Town-Gown discussion on Chap Xing, tax certioraris, “Sell-Bell,” mandate relief

March 14, 2014
by Christine Yeres

When Board of Ed and Town Board officials met on Wednesday to talk about issues common to both, BoE President Jeffrey Mester brought up the recurring “Sell Bell” mantra and asked Superintendent Lyn McKay to explain why it’s not in the cards.  They also discussed development at Chappaqua Crossing and Summit Greenfield’s tax certiorari claims totaling $6.5 million.

“Sell-Bell”

“Two years ago, we actually studied very carefully the enrollment in the district,” McKay explained. “What was projected and whether it made sense to consolidate into one middle school.”  She also looked into different configurations—one 5-6, one 7-8, a 6-7-8—but even the district’s projections of a decrease of around 100 students over five years, she said, was not a steady decline, but up-and-down.  “Even with that, there simply isn’t space to put all the students in one of the middle schools.”  Plus, she said, “we expect overall enrollments to go back up.”

“You can always crowd students into a school,” McKay continued. “You could not have an academic commons area, you could have ‘art-on-a-cart,’ but it’s not sound educationally—and we do so well educationally.”

Although there might have been a $1.2 million savings “if we were able to do that, we can’t.”  Reconfiguring to one 5-6 and one 7-8 might bring savings of between $500,000 and $1.2 million, “but we chose to go to a schedule [of longer periods in the middle schools] that saved us money.”

Assistant Superintendent for Business John Chow added that when the district did the analysis McKay was describing “we didn’t include any of the possible developments.  Since then, there are a couple on the table.”  Those are the 111 condos approved at Chappaqua Crossing and the Hunts Place affordable housing project the.  “And if we were to ‘Sell Bell,’ and that becomes condos, are they going to be fee simple?”  “Fee simple” dwellings are taxed as single family houses, rather than as condos.  Sixty of the 111 approved condos at Chappaqua Crossing, Supervisor Rob Greenstein confirmed, are still required to be taxed as “fee simple” rather than as condos, according to the original approval by the town.  Condo taxes are generally between one-third and one-half the taxes of fee simple dwellings.

Then there’s the busing time, noted Mester.  Sending all middle schoolers to one middle school location would likely increase the time spent on buses for many students.

Improving downtown Chappaqua with a renovated Bell field

Greenstein observed that “in terms of improving the downtown, if Bell field can become a place for turf and lights, and bring businesses to downtown that could be open till 9:00 p.m., these would certainly help the town and us.”  There was no mention of Chuck Napoli’s plan for parking at ground level with a raised Bell field as its roof. 

Greenstein, Board of Ed member Warren Messner and Judy McGrath had, together, paid a visit to Albany to lobby representatives for mandate relief.  They had seen “five hundred guys in orange T shirts lobbying for roads all over the state to be repaired,” Greenstein reported.  “So if other people are there,” he observed, “we have to be, too.  From what I see I don’t think we have lobbyists.  Some groups have paid lobbyists there all the time.  It has to become a much more organized effort.  We’ve got to have people. There’s power in numbers.”

TB member Jason Chapin noted that members of the community such as Judy McGrath and Jim McCauley are involved in organizations like Best4NY, and Lisa David of the Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association.  And, he said, various municipal organizations such as the Westchester Municipal Officials Association are interested and involved as well. 


Chappaqua Crossing

Mester made it clear that although the high school’s traffic problems were primarily “the result of too many people not taking the bus,” the district was very interested in the idea floated by Summit Greenfield to “make changes to help alleviate” the congestion at the intersection of Roaring Brook Road and HGHS, whether to “redevelop the high school entrance [a third lane was proposed] and around the curve to the parking lot” as well as a traffic light.  “We appreciated the plan,” said Mester, “to allow more volume inside” the high school grounds.  And he reiterated his interest “in having the developer expend some of his funds to alleviate those traffic problems.”

“I see Felix Charney [of Summit Greenfield] a couple of times a week now,” said Greenstein. “I saw him this morning, in fact. We’re working very closely in a number of areas.  The fact is there’s already traffic problems on 117.  If that property is fully utilized as all office, or all residential, there’s going to be traffic problems.  At some point it’s going to be fully utilized by somebody.  So traffic is a major-major issue and he’s well aware there are problems.  The fact is, though, that the imagery we use—if Chappaqua Crossing is a bubble, you can’t just worry about what goes inside that bubble, but you have to worry about 117, the school, downtown Chappaqua.  We’re going to make sure that what happens inside the bubble is great for the developer and great for the town—but also the outside-the-bubble is going to be taken care of too.”

“You should be part of the conversation,” said TB member Lisa Katz to Board of Ed members, “in terms of safety, and that this is an open campus.  And to make sure you’re comfortable with whatever might be developed.”

“We appreciate that,” said Mester. “We don’t want to be directly involved in your negotiations, but we submitted a letter saying what we thought the issues were.”

Tax certiorari claims

“We’re back in discussion with them, we met last week about the certiorari [tax assessment adjustments] claims,” said Greenstein.  “That’s definitely an issue that affects both of us—you more than us.” [The certiorari claims are for around $1.5 million from the town; $5 million from the schools.]

“They’re asking for $5 million,” said Mester. “Obviously, though, it’s a negotiation. You ask for more than you expect to get.  And we’ll settle on something much lower, we hope.”

“What they’re looking for in rezoning has no effect on the certiorari claims,” noted Greenstein, “but we’re trying to resolve as many issues as possible and are working to put any discrepancies behind us.”

“It makes sense to wrap the whole thing up,” said Mester, “shake hands and get on with our lives.”

“And if we can get a Chappaqua Crossing turf field out of it at the high school . . .” said Greenstein.

“We could call it ‘Summit’s Green Field,” said Mester.

“We’d call it whatever they want!” said BoE member Alison Kiesel.


Cashing in district property

The school district is getting ready to go to the town Planning Board for approval to subdivide the 20.46 acre Zauderer property—a wooded area around Gary Drive and Buttonhook Road zoned for two-acre residential—into seven residential lots.

Joint Meeting CCSD & Town of New Castle Board 3/12/14 from New Castle Media Center on Vimeo.


Comments(18):
We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

So Greenstein ran on transparency and now he has been meeting with Summit Greenfield—care to share with the residents?

By transparency IS important on 03/15/2014 at 8:28 am

To Superintendent Lyn McKay and the CCSD School Board - PLEASE do not be duped by Mr Greenstein. Those following along these past few years knows that when he refers to an improved Bell Filed,turf field with lights and “bring businesses to downtown” he means The Napoli Plan. The Napoli Developemnt Plan for downtown has been presented and applications pending to many of our Town Boards (TB, PLanning Board etc). It has been presented publicly with powerpoint presentations and detailed drawings. The plan calls for Bell Field to be raised and sit on a 400 car garage. The retail Greenstein refers to is part of the Napoli plan to bring 20-25thousand sq ft of additional retail to the area adjacent to Bell. In Napoli’s own words the developement is intended to attract regional/national retailers- that means chain stores in"large format” stores. Greenstein has attended meetings to support Naploi, he has written letters and comments in support. Dont be fooled because he didnt refer to it by name.
Your responsibility is the education and SAFETY of our children. It is true the Bell Field is in disrepair but inviting a 400 car garage and chain stores next to my childrens school is absurd. That is school property, tax payer property and you should not- can NOT be a party to this. The traffic and congestion would put students in harms way. Where is Lisa Katz on this? She objects to retail at CC because of the traffic it would bring creating safety issues to Greeley students. She even publicly refered to mass shootings at schools as a result of strangers shoping.. Isnt the safety of our middle school students also important - where is Katz?
PLEASE CCSD hold onto to school property - do NOT particpate in this for profit development at the expense of our students and the detriment to our quaint downtown.

By JR on 03/15/2014 at 11:10 am

JR,

Wake up !!!!  The Napoli plan is NOT HAPPENING.  IT IS DEAD.  I have many issues with Greenstein, but it is clear that he is no longer supporting Napoli’s plan.  His new buddy is Adam Brodsky and that is scary !

By JR wake up ! on 03/15/2014 at 11:42 am

I am not satisfied with McKay’s and Chow’s explanation of the school population.  From what I have see they are interested in maintaining the status quo of their fiefdom.  Fortunately we will have a more independent review of the town’s demographics in the master plan update.

By resident on 03/15/2014 at 12:19 pm

To JR Wake Up - JR is absolutely correct.  Last month Greenstein referenced recreation and performing arts and this month he referenced turf field with lights and additional retail. The performing arts / theater and the raised turf field with additional retail are the backbone of the Napoli plan. Brodksy and Greenstein both support the Napoli plan. There will likely be tweaks and changes but make no mistake, Greenstein supports building out downtown ( more stores, bigger stores, chain stores). Brodsky does too. You can’t have more retail unless you add more parking. Hence the 400 car garage in the Napoli plan. The garage only exists if the turf field is raised. Connect the dots.
The CCSD school board must not be enablers in this dangerous and damaging plan. Bell field belongs to the school district which means it belongs to the taxpayers. They can not and should not cooperate in any way that facilitates the construction of this monstrosity. Middle school children will be in danger.

By Resident on 03/15/2014 at 12:40 pm

@ Resident,

I do not trust Greenstein nor Brodsky and am very concerned about their vision of uber development in downtown Chappaqua.  However, no matter what, parking is a very big problem now and must be addressed.  I am completely against using the field for underground parking, but the town, “together” needs to figure out what to do about parking.

By JR wake up ! on 03/15/2014 at 1:34 pm

as foolish as the construction of the $50 million middle school was, putting fake plastic turf and lights in the middle of town is even more foolish!

sad to see that no one in our community town or school boards are capable of long term strategic thinking.

By short term thinking on 03/15/2014 at 1:37 pm

Lisa Katz, please stop playing the school safety card. We’ve heard it before.  If you think this is enough of a reason to stop development at CC then it also has to be enough of a reason to put the brakes on Greenstein’s/Brodsky’s plan to put in a theater, additional stores, and additional housing near the Bell School.  But you say nothing and hope no one will notice.  Elected officials are to supposed to act in the best interest of the community and not of themselves.  You would really earn people’s respect if you stood up to those two but clearly you will agree with whatever they want.

By J. Lyman Stone on 03/15/2014 at 3:21 pm

If there is any doubt as to the agenda of Greenstein and Katz just look at the picture of the “volunteer sub committee on Commerce in Downtown and Hamlets”. Look all the way in the back and there sits Chuck Napoli. Excuse me! Chuck may be a resident and talented architect but he is clearly biased, conflicted, and should not be involved in this process. Above all else and specific to downtown commerce Napoli is a developer. He has plans filed with our town boards. He has financial backing and investors looking for a return - a profit. For years he has been promoting HIS development and HIS agenda. Rob Greenstein has been a big supporter and big backer. Now Naploi sits on a committee to brainstorm and formulate ideas for commerce?
What a hoax? Why not put a representative from Summit Greenfield on this committee? Maybe Rob would like the developer of TheSpa to join.
I agree with above comments and message to our CCSD school board. Please do not donate or grant an easement and let this developer build chain stores and a 400 car garage on school propery. Protect our kids and preserve our downtown.

By Rich D on 03/15/2014 at 3:57 pm

Was raised in New Castle pre Pearl Harbor. and have lived in many parts of the country. I’ve watched quality of life demolished by greedy developers wearing “lambs’ clothing”.  Hang on to what you have. It’s a soon extinct species. If you can afford New Castle, you can drive a few miles to strip malls.

By DBR on 03/15/2014 at 4:17 pm

Downtown doesn’t need a radical makeover - doesn’t need a development.
Downtown needs some additional parking and a better mix of stores - we don’t need or want a 400 car garage and chain stores.
Get Whole Foods at Chapp Crossing and add a small retail component there. Let the developer add a few more residential units in exchange and begin construction of the already approved 20 affordable housing units at CC. That satisfies the state mandate. Then kill Conifer Hunts LA.
Leave Town Hall alone. Can’t have retail there - bad idea. Middle school, library, train station and Rec Field already there. What are you thinking?
Communicate with your constituency.. Be transparent. Keep your promises and be honorable. 
It’s not that complicated Rob Greenstein. You listening.

By Chappster on 03/15/2014 at 6:32 pm

You are spot on.  By the way, what are the downtown rents? Are they at a level that no merchant can really make it?

By Hey chappster on 03/15/2014 at 8:34 pm

On 1/7/13, Greenstein wrote in this publication,

“Yes, I support Chuck Napoli’s plan, which includes a 5 story high theater & 400 car garage.”

“The downtown merchants support Chuck Napoli - they do not support the plan at Chappaqua Crossing - nuff said.”

And on 7/26/13, Brodsky wrote,

“Those who oppose me will make the point that my father-in-law owns a piece of land on North Greeley Avenue and will say that my candidacy is merely self-serving. I would obviously concede that some of these (downtown) proposals would benefit that parcel of land.”

Their agenda is clear.  Someone stop the runaway train before it’s too late!

By oy vey on 03/15/2014 at 9:11 pm

The tax cert. proceedings continue to increase annually. 6.5 becomes 8.5 this year and 11 in 2 years and…...they get interest.

By Stop the tax losses on 03/15/2014 at 9:14 pm

Is Felix Charney, CEO of Summit Greenfield, related to Sabrina Charney Hull, New Castle Town Planner?

Editor’s Note:  No, she is not.

By Seth on 03/16/2014 at 10:34 am

TOWN BOARD GONE WILD!

While the town board moves forward with their own agenda and ignores the Master Plan entirely, anything seems possible and every town resident now has something to lose. Forget about zoning or the character of your home’s immediate surroundings. Greenstein and company see any and all undeveloped lands as possible revenue generators. It does not matter if it is residential, open space or anything else. Nothing is off the table for the town board as long as it brings more revenue to the town.

Related to this topic, I am close friends with a developer (not from this area) who is keeping a close eye on developments here. He said that his firm is well aware of what is going on here, and that if the town starts with zoning changes it will open up the floodgates. His firm already “has a plan.” I don’t know what that means but he said the town appears to be for sale and developers are ready to jump in once they see what happens with a few applications that are being reviewed now. He believes that they are not the only firm watching these developments. This is very concerning, and he told me this because as a friend he felt that I should be aware.

I am concerned about the town board’s intent, their sense of entitlement to do whatever they want, lack of accountability or control on their decisions, and the future of Chappaqua.

DM

 

 

By D.M. (resdient) on 03/16/2014 at 1:37 pm

The Town of New Castle is CLOSED for BUSINESS. The current administration is seeking to bankrupt CC. The master plan is meant to stop cc, stop conifer, stop the Spa project, and stop and freeze all major steps that need to be taken at this time by Town Hall. However, the policy that is on the rise, is the policy that will cause Town Hall to become a bonanza of generated fees as never before seen in the history of New Castle. A new economy is starting to emerge out of New Castle and if you are not a lawyer, engineer, architect, outside consultant, outside consultant, outside consultant, then you will not be able to enjoy the gravy train of money that is stopping in New Castle. Taxpayers of the area, get ready to sell and move out, or see your property tax go up by 37% percent. Don’t believe me, then start adding up all the potential lawsuits and add to that the victory of tax certiorari proceedings. Still think I am wrong, then take what I am advocating and calculate me being just 50% wrong. Still don’t get it, then deduct a miscalculation that I have provided by being off by 75%. If you still don’t get it - then run your own numbers and we can compare notes. We need Town Hall to use town discretion, and to move forward with the hard choices that require leadership. Using the master plan gives no choice but for opposing parties to file law suits. The master plan does not benefit the majority of area taxpayers, it sets us up for guranteed litigation. We needed Team Green to show leadership, not show The Art of Political Avoidance.

By What what no really WHAT? on 03/17/2014 at 11:11 am

Even though “What ”  Person is a little over the top,  he is absolutely correct.

By What? on 03/17/2014 at 4:27 pm


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