Letter to the Editor: Top-down decision-making not only fails; it’s against the law

February 28, 2014
by Chuck Napoli

Amending or altering the comprehensive plan—a/k/a Master Plan—to permit the Spa and Chappaqua Crossing cannot continue because rezoning any property must include proper citizen participation in the preparation of the amendment to the comprehensive plan and must result in substantial favorable impacts to the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare of the community—the key factors that legitimize a comprehensive plan update.

Historically, a decision-making process of top-down governing without the citizens in the conversation fostered much civic discontent and provoked a change of leadership; yet amazingly more of the same governing continues.  Attempting to solve the amendment process with the same process that created it—top-down decisions looking for buy-in only afterwards from the citizens.

April 2012, then-Supervisor Susan Carpenter came up with the idea of ” grocery with minor retail” at the Chappaqua Crossing office complex and drafted a Local Zoning Law amendment with town council members and the Chappaqua Crossing developer.  We all know how not including citizens in the preparation of the amendment worked out.

“A New Approach” was born and much was made about bringing Chappaqua Crossing into the updating of our Master Plan—but to date that effort is still void of any public participation or collaboration—except the supervisor, a member of the planning board and the town planner negotiating with the developer.

Not Master Planning, not a “New Approach” Instead, the Town Board has preempted the master plan process by having the planning board refine the Local Law amendment for a comprehensive plan change without citizen participation in preparation of the plan or amendment.  This is a violation of N.Y. Town Law.

It’s the Law

~ from http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/nycode

N.Y. Code-Section-272-A: Town comprehensive plan

6. Public hearings

(a) In the event the town board prepares a proposed town comprehensive plan or amendment thereto, the town board shall hold one or more public hearings and such other meetings as it deems necessary to assure full opportunity for citizen participation in the preparation of such proposed plan or amendment, and in addition, the town board shall hold one or more public hearings prior to adoption of such proposed plan or amendment.

(b) In the event the town board has directed the planning board or a special board to prepare a proposed comprehensive plan or amendment thereto, the board preparing the plan shall hold one or more public hearings and such other meetings as it deems necessary to assure full opportunity for citizen participation in the preparation of such proposed plan or amendment.

The town board shall, within ninety days of receiving the planning board or special board’s recommendations on such proposed plan or amendment, and prior to adoption of such proposed plan or amendment, hold a public hearing on such proposed plan or amendment.

Town Law 272-A assures early and public collaboration with the developer and concerned citizens, stakeholders and interested parties including all agency representatives to scope the goals and strategy of the project from which a zoning amendment is prepared for the comprehensive plan update.

To date, public participation has been mostly adversarial—separate camps with narrow fixed positions honed after much civic discontent—with developer against town, citizens against developer, citizens against town, citizens against citizens. So much public energy and time spent trying to STOP something seems a waste of civic capital.

Town law 242-A expects a community and all involved participants to work together, early and often, when comprehensive planning or updating is on the agenda.


http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/nycode

 


Comments(7):
We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

Chuck - if I am not mistaken your plan - The Napoli Plan for revitalization of Down town Chappaqua” ( aka Napoliville) requires MANY zoning changes as well. You have submitted plans and made numerous presentations looking for approvals. You have variance issues, setbacks, height issues requiring zoning changes etc.
in your opening sentence in this letter you state “amending or altering the comprehensive plan-aka Master Plan to permit the Spa and Chappaqua Crossing cannot continue because rejoining any property must include proper citizen participation .....”  why did you not include your plan and only singled out The Spa and CC? You and your plan for you and your investors also need zoning changes.  Once again you demonstrate a selfish personal financial agenda as you pontificate to our community. I do not remember you or mr Greenstein requiring an updates Master Plan before the planning and town boards reviewed your plan.

By A big phoney on 03/01/2014 at 9:50 am

Thank you Chuck.  This is very good to see.  I agree with your call for full community involvement before any amendment proposals or changes to our existing master plan. 
As you point out, that was not what happened with the previous administration and it is not what is happening now with our current administration.

By Roberta Galant on 03/01/2014 at 10:44 am

@ Roberta and Chuck-
You both make excellent points.
Chuck- the need for a revised master plan should be the standard for all decisions regarding new developments in our town. As pointed out by “a big phoney” (above) you too have a plan - you too are a developer yet in your letter you only mention the developments at CC and The Spa. Your development which is 2 years or more in the making was interestingly omitted in your letter. I am sure its just an innocent mistake.
Roberta- you correctly point out that our previous town board administration neglected full community involvement regarding the Master Plan and correctly point out that our new Town Board administration is doing the very same thing. These newly elected folks regularly derided the previous administration for moving ahead without a Master Plan. They regularly derided and insulted The Town Board for not getting the community involved and dealing behind closed doors. Yet here they are advancing the Spa development, appointing committee members (behind closed doors), and we are all in the dark. I think we are in worse shape with theis new ‘team” than we were with the old one.

By i agree on 03/01/2014 at 1:37 pm

Hey big phoney,

Amending the TDP or master plan or comprehensive plan has state law to help guide the process; overlaying existing zoning by adding provisions regarding particular development needs such as Retail or Spa-ish type uses on existing zone districts will require a “full opportunity for citizen participation in the preparation of the amendment. “

Your (aka) “Napoliville” moniker started out a long time ago as “Lois Lane”; waiting for Superman we hoped. Now, as of this writing, the area plan for hamlet revitalization is “Easy Street”.  (have fun with that).

“Satisfaction guaranteed, you’ll like everyone you meet, life is sweet on Easy Street. (Randy Newman, Harps and Angles).  A vision statement if you’re listening and additionally every component of Easy Street is a Permitted Use in the B-RP District specified in the Town Development Plan. Area Variances such as height, coverage and setbacks, though subject to approval of the Zoning Board of Appeals with recommendations from the planning board, do not change the Use of the zone district and should not be confused with and do not require comprehensive plan amending or overlay zoning.

Zoning variances and amending the comprehensive plan to establish new districts are two very different actions.

By Chuck Napoli on 03/01/2014 at 3:37 pm

Chuck - your answer to Phoney doesn’t cut it. The bottom line is your Napoliville Plan or Easy St plan or whatever you want to call it requires multiple variances and zoning changes. It will certainly change the character if out town and bring ungodly traffic to an already congested area - not to mention safety of Bell Middle school students. Your letters in this weeks NewCastleNow find fault with other developers projects, offer suggestions for improvement of their developments, and you call into focus legal issues visa vie the master plan. Nowhere do you acknowledge that you are a developer and that what could hold up retail at CC will benefit you and your plan. You are in it for the profits Chuck and you want us to drink your cool aid.

By RayJ on 03/01/2014 at 6:21 pm

So Chuck - what you are saying that the developer at CC and the developer at The Spa must wait for a Master Plan revision but your plan Napoliville or Easy St gets a pass. Add to that the fact Greenstein is stacking the deck on the Master Plan committe and your all set.

By Resident on 03/01/2014 at 6:34 pm

Everyone knows that Chuck has ideas of his own for downtown. And they’re good ones. That doesn’t prevent him from brainstorming on other ideas and plans - good thing for us.

By Ray J give it a rest on 03/03/2014 at 4:55 am


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