Op-Ed: Take residential out of the picture; allow more than four tenants at Chappaqua Crossing

August 6, 2010
by Lee Bowen

After reading Summit Greenfield’s latest submission to develop the former Digest property, the Town Board’s response and more than 200 comments from residents, I’d like to add the following thoughts before the town and school board work session, next Tuesday, August 10, at 7:00 p.m. at town hall.

The former Digest property is zoned for commercial use, and 20-some one-acre zoned houses, period. That is how the developer bought it and it is my understanding that they have profited every year since they bought the property. The wisest step now would be to increase the number of tenants allowed—not to the unlimited tenancy the developer is asking for, but to more than four.

In the new “Modified Project” Summit Greenfield is proposing, construction of a condominium development “phases in” over 4.5 years. It will take far less time to renovate the existing office space.  The developers would collect more rental income and continue to make a nice return on their investment while the town would collect more taxes from the lone remaining commercial space in town.

Tax-wise, the residential portion of the developer’s proposal will likely be a wash, costing as much to educate new students and service new residents as it brings the town and school district in revenues.  Remember: these are not fee simple dwellings, but are all taxed as condominiums, at a lower rate. And for what? More traffic, students and residents?  I do not believe the town should allow the developer to build condominiums. Families with children sharing a corporate campus in a sea of parking lots is far from my ideal of strategic town planning.

And don’t be certain that the developer will carry out the threat to “build out” even more commercial if we don’t grant him residential zoning, as they have claimed is their right to do, increasing the 700,000 square feet of commercial space by 300,000 square feet to make 1 million square feet. There isn’t enough parking to allow it.

The commercial space will generate taxes long before—and greater than—any housing development could. Take the residential part of the developer’s plan out of the picture. The town board has been most generous already by changing the zoning from one to four tenants—and asked for nothing in return. The commercial revenues are what we need, not the burden of more condominiums on our infrastructure.

Lee Bowen has a unique vantage point on the former Reader’s Digest property. She lives at the corner of Roaring Brook Road and the entrance to the high school.
From NCNOW’s archives: For coverage of Chappaqua Crossing from end of June to present, with commentary from readers, click HERE.

For NCNOW’s complete coverage of Chappaqua Crossing, dating from 2007, click HERE.

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