Summit Greenfield presents new alternative for Chappaqua Crossing—199 residential units

Monday, July 26, 2010
by Christine Yeres

In a press release dated July 23, developer Summit Greenfield returned its final environmental impact statement (FEIS) to the New Castle town board with a new alternative.  The “Modified Project” includes construction of 199 non-age-restricted units, 20 of them units that would satisfy the county settlement’s requirements as “fair and affordable housing.” The developer also would retain 662,000 square feet of the existing office space, and donate 6.5 acres of land to the town for municipal uses.

The main difference between the new Modified Plan and the last new alternative presented in March (Alternative G) is the decrease in number of residential units, down from 250 to 199. 

The three-volume FEIS was delivered to the New Castle town hall on Friday, July 23.  “Town board members can’t comment,” said Supervisor Barbara Gerrard, “since we understand that the document contains some major changes that will take a while to absorb.” 

According to the press release, “If the Town Board approves the Modified Project, Summit Development will withdraw its pending [petition for 278 units of housing],” in the interest of pursuing the Modified Plan. Although called a “final environmental impact statement,” the FEIS is a work in progress until the town board is satisfied that its content reflects town board members’ beliefs about the impacts of any proposed project.  To read the release in its entirety, click Chappaqua Crossing Press Release: New “Modified Plan”.

The FEIS will be on the agenda for discussion in a joint work session of the town and school boards on August 10 at 7:00 p.m. at town hall. 

A quick review of the various iterations

Original Plan, April 2005:

Housing units:  348 units total, 292 market-rate, 56 affordable, a combination of senior and workforce, all age-restricted for 55+
Office space: 520,000 square feet
Land to town:  2 acres

Second Plan—“Proposed Action” in the current application for rezoning—July 2007:

Housing units:  278 units total; 222 units market-rate, age-restricted for 55+; 24 affordable senior units, 32 workforce units for families
Land to town:  2 acres

Alternative G, March 2010Developer proposes no age-restriction, 10% fewer units, 27% more office space, 6.5 acres for town,”, March 26, 2010:

Housing units: 250 non-age-restricted, 38 (or 15%)  affordable
Land to town:  6.5 acres

New Modified Plan released July 23, 2010:

Housing units: 199 units total; of those, 20 units of affordable (10%); all non-age-restricted
Land to town:  6.5 acres

Editor’s Note: Since this piece was published on Saturday, July 24, readers have posted comments, below.

To read background on this subject from our archives, click: Collected articles and letters to the editor on Reader’s Digest development.

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

The developer continues to forget about children moving into houses that will be sold if people want to move to the Crossing.  When added together, we are looking at hiring a lot more teachers to staff the increase in enrollment thereby increasing our school taxes.  While 199 units may be reasonable to the developer, he needs to look at town houses, not apartment buildings.  Fee Simple should apply.  This should bring down the residential numbers.

We do not know how many bedroom per unit are proposed.  We do not know the prices to be charged.  Information not supplied in this press release.

By NJH on 07/25/2010 at 9:18 am

When houses DO sell again, isn’t it very likely that MORE empty nesters will move out than usual, since they’ve been captive here for a couple of years of a slow housing market?  So really I expect many more than usual to make their houses available to people with school age children.  Add THEM to the additional school children of a condo development at Reader’s Digest.  Has the town board commissioned a demographic/real estate study of New Castle?  Don’t we really need one to make an intelligent decision?

By When houses DO sell again... on 07/25/2010 at 5:54 pm

I’ve just read the press release and I think it’s time for the developer to stop the spinning.  We know him too well.  The “open space” he brags about preserving is mainly wetlands and steep slope—where nothing could be built in any case.  Stop taking credit for natural conditions that prevent you from building, Summit Greenfield.

By Hold on... on 07/25/2010 at 5:56 pm

The three page press release says nothing about how many of the 199 units would be assessed and taxed as houses and how many would be taxed as condos. 

And let’s see the numbers before claiming that this Modified Plan will bring MORE tax revenues to the town than the original plan would have.  How’s that?  Because fewer units will bring fewer school children?  That’s not something we can thank the developer for—he wanted 348 units originally!

By How would they be taxed? on 07/25/2010 at 6:26 pm

How would the market-rate condos (179 out of 199) be priced?  Surely the developer isn’t talking about $1 million condos any longer,not in this market, not for a long long time. 

We need to see numbers.  The time for unsubstantiated claims of big tax dollars for the town and school district has ended.  Let’s get down to the numbers.

By Pricing, please! on 07/25/2010 at 6:28 pm

How’s this for sense?  Whether or not we allow residential use of the property, the commercial space is already there—and it needs to be filled no matter what.  So why not break this plan into two parts? 

Address our primary concern first: More commercial tenants at Chappaqua Crossing.  Right now, only four tenants are allowed, including RD.  The developer already has Fiber Media, Mt. Kisco Medical Group and Northern Westchester Hospital.  The fourth tenant—Reader’s Digest—will soon be gone. 

Everyone probably agrees that it will be very hard to find a RD-size tenant for the RD space (the zoning requires one tenant to BE the size of RD)—so let’s change that zoning right away.  Put the residential on hold.  Suspend consideration of it.  Concentrate Summit Greenfield’s attention on filling the commercial space.

By Commercial is our priority on 07/25/2010 at 6:30 pm

I’m very interested to see the tax analysis. Who will want to buy condos stranded in a business park, surrounded by a sea of parking lots?  We wouldn’t let a developer build a big commercial space right next to homes.  Why would we let someone build homes right next to a big commercial space? Is this the developer who renovated a part of Norwalk’s downtown? People want to live in CITIES around mixed use, not in SUBURBS with the “mixed use” being OFFICES. In CITIES people can WALK to restaurants and movies, which is why they bother to move to renovated warehouse spaces, etc.  The RD campus has no such attractions.

By Cities V. Suburbs on 07/25/2010 at 6:52 pm

The minute the zoning changes, New Castle has no control.  The zoning is for commercial.  It’s not as though they want to BUILD commercial. Commercial is already there!  It has to be used, doesn’t it?  Or is one of the options to tear down the RD buildings and start from scratch with commercial OR residential? Not. 

Keep the developer’s attention on filling the commercial space. Not OVERfilling it—he asked for an “unlimited” number of tenants.  There’s not parking enough for an unlimited number of tenants.  Decide how much parking is possible and work backwards from that.

By Safety in Zoning on 07/25/2010 at 6:57 pm

NO! NO! NO! No residential zoning now or ever on the RD property. When will the town board wake up to that fact?  “Safety in Zoning” is absolutely right. It is our protection and that is why we have zoning. 

We do not understand why the town board is still considering this issue.  We are not responsible for SG’s investments.  They bought it commercially zoned.  Why are we even considering the zoning change at this late date? 

Now SG show their true colors.  There will be no age restriction which was their intention from the start.  They are selling the CCSD and we all know it. 

Empty nesters are going to sell.  They will bear no more of the tax burden that will necessarily follow when families take advantage of the tax difference.  That is what SG is relying upon to market their condos.  Why, otherwise, would they be marketable when houses with land and privacy sell for the same price?

It looks as if it is time for us to continue and accelerate our organizing for litigation since the town board does not seem to get it. Our lawsuits will follow swiftly on the heels of any determination by the board for zoning change on this property.

Don’t be fooled, school board, the town board would like you to share their jeopardy and the responsibility for the failure of their fiduciary obligations that has been dragging on for years and that could result in litigation for several years to come.  Do you really want to buy into that?

By Residents Prepared and Ready to Act on 07/25/2010 at 10:37 pm

I’m confident that the town board will know better than to grant residential zoning. What we have there already is COMMERCIAL space, and the commercial real estate market is questionable enough right now without adding an attempt at the infirm residential real estate market.  As another reader wrote, whether the board were to grant residential rights or not, the commercial space sits there, a yawning hole now of 296,000 square feet where RD used to be. THAT’s what we want filled and returning tax monies from Summit Greenfield to our coffers.

The MFPD zoning isn’t appropriate, and we want the developer to make use of his commercial space. Let him do that first.  So the board should say No to residential, YES to commercial, but not unlimited, of course.

By Calm Down, Litigator! on 07/26/2010 at 2:58 am

The town board does have a lot of explaining to do. The problem is that this process is so unwieldy, there’s such a lot of information flying between experts and much of it is so technical that it just seems to take this long. But I don’t believe that the town board will fork over residential zoning just so that the developer will stick around and not sell the property to someone else. 

If he does, so what?  We have all this environmental impact info now and the next developer will be starting with the town board AND the developer knowing what is permissible to New Castle and what is not.

The town board can’t be seen by the developer to be so anxious to keep him interested that it will give away the store.  Ms. Gerrard has promised full public discussion of this matter.  I just hope she’s not thinking that August is the right time.  It’s the wrong time.  I’m interested in the joint town-school discussion on Aug. 10, but surely that’s just a beginning of the discussion residents must have with the board.

By Town Board Watcher on 07/26/2010 at 6:56 am

This simply does not answer the core question:  less units but of what size?  Up to now, SG has proposed the project to largely be two bedroom units.  Only by assuming that most of these units would not have many school children has the school child estimate been put forward by SG.  Observers at the Town Board meetings have consistently questioned how there could be a market for so many two bedroom units.  They have also questioned how 200 units could supposedly yield so few school children in a town that uniquely has many children per household (50% - far higher than surrounding communities).

If SG is now moving away from two bedroom units to larger units, then the school children numbers (and ultimate cost to New Castle taxpayers) will be vastly higher.  The detail has to be provided and a meaningful analysis undertaken.  200 units that are larger than two bedrooms will easily produce 100-200 school children within a few years.  That’s just the way it works.  The Town Board has an obligation to now be especially diligent and not taken in!

By SRL on 07/26/2010 at 7:18 am

Dear Summit Greenfield:

The press release—I’ve read it—tells us nothing.  It’s all spin. 

Show us the tax figures. 
Show us the price points for the condos. 
Show us how many housing units are fee simple (taxed like houses). Show us how many acres you’re calling “open space” because you’re not allowed to build on it anyway (wetlands, steep slope). 
Show us that you’re a responsible bargaining partner.

Give us facts, not spin.

By Stop the Spin! on 07/26/2010 at 8:48 am

Residential homes with no age restriction would be an absolute disaster. Are the current residents of New Castle not the ones to decide their own fate ?  Taxpayers choose their government representatives, who in turn have a responsibility to do what’s right for the populace.  The current tax system is inequitable as it stands, with empty nesters subsidizing households with school age children, and condos not taxed as single-family residents. Every new condo with one school age child burdens the system further, to the tune of $20,000 plus. The argument that demographics suggest a declining school population is short-sighted and lacks careful thought. EVERY single new home sold in New Castle will be sold to a family with children. Empty nesters are being driven out and will absolutely not be replaced with other empty nesters. We are kicking the gift horse in the mouth !  We can only hope that logic and fairness rule the day, and that CURRENT residents get their fair say. If people had all the facts, and they don’t, the sentiment would be overwhelming against the latest proposal. I for one have no intention of getting schooled by a for-profit developer.

By steve w on 07/26/2010 at 9:00 am

Sorry; no deal.  No condo development, period, for all the reasons stated here over the past weeks.

We’ll be at the meeting at the 10th.  No ringers from other towns this time around, Mr. Developer.  Those of us posting here, and our neighbors, should show up in force at this meeting.  Let’s stop this crazy project once and for all.

By Lawrence Farms Resident. on 07/26/2010 at 9:28 am

Where is the POOL? A pool which could be used by all the residents of the town…young, seniors, Boy Scouts, the High School. A benefit to all and it should be gifted to the school district and not included on the 6 acres currently being discussed. Why is the School Board not pushing for this? Give us a real benefit for this parking lot housing project.

By Long Time Resident on 07/26/2010 at 9:38 am

To Long Time Resident,

I am a 25 year resident and would also like a pool.  The problem is that with this developer, you will have to bankrupt the town in order to get the pool.  How about the town simply builds a pool?.  That will be a lot cheaper than negotiating with SG.  We can at least control our own destiny.

By Pool Hearty on 07/26/2010 at 3:23 pm

Maybe it is time to consider the property rights of the developer.

All of the comments so far are knee-jerk NIMBY comments.  Maybe we should wait and see what the details of the plan include. 

Perhaps the new development will be a perfect way for empty-nesters to stay in town, making room for families to move in behind them, increasing housing demand again and getting property values back on their feet.

The cost of the schools system is a separate issue.  It is a step-function in terms of costs. With the construction of the Seven Bridges school I see capacity that could accommodate additional children without significant incremental cost.  It needs to be right-sized continuously as needs change.

And our town budget is severely bloated and the property tax system is severely defective.  These also are separate issues.

By Resident since 1997 on 07/26/2010 at 4:46 pm

There are no “NIMBY” issues here; this is not the case where a development or facility needs to be built, and the community is fighting over where to build that structure.  This is the case in which an unnecessary, unwanted, expensive, culture-changing project is being forced upon a town by a developer who made a bad wager.  We don’t have to say “yes,” and we should say “no.” 

Moreover—be aware—the developer has slipped in the 20 “fair and affordable” housing units to make it seem as though the community is opposing moderate income housing, i.e., trying to create a “NIMBY” issue where none exists.  This is another unscrupulous game being played by the developer, and one that we should nip in the bud.

By Lawrence Farms Resident on 07/26/2010 at 4:54 pm

Plus, the property rights of the developer are the ones that he got when he bought the property; he does not get to renegotiate the deal, just because he says so.

Also, as a soon-to-be “empty nester”—tacky phrase—we have no intentions of living in a condo in Chappaqua. We’re staying in our house for a few more years, and then probably heading back to the City.  I don’t see any Chappaqua home-owners lining up to retire in a mass-market 2-bedroom condo sited next to the Saw Mill River Parkway; that’s another developer red herring.

By Lawrence Farms Resident on 07/26/2010 at 4:58 pm

The developer knew what he was buying.  Commercial property. He asked for a zoning change for more tenants and it was granted.  Maybe not as many as he originally wanted. Next he comes to the town for residential zoning for part of the property. At the same time the second half of his request is for more tenants.  After attempting to find answers to questions asked in the FEIS the developer has made it as difficult as possible.  We still do not know what the true traffic impacts will be.  The study done was during High School vacation so the numbers make no sense.  During the studies done for the new middle school the traffic on the parkway-Roaring Brook Road-Reader’s Digest area was considered to be either D or F.  The developer has much better readings.  Strange to say the least.  Everything needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Truth would be much better.

By NJH on 07/26/2010 at 5:46 pm

My refinancing application has already been rejected due to valuation - $1+MM house now worth $640K based on the current appraisal. With 199 units flooding the beaten down market, my equity will be wiped out (and so will yours). Chappaqua Crossing really means Crossing out Chappaqua, wiping us all out.

By Chappaqua Resident on 07/26/2010 at 9:43 pm

To turned down:

Talk to the town tax assessor.  Houses are not supposed to be down close to 40% in value.  Something seems out of kilter.  Anytime large amounts of housing stock are added everyone will be impacted.  One more reason that this is not a NIMBY issue.

We do not need a project that will sit empty once completed.

By NJH on 07/26/2010 at 11:40 pm

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