Op-Ed: Pace runs one Master Plan process while Greenstein runs another
With 95 comments since publication
April 4, 2014
by Christine Yeres
Just as Pace consultants and Master Plan Steering Committee members have been unfurling the sails of The Good Ship Master Plan to learn where to take the ship by catching the winds of public opinion, Supervisor Rob Greenstein has been unapologetically drilling holes in its hull. Fellow Town Board member Lisa Katz, who also attended the April 1 meeting, noted with alarm that the words “Chappaqua Crossing” were conspicuous by their absence. A video of the session is embedded below.
Who’s not saying “Chappaqua Crossing” and why
Pace doesn’t speak the words “Chappaqua Crossing” in the interest of conducting a Master Plan process that has yet to elicit “people’s visions and thoughts for New Castle” in a community outreach effort that will take place from April through June. “Our mission in this process,” said Zezula, reached today by phone, “—regardless of what a subcommittee might be saying or how they’re framing their issues—is to have a complete document on what the community wants to accomplish for all of New Castle.”
For Greenstein, a “complete document”—minus Chappaqua Crossing
Unfortunately, while Pace may not yet be in a place to specifically discuss Chappaqua Crossing, Greenstein has sailed beyond discussing it—to approval. In emails to his subcommittee members, member Betty Weitz revealed to Zezula, Greenstein has repeatedly informed them of what, in his mind, is already settled:
“As I previously mentioned, we are heading towards retail @ Chappaqua
Crossing. And this is happening despite the work of this committee.”
“This group’s job is to help shape Chappaqua Crossing—to make it a win for the community. . . . So, let’s not waste our time debating whether we think there should be retail @ Chappaqua Crossing.”
Earlier and elsewhere, Greenstein has publicly stated that by issuing its Findings at the close of the environmental review, the previous Town Board tied the current Board’s hands, forcing him, he contends, to grant the application for 120,000 square feet of grocery and retail.
Findings, however, are only the outer limits of what the lead agency (the Town Board, in this case) determines to be not-insurmountable environmental impacts. The previous Town Board, for example, after completing its environmental Findings under SEQR, decided to pare down the number of residential units f to 111, from 199.
At the moment, very few details are known about the deal Greenstein is intent on striking—or has struck—with Felix Charney, Summit Greenfield and Whole Foods, except that he intends to approve it. And how it fits as half-a-plan now—along with what Greenstein is billing as a “game-changing” opportunity to “revitalize” downtown Chappaqua by moving town hall to Chappaqua Crossing’s cupola building and developing town hall with residential units—is also unknown. The “Downtown Business Development Advisory Committee” put together by Town Board member Adam Brodsky won’t meet to advise on anything until April 23, according to Brodsky.
Even the Planning Board, whose architect-member Tom Curley has been working with Summit Greenfield to make a better site plan for the grocery-retail zoning that the Planning Board considered from the beginning to be a bad idea, has not endorsed approval of the project—and neither has Curley. But the Town Board doesn’t strictly need Planning Board approval except for tree, steep slope and wetlands permits, and site plan. However, even when it comes to site plan, the Town Board has the ability to leave precious little for the Planning Board to decide.
And it didn’t help that the week before Pace consultant John Nolon, while full of information about the Master Plan process, said nothing to reconcile the inconsistency between, on one hand, the mission of Pace and the Steering Committee to gather broad public opinion, and, on the other, a Town Board that has, as Nolan said, “fiscal and market realities” to deal with and ultimate control over adoption of a final Master Plan. Only the part about “ultimate control” seems to have registered with Greenstein, despite his campaign rhetoric in support of undertaking a genuine Master Plan review before moving to rezone Chappaqua Crossing.
In fact, over Greenstein’s three months in office—speaking, as he has said, twice weekly with Summit Greenfield principal Felix Charney—Chappaqua Crossing’s status in the Master Plan process has gone from “moratorium until a full review is completed,” to “treating Chappaqua Crossing up front in the Master Plan process, leaving other topics for later,” to “discussing the type of retail residents might like,” to, most recently, his email stating that “retail is happening despite the work of this committee.”
Katz presses for “elephant in the room” to be acknowledged in the process
“I do think you have to put ‘development’ [on the flyer advertising the outreach],” said Lisa Katz, “because that’s the giant elephant in the room that everybody wants to talk about. And I know Rob says it’s part of the hamlet committee—but it is not a hamlet right now. If you say ‘hamlet’ nobody will associate that with Chappaqua Crossing or the Spa. They’ll think about Millwood and Chappaqua. So if you don’t put ‘development’ in the [flyer’s list] you’ll be ignoring the main thing people are concerned about.”
“I agree with you about that,” said Maud Bailey, “but not in this specific list. For this list ‘development’ [as a subject] is too big—which ‘development’ are you speaking of?”
“I just said ‘the Spa’ and ‘Chappaqua Crossing’ and I got shut down,” said Katz.
“It’s not a spa anymore, by the way,” said Greenstein (who says the developer interested in the Legionaries property is turning back to an all-residential proposal).
“Whenever you talk about a comprehensive plan it’s about where you’re preserving, where you’re developing,” said Zezula. “That language, that you’re talking about, is when you get to specifics where we can add that. I’ll add that [in the flyer].”
“I just think that to be unbiased,” said Katz, “you can’t ignore the elephant in the room.”
“I think it’s such a large . . . development is about all the things that are bulleted here,” said Bailey.
“Yeah, but I don’t see it on any of the bullets,” said Katz.
Pace is staying with public outreach and public “vision”
Asked about the pressure from Tuesday’s meeting participants to include the words “Chappaqua Crossing” in flyers for the public outreach—not to mention inclusion of the issue of Chappaqua Crossing development in the Master Plan process—Zezula said, “I hate to go to solutions. Everyone likes to push me towards them. But I say, ‘No—stop. We’re not even there yet.’”
“Everyone has to take a breath,” continued Zezula. “We know you all have your thoughts and solutions, but our plan is to step everybody back from that and say ‘Hold on’ and then start with a vision, these public outreach sessions, and build going forward. If we’re moving forward, I’m hoping some of those meetings can bring ideas forward from the public and that Town Board members will be listening.”
Related: Pace’s Master Plan outreach proceeds apace with homework for committee and working groups, NCNOW.org, 4/4/14