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White Plains Discusses Bed and Breakfast Ordinance

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – After operating a bed and breakfast against the zoning categorization of her Soundview Manor mansion since 1993, Doris Sassower urged White Plains residents and politicians to amend the city’s zoning code to legalize her business at a public hearing Monday.

“It was my vision to leave a lasting legacy for the city so that future generations could enjoy its beauty and uniqueness long after I’ve gone,” Sassower said of her 283 Soundview Ave. home, which is included in the National Register of Historic Places . “How could this best be accomplished? In today’s hard-pressed economic times historic mansions are more and more being recognized as endangered species. A bed and breakfast use, can be a catalyst for renovation and restoration that can save them from extinction.”

Sassower, a former president of the New York Women’s Bar Association and founder of the Center for Judicial Accountability, said amending the zoning code to allow bed and breakfasts to function as principal permitted used in R1-30 zoning districts would help preserve the Irish roots preserved in her 11-bedroom, eight-and-one-half bath mansion.

Some residents, including Dan Seidel, who lived in the Soundview neighborhood while attending law school, suggested that the city work with Sassower to preserve her “magnificent house.”

“I believe White Plains should work with the owner to preserve it,” said Seidel, who noted that if the mansion were on the market it could attract at least as much traffic. “If she’s got 11 rooms, it means a family with 11 kids could move in there, which means that there could be 11 cars outside when they grow up.”

Carl Albanese also spoke in support of Sassower, saying the city should be as flexible with long-time residents as it is with lucrative developments.

“What we seem to be missing here is the human element. Miss Sassower has made her contribution,” Albanese said of Sassower, a resident for 31 years. “Miss Sassower is trying in this economic situation to sustain her very existence here.”

Bob Goldstein, co-president of the Soundview Neighborhood Association, spoke on behalf of seven homeowners to express their “unhappiness with this application.”

“We don’t think transient use and commercial use of the area is a good thing,” Goldstein said, mentioning that the neighborhood didn’t enjoy having Soundview Manor guests pull into driveways and knock on doors while looking for directions. “Transients are not better because they’re not there every night.” He added, “We don’t know these people. We don’t know who they are.”

Eric Zitaner, who lives across the street from Sassower, echoed concerns from his neighbors that allowing commercial activity in a residential area could alter the character of the community.

Both the Battle Hill Association and Old Oak Ridge Association sent representatives to explain their concerns with how the proposed amendment could affect their residential zoning. Mark Lalloo suggested that bed and breakfasts be handled with special permits so that the city has more control over the businesses, particularly, in areas like Battle Hill, which Lalloo said already has a “transient problem.”

Mayor Thomas Roach said the city will review the public comments prior to making any decisions.

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