The New Castle Town Board voted Tuesday night to accept the Chappaqua Crossing retail proposal's final supplemental environmental impact statement (FSEIS), a key decision that brings the plan closer to approval. The board also voted to close public hearings for rezoning legislation and town development plans that would enable it.
By accepting the FSEIS, the board has determined that the document is complete. However, the vote is subject to conditions that must be fulfilled by developer Summit/Greenfield, including having an on-site vegetation inventory done to look for possible invasive species. The action is meant to help find invasive species that are not included in a related management plan that is part of the FSEIS. The developer has until Sept. 10 to submit a revised plan along with the environmental document.
The votes were passed 4-0, with Deputy Supervisor Elise Kessler Mottel recusing herself because her employer, a law firm, has an indirect business connection to Greenfield Partners, which represents half of the Summit/Greenfield joint venture.
The votes are the latest major step in the review process of the proposal, which calls for creating 120,000 of retail space, including a grocery store of 36,000 to 66,000 square feet. The legislative mechanisms being used for the proposal include establishment of a new zone called and Office Park Retail Overlay District, which would be placed on the southern portion of the former Reader's Digest site's existing commercial zone. They also include changing the Town Development Plan, which was adopted in 1989, to remove language discouraging shopping places with out-of-town market areas and to get rid of wording that supports limiting new business development to the downtown areas of Chappaqua and Millwood.
The only public hearing that was not closed is for the preliminary development concept plan for the site, which relates to the buildings' layout. Summit/Greenfield has considered changing its plan to accommodate an alternative concept from New Castle Planning Board member Tom Curley, who envisions a "main street" layout with buildings along a corridor in a fashion that is similar to a conventional downtown. The town board has considered holding a vote on the plan at a later date than for the enabling legislations.
Once Summit/Greenfield submits its invasive species management update, then it will be reviewed for the town and then a notice of completion of the FSEIS will be filed with New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Once the filing is done, the town board must wait 10 days before it can go to the next step, which is to vote on a statement of findings. The findings are meant, according to Town Attorney Clinton Smith, to be an “evaluation of the environmental impacts.” Once the board approves its findings, then it can vote on the rezoning and town development plan changes.
The idea of adding a grocery store at Chappaqua Crossing was first floated by the town board in March 2012 to replace D'Agostino, which exited from a Chappaqua shopping center by King Street about six months before. An initial retail zoning proposal was drafted by July 2012 and Summit/Greenfield submitted its own plan the following October, which was tied into the board's idea. The developer's submission also came with a draft supplemental environmental impact statement (DSEIS).
The proposal gained traction in December, when the town board and Summit/Greenfield reached a settlement of federal and state lawsuits that the developer filed in 2011 over how the board reviewed its earlier proposal to build 199 condos and townhouses.; the board granted rezoning for 111 units in an April 2011 vote. As part of the settlement, it was agreed that Summit/Greenfield would drop the lawsuits if the proposal gets requisite approvals from the town board and planning board but reserves the right to reactivate them if either board gives a denial.
public hearing on the DSEIS was held during the spring, coupled with
hearings on the legislative items. The proposal has generated
opposition from some residents whose concerns range from traffic
impact to creating a third business area that competes with Chappaqua
and Millwood. While opponents have represented most of the commenters
at the public hearings, there have been a few supporters as well.
Comments from supporters included a belief that the proposal could
help with the local tax base to disagreement with the argument that
the stores would be detrimental to existing merchants.
The hearing for the DSEIS was closed during the spring, while the legislation hearings were kept open. By the summer, Summit/Greenfield submitted its FSEIS to the town, which came in separate parts. Town input and feedback was given for both the draft and final versions. At one point, the board had a tentative timeline for accepting the FSEIS by late July and holding the legislative votes in August. The timeline was postponed so Summit/Greenfield could respond to public comments regarding its stormwater management plan, which was reviewed by AKRF, the town's special consultant.
Tuesday's meeting, in contrast to packed gatherings in the past, had a smaller number of a people. Excluding attendees such as members of the press and Summit/Greenfield's development team, just under a dozen people from the community came.
Speaking the longest out of any resident, John Ehrlich went into detail to criticize the proposal by examining the legislative text and referencing specific sections. His concerns included utilities placement, whether there will be too much delivery traffic - at one point he disputed a reply from Councilman Jason Chapin that truck deliveries would not have a large increase - and of demand for another grocery store.
“You don't need a grocery store,” he said.
Gladstone brought up character of Chappaqua as a factor to
consider, noting that people moved to the area for its lifestyle,
space and schools.
“We chose Chappaqua because it was a place that didn't have what Scarsdale has and it isn't what the down-county towns have, and so forth.”
Bringing up the issue of demand, Gladstone also argued that the time difference between the site and other grocery stores, such as the A&P locations in Mount Kisco and Millwood, is only a difference of a few minutes. He also described Summit/Greenfield harshly, likening the developer to a bully.
Maureen Frankel, who is skeptical of the proposal, noted the problems with Route 117, an adjacent road, and said it seems "illogical" to have more heavy traffic on it. She also argued that the town, for its fiscal situation, should look at collecting unpaid taxes. Supervisor Susan Carpenter responded to the taxes question by noting that most of the unpaid taxes have been collected and that the foreclosure process is being done. Councilman Jason Chapin noted that the state's Department of Transportation will be repaving Route 117 next year and that a request has been made to fill potholes in the road before the winter.