December 12, 2014
by Christine Yeres
Speaking for neighbors in Lawrence Farms East, Bill Devaney challenged the work of Summit Greenfield’s traffic consultant, John Collins, with a report of his own. In the December 9 continuation of the public hearing on Chappaqua Crossing, Devaney asked Town Board counsel Nick Ward-Willis to confirm that the State would require Summit Greenfield to construct all roadway improvements before any certificate of occupancy were issued. Ward-Willis did so, explaining that Summit Greenfield cannot get a building permit until New York State’s Department of Transportation has approved Summit Greenfield’s proposed road improvements or “mitigations,” and cannot obtain a certificate of occupancy until those improvements are completed. Devaney then read sections of the report he had commissioned from an independent traffic consultant.
“We used [the Collins traffic report] information,” said Devaney, “and noted that Collins collected studies from 2003, 2004 and 2005—reiterations, ‘Take this away, add that, take this other one away and it’s about equal to this other thing…’—But did we notice that traffic volumes had increased over the years, so we obtained DOT’s data to verify volumes around the site. And we analyzed traffic from a ‘no build’ to a ‘build’ position of what the site would look like in five years.” Devaney listed the intersections around the project and their “level of service” grade [DOT grades range from A to F]:
Left turn from Route 117 northbound: F
Roaring Brook Road east: F
Saw Mill Parkway northbound: F
Turn lane: F
Saw Mill Parkway southbound: F
Roaring Brook Road eastbound: F
Roaring Brook Road westbound: F
“There are some Cs and Ds,” continued Devaney, “But what it really says is that for the site access off Route 117, making a left turn across from Annandale will always be an F, no matter what is done.”
Quoting from his report, Devaney noted that, with changes, the intersection of Roaring Brook Road and 117 ” ‘would improve to a service level B, however, more detailed improvements should be prepared because they cannot be made within the existing 50-foot right-of-way.’ That brings in utility folks. Con Ed probably won’t want to move that backbone [of utility poles on the west side]. They’ll try to build an additional lane on the east side, northbound, possibly taking land on adjoining properties or require construction easements. Now the power those people have through the court system before construction starts will be extensive in causing delays in approvals. Time equals money, and that’s really not what we want. We’d like to get our project built—but we see a big slowdown in approvals—that will take years, not months. For people who think that Whole Foods is going to be here next year to do their holiday shopping—probably not. On that road, all the drainage, utility and signal poles, relocation of overhead lines by the utility companies, retaining walls, slope stabilization, drainage—it just goes on and on.
“And what DOT has said is that they would probably ask for a backdown [left turn lane on 117 south of Roaring Brook Road] of 200 linear feet—not 100 feet—and probably extend that road up past Annandale Drive. It’s not going to be easy. God bless the developer—spending all that money for us.
“Noise studies? When you take that amount of land and move toward that direction [east side of 117], even if it’s Bob Lewis’s [west] side, that triggers environmental noise studies and everything else that goes along with it, for the ‘quiet enjoyment of the neighbors.’ And, as Jason has said, there has to be an economic benefit that goes along with that, which we really haven’t seen yet.
“Then we talk about Roaring Brook Road, where 75% of the traffic will come in to the property from the Saw Mill. That right turn—whatever’s done to it—will always remain an ‘F’. Collins’ [Summit Greenfield’s traffic consultant] report doesn’t really talk about the Saw Mill Parkway, which will require extensive work to make it a ‘D’. Left turns southbound on the Saw Mill don’t work. Everything has to be rearranged on the Saw Mill for considerable dollars, considerable time. Studies have to be done by DOT, contracts have to be issued, work has to be done. We’re downstream, ladies and gentlemen, three years.”
“Safety analysis,” said Devaney, “Not done by Collins.” He read from the traffic report he commissioned, ” ‘Given the size of the project and traffic volumes, the adjacent location with access to the high school, roadway grades at Roaring Brook, narrow roadways on 117, the close proximity of the railroad crossing’—which everyone seems to forget that there’s Metro North whipping by there at 70 miles per hour—‘a study of the crash area should be undertaken by the applicant. This recommendation is supported by the September 25, 2014 letter from DOT to the applicant’s engineer indicating that a few priority investigation locations exist along the 117 entrance and the west [Saw Mill] entrance to the property.’ A “priority investigation” location is determined by a physical analysis and the number of crashes above a certain set threshold for a roadway.’ We’re a long ways off from doing anything on this site.”
[Editor’s Note: According to the text of the zoning amendment, once approved by the Town Board, the retail zoning “shall expire within 12 months of the date of Town Board approval if the applicant has not applied for and received site development plan approval and final subdivision plat approval, if appropriate, from the Planning Board in accordance with the requirements of this chapter and unless work on the site is begun within 18 months of Town Board approval and is being prosecuted to conclusion with reasonable diligence.”]
Finished with his traffic report comments, Devaney returned to the economics of the project. “Jason and Rob have said, ‘Market will dictate.’ I love that. I love market. ‘Market will dictate’ This is how I see it. Where is the new Whole Foods? In Chappaqua Crossing. Right place. But there’s a problem. The main entrance where 75% of the traffic will enter is 150 feet from a railway crossing. The entrance today is marked ‘F’—right next to the Saw Mill River Parkway—also a very dangerous intersection. The market is going to tell me that someone at Whole Foods is going to take a look at this and say ‘Are we out of our minds, corporately, to locate our brand next to a railway crossing that everyone in Northern Westchester acknowledges is dangerous?’
“So is that a good marketing ploy? Market will dictate, Jason—I agree with you. The smart guys from Whole Foods will come here and take a look at this. The national brands that are trying to piggyback Whole Foods are going to say ‘Do we really want to be next to a railway crossing 150 feet away?’ I doubt it. I would rather have the Board and the developer sit down and get this thing right, because we can’t afford to get it wrong. And right now, it’s wrong.”
Devaney submitted his traffic report comments to the Town Board on Friday, December 12, the last day for written comment.
Copyright 2019 NewCastleNOW.org