Councilman Jason Chapin’s statement on Chappaqua Xing retail zoning approval
I have a few words to say about tonight’s vote on the Chappaqua Crossing retail proposal. This has definitely been the most comprehensive, complicated and controversial land use proposal that I have been involved with in my seven years on the board - and maybe in the history of New Castle.
When looking at the history of Reader’s Digest and their use of the site, it’s important to note that many changes took place over the years as many buildings and thousands of employees were added. At its height, the company used 700,000 square feet of office space and had 7,000 employees working 24-7. We learned to deal with all the traffic, including trucks, cars and shuttle buses that came with such a big and successful company. We also relied on the significant property taxes that benefited the Town and school district.
It’s hard to accept that post-Reader’s Digest, only 21 percent of the office space is currently rented and over 500,000 square feet of space is vacant. While we’ve enjoyed the reduced traffic, we’ve also seen a sharp drop in the property’s taxes.
I want to tell you briefly why I was willing to consider the proposal. First, Summit Greenfield has rights like everyone else to propose changes to their property. Second, I was interested in exploring the adaptive re-use of the empty buildings at Chappaqua Crossing. Third, I thought it was in the town’s best interests to support a new supermarket after D’Agostino’s closed. I also thought filling some of our retail gaps would appeal to most people. And I believed that increasing our commercial tax base by almost 50 percent would provide relief to all of the residential taxpayers in town.
Regarding the review process, it’s worth noting that the Town went far beyond what was required by law. In fact, there were almost 20 public hearings over more than two years. All of the involved and interested agencies as well as environmental, planning and engineering, traffic, real estate and other experts provided dozens of reports and contributed to the process. The Planning Board, Architectural Review Board, Town staff and Town attorneys also played an important role in the process. The public was heavily involved and provided hundreds of comments. During this process, my fellow board members and I have debated, at times, vigorously, numerous aspects of the issues before us. We have taken the requisite hard look at the potential environmental impacts which resulted in a comprehensive Findings Statement issued by the Town Board last year.
Personally, I struggled with many issues, from concerns about traffic and neighborhood character to potential impacts on the hamlets. I weighed the opinions and suggestions from everyone involved. I also fought hard for transparency, integrity and professionalism throughout the review process. I am comfortable that the process allowed everyone an opportunity to be heard.
In the end, I realize there will never be a perfect proposal or a decision that pleases everyone. I also know that change often causes fear and uncertainty. As an elected official who serves the town as an at-large representative, I feel obligated to make my decision based on what is in the best interest of the entire town and I know that may mean disappointing people who I respect, including friends and neighbors.
I have decided to vote in favor of the zoning change with the understanding that the Preliminary Development Concept Plan still needs to be approved. Going forward, I expect the Town Board to work with the Town Planner, the Planning Board and other interested parties on the PDCP to ensure that it is appropriate for the site and the town.
I thank everyone for participating in this process and helping me make my decision.
Jason Chapin Dec. 18, 2014
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