Letter to the Editor: Let’s make Chappaqua Crossing a win-win for both town and developer

Monday, July 26, 2010
by Dan Papes

Town Supervisor Barbara Gerrard’s letter in regards to Chappaqua Crossing from last week, “Supervisor Gerrard on issues raised about Chappaqua Crossing in NCNOW letters and commentary,” NCNOW.org, July 16, 2010, was a straightforward and thoughtful communication to all of us.

It is time to end what has been several years of conflict over this project and to roll up our sleeves and start working cooperatively with the developer to ensure Chappaqua Crossing moves forward in a fashion that is a win-win for both the town and the developer.

It has been adversarial for so long, and what good has come out of it? I’m sure some will find an answer or two to that question, but the fact is had we sat down and worked together two years ago we would have saved both parties—the town and the developer, enormous consternation and expense. Instead of collaborating, we fought. And where are we now? The property is in limbo, tax revenues from it are disappearing, and we have fought not just with the developer, but also among ourselves, in unhealthy ways.

We should urge the Supervisor (as she seems open to doing) and the town board to work closely with the developer to match up our concerns and desires and establish a plan that protects and enhances the interests of the town and its citizens, and that allows the developer to succeed with their project.


Dan Papes

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Why call the discussion we’ve had “unhealthy”?  On the contrary, it’s been extremely beneficial for New Castle.  Without the controversy, we might have seen what the developer first asked for—a development of 350 condos, double the size of Old Farm Lake—one-quarter or one-half built and definitely unsold or ... if sold, sold at bargain-basement prices that would cost the town far more in services than it would contribute in taxes.  I think this discussion has been GREAT!  This is how we arrive at something acceptable.  And it might not be what the developer has asked for even now, the 199 units. 

And what’s that called in pricing, when you use $1.99 instead of $2.00?  Does that really work on people?

By Au contraire on 07/26/2010 at 7:03 am

The town hasn’t got the laser-focus of a developer.  Opposition to this project has evened the playing field.  Think of it that way.  I’ve just read the barest details of the new proposal.  They’re down to 199.  I still don’t think we should cave on the residential when all that office space (or the bulk of it anyway) has to be rented.  We need to see how that works traffic-wise before adding residential.  How foolish would it be to invite the residential portion before experiencing the effect of the commercial traffic?  Very foolish indeed.

By The process is good on 07/26/2010 at 7:10 am

Does anyone remember that we DID tell the developer what we wanted for the RD property?  At the “visioning sessions” at Bell in November of 2006 I heard people tell them we wanted “commercial” and “real” senior living, that is, a continuing care facility like Phelps has at Kendal on the Hudson River. What has the developer asked for since?  Condos, then condos, then condos and condos.  348, 278, 250, 199. It sounds like no one’s listening on the developer’s side—and that the developer has very little imagination, due to condos on the brain.

By We DID tell the developer what we wanted. on 07/26/2010 at 7:18 am

I like the idea of inviting the community and developer to talk turkey with one another, but it’s also good to get all the claims and figures straight before we do.  This state-required process hasn’t been bad. And although it’s been a big time-taker for our board members, the fees for consultant work have been repaid by the developer, so the expense has been on his side.  If you’re counting the lost revenues to the town of having taken so long to decide this, well, we couldn’t have rushed into it anyway.  It’s just too huge a proposal.  I think it needed to take exactly this long.  I’m pleased with the town board’s handling of the matter so far.  And they’ve promised public participation SOON.  So when?  Good point above: NOT in August, please.  Too many people away.

By Nice invitation to talk on 07/26/2010 at 7:24 am

Stick with commercial.  If Summit is now saying that 662,000 square feet is the magic number (They said 520,000 was BETTER than the 700,000—what’s changed? Please explain.) then make some of that available for town offices or storage.  Let that be part of the deal.

The 6.5 acres is nice, but it will be a long time before New Castle has the money to develop a community sports complex.  A field could happen more quickly, but not the larger community center.

By Win-win? Here's how! on 07/26/2010 at 7:31 am

You write that the property is “in limbo”—but we all know that the developer does have commercial zoning.  There’s no limbo in that, unless you count the limbo-state of the commercial real estate market. But that’s not the town’s fault—and it’s not our duty to compensate the developer (with a gift of residential zoning) for market conditions that don’t favor him at the moment.  Giving him residential zoning doesn’t favor the town’s interest overall.  He’s going to fill some portion of the commercial eventually.  Why should we agree to put residential into the mix before we see how increased commercial activity looks and feels? 

So what to do?  Change the commercial zoning requirements so that he can lease to more than four tenants—and make it so that one of the tenants no longer has to be the size Reader’s Digest was.  Separate the two parts of the proposal.

By Break proposal into two pieces on 07/26/2010 at 8:42 am

Your letter gives good advice.  But how to do this when we don’t really know the details of the proposal?  Only the town board has seen (or will see, now, with this new proposal) details.  In order for the community to follow your advice, the town board has to open up this process by telling us in plain language what the facts and figures are and then by making a public forum for discussion of the proposal BEFORE making any decision.

By Good advice! on 07/26/2010 at 8:52 am

This conversation has not been “unhealthy.”  It’s been an example of the democratic process.  The developer bought into Reader’s Digest believing that he could force his will on the town through spin and pressure tactics. The citizens of New Castle have responded in force, using the means made available through NYS and our local approvals process. We have told him that we will protect our community, using all legal means, and that he will have to bow to the community’s will.

That is not “unhealthy.”  Being at the mercy of corporate interests is “unhealthy.” If the developer wishes to “compromise,” then he should read the zoning laws.  They tell him what may and what may not be built on his properyy.  We wish to preserve the quality of life of our community.  If he doesn’t like that, he can sell his property and move. 

I made my deal when I bought my home, and I have held to that deal.  He cannot retrade his own deal at my expense.  Those are the laws and, last time I looked, the laws trumped the will of one wealthy developer.

By Lawrence Farms Resident on 07/26/2010 at 9:26 am

I’m confused, who exactly is supposed to sit down with the developer?  The Town Board already represents the town, and I think it is clear they have been more than accommodating to the developer.  Are you suggesting we create another group of representatives to do what the Town Board should be doing?  If anything, perhaps the dialogue between the Town Board and the developer should have been more adversarial, more accurately reflecting the majority opinion in the community.  Absent that, what incentive is there for the developer to settle for any compromise?

By Concerned Citizen on 07/26/2010 at 1:42 pm

The developer’s new proposal includes 20 “fair and affordable” housing units.  This is a ploy intended to (1) create public relations problems for Chappaqua, which may now be accused of NIMBYism, i.e., seeking to avoid or share Westchester County’s legal obligations under the recent Fed Court ruling; and (2) complicate any legal action that we residents may take to stop the development, for the same reasons.

The developer and his planners have smart lawyers; but we are lawyers, too.  Let’s not let the developer pull a fast one; let’s call him on this new strategy before it gets any further down the road.

By Lawrence Farms Resident on 07/26/2010 at 5:03 pm

According to Mr. Papes, anyone can ask anything of the town board and the board should “cooperate” and grant it.  Well, then, my property is residentially zoned for a single dwelling on two acres.  According to his logic, the board should cooperate with me and the town is losing revenue. (Of course, the town will lose more revenue if the condos are built because of the increased school costs without the compensatory taxes to pay for it.) Therefore, I will apply for downzoning to half acre lots and and build a few condos.  Will it increase taxes for other residents.  You bet it will.  Will it change the character of the neighborhood?  What do you think?  Will it affect adversely the value of my neighbors’ property?  And how!  Will it infringe on my neighbors’ peaceful existence?  Oh, yes! Will it increase traffic flow, create sewer issues, require increased services etc., etc, etc.?  Did I buy it as a single family dwelling on a two acre lot?  Yes, but times have changed, the economy is just as bad for us as it is for Summit Greenfield.

If the town board were ever foolhardy enough to to rezone the RD property, there will be a stampede to rezone and downzone with the litigation to back it up such as this town has never seen.  The entire character of the town will change.

We will demand parity.  What is good for one is good for all.  Why should we not expect equal treatment?

By Parity: Rezoning for All on 07/27/2010 at 11:05 am

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