Tuesday's public hearings for proposals to rezone Chappaqua Crossing for a grocery store and ancillary retail appeared to do nothing to assauge critics, who warned about a litany of issues that they argue would undermine the quality of town life.
With turnout in the dozens, almost every speaker blasted the proposals, which includes versions from the Town Board and site developer Summit/Greenfield.
They worried, as in past meetings, that the concept would pose a threat to merchants in the Chappaqua and Millwood hamlets, create a traffic nightmare along surrounding roads and hurt property values.
Cindy Lupica, owner of Marmalade, argued that the proposal, could take out businesses ranging from Chappaqua Village Market to Family Britches and Squires, leaving downtown Chappaqua as a "ghost town" and lower property values as a result.
"No more Petticoat Lane," said Phyllis Jacobson, who is the clothing store's owner.
The two plan's the were the subjects of the hearings have broad similarities and also tangible diferences. The board's proposal is a change to the town's zoning code, and would create a retail overlay zone that could be applied for and go anywhere on the site's existing commercial zone, which is about 72 acres. It would allow for a grocery store of 50,000 to 60,000 square feet, and retailers of up to 5,000 square feet each. Summit/Greenfield's plan, which it unveiled in October and crafted in response to the town's, calls for rezoning almost 24 acres for the same overlay but in the southern part of the property, a grocery store that could be 36,000 to 66,000 square feet and four, 5,000-square-foot tenants. It would involve a total of 120,000 square feet of retail space, replacing an equal amount of office space, and leading to a total of 662,000 for both commercial uses.
Opponents also worried that the Chappaqua they moved to, a place with a small-town feel, would become one where the retail character changes.
“I think that this is going to destroy every single person in this hamlet," said Lisa Katz, who lives near the property and has organized a petition against the concept. Katz disputed that notion that there is local support for the idea, which the Town Board first started pushing for earlier this year in response to residents who were upset over the 2011 departure of D'Agostino that left Chappaqua without a major grocery store.
Rob Greenstein, a founding member of the Chappaqua-Millwood Chamber of Commerce and critic of the proposal, argued that people who were against the D'Agostino site losing a supermarket use were not one in the same as those who would want a store at Chappaqua Crossing. Greenstein, who appeared frustrated at times due to the Town Board's limited allotment for speakers, argued that Summit/Greenfield has not listened to residents' interests.
“The fact is they don't ever ask what the residents want.”
Several speakers argued that there is no need for another grocery store in the hamlet, noting that several already exist near by, such as the A&P locations in Mount Kisco and Millwood and the Thornwood Shop Rite.
“Why do we need another supermarket?” asked Laraine Ginsberg.
Poonam Arora admitted that she signed both a petition calling for the D'Agostino site to have a grocery store and one opposing the concept for Chappaqua Crossing. She argued that the D'Agostino site was different because it would accomodate a store that could be used for purchases that are more supplemental in nature, as opposed to major trips.
Several worried about more traffic, where on main arteries such as Route 117 and the Saw Mill River Parkway, or corridors that are narrower.
Lou Ciabattoni, who lives near Roaring Brook Road, worried what will happen to it under the proposal, which includes opening Chappaqua Crossing's south entrance to it and aligning that road with Horace Greeley High School's campus entrance.
“I live on that road, you don't need to go faster, you need to go slower," he said.
Ginsberg worried about how first responders would fare with clogged traffic.
“What about someone who's had a heart attack and is trying to get to Northern Westchester [Hospital] and they're stuck behind trucks?”
Still more argued that the public hearing format was inadequate for listening to residents.
“This is not a forum for dialogue," said Chappaqua resident and local architect Chuck Napoli, who has his own ambitious development proposal for downtown Chappaqua that would involve retail, a theater and a turf field approximately where the currently South Greeley parking lot and school field are now.
Summit/Greenfield: Plan Does Not Compete with Hamlets
Prior to the public comment period that was dominated by opponents, Summit/Greenfield got a chance to get into the nitty gritty of its proposal version.
Officials speaking on behalf of the site owner, which bought the property from Reader's Digest in 2004, sought common ground with reasons for why the Town Board first raised its idea last spring, including the loss of a grocery store and a desire to shore up the commercial tax base locally.
John Marwell, a Mount Kisco land use attorney who represents the developer, praised the Town Board for its interest in the idea. He also argued that Summit/Greenfield's proposed retail structure, at four tenants of 5,000 each, would not be designed to compete with existing merchants.
“Trying to be sensitive to the needs of the hamlet merchants and expecting to attract more national types of retailers rather than local types of retailers, who would be more comfortable and more accomodating in the hamlet area.”
While the ancillary retail tenant mix would depend upon who the grocery anchor is, Marwell said that a typical retail mix involves a drive-through pharamacy, a drive-through bank, a mid-size retail store and another retailer such as a restaurant.
In an interview, Geoff Thompson, a spokesman for Summit/Greenfield, echoed the adaptive reuse nature of the proposal, and believes that the project is complimentary, rather than harming merchants. He also explained he was not surprised by the feedback from opponents.
Andrew Tung, whose engineering firm is working on Summit/Greenfield's proposal, gave a detailed presentation for the site plan and zoning proposal. He explained that the grocery store would be situationed partially in the historic cupola building (it's called Building 200) along with a connected building to the south, which would replace the current Building 100, an adjacent, 1-story structure that would be torn down. In the process, the second story's floor in Building 200 would be removed, allowing for the first two floor to acting as space for selling, along with those in the new connected structure, which would mimic the Georgian architecture of the older edifice.
The rest of the retail space would be concentrated in 1-story structures, in Georgian architecture, that will overlap where the current southern parking lot is, and be adjacent to new southern site parking, according to Tung.
Other major site plan changes include keeping a traffic loop through the middle of the site that was originally slated to be removed in an older plan from the developer, which Tung explained would help with going through property. Keeping the loop, however, would require tweaking the residential zone for 111 townhouse and condo units, which the Town Board approved in April 2011. The change to the residential zone would be slight, according to Tung, shrinking its area from 30.6 acres to 29.5.
Additionally, traffic improvements are proposed for the Route 117/Roaring Brook Road intersection, along with the proposed altered southern entrance onto Roaring Brook.
Meanwhile, the residential zone and the vote to create lurk in the background of the site's fate in general. Summit/Greenfield wanted 199 units but was denied in the 2011 vote. The action taken followed an environmental review process that lasted years and spawned state and federal lawsuits from the developer that are still pending versus the town. Summit/Greenfield was also given a deadline, after extensions, to get a site plan for the residential portion approved by the Planning Board by April 11, 2013, two years after the rezoning vote, or else the change will lapse.
The Town Board voted to adjourn the hearing process to an un-scheduled date. What happens to the review processes going forward is murky, however, as it was explained, in response to an audience question, that the town is in the process of reviewing a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) submitted by Summit/Greenfield for its plan. The impact statement is meant, procedurally speaking, to be an offshoot from a more comprehensive one that the developer did in the late 2000s for its housing rezoning application.
Lester Steinman, a land use attorney for the town, said there will be a public hearing on the SEIS and that the town must review it for completeness.
The most vocal Town Board member of the night was Councilman Jason Chapin, who spoke at length at the start of the hearings. He recapped the town's interest in improving its commercial tax base, and said that language in an opposition petition characterizing the site as becoming a strip mall is “misleading people when you state opinions as facts.”
Robin Murphy asked the board member whether anything they heard at the hearing changed their minds. Chapin replied without directly responding to specifics, but acknowledged each of the concerns raised.
“We've heard that and we're going to respond to that. We can't do that all tonight but we'll continue to respond as quickly as we can.”
Town Supervisor Susan Carpenter's response to the question suggested that the concept is not a fait accompli. She explained that the board is “continuing to think carefully about the project.”
Chapin also urged residents to follow local media outlets for updates, while Carpenter noted that the SEIS can be accessed through the town's website.