Pawling Residents begin Legal Action against Castagna Low Income Housing Project
For decades the Town of Pawling has been considering project after project at the Castagna property which borders several neighborhoods. In 2015 “Castagna Senior Park” was completed on this property with Federal and State grants.
Prior submissions to the planning board and Pawling Town Board promised 400 total units of senior housing, 167,000 square feet of medical offices, 200,000 square feet of retail space….and a hotel. However, only 81 units of senior housing has been completed and the Castagna Realty Company claims they cannot attract tenants for the proposed medical offices, retail, or hotel.
In 2016 the Castagna Realty Company changed direction. Pursuing new State and Federal money through HUD and other programs, the company and its commercial partners worked to change the zoning for the balance of the property (PDD) to strike the word “Elderly” and “Senior” in order to begin a proposal for Low-Income Housing instead.
LOCAL POLITICIANS RECEIVED DONATIONS
Documents received through the NY State board of elections indicate $7000 of campaign donations to former Pawling Town Supervisor Dave Kelly led up to a change to the Castagna PDD .
A staggering $69,250 in campaign donations was also uncovered at the State Board of elections made by the same group of developers, contractors, and architects to the current Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro who recently announced his campaign for US Congress.
Pawling residents are now calling foul and promise swift legal action to stop the low-income development.
IMPACT ON SCHOOLS CREATE ALARM
Pawling School officials have also weighed in on the impact to the Pawling Central School district by this proposed 80 unit low income project with the majority of units being 2 and 3 bedrooms designed for families. A comprehensive letter was sent to the Planning Board and Town Board by School Superintendent Kim Fontana after receiving a request for more information by the Planning Board.
TAXES TO INCREASE
Included in the letter from School Superintendent Fontana was an outline of how this large housing complex with little tax revenue will drive up school enrollment 30-80 students. Under the current plan “The Woods at Pawling” portion of the Castagna property would be removed from the tax rolls and instead replaced with a PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) estimated by the developer will only add up to $140,000 according to documents submitted to The Pawling Planning Board. However, 30-80 students will cost $1,110,000 – $2,960,00 (in absence of State Aid) at a current cost of $37,000 per pupil per year. This increase in school taxes will be a burden carried by all Pawling’s taxpayers.
TRAFFIC, LIGHTS AND CHANGING A NEIGHBORHOOD
The nearest neighbors to the proposed project are very concerned as this complex includes 5 separate buildings with parking and lighting that will have a significant visual impact on the streets nearby including Akindale Road, San Souci Drive, South and North Dingle Road, Fenwood Drive, Quaker Hill Road, and the neighborhood of Cedar Valley. Neighbors also protest the proposed entrance to the new “Woods” project and the lack of traffic lights along RT 22 for safe entry to the Castagna Park. Even the lack of sufficient parking in the Village of Pawling has been raised as more traffic would be expected throughout the center of town.
IMPACT ON FIRE DISTRICT, AMBULANCE SERVICE, AND WATER
With so little taxes collected, additional concerns have been voiced in the most recent public hearing about the services that will be required. Although the Castagna Property will be using it’s own wells and sewer connection, neighbors are concerned about the impact on the water table of adjacent properties and even that of the Village of Pawling that has been on extreme water rationing in recent years. “All of these issues must be considered and discussed publicly, that is why we have asked for the public hearing to be opened again” says Cedar Valley resident Marty Mygan.
CATAGNA REQUEST “ADJOURNMENT” TWICE
People attending the Pawling Planning Board meetings on December 20 and January 3 were expecting a final decision by the planning board on the “change of use/intensity” issue.
In both meetings the Castagna group contacted the Planning Board just prior to the meeting and asked for an adjournment, delaying the conversation and any decisions until the next meeting. It is now delayed until the January 18 meeting. The planning board itself is also facing scrutiny as it made several unusual decisions including keeping the public hearing open in the month of November to “written questions and comments” that were never read aloud or entered into the public record…as all public hearing comments typically are. The Planning Board also changed it’s own policy for public comment just as public interest in the project became more intense. “The Town Website says clearly that the public can make comments if the meeting is finished before 8pm” was stated by one Pawling resident in the November Planning Board meeting….however this statement of policy was removed for the Town Website the next day.
TOWN BOARD MEETING AND SWEARING IN CEREMONY
Two Planning Board positions have recently become open and according to the upcoming Pawling Town Board agenda: “Greg Bernard and Stephen Jobe are hereby appointed to a three-year term”. A former planning board member has now joined the Town Board and listed “Corinne Musella-Pitt, Councilwoman” on the same agenda. Musella-Pitt has been one of the most outspoken members of the Planning Board and presented many questions about the Castagna project and the dramatic change of scope this low income / non age restricted housing project brings to Pawling. This is compared to the original plan for senior housing only and appropriate medical and retail services that was agreed upon by the Town Board and Planning Boards.
TOWN RESIDENTS COLLECT $5000 FOR LEGAL FEES, SEEK TO COLLECT MORE DONATIONS
Local resident Robert Colon has helped organize nearby neighbors and obtained advice about moving forward with legal action against the Castagna Group and Kearny Realty. “Many donations have already been received and we will need more to move towards a lawsuit” says Colon.
Pawling residents wishing to help donate to the legal fund should contact longtime Pawling Resident Dolly Busolt.