In their Tuesday work session to discuss the New Castle Town Board’s proposed rezoning to Chappaqua Crossing to allow for a larger supermarket and retail, members of the town’s Planning Board sought to send a message: don’t move too fast.
Board members expressed their willingness, as part of feedback slate to go into an advisory memo, to have a special commercial uses study done to look at such areas on a town-wide basis. They also wanted more specifics regarding the Town Board’s assertion that the proposed rezoning would help an area underserved by such use. Chappaqua has been without a major grocery store since D’Agostino closed more than a year ago, although options exist nearby in Mount Kisco, Millwood and Pleasantville.
A commercial study, according to Town Planner Sabrina Charney Hull, would be a segmented update from a broader master plan study and update, which the town board is planning to do, anyway. It could be done in about six months, she explained, and would include a look at large parcels in town. Meanwhile, the town board is trying to get support from Westchester County to assist it with initial data work, Hull told the board, which could help the overall master plan process get cut down to a year and a half, a contrast to a estimated 2-3 years she gave if the town does it alone.
“I think that kind of an idea, maybe, should have some legs,” said board member Tom Curley, noting that the proposal in relation to the existing business districts in Chappaqua and Millwood.
The town board’s proposal calls for creating an overlay zone to allow for retail usage, which would be placed in the existing commercial zone on the site that allows for offices. It calls for having a supermarket of 50,000 to 60,000 square feet, with ancillary retail uses of 5,000 square feet each. The work session was the second of its kind for the planning board, while members voiced skepticism at the first one that was held on Oct. 2. The meetings are meant to give feedback to the town board for the proposal.
Planning Board members continued to voice concern over what competition the proposal would bring versus existing merchants in town. Some board members felt that the 5,000-square-foot requirement, which was believed to be in place as a way to limit direct competition with business districts, would not work for that purpose.
“The way to protect the other commercial centers is don’t build this one,” Curley said, although the context of his quote was regarding effectiveness of planning, as opposed to opinion. Curley also felt that, if the decision to create another business center is made in the first place, then you might as well not have the square footage limit because it would stifle growth there.
On the matter of grocery store limits, board members felt that the 50,000-square-foot minimum should be lowered.
Board member Sheila Crespi, repeated her concern from an earlier work session, questioned whether a larger supermarket could be supported by New Castle residents, or whether it would be more regional in nature. She felt that, in the memo, the board should pose a question about whether the community is comfortable “becoming a destination center.” As an example of one, she cited the Target and A&P plaza in Mount Kisco.
The board voted to approve revisions to the memo; during the meeting an Oct. 19 deadline for it was discussed.
Board Questions Summit/Greenfield’s New Plan; Attorney Urges Patience
After the memo vote, board members talked about a new plan for the site that was submitted Monday by Chappaqua Crossing owner Summit/Greenfield. The plan, which is in response to the town board’s rezoning proposal, also calls for a large grocery store and retail. It would have a total of 120,000 square feet use, with the supermarket ranging from 36,000 to 66,000 square feet. The retail would be clustered on the southern end of the property.
Curley was skeptical of the plan, from having seen a rendering online, calling the proposed building arrangement a “strip mall.” Adding to his thoughts, Curley worried that the boundary, taken from that plan and being considered, could constrain planning for the site. He also felt that the review of the developer’s application and of the town board’s legislation need to catch up.
“Why are we considering this even?” asked Chairman Richard Brownell, in response to Curley’s concern about the timeline.
“These are decisions that are going to be made by the town board,” responded Lester Steinman, New Castle’s attorney for land use.
Steinman urged board members to hold off on getting into detail about Summit/Greenfield’s plan, noting that they should take time to review its submitted materials first.
“This discussion is really premature,” he said.
Both proposals are converging, however. In a vote on the same night, at a work session meeting down the hallway from where the planning board met, the town board opted to start the review process for the developer’s plan. Among the agreed to items in its resolution is to hold a public hearing for the plan on Oct. 30, which will coincide with a hearing on the town board’s rezoning proposal.