Letter to Ed: Creating options through “New Castle’s Big Brainstorm”

Town Board, out of the way!  Just let Pace do its job.
May 2, 2014
by Chuck Napoli

Retail development at Chappaqua Crossing is the conflict that needs to be resolved, the result of a broken decision-making process exemplified by leaders defending pre-determined choices and pushing for “buy-in” from the public. Happens all the time, conflicts go unresolved, civic trust erodes.

Retail at Chappaqua Crossing cannot be considered a choice of the people just yet.  It’s a land use plan proposed by the Town Board in concert with the property owner, devoid of any public participation or preparation of that plan. Back in 2012, the decision-makers’ issue was “How do we meet our grocery needs?” The size-restricted 40,000 square foot major grocery anchor, used to attract and benefit other retailers, has become the only option investigated for the commercial use of the property.

Defending the Retail Overlay Zoning Amendment option using the same top-down, decision-making process that created it is like “déjà vu all over again.”

The previous Town Board prepared a draft Local Law for a Retail Overlay Zone without public participation.  Big mistake. Now, without knowing the needs or having the participation of the most interested parties, the public, the current Town Board has a revised Concept Plan proposed by: the developer and counsel, New Castle Development office (our Town Planner, Sabrina Charney), a planning board member (Tom Curley) and the “Greenstein Authority” negotiating and lobbying to further implement and reinforce previous decisions.  This is an even bigger mistake. Changes in direction or exploring alternative options now become awkward for lawmakers; choices—other than what’s on the table – become less likely.

Pace is wiser than to push the proposed retail land use option at Chappaqua Crossing in the outreach component of master plan update. I’m sure Pace recognizes the Chappaqua Crossing issue for what it really is: a community conflict, a civic friction begging to be resolved.

While how to satisfy food-related needs to meet the interests of the local market remains a problem, the big issue in the room is how to transform the Summit-Greenfield property to meet changing conditions and development patterns with the right mix of uses for our community. Thoughtful and comprehensive planning to preserve New Castle’s character, its environmental, its scenic, aesthetic and natural resources, must be the context for sensitive solutions, above and beyond just mitigation measures for a clumsy plan with no respect for the town that surrounds it.
Pace Land Use Law Center is about to facilitate just such an interplay of multiple stakeholder values. We are about to learn how to create some choices for the decision-makers. People have to have the time and the freedom to invent together, then come up with well-considered revisions to our Master Plan.  The brainstorming starts this Wednesday, May 7, at Bell, 7:00 to 10:00 p.m.

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