Skaneateles ZBA - Mirbeau

Gary Dower, on behalf of Mirbeau, presents a new plan for Mirbeau Gateway's residential development to the village of Skaneateles' zoning  board of appeals Wednesday. 

SKANEATELES — The Mirbeau Gateway project's five residential units have been approved after bouncing back and forth between the village of Skaneateles' planning board and zoning board of appeals in what became about a three-year process.

Overall, the project includes a roughly 3.5 acre expansion to the spa's current facilities. One portion of the expansion, previously approved, was adding three new extended-stay lodging units. These buildings will each have three levels and house three suites and include additional amenities than typically found in a hotel room. 

The five single-family homes, approved Wednesday at a village of Skaneateles zoning board of appeals meeting, are the second portion of the long-awaited expansion. 

The homes will be located on the parcel adjacent to the current Mirbeau Spa facility, at the corner of Fuller and West Genesee streets. The houses are expected to be two-story homes in the 1,800-square-foot range with front porches.

Bob Eggleston, the architect for the project, said the design is based on something known as "New Urbanism." 

"Most of the homes in the village are relatively large, even though the lots are relatively small," Eggelston said Wednesday. "The feeling was it would be good for the village to bring in a new type of housing. ... I think it meets a need."

He added that the demographic in mind are empty-nesters or young couples, or families just starting out. The owners would be part of a homeowners association and all outside maintenance — such as landscaping and snow removal —would be managed by the association.

The project, as an open space subdivision, also includes a large open space that is open to both residents' of the units and the community's use. Eggelston explained Wednesday night that the play area is substantially larger than ones in more traditional subdivisions to accommodate for the community. 

In May, the zoning board of appeals voted against the project largely due to concerns regarding if the homes fit harmoniously into the neighborhood and fire safety, May ZBA minutes indicate. 

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ZBA member Mike Kowalski expressed in May that the question of if the development fit into the harmony of the neighborhood was his largest concern, minutes state. He stated it felt "significantly more dense than what it is surrounded by."

When it came to fire safety, the board received some concerns regarding access to the homes by the village's volunteer fire chief that left them not feeling confident enough to say that the plan had enough emergency services accessibility.

Following that meeting, Gary Dower, the applicant on behalf of Mirbeau, and Eggelston brought a revised plan to the village's planning board in June. The changes mainly consisted of relocating the homes' shared driveway — which eventually separates to access to each unit — to the center of the development with an entrance on Fuller Street. The new design provides direct emergency fire access to half of the development and increases each lot size from 50-feet wide to 60-feet wide. The change in lot size contributed to the development becoming more harmonious with the surrounding neighborhood.

The planning board then moved to recommend that the ZBA grant Mirbeau the needed special use permit for the proposed open space subdivision.

While the ZBA members largely still felt on Wednesday that four homes would be ideal when it comes to harmoniously fitting into the existing development, with the lot size adjustment they found — while still not ideal — it did not disrupt the harmony of the surrounding area. 

ZBA Deputy Chairwoman Kathleen Zapata also expressed that the changed location of the driveway provided "reasonable access" when it came to emergency fire services. The board agreed that this option was also better than mandating each home have its own driveway — a previous consideration — due to traffic safety concerns.

The board largely felt that the new plan presented was a good compromise, balancing concerns specific to the ZBA and planning board, and voted to approve the project unanimously. In May, only one ZBA member voted in favor of the project.

Construction is expected to start next summer.

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Staff writer Megan Ehrhart can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or megan.ehrhart@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @MeganEhrhart.