TB approves professional phone survey of 300 residents, randomly sampled, for Master Plan review

August 22, 2014
by Christine Yeres

On the afternoon of the August 12 public hearing on Chappaqua Crossing, Town Board, Planning Board, and Master Plan Steering Committee members met to speak with Tiffany Zezula of Pace Land Use Center about the recently released report on the community outreach sessions conducted as part of the Town Master Plan review.  Zezula confirmed that residents love where they live but also want downtowns with a greater diversity of businesses and housing, better walkability, traffic conditions, and looks.

Board and Committee members discussed how to take what they learned from the Pace report to the next stage in the Master Plan review—20-minute telephone interviews of 300 residents by a professional survey firm over a couple of weeks in September.  An account of their conversation is below.  In the Town Board meeting that followed their round-table talk, the public hearing on Chappaqua Crossing was continued to Tuesday, September 23, and Town Board members voted to move ahead with the survey.  The Board will use the firm of Penn Schoen Berland, whose clients have included CCSD and the Clintons. 

See also Pace’s “Master Planning Public Engagement Report” is released, NCNOW.org, 8/5/14.

What next?

The idea now is for the Master Plan Steering Committee to take the analysis from the Pace report, glean from it the larger goals of the community, and compare it against the 1989 Master Plan.  For example, said Zezula, “maybe your old Master Plan never talked about a diversity of shops in the downtown.  This report gives you, I hope, some type of outline to see what needs to be updated in your Master Plan.”

“You see repeated attention” in the report, Zezula noted, “to your downtown Chappaqua hamlet, locating commercial development there, near the train station, with walkability, and building affordable and high-density housing down there.”

“Under ‘Commercial Development,’” said Zezula, is often mentioned “the diversity of retail in food and services to meet your community’s needs, restaurants, and a bookstore.”

Participants expressed interest in “a supermarket being built somewhere and prioritizing local over chain stores.”  Commercial development should be mainly in downtown Chappaqua, with some residents in favor of having some at Chappaqua Crossing, and others in favor of having some in Millwood.

“Some people were interested in improving the development process for Chappaqua Crossing and in improving communication with residents about it,” said Zezula. 

Residents suggested updating storefronts and beautifying empty lots. 

Under “Environment & Habitat,” people liked the quaint, small-town, rural feel of the town.  They wanted to maintain green spaces and public open space, continuing to protect them and to strengthen environmental regulations and also update the environmental review process, taking into consideration night-time light, pollution, noise.

In considering “Public Works & Infrastructure,” many participants were in favor of constructing more sidewalks and bike lanes, installing traffic-calming measures, improving pedestrian safety with crosswalks, having sidewalks connect to other sidewalks, enhancing streetscapes, improving access to commercial development and alleviating congestion through better traffic patterns, dealing with stormwater runoff, fixing the town’s water problems, expanding sewer lines and burying power lines.  To that last wish, Zezula said, people added, “But we do know how expensive burying lines can be.”

People wanted more parks, year-round indoor and outdoor recreation facilities, a community pool and rec center, more outdoor seating and gathering places.

Many suggested that the town complete its Master Plan process to determine what’s needed, said Zezula.  “They want to have more public input, more studies, more professionals.”  However, “in the same breath,” she said, “they want the project review process streamlined.”

People desired an increase in the number of town festivals and concerts in order to bolster community spirit, and better communication between town government and the community.

As to housing, people felt the existing stock is good as mainly low-density, single-family homes.  Many wanted more housing for seniors and young people, and favored creating more mixed-use—retail-with-housing—for downtown Chappaqua.

“These are goals,” said Zezula, ”—large-scale goals.  This is what your community’s vision is for itself for the next years.”

Besides guiding the Master Plan Steering Committee, the Pace report, Zezula explained, should serve also to guide the continuing public engagement process.  She suggested that once the Committee updates the Master Plan, it should return to the public—“at the high school, or someplace else”—to show residents “what connections are being made between the Master Plan and this [Pace] report.”

“We’re going to look into doing a survey, calling 200 to 300 residents,” said Supervisor Rob Greenstein.  “What else are good next steps for us?” he asked Zezula.

“A survey is needed,” Zezula confirmed.  “A lot of residents talked about it. Maybe after that survey—or at the launch of the survey—you should do some sort of outreach talking about what that survey is going to encompass.  After the survey, that’s the time the Master Plan Steering Committee should come back to the public and say, ‘This is what we’ve been working on.’  The public needs to see that this [feedback] was somehow incorporated into the Master Plan.  A survey is a brilliant next step.”

“The survey can be general in nature—generic questions, which will complement this [Pace] report result, or the survey can get more specific, into specific ideas.  So [then] you [will have] gone back to your public saying, ‘Here are some overall goals [from the report], this is what we think needs updating, but now we want to get more specific.’ “

“If people have said, ‘We want a diversity of housing,’ well, what does that mean?,” asked Zezula.  “Where do they want it?  That leads the Master Plan to have not only goals [more diversity of housing] but specific strategies, because now you’ve seen what your public is considering.”

“You don’t have an endless amount of money, either,” Zezula added.

Master Plan Steering Committee members Maud Bailey asked Zezula how to structure those return-to-the-public meetings “so they’re productive.”

“Break out into smaller groups, with topics stationed in different rooms,” Zezula suggested.  “You might walk into ‘Environment & Natural Resources’ and have specific questions on that topic for the public that night.”  She explained that Committee members might tell participants, “Here’s what we did.  Here are the suggestions we heard from you.  Are we right with this?  What don’t you like about this?”

“So continue with our subgroups working toward what’s good, bad and ugly,” said Steering Committee member Dick Brownell to Zezuala, “then crank up that final draft and put it together based on this initial suite of information [in the Pace report]?  And as we go forward with consultants our subgroups build up actual words for the Master Plan, then do another outreach.”

“I think the survey can go on independently,” Brownell continued. “This [work of the subgroups] will be more free-thinking than a survey.  I think we have enough to go forward.”

“But it would be useful to leverage what we have in this [Pace] report,” said Steering Committee member Bob Kirkwood, “to make the survey more useful to us.  Now that we have this information, let’s start to drill down.  And with consultants we can do this.” 

“We have a clear goal as to what we want to achieve with this survey,” said Kirkwood.  “This is a 40,000-foot view of it.  This is tremendously helpful.  But now, when we talk about sidewalks we can say ‘This is what it involves, these are the next districts [for which to consider them].’”

“Whoever you have for the survey,” said Zezula, “they should take this [Pace report] and use this as the basis for the survey.”  For example, she explained, “on the subject of sidewalks or housing—[people can] become specific about where they wanted the sidewalks or housing. Now it’s [an easy matter] for people to prioritize where these things can or should go.  But there’s also the financial reality.”

Planning Board member Tom Curley suggested that the group might want “to be sure what the real objective should be.  If it’s to pose the same questions [as in the Pace community outreach sessions] to 200 more people…  What specifically is the objective?”  And, he added, might it be wise to keep the survey for a later point in the process?

“What we’re hopoing to do,” said Greenstein, “is to send the summary from Pace to the survey company and let them take the general themes and make them into specific questions, to home in on some of the general thoughts.”

“Instead of drilling down,” suggested new Planning Board member Michael Allen, “by doing a random survey you could validate the direction and opinions that certain people have made through the outreach process.  You absolutely get ‘selection bias’ [in the outreach sessions].  We don’t know whether the rest of the community cares about sidewalks.”

”—as much,” said Brownell.

Town Board member Adam Brodsky turned to Zezula, asking, “What’s been your experience?”

“I will say that because of the expense that [surveys] are not always done,” said Zezula.  “Many communities can’t afford to do them. Instead, they mail out general questions or have online surveys.”

“If we want the best result from the Master Plan process,” asked Brodsky, “expense aside, what’s best?”

“One thing this [Pace] report did show,” said Zezula, “is that overall people want a focus on the downtown.  Many of the comments on the issues or strategies people brought to the table were about downtown.”  She noted that she saw that other issues such as housing and improved sidewalks, walkability and bikes—all point back to the downtown.  “So you can begin to focus in on your downtown revitalization efforts, because many people spoke about it.  I’ve been to many meetings and as far as Chappaqua Crossing versus the downtown goes, overall people saw them as complementing one another.  People wanted to know, ‘How can we unlock the value of our downtown?  Maybe the survey can begin to home in on that, where all of these things come into play.”

“Overall,” said Zezula, “my suggestion is to take what we’ve done here, the survey firm will see this and drive down to more specifics.  It would be interesting if you began to survey people about where they would like to see this or that, where do they want to see the next sidewalk?  You want to know where to invest the money—downtown?  or one that links one area to another?”

“I’m not certain you’ll learn that much more than you’ve learned here [in the Pace report],” said Curley.  “Rather than go back to the public again, maybe we owe the community something.  Instead of asking questions maybe we should put out a vision for the town—a comprehensive view of ‘This is what we’ve heard [from the public] and this is what we want to work toward for ten years from now.”

Master Plan Steering Committee member Chris Roberta noted that some of the Pace report data “seemed to be at odds” with other data.  “A lot of this stuff balanced out on the other side.”  For example, said Roberta, some people liked the quaint feel of the downtown while others felt it looked needed a facelift.

“The overall comment,” said Zezula, “is that they like the town.  It’s quaint.  ‘We love it here. We live here.  But here are the improvements we want.’  When asked ‘What’s good now?’ Yes, they liked certain things.  Hall of Scoops, the Healthy Choice juice bar, Rocky’s, Susan Lawrence, said Zezula, “but then they say, ‘But we need more than just the things we’ve listed here.  We need much more.  A bookstore, this, that…’.”

“Back to Tom’s vision,” said Brownell.  “If the subgroups get the information you’ve provided—which is good, it’s very useful—and then adapt it to our areas of interest and come back with what we think the vision is ... I think that’s exactly the right thing to do next, and then use that for anything else—to continue with the Master Plan process, and then the follow up survey, figure out whether you want to drill down.”

“Then a followup survey to see whether you want to drill down and validate the information from the open outreach?”

“So we’re looking for a vision,” said Town Board members Jason Chapin.  “Is that [vision] the consensus of what the community wants?  And how do we define it?  By a majority?  A super-majority?  How do we get to the point of saying ‘This is what we want’?”

“Sooner or later,” offered Curley, “you stand up and be a leader.  Stand up and say ‘We realize there’s some disagreement, but this is the way it comes together.  If you get push-back, then maybe the vision wasn’t quite right.”

“The intention of the Master Plan,” said Town Planner Sabrina Charney, “is to be approved by the Town Board.  The Town Board would hold public hearings.  The public would have the opportunity to respond to the draft by the Steering Committee.  The information in the outreach is one component.  [At the same time,] the work groups have been working to look at the 1989 Master Plan to determine what’s good, bad and ugly in that plan, what has changed and what’s missing.”  A synthesis of the information by the Steering Committee would follow.

Where do we go from here? asked Curley.

“Is this consensus?” asked Zezula about the Pace report.  “This is what we heard.  And this is a goal.  Commercial development in the executive summary [of the Pace report] talks about creating ‘destinations.’  If you take that and the analysis [in the same Pace report] and walk through that analysis, I think you could start to see what’s missing from that Master Plan.  And maybe your Master Plan goal needs stating differently.”  She suggested, as an example, stating in a Master Plan draft, “We want to see improvements to downtown Chappaqua,” then asking the public, “Are we still right on that?  Are we wrong on that?”

“This report is great and gives us these overarching themes and concepts,” said Town Board member Lisa Katz. “But it’s very difficult to take those and make them into definitive recommendations as to what we want the town to look like going forward.  Unless we delve into them, I don’t know how anyone here will be able to synthesize [the information] and come up with a real [Master Plan] blueprint.”

“I’m curious to know,” said Bailey, “whether a better time for a survey might be a step or two down the road.  My concern is that we met a lot of people [during the Pace outreach sessions], but it was a small sampling of our community.  But after listening to a lot of the sessions, honestly another 500 people would have produced a lot of similar comments.  So maybe the idea of producing a document that then triggers a survey to see how people feel about it might be good.”

“This is a process that goes from general to specific,” said Curley.  “So as you work more with your subgroups and go back to the public you’re going to drill down more and more and course-correction will happen during the process.”

“The other thing to be mindful of,” said Kirkwood, “is that [a Master Plan] is a general guideline.  This is not a site plan.  This is policy, the tenets of what we believe in, to give guidance to residents and developers.  We shouldn’t be planning in this document exactly where the sidewalks or stop signs should go.  Later on the Town Board will address what has to be changed or the changes that might take place, the leave it to the marketplace to have them happen.”

Brownell noted that the 1989 Master Plan contained a “Table 76,” eight pages long, of “To-Do Things.”  Of that list, he asked, “how many have been done?  Twenty-five percent?  Forty percent?  Most?  [Tree protection] was mentioned early.  It got done six years ago.  And that’s OK, because they get prioritized along with the budgeting process over the course of time.  But as Tom said, you’re starting with a big picture, then drilling down to end up with a new ‘Table 76’ when you’re all done.”

“But when you start broadly,” said Brodsky, “what the survey allows you to do is to bring in as many additional opinions as possible.  Then the drilling down starts.  Maybe that’s what the survey does.”

Some communities, said Zezula, use the themes from a Pace report and then ask residents to rank the to-do items in order of priority.

“If we do a survey,” said Greenstein, “not only can we focus on the general themes, but we can also focus on some specific things.  I certainly don’t think that anyone’s in a position right now to come up with any ‘grand vision’ for New Castle based just on this.  There were people who came in order to get specific messages across.  And with a random survey, that’s information that’s going to be equally important—especially when you have professionals using this [Pace report] document to help them, formulate questions.”

“The survey helps steer the Steering Committee,” offered Kirkwood.

“Who prepares the survey?” asked newest Master Plan Steering Committee member Bob Lewis.  “A number of members of the Steering Committee say it would be great to have to frame the questions for the survey.  What I’m hearing from others is, ‘Let the survey company do that.’ I’d like to see the Steering Committee and Planning Board and Town Board members all have ideas.  There is a vision we could put together and the survey could help us prioritize the goals.”

“Prioritize and/or change—or add to,” said Brownell.

“I don’t believe we’re ready to just turn it over to [the survey firm],” said Lewis.

“We don’t want the biases of anyone at this table to infuse the survey questions,” explained Katz. “So we should take this document, which is objective, and then give it over to a survey company that asks objective questions based on the overarching themes in this report.  I wouldn’t want to be responsible for framing these questions.  We can then take them and look at them and see if anything is missing, or see if there’s something they want us to delve into more, or less.”

“And the job of the Steering Committee,” said Greenstein, “is not to come up with a vision per se, but reach out to the public and see what their vision is.  Pace did a great job as a starting point, now we can focus in and hit some random people.  I don’t think any of us want to interject our own vision into it, and then ask people for theirs.  We want to listen to their opinions and then come up with the vision.”

“But as planners,” said Curley, “we can take this report and craft a vision from that.  To take the information and organize it in a way that’s meaningful to the public and productive for the next step.”

Kirkwood outlined a process by which the Steering Committee members would begin with the Pace report, then frame some information to give the survey firm, while remaining connected to the public for feedback.

Greenstein agreed.  “If we turn this Pace document over to the survey firm, they have no idea what Chappaqua Crossing is, what major issues the community is facing.  But if we give the surveyors this document and explain some of the issues, some of the divisiveness, then they can use the information and come up with the questions.”

“So you’re thinking there would be more targeted questions,” said Curley.

“In my opinion,” said Greenstein, “it would be both general and specific.”

“How do we do that without putting some bias into it?” asked Roberta.

“We present the issues factually without our opinions,” said Greenstein.

“Maybe you describe the two competing views for the survey company,” said Roberta.

“And maybe each work group can come up with what they think are the important issues,” said Brownell.

“It would be good to get a broader view from a broader group,” said Bailey.  “But the issues are clear.  There are no surprises.  I do think there’s value in having checks and balances, and the survey could be a good check on the Pace outreach information.  It’s an organic process and it’s important to constantly find ways to check back with the public to see that we’re on track.”

“One way of doing that,” said Kirkwood, “is to have a presentation or two on different subjects.”

In discussing how many residents the survey company, Penn Schoen Berland, should interview—whether 200, 250 or 300—all agreed to go with the 300, at a cost of around $33,000.  Only completed surveys will be counted as part of the end result, and the firm will continue its phoning until it completes 300 surveys.  The thinking was that the survey should last no more than 20 minutes, and that it might be wise to publicize to residents that they could be phoned, and encourage them to take the call.  “Pre-advertising is so important,” said Bailey.  The goal is to conduct the survey in mid-September, and make the calls over one or two weeks.

To a question by Betty Weitz, asking whether the public would have access to the survey questions before they go out, and the questions could be counted on to be complex and logical, Greenstein responded, “That’s why we’re going with a reputable survey company—as opposed to killing each other.  And it did work out well with Pace.”

Chapin noted that there would be a great deal of information flowing between different groups and boards.  “I would ask Sabrina that any documents produced by one board be shared with the other boards, so we all know what’s going on because we’re reaching a critical point in this process and we want to have great communication.”
_________________________

To see NCNOW’s collected articles on the Master Plan review, click HERE.

 


Comments(37):
We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

This 300 person phone survey is a charade and waste of money pushed through by those looking for reason to block development at CC. Most would love our downtown to improve but most also recognize that downtown has significant limitations and will never be the ” old fashioned main st USA” we envision. At the very least there is no room for a supermarket no parking and smack in the middle of downtown sits a commuter train station with the largest parking lot on the line. Also in the middle of downtown sits a middle school.
As of the 2010 census, there were over 17,000 New Castle residents.  We have thousands of dwellings inhabited by thousands of tax paying residents.  What possible validity will there be to a random telephone survey of 300 people ? The fact that a so called “professional” thinks that 300 is an appropriate sampling already calls into question the results. The SG survey included almost 600’residents and the Greenburg/ Whithouse survey about 800.
This survey is the by product of the not in my backyard team.  The deputy supervisor is front and center in stalling and trying to find reason and evidence to on strict. She( and this editor) would love for a survey to show disapproval for retail at CC because all the other surveys and studies already completed show support and efficacy. How objective can this 300 person survey be when commissioned and paid for by our town with a town board member committed to undermining Whole Foods for New Castle.

By Longtime residents on 08/23/2014 at 8:56 am

In the perfect world we would all like a vibrant downtown - a center of town where we all meet we shop we dine etc. There are two challenges making this all but impossible in Chapp.
First - our downtown is not conducive to a set up like that. We have a “top of the hill” downtown and a bottom of the hill making it impossible to centralize. We have a downtown with limited parking with a vibrant middle school and fields and the metro north train station. We can all dream of an Armonk like setting but that will never happen.
Second - retail has changed forever. On line commerce and shopping makes it extremely difficult for town centers to compete. Studies have shown that in today’s environment the retail hubs that are working are generally centered around a super market a gym and other facilities that draw people to accomplish things they can not do on the internet (like working out at gym or shopping for food or eating at a restaurant). Look at Pleasantville with its world class Jacob Burn Theater. While eating establishments seem to be ok the turnover and closings of retailers continues. Vacancy rates are high.
I too would love for downtown Chapp to be revitalized. But that ignores the reality of today. Whole Foods at CC with a gym and other ancillary retail in a mixed use setting with commercial and residential is the answer.
Conducting a survey and asking questions about what people want seems silly because if what people want is not attainable then its all a waste of time and money.

By Robert M on 08/23/2014 at 9:26 am

Once again we see those intent on trying to influence and manipulate results. How transparent of Betty Weitz in her question to Greenstein. She wanted to know if “the public ” will get a chance to see the survey questions.  Seriously Betty! Do you ready expect a professional firm to run the questions by you first( Katz n NIMBYs too)?
Is that so u can make sure the questions reflect your bias? Maybe you would like to supply the names and telephone numbers of those you would like to be surveyed.

By Really? on 08/23/2014 at 4:13 pm

Tiffany Zezula , our expert from Pace states “I’ve been to many meetings and as far as Chappaqua Crossing versus the downtown goes, overall people saw them as complementing one another”.
Let’s be clear - here is our expert from Pace which is spear heading the Master Plan process and she has observed after being involved in multiple meetings and hearings that people in our town view retail at CC COMPLEMENTING downtown.  That means we the people want retail at CC. She did not say that overall people are opposed to CC. She said we view CC as part of our town along with a better downtown. It’s not one or the other. It can be both.
So why are we spending $33000 to survey 300 people when we already know that we want retail at CC. Studies and surveys have already been conducted. Now we waste previous tax payer dollars - for what reason?
Besides how does a survey of 300 people randomly called on the telephone accurately reflect the wishes of a community with almost 20,000 residents?

By Resident on 08/23/2014 at 6:11 pm

We are going to spend $33,000 to randomly telephone and survey 300 people. According to the most recent data I could find online, as of the 2010 census there were close to 18,000 residents in New Castle.
So how can 300 random surveys reflect anything that can and will be useful or representative of our community?
Ms Katz and NIMBYs like B Weitz insist on a master plan with a paid for professional survey because they refuse to accept surveys and studies already completed. Those results have clearly demonstrated a need and a want by residents for retail/ Whole Foods at Chapp Cxing.
I agree with Resident above. Our hired hand from Pace , Tiffany Zezula, made a very important statement at the last meeting. She said that based on all the meetings she has been involved with in regards to CC, ” overall people saw Chapp Crossing and downtown as complementing one another”. Do you all understand that?
Your expert for your master plan that you insisted on is telling you that residents see retail at CC and downtown co-existing. We want retail and Whole Foods and your Master Plan expert is confirming it. So why waste money on a survey.?...

By Total waste of my $$$$ on 08/23/2014 at 8:20 pm

To Resident: If you have a high schooler or college kid, please ask them to explain to you a little about statistics. 300 people REALLY RANDOMLY CHOSEN can pretty accurately tell what a group of 20,000 people are actually thinking.

By Statistics basics on 08/23/2014 at 9:48 pm

The downtown area is simply physically too small to support a theater and additional “revitalization” that some people seem to say they want.

By no room at the inn on 08/23/2014 at 9:57 pm

To Statistics basics- what if this really randomly chosen 300 magically and mysteriously are not really random? Will the 300 be chosen out of a hat or might it be possible that a disproportionate number of them might come from the CC area?
I don’t see how 300 people reflect the views of 20000. I certainly don’t trust any process that includes the very same people that distorted and deceived us with a bogus petition and also contaminated a community based Internet survey. One is a town board member. Besides, we already had a survey done and we now have our Pace expert telling us residents approve of retail at CC. PACE says that ” overall” residents see Chapp Crossing complimenting downtown hamlet. That means residents approve and desire this development. Over and over this has been demonstrated but yet the same few loudmouths don’t believe and now they force another survey.

By Townie on 08/23/2014 at 10:44 pm

WOW !  All the rabid retail at CC are out in force. 
Anyone surprised ?

By anyone surprised ? on 08/24/2014 at 10:02 am

I dont care if they build retail - Whole Foods or anything else at CC. I shop Millwood and Mt Kisco. I am agnostic when it comes to CC.
BUT I think it is criminal the way the developer at CC has been treated. It has been over 8 years and the early plans never cincluded retail. The early proposals where about a combo of commercial and residential. The residential component was shot down as too big. The town board at the time suggested a smaller version so the developer came back with a plan that was suggested by the TB - that was shot down also. Then a few years ago the sitting Supervisor and TB suggested that the developer come back with a plan that included a super market (DAGS in Chapp haD closed). So the developer went back to the drawing board and presented retail at CC. The same who complained about all other plans objected to this too.They didnt like the strip mall so SG at the town planners suggestion designed a town square design. NIMBYs said a 60k sq ft supermarket was too big - that it would invite a low quality market like ShopRite. So the developer came back with a 40k sq ft plan that now includes Whole Foods.
Now the deputy supervisor is calling for a moratorium that will likley result in another year or two delay making this a 10 year saga. Whole Foods has only committed if SG stays on a timetable that has been agreed to. The moratorium, if passed will certainly result in Whole Foods backing out.
Like I said - i could care less about CC but the treatment by our TB and certain residents is deplorable and will def result in litagation THAT WE WILL LOSE! That means taxpayers lose and I am a tax payer.

By Millwood side of town on 08/24/2014 at 1:38 pm

To anyone surprised- all the rabid anti retail continues EVERYTIME the topic is discussed at every town board meeting. Lisa Katz has a one track mind and every comment she makes and every question she asked is with her biased view. She has again played to her nimby neighbors when she again launched her moratorium rhetoric.
Betty Weitz wanted to know if she ( the public) will get a chance to view the survey questions before the survey is conducted. What is the point of hiring a professional firm to conduct a survey if we give people like Katz /Weitz editorial control. Clearly her question indicates the continued manipulation and intervention in hopes that their stall and obstruct tactics continue.
As others have already said, this survey is a waste of money. The solution is clear. Build retail at CC including Whole Foods. Scale it down some from 120,000 sq ft to a more acceptable size. That will lessen traffic. The argument that this will create a third hamlet is bunk. Neither of our current hamlets is viable and based on location topography and layout they never will be. It’s an empty argument coming from the NIMBYs. They fear CC will destroy downtown but they don’t shop there now! Ask the residents of Lawrence Farms East, Cowdin Annandale where they shop.  If they are honest they will tell you they shop in Mt Kisco and Armonk. That is a fact. So pardon me if I don’t buy their argument that retail at CC will hurt downtown. If they were sincere they would be shopping downtown now but they do not.

By Millwood side of town on 08/24/2014 at 2:09 pm

Sell Bell, move town hall to CC, build a parking structure at the train station and there will be room aplenty for revitalizing downtown.

By bob on 08/24/2014 at 2:39 pm

Townie, how could an outside professional survey company possibly rig its random sample to pack it with people who live around CC? 

I’m very interested to see the results of the survey and I think town board members are too.

By Impossible on 08/24/2014 at 3:03 pm

Millwood side, you say ” They fear CC will destroy downtown but they don’t shop there now!” What everyone (not just the NIMBYs you hate) is saying is that the downtown stinks already (and they don’t shop there but want to) and that they want it to be better (so they do want to shop there) and that if a third hamlet is set up at CC, then the hamlets will remain blah.  You put a lot of words into NIMBY mouths. Don’t speak for them - you get it wrong because you want something yourself.

By Don't speak for others on 08/24/2014 at 3:08 pm

Like Millwood Side of Town I could give a hoot about CC. I agree that the treatment and behavior directed at the developer has not been something to be proud of.
We have issues that need to be addressed on this side of town and almost every time I watch a town board meeting or planning meeting it is dominated by the same folks ranting and exaggerating the same claims over and over with the subject being retail at CC. It has gotten to the point I do not watch anymore.
I have to say one thing. I give Rob Greenstein credit for maturing and growing into his role as Supervisor. He seems much more composed and in control. He seems to understand the reality of the situation at CC and allows others to blow off steam and embarrass themselves. In the end I hope and trust Mr Grenstein does what is right by everyone in our community. That includes treating our largest tax payer with decorum and respect. I don’t know a single person at Summit Greenfield but based on the litany of events and this horribly long time line, I believe they have been jerked around.  At some point what goes around comes around and we need leadership that protects us all and works for us all. The personal agendas and not in my backyard governing will come home to roost. I’m sure Ms Katz has her small fan base but she is not working in my best interests nor the interests of most residents.

By West sided on 08/24/2014 at 3:43 pm

I moved to this town because of the schools. Real estate values escalated as many others moved here for the same reason. Mr Holmes and other real estate brokers made a fortunate brokering these deals. Real estate brokers are in oversupply in our downtown store fronts now. Retail at CC has only been a topic for the past 2 years. Why now is Mr Holmes and others yearning for a Master Plan?  Why wasn’t he calling for an updated master plan 5 and 10 years ago? It is only now that there exists a threat of competition that these people come out of the woodwork. Like everything else, the internet is changing real estate brokerage.
Property owners downtown can do an awful lot themselves to improve the look and feel of downtown. No one is preventing them from making improvements and enhancing curb appeal. They can also work with their tenants, lower rent, and offer to subsidize improvements.

By Nest is empty on 08/24/2014 at 5:40 pm

Betty Weitz’s question about whether the public will see the survey questions in advance is a good question.  It should remind the town board and the survey company that the questions they develop will have to seem - and be—fair questions to the public once the survey is made public, if not before.  If the questions are b.s., like Summit Greenfield’s questions for its opinion poll, then the $$ will have been wasted and the argument will go on. 

Greenstein has the right idea - town board members and some groups of residents are at each other throats about this and really need a third-party, arm’s-length entity to reestablish trust in this government.  The fact that the town board sees this and is running the survey is part way to reestablishing that trust.

By Rebuilding trust on 08/24/2014 at 8:04 pm

Resident, you ask “Besides how does a survey of 300 people randomly called on the telephone accurately reflect the wishes of a community with almost 20,000 residents?” 

Well I have news for you - it’s the only way TO find out what they think.  Everything else is shameful infighting among board members and residents. Let’s have some facts to work with. Make sure the survey asks for people’s level of awareness of the topics, by the way.  And if the surveyors find that that number is consistently low, then I’d stop and go back to the education part of the master plan process.  The outreach sessions were not that well advertised and, consequently, not that well attended.  Christine Yeres has written in some other piece that just under 300 people participated.  Tiffany Zezula says in the tape of this meeting that just over 200 did.  Either way, that’s damned few for a town of 12,000 adults (the other 6,000 are children).  That’s why I’m glad they’re doing a more scientific survey to find out what people think and want.  Bravo town board members - all of you.

By Bravo town board members on 08/24/2014 at 8:11 pm

NO TAXPAYER FUNDED CORPORATE WELFARE FOR DOWNTOWN LANDLORDS!

By In your own pocket on 08/25/2014 at 10:19 am

The survey is a total waste of time and money. When the results come back and they reflect what we already know that residents want retail at CC then what?
Let’s say 60% approve - will that matter? What if 50% or 75% approve ? What number is Katz and her cohorts looking for? If it turns out the numbers are lower then we debate these results vs the survey conducted by the firm hired by SG or the one done by Dawn Greenburg.
I predict there will be a clear majority in favor. Then the same obstructionists will simply revert to their strategy to deny a zoning change and howl about property values, traffic, and destruction of downtown. It will prove this entire exercise is part of the stall strategy. Like I said - it’s a waste of time and money. All meant to placate this annoying and obnoxious small group.

By My tax $$$$ on 08/25/2014 at 10:20 am

Can’t wait for the results of the survey and then the inevitable complaining about either the questions, sample size or the randomness of participants

By Just a matter of time on 08/25/2014 at 11:11 am

Summitt Greenfield is NOT our largest tax payer. 
If you really are from Millwood you should pay more attention to what retail at CC will do to your supposed side of town.

By sorry, does not add up on 08/25/2014 at 11:55 am

Rob Greenstein has emerged as the only adult in the room. How ironic is that?
He understands that ” something is coming to CC ” and he repeats his understanding that Summit Greenfield continues to bolster a very strong case against New Castle should litigation resume.
Logic and common sense must replace the emotional and unfounded arguments put forth by Katz, Weitz, et al that retail at CC must be blocked. At this recent board meeting the theme that zoning at CC must not change was again repeated. That ship has sailed people.
The best tact must be to recognize that Summit Greenfield has not been treated fairly. They are our largest tax payer and they can potentially bring in additional tax revenue while enhancing our community with Whole Foods a large gym, recreational facilities and some additional retail. We should be negotiating with them, as Greenstein has always supported, and the result should be a scaled down version ( less than 120,000 sq ft) increased condos and additional ” open space” for all. Smaller means less traffic. Smaller means less threat to other hamlets.
The voices of opposition prefer we do not negotiate because they want nothing. Years ago had they not fought against condos and age restricted housing we would not even be talking about retail at CC today. They hide behind the ” it’s not zoned for that” argument. You can not negotiate in good faith if you go to the table denying their right to fully utilize their property. Forgive the comparison but it’s like forcing Israel to negotiate with Hamas terrorists who they deny Isreals right to exist.
I hope and trust Supervisor Greenstein stays the course. He understands the reality and understands the consequences if obstructionists dominate. I think Lisa Katz has put her personal agenda and her personal vendetta ahead of what is in the best interests of all residents. I’m not RG -I don’t work for SG.

By I'm impressed with RG on 08/25/2014 at 12:08 pm

What’s most interesting about the CC debate, clearly being orchestrated by the NIMBY and very well off surrounding residents, is the assumption is that everyone OF COURSE wants down town to be the place to shop and be better.

As a life long resident of town, the LAST thing I want is more traffic in downtown Chappaqua. It’s cute, quaint, idealistic to believe that it will ever be anything more than a sleepy boutique oriented street.

A very large portion of the town wants a viable, dignified and appropriate sized development at CC with decent food shopping.

By Downtown Chappaqua on 08/25/2014 at 3:23 pm

There was an article in yesterday’s NY Times discussing how telephone surveys have become increasingly unreliable. People today are far less inclined to take a call from a stranger and answer questions. Many variables contribute to this amongst them identity theft , caller ID, internet, “do not call”, and cell phone use over landlines.
People are simply less likely to engage with a stranger on the telephone. The NYTimes article focused on government and employment statistics obtained thru surveys. They have been much less accurate than ever.
Most people don’t answer the call when they see the caller ID. Some answer a few questions and rush off the call. Others disengage and stop
Paying attention and stop answering accurately. Of course you will never hear this from a survey company because it’s bad for business.
I often say ” please don’t call I’m on do not call”. Or ” thank you but I don’t have time”.
The majority of oeople who do respond to the survey caller do so because they have a vested interest or an axe to grind. They repond because the subject matter directly effects them so they are open to sharing their opinion.
The most reliable surveys are randomly done in person face to face on the street at the train station at the mall etc. Kinda like the survey conducted by the professional firm hired by Summit Greenfield. Telephone surveys don’t work. Telephone survey of 300 people in a town of 18,000 makes no sense. Most of us will see the caller if and not answer because we see some company / survey number listed. But the NIMBYs will probably all stay home sitting by their phones hoping and praying they get a call.

By Stop wasting$$$ on 08/27/2014 at 8:25 am

I agree with I’m Impressed with RG. Mr Greenstein has mellowed and is growing into the role of Supevisor. He does not own property downtown like Mr Brodsky and he does not live in the CC area like Katz. Similar to the other 2 existing town board members, Greenstein is operating without a personal agenda and bias. He was elected to serve all of us our entire community and as such must make decisions based on greater good for all. In theory, the entire board has a duty to serve all and not put their self interest ahead of ours. I do not understand how elected officials should participate in certain issues when they have clear conflicts of interest. It seems to me that Brodsky and Katz should recuse themselves.
Rob G has been the voice of reason and reality. He interjects the occasional comment intended to remind everyone that CC is in motion and has been for years. Moratoriums and delay tactics serve no one and will potentially be harmful as legal action will surely follow. The NIMBYs can threaten their own lawsuit but that has little validity. He / we must negotiate with the developer and allow them use of their 110 acres. Properly done, this campus should have a combo of commercial - retail- and residential. It should be of appropriate size that is not too big so that traffic is managed. How anyone can argue that a Whole Foods would not be a great addition to Chapp is beyond me. As studies and surveys have shown, and as Pace has observed retail at CC will compliment downtown. And tax revenues will increase and lessen the burden on residents. But still NIMBYs and a few others continue to argue that zoning should not change and too bad for SG. That is an indefensible and selfish position. Go Rob!

By Marc on 08/27/2014 at 8:57 am

A random telephone survey of 300 people out of 18,000- really?
It’s 2014! Telephone surveys went out with bell bottoms and 8 track tapes. People use cell phones today. We have caller ID and “do not call” blocks. We fear identity theft and avoid sharing information with strangers. We let the phone ring and do not answer when the caller is unknown.
Political pollsters and government forecasters agree that the telephone survey is not accurate and increasingly unreliable. Leave it to our brain trust in town governement to pay for such a thing.

By Old school on 08/28/2014 at 7:55 am

I believe that the town should indeed use the moratorium to stop all development until after our master plan has been updated.  We are in a perfect place legally to do that.  We got into this trouble when Susan Carpenter, Robin Stout and Lawyer Smith came up with retail to get rid of SG’s appeal after they lost their original suit.  How did that work out for the community ?

I wish that I could agree with your opinion as to R.G. being the voice of reason.  I see him as being the voice of opportunism, his opportunism.  I find it laughable that you believe him to be without bias.

If as you say he was elected to represent the entire town then so were Katz and Brodsky.
BTW, Brodsky and R.G. are joined at the hip.  I add that many people outside the CC immediate neighborhood like myself are against retail on that property.  We see it as bad for the entire town.
We see the call for retail at that location as both selfish and indefensible.

As far as tax benefits to the town with retail zoning at CC, there are none.

 

By Dear Marc on 08/28/2014 at 3:52 pm

“As far as tax benefits to the town with retail zoning at CC, there are none.”

Most foolish statement of the week!

By bob on 08/29/2014 at 2:22 pm

Old school,

You are mistaken.  Random surveys are used everywhere to get good information out of communities.  When well constructed they are also a very good educational tool and they are a crucial part of master plans.  Perhaps you are against updating our master plan.

This is money well spent although I would have preferred it to be for 500 homes.

By sorry Old school on 08/29/2014 at 2:29 pm

To Dear Marc - your comment in response to Marc started with some degree of credibility. But you blew the entire thing with your last sentence saying ” tax benefits to the town with retail zoning at CC, there are none”. That is categorically incorrect, false, misinformed and a lie!
Currently the developer/ owner of CC is paying less in taxes than preceding years. As we all know taxes are based on assessed value. With CC 80% generating little income the owner has successfully grieved taxes lower. Conversely and logically, when the property is better utilized ( dare I say fully utilized) with retail and residential the assessment surely goes up and tax revenues increase. Additionally condo owners will pay taxes to New Castle.  I don’t pretend to know exactly how much additional tax revenue we will receive , but unlike you, I am smart enough to understand that increased tax revenues is more and better than the current decreasing tax revenues.
If you paid attention during the election , Greenstein campaigned to move town hall to CC and to negotiate the best deal with SG. Katz on the other hand only spoke about stopping retail at CC. She was on board the Team New Castle train which promised transparency and a new approach. I believe Greenstein is true to that pledge. Katz speaks up about nothing else but her backyard - so how is she representing everyone else?

By RayJ on 08/29/2014 at 2:40 pm

I don’t need a master plan to tell me our community would be greatly served by having Whole Foods and a viable improved retail mixed use facility. I don’t need a master plan to tell me that 110’acres at CC sits almost empty underutilized and should be generating taxes. I don’t need a master plan to tell me that downtown will always have challenges because of its layout , it’s topography and it’s proximity to the train station and middle school. Those calling for a moratorium and halt to all development in anticipation of an updated MP are not being honest. They don’t care about a MP. They want to continue the stall and obstruct tactics. It’s shameful that a town board member is a party to such behavior.
Another board member owns property downtown that has sat empty for decades. I remember when that property was a solid restaurant. This board member is participating in discussions on improving downtown. How crazy is that! He may also have a vote on what we should do to improve downtown. Yet he ( his family ) own an empty and decaying building which contributes to the problem of downtown.

By 25 year resident on 08/29/2014 at 3:32 pm

“As far as tax benefits to the town with retail zoning at CC, there are none”.
This is exactly the type of lie that NIMBYs propagate. Of course there will be increased tax revenue when CC is better utilized. We can speculate and debate on how much increased tax revenue will result but to suggest there will be none is patently false.
I have been reading NewCasteNow for years and regularly read correction and clarifications from the editor. When it comes to retail at CC in her backyard she gives certain incorrect statements a pass.

By RM on 08/30/2014 at 7:02 am

The survey idea is ridiculous.  If an unknown number displays on my phone, I never respond.  IMO, the trio, who vote in a block are ruining this Town

By what a waste of taxpayer money on 08/31/2014 at 9:29 am

If a developer comes into your community and makes unreasonable requests time and again, how do you expect them to be treated.  SG established themselves very early on with their requests for 300+ condos (generating meager tax revenue as opposed to market rate).  I don’t live near CC and I still think the plan is a disaster if not scaled back to deal with realities of our town. Roads all over town can only hold so much traffic and that includes downtown.  If you clog up the roads and make them dangerous, everyone suffers.

By Crooks get treated poorly on 08/31/2014 at 4:49 pm

“Of course there will be increased tax revenue when CC is better utilized. We can speculate and debate on how much increased tax revenue will result but to suggest there will be none is patently false.”

So what is your price in terms of traffic and the associated problems it causes that you are willing to trade for access to a supermarket that maybe half of the town wants (and half of those who want it probably just don’t care to say no because they live at the other end of town where going to any of the supermarkets they currently go to will not change).  And I what is the actual increase in tax revenues.  Old board did everything cloak and dagger and tax analysis has never been published.

By At what cost on 09/04/2014 at 12:06 pm

A little more traffic at sporadic times of the day (there will be none during the morning rush) plus increased tax revenue, in this isolated area of town, is not worth the NIMBY hullaballoo. Remember that the traffic of 111 residential units and its approx. 200 cars is NOT what people are concerned about or factor into the ‘cost’.

By It is worth the cost on 09/12/2014 at 8:38 am


Post a comment:

Display Name*:

Your Display Name will be associated with this comment on NewCastleNOW.org. We encourage commentators to use their real name or initials.

We encourage civil, civic discourse. In other words, be pithy and polite. All comments will be reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.