Purposeful, Political or Posturing, Tarrytown Files a Lawsuit It May Not Pursue

Litigation is not new between the Villages of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. The previous Tarrytown administration brought its sister village into court, questioning the environmental impact of the eleven-luxury-homes development called the "Legends at Pocantico Hills." Tarrytown lost the case and the appeal.

Sleepy Hollow returned the favor in April, 2004 when it "formally authorized the commencement of litigation against the Board of Trustees and the Planning Board of the Village of Tarrytown." At issue was the proposed relocation of the asphalt plant on Tarrytown’s waterfront and the residential redevelopment called "Ferry Landings." Once again environmental issues were cited as grounds for litigation.

imagesIn essence Sleepy Hollow claimed that Tarrytown had "taken steps toward authorizing key components of the Ferry Landings project in the absence of proper and thorough environmental review in violation of State law."

Due to Sleepy Hollow’s action, in whole or in part, the asphalt plant was not relocated on the property; rather it was dismantled and removed. Both villages stopped rattling sabers and returned to the task of redefining their waterfronts from an industrial past to a mixed use future. No small feat in light of Tarrytown’s 250 town houses and condominiums at Ferry Landings and 1180 units of housing at Sleepy Hollow’s Lighthouse Landing, one-quarter mile to the north.

Fast forward to this summer, June 19 to be exact, and Tarrytown’s current administration addressed a letter to Sleepy Hollow’s Mayor regarding the GM/Roseland Lighthouse Landing project. Tarrytown’s letter stated that with regards to traffic information and mitigation, "Sleepy Hollow has a defective process under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA)." The letter also supported the reduction in the total number of housing units to 800.

Sleepy Hollow responded in writing stating that, "It should be noted that our goals for the development of Sleepy Hollow’s waterfront and Tarrytown’s goals for its waterfront are significantly different. Because Tarrytown already has two waterfront restaurants and an active marina, a downtown with a successful mix of restaurants, retail stores and an anchor theatre, and because Tarrytown has throughout its borders a number of hotels, catering businesses and office parks which are significant tax (and traffic) generators, your goals for a quiet waterfront residential development which does not compete with a thriving downtown commercial district seems quite appropriate." In contrast, Sleepy Hollow’s letter cited that, "The Village of Sleepy Hollow is not in a similar situation. The retail district is small and moribund, lacking any traffic generator. There is no single business which serves as a big draw to bring people to the downtown to support the business community." Comparing the waterfronts in both villages the letter noted that, "On the waterfront the Village [Sleepy Hollow] presently lacks any restaurant/public use area. Consequently the Village’s master planning process for the redevelopment of the GM site and the entire Lighthouse Landing review process have sought to meet the goal of producing an active mixed residential and commercial district and to provide some portion of the types of commercial facilities that Tarrytown already has."

According to Sleepy Hollow’s Mayor Zegarelli, Tarrytown is having a difficult time understanding Sleepy Hollow’s need to develop the General Motors site. "Over five years of planning and coordination have taken place on Lighthouse Landing, with former Tarrytown Trustee Drew Fixell chairing a linkage study between the Villages during weekend meetings held in Sleepy Hollow. Our doors were always open to Tarrytown. Yet, I don’t think they have a fundamental understanding of what makes this project [Lighthouse Landing] viable," Mr. Zegarelli said. "Asking for 800 units of housing is unrealistic. We have reduced the residential units to 1180 which is a magic number. Roseland and General Motors know what they need to build and what they must have to make this project profitable. Those who say 800 units is the maximum just don’t know the economics. To push that number is to say they want nothing on the site. The developer just won’t finance it," the Mayor added.

What springs from the redevelopment of both Ferry Landings and Lighthouse Landing is a four letter word — cars. Tarrytown claims that Sleepy Hollow has not done enough to mitigate traffic congestion with the proposed Lighthouse Landing. According to Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown’s concerns about traffic mitigation are disingenuous. "Those that believe we didn’t do adequate traffic studies are misinformed. Sleepy Hollow has done more studies in Tarrytown than in our own Village, and Roseland Properties has not only financed them, they are committed to paying for the improvements that would lead to less traffic congestion," Zegarelli said. On the other hand a recent report questions Tarrytown’s actions with regards to its own Ferry Landings project.

The September memorandum entitled "Traffic Mitigation Summary — Tarrytown Intersections" prepared by planning and development consultants, Saccardi & Schiff, for the Village of Sleepy Hollow, reported the following on Tarrytown’s plan for mitigation of traffic. For Route 9 and Main Street, Ferry Landings and Tarrytown have essentially elected to ignore potential mitigation measures (including turning lanes and potential creation of one-

ways). Although their report [Tarrytown] notes existing delays and that the Ferry Landings project would put trips through the intersection, they have made a finding that their proposed measures (in this case essentially no significant action other than potential timing modifications) adequately mitigate potential adverse traffic measures. This raises the question of why this approach and finding, which was acceptable for a project under their review, would not be also acceptable for Lighthouse Landing, particularly given the relatively miniscule amount of traffic put through the intersection by the project in comparison to total existing volumes."

So, why would Tarrytown try to block Lighthouse Landing while ignoring its own findings on Ferry Landings? That is a question that begs an answer. Is it political with upcoming March election rhetoric? Is it flexing the right of anyone to sue anyone else? Is it because Tarrytown truly believes Lighthouse Landing to be a detriment to the well- being of its residents and business


In Sleepy Hollow, Philip Zegarelli is comfortable with his Village’s approach to Lighthouse Landing’s environmental review findings. Attorney Joel Sachs agreed and noted that the Tarrytown lawsuit doesn’t have merit under the terms of law, since Sleepy Hollow has taken a "hard look" at the environmental impacts of the project. Procedurally the lawsuit seems premature and questionable, for Sleepy Hollow has not granted any special permit to GM/Roseland to commence building on the site.

Mayor Zegarelli has planned for this eventuality with both Tarrytown and GM/Roseland. He compares Lighthouse Landing to the fairy tale

Goldilocks and the Three Bears. "Tarrytown sees the project as too big, while GM/Roseland sees it as too small. Sleepy Hollow sees it as just right,"

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About the Author: Robert Bonvento