(PHOTO: The Osborn Home brought its CEO Matt Anderson (#1 in photo) and three consultants (#2-4) to the city council meeting.)
The Osborn Home brought is CEO, its attorney and architect and land use experts to the Rye City Council meeting last week but was unable to retire concerns around its request for zoning changes that would allow the facility to substantially add to its campus in the coming years.
Mayor Josh Cohn opened the discussion – that has extended over many city council meetings in the last two years – suggesting The Osborn Home could “breath a little more life and detail into it [the facility’s request and intentions], so we can better understand it, so residents can better understand it.”
Three hours later, after extensive discussion and nearly thirty residents speaking on the Zoom meeting, the council declined to bless the zoning change and push it to the planning board for further consideration. Instead, the council asked The Osborn to provide better insight as to the impacts of any zoning change and report back to the council again. “Osborn team please take heed,” said Mayor Cohn.
At one point, there were over 100 residents waiting to speak in the Zoom meeting, and during the discussion one neighborhood resident pointed out that if it had been an in person meeting, the council would be looking at a standing room only crowd in its city hall chambers.
Of the nearly thirty residents that spoke as the evening wore on, all but a handful spoke against The Osborn due to a myriad of concerns around setback rules and sightlines from Osborn Road and other property boundaries, height of future buildings, increased traffic and the disruption caused by potentially years of construction. “The neighborhood does not want this [new] zoning to occur,” said Coolidge Avenue resident Craig Haines. “I am troubled by all the big buildings going in,” said Cole Mackay of Heritage Lane.
Tensions continue to rise and decisions continue to drag out around various land use issues in Rye, pointing again to the City’s outdated Master Plan from 1985. Updating the plan would create a community discussion and guidance around future development that would at least mitigate some tensions and speed decision making around various land use issues.
The need for an updated plan has surfaced repeatedly as the City and residents have struggled with decisions around the former Avon property on Midland Avenue, the Wainwright House and RowAmerica Rye and The Osborn Home. And in fact, a separate discussion at the very same city council meeting was around the development at 95 and 97 Oakland Beach Avenue of a flag lot that has residents in that neighborhood very upset.
Residents who live near The Osborn Home feel particularly challenged. Multiple residents mentioned feeling caught off guard and concerned around impacts of the current St. Regis Residences, Rye development at 120 Old Post Road (construction there started in 2018 and continues today) and the Avalon development in nearby downtown Harrison abutting the train station, both in the throws of construction.
And the process for The Osborn is a two step process – first changing the zoning and second looking at particular and specific plans. That means certain specific questions – such as where exactly new buildings will go on the property – can only be answered with what would be allowed under new zoning (such as rules around setbacks).
At one point, one of The Osborn’s consultants Andrew Tung showed Google street view images to attempt to show what certain setbacks and sightlines might look like. The exercise seemed to frustrate various meeting participants. The usually reserved City of Rye planner Christian Miller said The Osborn would have to find a better way to show the impact of various setbacks and sightlines to allay the concerns of the city and local residents. As of now, The Osborn Home is back on the agenda for the next city council meeting on Wednesday, March 24, 2021.