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Planning Board Uneasy with Chap Crossing Groceries

New Castle Planning Board expresses concern with developer's version of grocery and retail rezoning, reiterates concerns about town-proposed plan.

New Castle Planning Board members are concerned about Chappaqua Crossing developer Summit/Greenfield's proposal to rezone the site to allow for a large grocery store and retail, echoing their thoughts about a similar proposal backed by the Town Board.

At a Nov. 20 meeting, the board got its first major chance to explore the proposal, which calls for using 120,000 square feet of retail space, including a grocery store that would be 36,000 to 66,000 square feet, for the southern end of the property, and come at the expense of existing office space on the site, which Summit/Greenfield bought in 2004 from Reader's Digest.

Board member Sheila Crespi wondered whether the square footage provisions of the developer's version would create an unwelcome conflict and outcome with the Town Board's.

The Town Board's proposal, meanwhile, involves legislation to create an overlay retail zone on top of the existing commercial zone that allows for office usage, while avoiding placement on a specific part of the site. It would allow for a grocery store between 50,000 to 60,000 square feet, with ancillary retail at 5,000 square feet each. Summit/Greenfield submitted its plan to the town last month and has stated that its version is in response to the Town Board's rezoning legislation, which in turn was crafted due to the 2011 departure of the D'Agostino supermarket chain. The exit of D'Agostino left the Chappaqua hamlet without a major grocery store.

The Planning Board is providing advisory input for both proposals.

Crespi reiterated her concern about the development creating a third hamlet in New Castle, after Chappaqua and Millwood, a point she raised earlier this fall in response to the Town Board's version. Planning Board Chairman Richard seemed to be sympathetic to the idea that the new retail would have a negative impact on nearby commercial areas.

Crespi also worried about a large traffic increase, based on data submitted in Summit/Greenfield's environmental impact statement for the project, if retail zoning were approved over the current office and residential uses on the property.

“Adding in retail, the number of incremental trips are substantial.” She worried, in particular, about estimated peak traffic times for the property that would coincide with vehicular movement from the end of the school day.

Other board concerns were about procedural matters and whether there is enough information provided.

Additionally, Crespi felt that Summit/Greenfield has not answered a previous board concern given for the Town Board's plan, as to whether or not there is a need for the grocery proposal. Instead, she argued, the developer has referenced the Town Board's proposal.

“None of those questions are really answered by just referring from one document to the other," she said.

“That's where the timing comes in," replied Brownell, noting that it would be helpful to have a review of the town's commercial status that could be carved out from a broader upcoming overhaul of the town's master plan. Such an idea was met with interest from the Planning Board at an October meeting when it discussed the town's version of the rezoning.

Board member Tom Curley said that while he understood the Town Board's interest in getting more tax revenue as a motivation for such a development, he felt that there should be a conversation between the two boards about the intent. Curley's items of interest at the meeting ranged from broad, such as when he suggested that Summit/Greenfield may want to subdivide a retail zoned part of the site and give it to another developer, and to narrow, such as a concern over whether the cupola building would be integrated into a grocery structure. In the later case, Curley gave his opposition, suggesting that the cupola building has other uses that would be more appropriate.

The Planning Board is set to meet again on Dec. 4 and may get a presentation from Summit/Greenfield about its latest plan. It is also seeking more time for come up with a reaction memo to the developer's plan, due to the delays caused by Hurricane Sandy.

The Town Board will hold public hearings on Tuesday, Nov. 27, for both its rezoning legislation and the developer's version. The town and Summit/Greenfield, meanwhile, are still in state and federal courts over a pair of lawsuits that the developer filed in 2011 stemming from the Town Board's late 2000s to early 2010s review of its rezoning request to allow for building townhouses and conodominiums. The developer's last iteration, a proposal of 199 units, was only partially approved in April 2011 when the board voted to grant zoning for 111.

Michele November 26, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Why is this taking so long? Why do towns make it so difficult for developers? Are they paying taxes without revenue coming in?
Joan Khairi November 26, 2012 at 09:53 PM
We need a grocery store in Chappaqua! I think anyone who feels it would take away from the local merchants is being short sighted.
Tom Auchterlonie November 26, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Hi Ann, This process was delayed for a month due to Hurricane Sandy. Also, something of this big magnitude (a large building proposal plus zoning change) almost never gets approved within just a few months, whether in New Castle or in neighboring towns, due to the project scale. This situation is a bit complicated because there are not one but TWO review processes going on, for both the town board's proposed legislation and Summit/Greenfield's related proposal. Environmental reviews for both are going on now, while the Planning Board has been offering its advisory feedback for both. The public hearings are being held for each proposal at the same time, so the oversight of each plan seem to be merging. As for property taxes, Summit/Greenfield is still required to pay them, although it's suing the town to force assessment reductions for each year going back to 2008. The property still commands a large tax bill, even during the time period from when Reader's Digest fell into decline and left: http://www.newcastlenow.org/index.php/article/new_a_primer_on_the_proposal_for_a_grocery_and_retail_at_chappaqua_crossing
Amy November 27, 2012 at 02:20 PM
The amount of construction and upheaval, combined with the end result of a massive lower end supermarket not geared at all to this community obsessed w whole and organic foods makes this entire proposal subject to question. Additionally, for those who live near Reader's Digest, the potential noise, crowds, traffic and late night deliveries make this an objectionable idea particularly for those with school aged children whose bus stops are walking distance from this site. Moreover, home values may be substantially, negatively impacted. Would you want to live next door to Shop Rite? I think quick judgments may be what is short sighted here.

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