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.