Planning Board Skeptical of Chappaqua Crossing Grocery Zone

Board members support allowing for smaller grocery store space. Competition with existing hamlets, traffic, among issues of interest.

At their Tuesday work session, New Castle Planning Board members made it clear that they have concerns with the Town Board's proposal to rezone Chappaqua Crossing to allow for a large supermarket and ancillary retail.

Prominent among the concerns is a requirement for having a large supermarket in the zone, which must range from 50,000 to 60,000 square feet in size. 

“I think it would be unlikely that our local population would generate the kind of revenue for a grocery store of 50,000 square feet, the kind of revenue that would be necessary for a grocery store of that size to stay in business," said board member Sheila Crespi, who wanted to know more about the clientele for such a supermarket.

Fellow board member Douglas Schuerman asked why can't demand from the market dictate square footage, noting that there are stores that use less than 50,000.

“So why the minimum amount?” he asked.

Board Chairman Richard Brownell was sympathetic to the concern, saying he think it's a "fundamental question" that they have.

In contrast, it was noted that the former D'Agostino in Chappaqua, which closed last year, was less than 15,000 square feet. One of the closest supermarkets which a size comparable to the proposal, it was explained is the Mount Kisco A&P, which comes in at 50,000 square feet.

At the meeting, board members also questioned the Town Board's rationale, placed in the draft copy of the rezoning legislation, stating that the retail can help a town that is underserved.

“I don’t really see us as an underserved market area," she said.

Brownell agreed, saying text needs to be re-worded.

Board members also had sentiments that the wording for maximum square footage on the site is not clear enough. Theoretically, according to planning consultant Joanne Meder, the proposed retail overlay district - it would only go in Chappaqua Crossing's existing commercial zone - could accomodate up to 165,000 square feet of space. This is because the Town Board would have to authority to allow for up to 25 percent of the underlying commercial district's square footage to be devoted to the retail zone. Meder's number is assuming a total square footage of 662,000. Site owner Summit/Greenfield, in its most recent mixed-use residential/commercial proposal, called for retaining that amount out of the existing 700,000, with some space being demolished.

Board members discussed the potential for the site to compete with existing merchants in the downtowns of Chappaqua and Millwood.

“I feel that this is introducing a third commercial center into New Castle, which is something that the master plan didn’t anticipate, and I know that part of this process would be amending the master plan," said board member Sheila Crespi. She felt that consideration such a change should include broad community input with events such as visioning sessions.

Others questioned the potential mix of tenants that would come.

“It’s like a Woodbury Commons," said Schuerman, referencing the large Orange County development.

Board member Gerrard Curran, referring to the possible mix, said he gets the sense that "it’s more like a strip mall.” Responding, Brownell said they have to be clear that they do not want a strip mall. Rather, they want buildings in the zone that will conform to the same architecture as existing buildings on the site.

The board members' questions are not much different from those of residents who came to a Sept. 24 public hearing held by the Town Board. At it, they blasted the proposal, arguing that it will have a harmful traffic impact, lead to the creation of a strip mall and create unfair competition with existing businesses.

Meanwhile, Summit/Greenfield has announced that it will soon present a new plan that takes into account the Town Board's rezoning proposal. 

At the meeting, Brownell asked Town Planner Sabrina Charney Hull for an update on the Town Board's interest in overhauling the master plan, which last received a major update in 1989. She replied that Westchester County's Department of Planning has been in talks with the town to work on developing base documents for the process. She also said an expedition of the master plan review for its commercial part is being looked it.

In terms of procedure, Crespi called for there to be a thorough review of the proposal, possibly with an environmental impact statement, to look at the potential impacts of traffic, the market area for such a destination and what kind of stores would have use of ancillary space that, under the rezoning, must be at least 5,000 square feet each.

The proposed rezoning legislation, which merely creates the process for establishing the zone, calls for having the Town Board to review a rezoning application and approve what is called a preliminary development concept plan. The Planning Board would then decide whether to grant site plan approval for the application. 

“But once it’s on the books the pressure is there to move forward on something," she said.

Fellow board members agreed that there should be more review, particular traffic. Meanwhile, Lester Steinman, a land use attorney for the town, told the board that the Town Board will have to go through an environmental review, but also explained that the scope of what is to be done in consideration is not yet known.

Other questions included the placement of retail signage, including street-side, and adequacy of parking.

The debate over rezoning the site for retail is the latest in a saga at the property that has lasted for nearly eight years. The developer, which bought the property from Reader's Digest in 2004 and spent years in the mid-late 2000s trying to build condos and townhouses on the site, got Town Board rezoning approval in 2011 for 111 out of the 199 units it proposed. Summit/Greenfield took the town to state and federal courts over how the review was handled. The state lawsuit was just dismissed, while the federal case is still ongoing.

The Planning Board will have another discussion on the proposal at its Oct. 16 meeting, with a feedback memo in place before the Town Board reconvenes a public hearing on the proposal on Oct. 30.

Chapp Dad October 03, 2012 at 12:53 PM
I'm confused. Since when is the Planning Board responsible for accessing the viability of and potential for a retail space? Isn’t that the responsibility of the owner-merchant that is evaluating, assessing, and taking the risk? If this is the role of the planning board than why didnt they ask the same question of the new Walgreen’s coming in? Ms. Crespi thinks that it will be “unlikely that our local population will generate the kind of revenue” to support a large supermarket at Chapp Crossing. But our local population can support a large Rite Aid and a large Walgreen? I don’t think it is government’s job to approve or deny permitting based on what they think will prosper in our community. A new bakery just opened that serves coffee/tea, pastries, baked goods etc. Why didn’t the planning board point out that we already have many other merchants serving the same items. We already have Starbucks, Dunkin Doughnuts, Local, Lange’s, Gail Patrick’s- ALL serve many of the same items. I like most in town have been angered and frustrated by Summit Greenfield but it is not the job of our local government to interfere with their business decisions. If laws are adhered to and zoning requirements are met then let competition determine if all or some survive. If our planning board is going to interfere then at least be equal and consistent. By that I mean, then stop Walgreens because we don’t need it and Rite Aid.
Bassett October 03, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Confused, you are not confused. You are campaigning for the developer and you are fooling no one.
Harris Tweed October 03, 2012 at 02:27 PM
I also find Ms. Crespi's comments odd. This area can support a real store like Fairway or something, folks would line up to buy there. Not that I am not a Nimby myself, but let's budge a tad. Plus, D'ag is a failed business managed itself into the ground, I get it, but the landlord should be willing to lease to Trader Joes. Why not?? Walgreen's is an abomination and we don't need two florescent lighted drugs stores ruining our town. Place will look like Jersey. Also, 50K SF is quite big, there's a Whole Foods in Greenwich that is thriving in a space exactly like the former D'ags. I support Village Market and Susan Lawrence and always will, but I swear it is our town's governance and the highly greedy landlords that keep the viable grocery stores away.
bonnie golub October 03, 2012 at 02:45 PM
It is incredible to me that a tiown of our reputation and stature does not have a supermarket to serve its residents. Our shopping district is the worst of all the surrounding towns. We need a "draw", something that will attract buyers to our town. A supermarket in the Reader's Digest property in no way competes with the existing shopping area in town. Further, it may draw people into our area who will then shop ini our down-town district. It is shameful that we have to go to Mt. KIsco or Pleasantville to buy groceries. I bet a Super Stop N Shop would love this location, right off the Parkway, and convenient to 2 or 3 towns! It would disturb no one, not create any more traffic than Reader's Digest did, not encourage rats any more than any other store does, and add to the value of our town. "Frustrated shopper"
Bassett October 03, 2012 at 03:14 PM
You forgot to mention the A&P in Millwood. Seems that 'our reputation and stature' is intact without an outsized development at the Readers Digest property. Your surmise of this proposal is completely without study. Am surprised to hear this from you.
Tom Auchterlonie (Editor) October 03, 2012 at 03:56 PM
The Town Board has proposed rezoning the site to allow for retail uses that are not currently allowed under existing zoning. The purpose of the Planning Board's meeting last night was to give advisory input to the Town Board, which has the final say on this.
Bassett October 03, 2012 at 04:28 PM
I believe that you are mischaracterizing her comment. There has not been a study as to the viability of this proposal on any count. That is a big problem. The Board, for whatever reason has put the cart before the horse. I question their judgment. This is a conversation for the entire Town to engage in before any ordinance is enacted. We need our Master Plan, which was last done in 1989 completely updated before anymore development. Amendments here and there, as has been suggested by Supervisor Carpenter simply do not cut it. I am a fan of both stores that you mention, but am not sure that they would be interested in this site, let alone if this would be appropriate for this site. And I do question the need for them, as I do not feel that this area is under served regarding food stores. Do we need everything in our immediate neighborhood. Speaking of which you are very casual about the backyards of the residents in whose neighborhood this would actually be. Funny that you are against the feel of the two drug stores, as am I, but you have no objection to forever changing the nature and the view shed of the Readers Digest property with a 140,000 square foot development. This is sprawl and sprawl is the main reason for the destruction of downtowns in small towns like ours across the country.
Chapp Dad October 03, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Basset- you want a "study" done? Chapp Crossing, Readers Digest , Summit Greenfield or whatever you choose to call it has been empty and underutilized for years. Precious tax dollars lost. Now you want a study. Who pays, how long will it take- please, yours is just a stall tactic and continued stalling will only give the developer and their lawyers ample ammunition and portray our community as obstructing their ability to conduct business. At some point you NIMBY and obstructionist will hurt us all. Ms Golub is a respected and very knowledgeable real estate executive in our town and she knows first hand that buyers are seeking and finding other communities that offer full services (like a super market in town) and also have sufficient commercial tax revenue that shares the tax burden with residents. Our taxes will continue to escalate faster than other towns and our real estate values will continue to fall. A Trader Joes type supermarket would be great at Chapp Crossing and who cares if a few other stores are included. To call it a strip mall is a ridiculous characterization.
Patty K October 03, 2012 at 04:51 PM
To Bassett- It is you who must be working for the developer. You should realize that everytime we throw another obstacle in the developers way they have more evidence that no matter what they propose its gets rejected and denied by the town and people of New Castle. At some point the judges and courts will certainly rule in their favor and force something upon us that we dont want. We want and need a supermarket in this town. We didn’t need another drug store -Walgreen but it was allowed. We didn’t need another place to buy coffee and cupcakes but it was allowed, we didn’t need ANOTHER nail salon but it was allowed. We should allow a super market and other retail in Chapp Crossing. If done correctly it will attract others from surrounding communities and they might even shop in other Chapp stores downtown. I used to shop at Gristedees. When I did I would patronize the wine store, Langes, and other Chapp shops. Now I go to Mt Kisco to the supermarket and I buy my coffee, wine, and other goods there. As it is I have to drive from stores at the top of the hill to those at the bottom. So driving to Chapp Crossing and back is no big deal. But once in Mt Kisco - I stay there to shop.
Bassett October 03, 2012 at 04:57 PM
We need our Master Plan updated. There is no creditable question about that. You may not realize this, but nevertheless it is so. What you call 'stalling' I would call sensible planning, something that has been sadly missing in New Castle for many years. Agree, Ms. Golub is a well respected real estate woman, that is why I find her comment so inexplicable.
Bassett October 03, 2012 at 05:07 PM
That is exactly why we need proper planning before any further development. This proposal did not come from the developer. Your examples only serve to show how little that you know about this.
Patty K October 03, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Basset - sounds like you should run for the planning board or town board. If you think we need a master plan then propose one. Instead you obstruct things that many in this town want. You are not the spokesperson for us. The overwhelming majority of friends and neighbors of mine in New Castle want , need, and would support a supermarket (even at Chapp crossing). How is "inexplicable" to you that Ms Golub also wants a supermarket and she believes that such retail at Chapp Crossing will actually attract shoppers outside our community. Those from, outside might then shop and dine downtown. Win - win . Seems reasonable to most of us. Well said Ms Golub!
Bassett October 03, 2012 at 05:20 PM
You are, as am I, but one person. Your friends and neighbors' opinion on this matter completely disagree with the opinion of my friends and neighbors, to a person. The need for an updated Master Plan is not in question, even if you do not know this. Frankly, these exchanges are getting tiresome and I will not be continuing this discussion with you. Peace.
Chapp Dad October 03, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Basset - exactly what do you mean by "we need proper planning before any further development". What development do you refer to? There has been no development - NONE at Chapp Crossing. It sits underutilized with only a small amount of space being rented and occupied. There has been no residential development, no condos built. There has been no affordable housing development. There has been no residential subdivision, There has been no senior housing development. So what "further development" are you referring to? Because I see no development and no progress whatsoever! The developer bought this property in 2004-Readers Digest declared bankruptcy in 2009. How much time and how many roadblocks will people like you continue to throw out there? I am a resident of Chappaqua - I do not work this developer. In fact I objected to many of their tactics and plans. But this is valuable land that should be used to enhance our community (super market) and generate needed commercial taxes. We / YOU can not continue to say no to everything and call for a study for everything.
Bassett October 03, 2012 at 05:40 PM
I believe that my previous comments speak to what I mean by proper planning. You really are giving me way too much credit as to any influence. As I have said, I am but one person, as are you. I am sorry that you do not understand the need for sensible planning. Here are some proposals before the Town in addition to the one under discussion here. 1, The Mosque 2. Conifer / Hunts Ln. 3. The Legionnaires Property 4. The Animal Hospital By the way, I am not against development and have never said as much.
Chappmom October 03, 2012 at 05:55 PM
I agree with John and Patty - Basset you are out of touch. I have no idea what "development' at Chapp crossing you are referring to. Nothing has been done and nothing has been accomplished. Clearly Bassett lives near Chapp Crossing and has gotten used to the low level of traffic since Readers Digest vacated. Now she is a NIMBY obstructionist. I have 3 school age children and work part time. I used to be able to get some shopping done in Chapp and have time to pick them up from after school activities. Now I must shop for groceries in Mt Kisco (Village Market is insanely expensive) and since I am in MK I buy from several stores. Chapp has lost my business. I now have to rush back into town to get the kids. A Trader Joes or Fairway at Chapp Crossing would be wonderful. It will allow me to shop local and also get the kids. I tyrust our town officials will use good judgment and make sure no “strip mall” is built at Chapp Crossing. Many many moms I see everyday have this same complaint and concern. These moms want this supermarket as do I. A few friends from NYC that are looking for a house in the burbs are turned off by our high taxes and they hear me complain that we dont even have a supermarket in our town. Armonk and Bedford (Mt Kisco) have wonderful schools too – but they also have a commercial tax base and supermarkets. Bassett – what would make you happy at Chapp Cross – a flower garden and waterfall?
Bassett October 03, 2012 at 06:16 PM
@ Chappmon, I live no where near Chappaqua Crossing, but I do have regard for those who do. I am sorry that there is no longer a supermarket in downtown Chappaqua. Armonk does not have a supermarket, it went out of business as have so many across the country. Something to be studied before settling on a supermarket at Chappaqua Crossing. Is Millwood really too far for you to travel ? I question that you used the Dags because their prices were even higher than the Village Markets. You are mischaracterizing my position, but that seems to serve your own selfish needs.
Chappmom October 03, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Armonk Square is under construction-it will house a supermarket. The community needed-wanted it and the town of Armonk responded. Good thing no NIMBY Bassetts lived their. DAGS prices were too high but for many basic family items that it served the needs of many- deli counter, beverage aisle, paper goods, cereal, produce, frozen food aisle, baby food, diapers, etc. Village Market doesn’t have this ,not the selection, and while expensive, DAGS was cheaper than VM on most items.. Your position is obvious as stated in your postings. You wrote about the "development" at Chapp Crossing. I see no development -NONE. You want a master plan - you offer NONE. You want a "study". We dont need a study to prove that our community , deserves and needs a grocery store/supermarket. I work part time in Rye so going to Millwood to shop and then pick up my kids is not possible. Our downtown merchants will be better not worse once we build retail in Chapp Crossing. I am one of many that shops elsewhere because of lack of grocery store. I would stay local and make the easy drive from Chapp Crossing to downtown. But not from Mt Kisco. Chapp has multiple nail salons, multiple real estate brokers, multiple banks, multiple restaurants, cafes, coffee shops. They are in close proximity to one another -NEWSFLASH - an ice cream yogurt shop is soon to open in Chapp - it will compete with Local and Sherry B. You really think retail at Chapp Crossing will destroy downtown?
Bassett October 03, 2012 at 07:13 PM
@Chappmom Are Millwood and Pleasantville really that much further than Chapp. Crossing, maybe minutes. We clearly disagree and you seem to enjoy distorting my words, again for your own selfish wishes. You have no way of knowing what this development will do to the downtowns, but your needs come first. Maybe you should ask the merchants in Chappaqua and Millwood how they feel, before you speak on this point. And make sure that you tell them of your hardship.
Chapp Dad October 04, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Bassett - it is you who demonstrate selfish wishes. Many (probably most) people in our town desire a supermarket. We prefer it be in or in close proximity to downtown Chappaqua. Since no location is available downtown and we have a large underutilized commercially zoned tract of land at Chapp Crossing it will be very suitable. YOUR selfish obstructionist NIMBY ramblings only continue the useless and pointless procrastinations that are preventing any use of Chapp Crossing. Your selfish opinion that Chappmom should drive to and shop in Millwood or Pleasantville instead of Mt Kisco illuminates your inconsistency. If you are truly concerned about our downtown Chapp merchants then sending Chappmom to Millwood/Pleasantville takes business from these merchants. She has already told you that she would stay in Chapp to shop should a supermarket be built at Chapp Crossing. You would prefer she drive elsewhere at the expense of the downtown merchants you pretend to care about.
Duff Bailey October 05, 2012 at 11:45 AM
The grocery stores that most people seem to want is Trader Joe's or something like DeCicco's which will open in the Armonk Square. These types of stores run 15 - 25 thousand sq feet and are a great size for a community like ours. If they are located in the downtown (as Armonk Square is) they draw traffic to downtown merchants and add value to the community. I would love to see something like that in our town. What the town Board (not the developer ) has proposed for Chappaqua Crossing is something completely different. Its a massive grocery store in a mall full of box stores. Frankly - its a throw back to the 1980s - when gas was cheap and boomers were buying big cars and moving to far out suburbs.
Bassett October 05, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Finally !!! A factual comment with good sense on this thread. Thank you Duff Bailey.


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