On Tuesday, New Castle's town board listened to feedback on whether to rezone Chappaqua Crossing to allow for a supermarket.
The town board, which , has chosen to do so in respond to public demand for a grocery store to replace D'Agostino - and its site is being taken over by a Walgreens pharmacy - and to expand the commercial property tax base.
“People have complained bitterly about not having a grocery store in town," Supervisor Susan Carpenter said about the reaction to D'Agostino leaving Chappaqua. She noted that the property is one of the few in town with space for a grocery store, and that supermarkets could not be found with interest in smaller sites in town.
The town board's interest comes as site owner Summit/Greenfield in federal and state courts over how the review of its rezoning proposal to include multifamily residential usage was handled. The town board, last April, and rezoned a smaller area on the site. The town's legal counsel has filed , while the federal case is .
Summit/Greenfield has declined to comment on the supermarket idea.
Among attendees, the idea was met with opposition from residents who live near the former Reader's Digest site, with traffic being a major concern.
“If you take the Reader’s Digest property and open it up to retail, you’re going to make Chappaqua a strip mall," said Tina Fine, who lives on Cowdin Circle. She listed several several areas of concern, including delivery trucks, noise and pollution.
Regarding whether there is a need for a supermarket, Fine felt that there are already plenty of places in Westchester County to buy groceries.
Judy Siber, who is against a grocery store for the site, felt that D'Agostino was not even utilized when it was in town.
“I didn’t do all my shopping there," she said.
Lisa Katz, who lives on nearby Annandale Road and said she used to work at Reader's Digest, expressed similar sentiments. She felt that another supermarket is not needed. In addition to her concerns about traffic, garbage, and safety for pedestrians, Katz also feels that creating retail space would undermine existing merchants in Chappaqua.
“It’s in the middle of a residential neighborhood. It’s a horrible, horrible idea," she said.
Responding, Carpenter argued that there will be more traffic coming from Chappaqua Crossing no matter what, due to the existing zoning allowing for a lot of commercial space. She also said that traffic will be considered and studied.
There have also been people expressing support for the idea, according to the supervisor. In an interview, Carpenter said that she has also received a lot of emails in support.
Some residents wanted to take different approaches, either in strategy or looking at other notable uses for the site.
Albert Krull, who spoke with the town board at a recent work session the economics of getting a grocery store into town, felt that onus should be on the site's developer to come up with who they can find.
“I’m not sure you’re going to get as much interest as you think you are," he said to the board.
Manny Areces suggested that the upcoming process to update the town's master plan should be used to look at sites for groceries.
Ellen Schlossberg had her own idea for Chappaqua Crossing: Move town hall to the property, then use the current site for retail or to meet Westchester County's affordable housing settlement. She felt that is could possibly be a “very good fit for all of our problems.”
Judy Siber, while against the supermarket idea, agreed with looking at a town hall move. She also suggested that filling in the recreation field in downtown Chappaqua and offsetting its loss with space at Chappaqua Crossing could be considered.
“It’s certainly an interesting idea," Carpenter told Schlossberg in response. However, in responding to Siber she noted that moving town hall would mean that people who work there would no longer be in downtown during the day.
The meeting is not the end of the town board's interest in a grocery and retail rezoning.
“We really are very open to ideas and we’re looking for options and we want to encourage an ongoing dialogue so that we can make a decision together," said Councilman Jason Chapin. "Now, there’s not going to be a decision that’s going to make everybody happy, but we’re going to balance everything."
He added: "We’re going to get input from everybody that needs to be part of the process – and it is a process – and we look forward to making sure that we are expanding the commercial base and we’re bringing in some of the businesses that we think the community wants.”
In a related matter, Deputy Supervisor Elise Kessler Mottel announced that she would recuse herself from discussion of the idea. Mottel, who recused herself from the residential rezoning review, gave the same reason again: Her law firm, Seiden & Schein, works with an affiliate of Greenfield Partners, which is a partner company for Summit/Greenfield (the other is Summit Development).
Meanwhile, Councilman John Buckley, who recused himself during the residential rezoning process because he is a realtor for Houlihan Lawrence, will not be doing it again, citing the fact that this idea involves a commercial piece.
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