Proposed Iona Dorm Hearing Revisited

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Proposed Iona Dorm Hearing Revisited

May 26, 2013 - 03:06

In Soundview Rising, May 24,2013

City Manager Chuck Strome announced he had polled the New Rochelle City Council about zoning changes needed for the proposed North Avenue Iona dormitory. He said the vote was three and a half to three and a half, but the undecided Council member was not named at this May 14, 2013 City Council meeting. Under New Rochelle's charter the Mayor's vote is used in the case of a tie, so it would be useful to know whether the Mayor was the undecided vote.
Two issues stand out as most controversial: the management of the dormitory which which Young had proposed to build, and the number of parking spaces that would be provided. Mayor Noam Bramson felt minor questions were about the special permit requirement relating to buildings on and off North avenue and the possible relaxation of parking requirements. The question was posed by the Commissioner of Development, Luiz Aragon, was whether the parking requirements should be changed if Iona built a garage near McDonalds (on North Avenue). Bramson suggested focusing on the parking first, and then discuss whether Iona or the developer should have control of the dormitory.
Councilman Lou Trangucci said when Iona has special events, parking pours out from the area of the campus. Strome replied, too much of a parking requirement will result in no development. Councilman Al Tarantino wanted to know the number of parking spaces that were needed. Aragan said the "policy" of living in the dormitory and not being allowed to have a car needed further exploration. Continuing, he said, he looked at other college dormitories and one parking space for four students seemed acceptable. Strome added that a dormitory with 240 beds would need 60 parking spaces.
When a discussion ensued about how many commuting (or day hop) students Iona had, and whether Iona was being open about how many parking spaces were on their campus grounds for students, Strome suggested telling the college the City Council wants more information. Councilman Barry Fertel suggested that "instead of speculating" he wanted to know if commuter students will be transferred to the dormitory; Council woman Shari Rackman wanted to know how many disciplinary actions Iona has taken against students who were not supposed to have cars. Fertel reinforced that the parking problem could be "significant" in the adjacent neighborhoods. Councilman Jared Rice who lives in that neighborhood said if students move out of private housing, another person with a car moves in and needs a place to park. Councilman Ivar Hyden said he was supporting Rice's suggestion that the parking regulations of one parking space to three beds in the dormitory not be changed to one parking space for hour beds. Then Strome suggested having two public hearings: one on who should be allowed to manage the dormitory and another about the parking requirements. Rackman had some difficulty with the management question because she felt Iona should be allowed to supervise their students, but should not be involved with maintenance. Tarantino felt Iona and the developer should "work it out" and not use the Council as a negotiating group. A sunset provision with a time frame in case the two parties can't "work it out" was suggested by Fertel. Strome suggested Council should determine whether they want to pursue this legislation.
After a protracted discussion about whether the zoning needs changes or a sunset provision should be provided, Fertel summed up the disagreements of Council members by asking, "What would Iona agree to? At the next Council meeting a date for new zoning hearings can be approved.