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Schoolhouse Theater Pitches Expansion to N. Salem Board

CROTON FALLS, N.Y. – A building addition and parking lot expansion to Croton Falls' Schoolhouse Theater were addressed at an Aug. 1 public hearing of the North Salem Planning Board.

The Schoolhouse Theater, located on a hilltop in a residential area off Route 22, was converted from a pre-war brick elementary school into a legitimate theater in 1983 by art patron Lee Pope. Performances take place in the former cafeteria.

Planning board consultant James Nixon presented drawings of a 448 square foot building addition along with site plans depicting a larger and wider parking lot. The addition is designed to enlarge the stage and add about 20 seats to the 77-seat orchestra section.

The theater presents four plays each season, plus some extra events. Each play runs Thursday through Sunday for four weeks. The original parking lot becomes congested.

"Right now there are about 30 unmarked spaces," Nixon said. "We'd add 11, so we'd have 40 spaces, all marked." Several neighbors expressed concern about the parking and said that people often park along the streets during performances.

The board was not convinced that 40 spaces would be enough if audience attendance increases. President Cynthia Curtis said, "Parking is the number one concern of this board. All parking should be on-site. Have you considered other alternatives, like having the staff and actors park in Croton Falls and getting shuttled up?"

Schoolhouse Artistic Director Pamela Moller Kareman said, "There are hardly ever more than six or seven staff cars. The actors usually come in a van. We could use our van to bus people from Croton Falls if we had to, and we'd even consider valet parking if necessary. It would be wonderful to have that much business."

A Harvey Road resident, whose home abuts the parking lot, was concerned about how his own backyard and septic field might be affected. Nixon assured him that the edge of the expanded area would be approximately 20 to 25 feet from his property line.

"We share your concern," Nixon said. "We could have fit in more parking spaces, but we decided not to."

A subsequent discussion of landscaping led to a suggestion that some new attractive planting might be done to shield the cars.

The public hearing will continue at the next North Salem Planning Board meeting scheduled for Sept. 5.

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