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Chappaqua Crossing with a Main Street?

New Castle Planning Board member lays out a scenario for the site that looks like a traditional downtown. Intent behind it is to drive conservation about proposed master plan changes.

What if Chappaqua Crossing, with its collection of proposed retail and residential uses, had a site plan that looked like a downtown, with a main street, sidewalks and a square?

New Castle Planning Board member Tom Curley outlined just that on Tuesday night at a work session with his colleagues to discuss their review of developer Summit/Greenfield’s retail and grocery store proposal.

Curley’s concept is not a concrete proposal, however, and he is not endorsing Summit/Greenfield’s overall idea. Instead, he is addressing if it were to be done, then there are other ways than what is being proposed. This feeling from Curley, who has a professional background as an architect, is consistent with similar remarks he made during a review meeting in December, when he felt that the site’s proposed three uses - it would include separate clusters of retail, residential and office uses - was not cohesive.

Instead, the concept would center around a main street-style corridor that would head west from the current Route 117 entrance, with shops on both ends of it and with Summit/Greenfield’s proposed townhouses and condos woven into a street pattern rather than being a relatively self-contained complex. The idea should a mix of on-street parking and spots behind the shops.

The visioning, in the form of a hypothetical site plan, was in response to proposed amendments to the town’s master plan, officially called a town development plan. The proposed changes involve removing language that discourages certain types of business development outside of downtown Chappaqua and downtown Millwood. Curley argues that the current master plan, in how it treats retail on the site, is broad, saying in the meeting that “it's very, very light on the specifics on how it should be done.”

Curley believes that perhaps language for retail on the site should be tightened up if people have a particular vision for it.

He told Patch that, “if we think this is an important development for town, that we ought to figure out what we want it to be and then have the town development plan language and everything that comes out of that support that idea.”

Board Chairman Richard Brownell likened the idea to what might be found next door.

“It's sort of like a Mount Kisco in a way.”

After listening to Town Planner Sabrina Chanery Hull, it was decided that she would prepare a memo about the board’s feedback on the master plan changes, along with Tom’s concept. She will also re-circulate memos that the board sent to the town board late last year, in which general concerns about the idea were expressed. Curley himself expressed skepticism over some aspects of Summit/Greenfield’s iteration in December meeting remarks, including using the historic cupola building for the grocery store and wondered whether it could be redundant to existing retail space along the Mount Kisco and Bedford Hills stretches of Route 117.

On another master plan item, board member Sheila Crespi wondered how it would relate to the impact of the proposal on students at Horace Greeley High School, which is right across the street from Chappaqua Crossing, separated by Roaring Brook Road.

“When that shopping center sits across the street, it's going to be like catnip to those students, drawing them across the street, and how is the school going to prevent ninth and tenth and eleventh graders from walking off campus - which is an open campus where kids are constantly in and out of the buildings – how is that not going to be a draw to them to cross the street into that shopping center?”

Crespi also believes that the proposal could change the character of the area, which she described as primarily residential while acknowledging some exceptions.

Curley asked Hull why the proposed master plan changes could not be integrated into the town’s upcoming broader update for the document, which has not received a major overhaul since 1989. She responded by noting that what has been going on at Chappaqua Crossing has been a separate process, alluding to the general history of the site in recent years. During that time, Summit/Greenfield proposed various iterations of condo and townhouse plans before settling on a 199-unit plan. The town board, in 2011, voted to only rezone the site for 111, and the developer sued the town over how the review process was handled. The two sides reached a settlement in December, where the lawsuits were suspended and will be dropped if the developer gets rezoning for retail from the town board and site plan approval from the planning board for the retail proposal.

Summit/Greenfield is calling for 120,000 square feet of retail space, including a grocery store anchor of 36,000 to 66,000. Its plan, submitted to the town last October, came in response to a similar idea initiated months before by the town board. The earlier version came in response to the 2011 closure of D’Agostino, which left Chappaqua without a major grocery store.

Planning Board members, at their meeting, also discussed how they will go about reviewing a draft supplemental environmental impact statement (DSEIS), a lengthy review document for the proposal. The DSEIS, along with legislation for rezoning and the master plan changes, will be subject to public hearings on April 23 and 29, with a possible April 30 meeting. The planning board agreed to meet on April 30 at 3 p.m. to continue its review; there is a May 2 deadline in connection with its feedback, which involves advising the town board.

The retail proposal has drawn concern from some residents in town that it could lead to the creation of a third hamlet and create a traffic problem. People who were present at the board's work session also have this view about what Curley discussed.

Dawn Greenberg, a Chappaqua merchant who owns Aurora, is concerned that even something like Curley’s concept could pose the same competitive challenge to downtown Chappaqua.

“It pulls all the energy from downtown.”

Chuck Napoli, a longtime resident with an architecture career, likes the process that Curley is going about, saying that he made a “picture of what his concern was.” Napoli, who has a proposal to add a large number of shops, a performing arts center and a turf field to downtown Chappaqua, believes that something like Curley’s concept would compete with the existing hamlet.

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