He was the lone individual to speak in favor of the project. “I understand fear about change,” he said. “I’ve never seen a project that was approved under the auspices of this comprehensive plan that didn’t turn out to be a good project, that resulted in any of the negative impacts that people are concerned about, and that, after some settlement time, wasn’t a welcomed attribute by the people in that community.”
Messina also noted that the feedback gathered at each of the planning board meetings and at the public hearing that night was meant to improve the project. “That’s why you have these hearings,” he said.
“Right now,” said Messina, “our best guide is the comp plan. That was projected out to 2020, so even though it does need a comprehensive update, it’s still a viable document.” He argued that things like open space preservation and diversity, identified as desirable attributes in the current comprehensive plan, are more likely to be accomplished under the Planned Development District proposal than by building 17 single-family homes on the same parcel of land.
Other arguments against the development that evening involved: infrastructure issues such as water levels and run-off; neighborhood character; safety; lack of community outreach; pedestrian and bike traffic patterns; loss of wildlife habitat; and general nuisances caused by construction.
No decisions were made by the Town Board at the Nov. 8 meeting. Members will consider the application in light of the community’s feedback and vote on it at a future date.
Board member and newly elected Town Supervisor David VanLuven, who opposed the project when it was introduced in March and again at the October meeting, said he feels that tripling the density would be “excessive.”
“Sometimes increasing density can be good,” VanLuven said. “But the changes need to be within reason and have clear benefits for the community in addition to the developer.”