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Plan to build Mount Vernon apartments fuels fight over neighborhood 'character'

Ravine would be filled for new building

12:53 AM, Feb. 23, 2012 |

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Bayview Real Estate Consultants wants to build an 18-unit apartment building on what is now a deep, wooded ravine, seen Wednesday. / Colin Gustafson / The Journal News
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MOUNT VERNON Residents are fighting a proposed 18-unit apartment building they fear will strain sewers, wipe out parking and displace wildlife near their Oakwood Heights homes. Bayview Real Estate Consultants Inc. has proposed building a four-story residential structure on what is now a 20-foot-deep, densely wooded ravine between Lorraine Avenue and Lorraine Terrace. The developer seeks eight variances from the city Zoning Board of Appeals for the project, to allow construction of the four-story, multi-family dwelling in a three-story, single-family zone. If approved, the project would require crews to clear-cut the areas vegetation and lay tons of fill at the half-acre site to level out the steep topography for construction. The project would obliterate the character of the neighborhood, overload an aged and crumbling sewer system and lay waste to a micro-ecosystem that is a habitat to woodpeckers, deer and other wildlife, a consortium of neighborhood groups wrote in a news release this week.

Opponents spoke out against the plan at a Tuesday zoning board meeting and are circulating a petition that already has hundreds of signatures. The previous owners 2001 proposal to build a seven-home subdivision at the site never got off the ground. Bayview acquired the land in 2006 and initially planned to build just three single-family homes at the site, using leftover fill from another construction project. But the developer shelved those plans after learning the fill was contaminated, then put the project on hold longer after the real-estate market tanked. Given the cost of fill, the developer now thinks an 18-unit building is the only development that would yield a positive return, said its lawyer, Hannah Gross.