School board members sound note of alarm over latest proposal for Chappaqua Crossing


Monday, August 2, 2010

by Christine Yeres

Editor’s Note: The school board’s letter of last Thursday drew 35 comments over the weekend, continuing the discussion of Chappaqua Crossing. Comments follow the text of the board’s letter.

Noting that Summit Greenfield “has cited available physical capacity as justification for their assumptions that the District will not be impacted by this project,” the Chappaqua Central School District’s board of education members issued an explanation yesterday of their misgivings over the latest proposal by the owner and would-be developer of the former Reader’s Digest property.  Board members encouraged residents to attend a joint meeting of the town and school boards at town hall at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 10, 2010.

In addition, any hopes town and school board members might have had that Summit Greenfield would propose that some or all of the residential units of its newly-unveiled “Modified Project” would be assessed in the manner of single family houses, or fee simple, rather than as condominium units, have been disappointed. In Summit Greenfield’s recently filed final environmental impact statement describing the Modified Project, the developer asserted, “All units are proposed to be held in condominium ownership.”  Condominium units are assessed on a different basis than single-family houses, and owners of condominiums typically pay less in taxes than an owner of a comparably priced house.

School board issues July 29 e-alert to parents of district students

At 4:32 p.m. Thursday, July 29, school board members issued the following email through the district’s K12alerts system:

July 29, 2010

School District Concerns Heightened Over Latest Chappaqua Crossing Proposal

On August 10, the New Castle Town Board (“the Town”) and the Chappaqua Central School District (“CCSD”) Board of Education will be meeting in joint session prior to our regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting that evening.  On the agenda will be a discussion of the proposed development of the former Reader’s Digest property by Summit Greenfield (“SG”).

Prior to our meeting with the Town on August 10, we would wish to make two points clear to the community:

One, the CCSD Board of Education speaks for the District.  While we recognize and appreciate that the Town Board is the lead agency on this application for zoning change, the CCSD taxpayers will be bearing potentially significant financial risk if this application is approved as submitted.  The CCSD Board of Education appreciates the community’s concerns with any increase in our budget during these difficult economic times.  We believe we have an obligation to make known the financial risks of this project and the possible effects on the District’s taxpayer as school taxes account for 65-70% of their property taxes.

Two, the CCSD, as a fiscally responsible organization, continually monitors both present and future enrollment and its effect on both capacity and cost.  SG has cited available physical capacity as justification for their assumptions that the District will not be impacted by this project.  Physical capacity cannot be considered without also considering the cost of changes in student enrollment.  Our primary concern with the proposed development is not where to put additional students.  Rather, it is how to equitably fund their education.

To the extent that the proposed rezoning creates units that are not taxed at a fee simple rate*, the additional expense for educating those children will become the responsibility of current District taxpayers in the form of an increase in taxes or a decrease in services.  Simply put, without the new units being taxed at a fee simple rate, the risk that the tax base does not cover the cost per additional student is borne by the District taxpayer, not the developer and not the Town.  A fee simple tax rate would make those units on par with the other District taxpayers.  As is our obligation, we will educate any and every child who lives in our district.  What we seek for our District’s taxpayers is an equitable way to account for the additional cost.

We encourage all residents who have questions, concerns, or simply wish to comment on the effects of the proposed development on the CCSD to attend the joint work session on August 10, 7:00 p.m. at Town Hall.

* Fee simple is outright ownership, taxed as single-family house, not subject to condominium tax.

Janet Benton, President
Gregg Bresner, Vice President

Randall Katchis, Alyson Kiesel, Jeffrey Mester
___________________
From NCNOW’s archives:

Town and school boards put their heads together to prepare for June 23 Chappaqua Crossing hearings
June 19, 2010

Board of Education submits its comments on DEIS
September 29, 2009

To view all of NCNOW’s coverage of Chappaqua Crossing, click HERE.


Comments(51):
We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

I have been wondering when younger families were going to get upset about Chappaqua Crossing. They have been absent for so much of the discussion, yet it is their kids who will be affected. Mine will be long gone. Perhaps this will finally, finally, finally get them to pay attention—and more importantly, stop this ridiculous project. Bravo to the School Board! Well done!!

By It's about time on 07/30/2010 at 9:13 am

Better late than never—I hope!  In tone, the board of ed has been blithely unconcerned about this proposal for a very long time.  Surely the board expressed its concerns in the draft environmental impact statement?

By It's about time! on 07/30/2010 at 10:08 am

At first I just thought this was a typical “last one in, shut the door” argument.  I don’t remember all this noise when Riverwoods and Hardscrabble Lake and other large complexes were being built. 

But now I’m wondering, does everyone get upset when a family with lots of kids moves into town because they are going to use more resources?  For that matter, do people resent kids with special needs for the same reason?

By rct123 on 07/30/2010 at 10:24 am

rct123, i think you’re missing the point. this is no pulling up the gangplank now that we’re across.  it’s a matter of the system surviving with the reductions we will be forced to make given the changed economic picture in the town, the country, the world. 

why would we invite a development of this size knowing that the chappaqua schools are magnetic, their costs are high, and that condo taxes are very low? it’s simple: does the development bring in more in tax revenues than will flow out to service new residents?  i’m willing to hear the numbers that the town board will sort through and explained in plain english.  if the answer is positive cash flow to the town plus no degradation in the traffic situation up there, then welcome aboard, people!

By Hear the arguments on 07/30/2010 at 10:37 am

I am against Chapp Crossing on so many different levels but it is infuriating that the CCSD - school board, is now sounding a “note of alarm”. It is the height of hypocrisy. When for years the many notes of alarm were sounded regarding the unnecessary and expensive Seven Bridges School the school board ignored them. When the experts told us that the demographics did not support such a huge investment they ignored it. And recently when many in the community urged the CCSD School Board to pass a zero increase or a reduced school budget this year they ignored it and passed an increased budget. We have a declining school population in a poor economic environment with a deteriorating tax base and the school board proposes and passes an increase in our school budget. If we cant hold the line when student enrollment is on the decline in this economic climate what chance do we have when there is growth?

Forgive me for being cynical but the school board has not been paying attention for years so their opinion on Chapp Crossing and their sudden concern for economic and budgetary concerns seems to be a bit disingenuous…you think???

I agree that Chapp Crossing with Condo zoning will place additional strain on our school budgets but how transparent that the CCSD school board has suddenly become a fiscal watchdog. Perhaps had the school board pushed for a zero increase budget (even better a reduced budget) they might now be credible. But they blew that opportunity and now they are concerned about rising taxes? Our school taxes are going up because they pushed and passed an increased budget just a few months ago- now they sound the alarm? OH PLEASE….

By OH PLEASE.... on 07/30/2010 at 11:16 am

The Town has the ability to assess all residential property at market value regardless of the form of ownership. Let the Town Board approve the proposed reassessment with an election to assess all residential property, including condos and co-ops at full market value. Once all residential property in Town is assessed on the same basis, it will not make any difference what form of ownership Summit Greenfield proposes for their development. The tax revenue from new housing will then cover the full costs (and more) of any students added to the CCSD.

Let’s see how many residential units Summit Greenfield wants to build if they know that they will be taxed the same as single family homes. Then we can move on to the traffic studies.

By West Ender on 07/30/2010 at 11:27 am

So I’m asking, do you resent large families and children with special needs knowing they are using up more tax revenue than other families?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be looking and (actually changing) our budget and the way we tax and dealing with other core, structural issues—of course we should—but I have to say that I’m personally a bit uncomfortable with the fear mongering rhetoric espoused by so many in our community.

By rct123 on 07/30/2010 at 11:49 am

You’re hearing “fear mongering”?  I’m hearing a frank discussion of the cost-benefit of the proposed development.  Accusing people of “fear mongering” is, itself, a type of fear-mongering that distracts from the rational treatment of real issues.

By Hear the arguments on 07/30/2010 at 12:02 pm

Alrighty, then.  I was sharing my thought in attempt for a dialogue. But you win, I guess, because you’ve shut me up.  Good job neighbor.

By rct123 on 07/30/2010 at 12:14 pm

You’re very touchy.  Why should an appeal to address the issues in a rational way make you feel you’ve been “shut down”?  Because I didn’t agree with you? You shut down awful easy. 

Buck up!

By Hear the arguments on 07/30/2010 at 12:20 pm

Let’s not waste our time arguing with one another, rct123. Instead, take a look at this comment attached to another article (the one containing Supervisor Gerrard’s statement).  You wouldn’t call this “fear mongering,” would you?

Here it is:

To Supervisor Gerrard and the town board,

  Please consider carefully the comments that have been made by concerned citizens of New Castle over these past few weeks. Several things are clear at this point:

  1. The School Board is gravely concerned about the impact of residential development of Chappaqua Crossing on our school system.
  2. With the current tax structure as it is, New Castle residents will bear the brunt of the cost of increased services as a result of this development (roads, teachers)—NOT the developer.
  3. Homeowners like myself with children in the school see this entire project as something that has no upside for the town but a significant downside for our children.
  4. Condo owners already in this town will suffer the impact of such a large new glut of housing on the condo market (which will result in lowered real estate values and in turn, lower taxes from current condo owners)
  5. The nature of such a dense and sprawling development will severely impact the bucolic feel of our community and lead the way for greater encroachment and development of our land. This development will change the very nature of our town.
  6. There are other options that the town can explore with summit greenfield that are mutually beneficial—an assisted living complex on the land, more commercial development.

  I urge the town board to vote no to the building of condos at Chappaqua Crossing under the current proposals. It is the only responsible course of action given the breadth and gravity of the concerns launched by taxpayers in this town and school district.

By Chappaqua resident on 07/30/2010 at 10:46 am

By Hear the arguments on 07/30/2010 at 12:27 pm

I agree with OH PLEASE. I attended many meetings and stayed very current and informed during the Seven Bridges debate and the very recent school budget talks and vote. The CCSD school board is not being very honest in the letter above when they present themselves as sensitive “during these difficult economic times.” If that were true they would have found a way NOT to increase the budget (and hence our taxes) during declining enrollment during these difficult economic times! In the above letter the school board proclaims themselves “as a fiscally responsible organization, continually monitors both present and future enrollment and its effect on both capacity and cost”. Fiscally responsible? Fiscally responsible are the many school boards of excellent school districts in our region that did NOT increase budgets (taxes) during these difficult times. Some actually lowered their budgets/taxes and many did not have the benefit as we do of a declining enrollment. What good does it do to “monitor present and future enrollment” as they say but yet ignore the ramifications. We were told enrollment would go down yet they built Seven Bridges anyway. We know we have fewer students entering our school system right now (and that is to continue) yet they increase the budget! The above letter from the CCSD school board lacks credibility.

By almost emptynewst on 07/30/2010 at 12:45 pm

The problems with Chappaqua Crossing may well be legitimate but I do feel like the political climate in our town would not allow anyone to speak up in favor of it without suffering severe consequences. 

I personally think we should be using this time to address the underlying issues, not resisting change and sticking to the status quo.

By Chappy200 on 07/30/2010 at 1:20 pm

As a Chappaqua resident who loves this town—but also sees it’s peccadilloes, I’m trying to get my arms around this and other relevant issues. 

I am very appreciative of those who participate in open discussions and I especially applaud the post by “Oh Please.”

By Robin M. on 07/30/2010 at 1:40 pm

The school board’s response to SG’s revised plan for Chappaqua Crossing accurately reflects the voice of the people and the will of the Chappaqua community.  We expect the town board to follow suit and carry out their duty to serve and protect our interests as they were elected to do: that means NO RESIDENTIAL REZONING FOR RD.

After their puzzling procrastination, there is still time for the town board to serve this community responsibly. This board, we believe, is well-intentioned.  It would be a tragedy, therefore, if it is this board that goes down in Chappaqua history as the one that, by unnecessarily subjugating the town to a greedy developer, destroys the bucolic and peaceful character the town has always enjoyed, irreparably damages a fine school system, and thereby jeopardizes the future of Chappaqua.

The answer is NO to rezoning for RD. WE EXPECT THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF NO REZONING at the August 10 meeting.  NO MORE DELAY

By JUST SAY NO: End the Procrastination on 07/30/2010 at 1:47 pm

I find the use of language here to be very interesting. JUST SAY NO feels that approval of any residential zoning at Chappaqua Crossing would be “unnecessarily subjugating the town to a greedy developer.” and then shouts “WE EXPECT THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF NO REZONING.”

This is eerily similar to the debate over the school district rezoning when the Seven Bridges School was being built. On the old Town website’s forums, Roaring Brook parents lamented that their children would be “subjugated to the dominant culture of…” either Graflin (if they were resdistricted to Bell) or Westorchard (if redistricted to Seven Bridges).

With all of this SHOUTING and talk about litigation and subjugation, it seems a bit odd to describe the Town as “bucolic and peaceful”.

By West Ender on 07/30/2010 at 2:53 pm

Our tax base has been in jeopardy for years. The Town of New Castle has only been focused on raising residential taxes for many years. It is time to boldly say “NO” to Chappaqua Crossing, and do everything to bring in tax producing commercial businesses.

We need to build up the commercial existence and presence in The Municipality of New Castle. Like one resident said “I like the high taxes, and I like when they go up, it makes the Town just one BIG COUNTRY CLUB.” Does Town Hall have the ability to attract a PEPSI, COKE, CISCO SYSTEMS, IBM, or any Chinese conglomerate to the RD Property. Can we not send the Town Board to China on an all paid for taxpayer trip in an effort to find and attract a new commercial user of the property? While we at home try and STOP Chappaqua Crossing and at the same time find a GREAT SOLUTION for the OWNER. We have already missed the opportunity to be his partner, lets not miss the opportunity to find a solution that we can all live with. If we can make RD Property a high end Hotel and Day Spa, and corporate retreat for the likes of AIG, as a community would we accept such a user of the Site! If it became the campus called THE GREAT AMERICAN CAMPUS FOR RETURNING VETERANS OF WAR - would we accept such a use. If it became a place where computers, TV GAMES, or medicines were manufactured - would we accept such a use. If the Town has not already discussed alternatives with the owner, then we are in trouble! Anyone want to start a fundraiser to send our Town Board Members for 12 days 14 nights to China, while they meet with potential buyers or tenants of the RD Property? This is no laughing matter! The Town must do something, anything, but be the loser in a Court of Law! Better we help then hurt!

By Let help the owner! on 07/30/2010 at 3:15 pm

Rct123,

I welcome all students to our district.  One of the reasons that I moved here.  just not at $4,000 in taxes per household for 1,2,3 or 4 kids enrolled.  That is ridiculous!!!

By Scott K. on 07/30/2010 at 6:21 pm

It sure does sound like the supervisor is preparing us for a vote in favor of the developer’s proposal. That is sad. It is sad because it is hard to find an actual Chappaqua resident in favor of the proposal.  I’ve been to public meetings. I’ve read letters and comments. I’ve had informal discussions. Who is in favor of this?

We accepted the departure of Readers Digest long ago and know their departure will result in significant changes.  But we also know it is foolish to let the current economic environment cloud our judgment.  The economy will get better but Chappaqua Crossing would be here long after better times arrive.

Our elected officials must often struggle with difficult decisions.  This is not one of them. Deciding how to best utilize the property is not easy.  Rejecting the developer’s proposal should be.  Most solutions to our budgetary challenges will be unpopular.  I ask the Town Board to choose measures that can end when our finances improve. Please Town Board, stop the insanity.

By Stop the Insanity on 07/30/2010 at 8:32 pm

Dear West Ender,

Thank you for substantiating our position.

We all know now that the Seven Bridges School should never have been built at all as we knew then and stated at the time citing demographics; we now know that RD should not be rezoned.

Obviously, you, too, are consistent in your judgments.

We do not know what you have against Roaring Brook residents, but we live on the other side of town (Rt. 133) near Mt. Kisco and we regard all residents of New Castle as our good neighbors.  We believe that neighbors should support each others’ interests in time of need and act in concert for the well-being of our town.

By JUST SAY NO on 07/30/2010 at 8:45 pm

We agree with “Let us Help.”  We should send the Town Board to China.  Is the writer speaking of a round trip or can we send them one way?

By Slow Boat on 07/30/2010 at 9:06 pm

Great news for the village of Chappaqua! As this 199 residential units flood the already saturated Chappaqua housing market, thousands of homeowners will find their house value falling like a rock and their equity in their houses wiped out. Our fellow residents will find that the banks will reject their attempt to refinance to a lower rate, as the banks’ appraiser told them their $1 million+ house now only worth $500~600k or lower, thanks to the Crossing’s great plan.  And to the town board, these residents will ask for a reassessment of their property taxes, the reduction of which hopefully can be made up by Crossing’s condos.  That means the town gets no extra taxes in the aggregate while receiving, for free, hundreds of new students from the 199 units.

By Great news on 07/30/2010 at 9:47 pm

Putting aside the developer’s contention that we have empty classrooms that need to be filled up, what are the supposed advantages to the town of this development?  I am not asking for an evaluation of those claims, just a summary.  I think it is pretty clear that the taxes paid by the condos will be outweighed by the schooling costs and I am wondering what else has been put out there as a reason to see this as a plus.  Thanks.

By Townee on 07/30/2010 at 10:30 pm

@JUST SAY NO

I have nothing against Roaring Brook residents. I just find the language of “subjugation” to be a bit much. The picture painted at the time by some parents of Roaring Brook students imagined gangs of students from the other elementary school roaming the halls of the middle school targeting the poor Roaring Brook kids who made up a paltry one-third of the student body. There were similar outrageous public statements that suggested that eighth grade students would target fifth graders for abuse in the bathrooms of a 5-8 middle school.

With this debate, the language is equally exaggerated. Post after post takes as its premise the destruction of western civilization if any compromise is reached with Summit Greenfield. The good residents of our bucolic, peaceful Town have repeatedly volunteered their (quite expensive, I assume) litigation expertise to run Summit Greenfield out of Town on the back of a lawsuit.

I have clearly explained how the property tax issue can be addressed so that no students from any residential development at Chappaqua Crossing are subsidized by the rest of the CCSD taxpayers. Many posters here have explained how because of Seven Bridges there is ample excess physical capacity in the CCSD. I believe that the traffic issues can be resolved. I don’t see the community raising substantive objections to the project on grounds other than these, so I am left to assume that those who would still oppose any sort of compromise are simply NIMBYs. I’m waiting for someone to explain otherwise.

By West Ender on 07/31/2010 at 3:35 pm

And if you think, West Ender, that traffic issues can easily be resolved—I have a 60-acre commercial zoned property to sell you.

It’s very dangerous for West Enders who seem to want tax relief NO MATTER WHAT to decide whether traffic conditions are acceptable to the half of town that will be stuck with them.  The town board has to look at the town OVERALL and weigh the costs and benefits. And part of their job is to look very closely at the HUGE amount of data that traffic experts have churned out and tell us in plain language what that will mean for New Castle’s roadways. A right-turn lane at 117 and RBR seems pretty small by way of mitigation.

By I've seen the traffic report on 07/31/2010 at 5:44 pm

Hey—seems to me the town board is doing something right.  The developer originally asked for 348 units. Give the board some credit for getting it down to 199 now!

By Number of units is coming down on 07/31/2010 at 5:45 pm

I’d say that we don’t know yet whether the board has done a good job.  And I would suggest that credit for much of the “good job” of bringing down the number of units can be attributed to what West Ender calls “NIMBY"s.  What you call NIMBY interests identify first and loudest issues that are coming to hurt us all.

Painting people’s interests as NIMBY is really another way of isolating their interest from ours and of saying, in West Ender’s case, for example, “We want tax relief and we want you minority of people around the most affected area to accept conditions that will make your life harder and your property values lower so that the majority of taxpayers can benefit.” 

Safer to look with a critical eye at the cost-benefit of the project than to tell a minority to buck up and bear the brunt.

By Credit to whom?!?! on 07/31/2010 at 5:55 pm

To those of you new to this issue—-This property is zoned COMMERCIAL.  The developer knew this. If Digest had stayed, he would have made out big time by this idea of residential housing. Having followed this issue for 5 years, the developer has written documents that are not always accurate.  It is up to us as residents to make sure all the true facts are known.  For example, do we want to have traffic backed up to Overlook Dr. going North or Kittle Rd coming South?  Been there when work is being done on trees.  Rt. 117 is the main North-South route to the hospital.  With over 50 accidents on the Saw Mill this year, first responders need to be able to get from here to there.

By NJH on 07/31/2010 at 8:00 pm

@Credit to whom

If residential development does not negatively impact your school taxes (condos can be made to pay at the same rate as single family homes) and the schools have the physical capacity to handle the additional students and the traffic issues are adequately addressed, how does residential development make your life harder and your property values lower?

Some have argued that adding ANY residential units in Town will cause the values of their property to decrease because there is already excessive available housing inventory. Is that what you are concerned about?

I have said repeatedly that I believe that there can be some degree of residential development on the Readers Digest site and that there are ways to adequately address the issues of taxation, school capacity and traffic flow. I have never even ventured a guess as to what the “right” number of residential units might be. I do, however, believe that those who insist that the only number of residential units that can be built is ZERO are NIMBYs who are not really interested in any outcome other than having Summit Greenfield abandon their plans entirely and go away. I know that forcing that outcome will have a negative impact on the entire Town.

By West Ender on 07/31/2010 at 10:24 pm

West Ender,

I am glad that you think that you have “explained” the whole issue, just as you believed we needed another middle school. 

I will not bother to explain again the tax issue of $26,000 per student and no fee simple (since others have articulated it so well), especially now that SG has shown their true colors—no age restriction.  Students do not simply fill space, they require teachers, guidance counselors, clerical staff, books, materials, etc.—they are nor microorganisms who simply exist in space with minimal sustenance.  You are compounding the original error of building an unnecessary school by thinking you can fill it at no extra cost. In addition, age distribution is an unknown factor.  Why would you assume that the children will attend the middle schools?

I do care about my neighbors on Roaring Brook Road, Lawrence Farms,on 117 and all those who are directly impacted.  Your NIMBY position (if it is not in my backyard I do not care) is not the way to go. And the SG residential development has adverse ramifications for the entire town in all the ways that have been cited. 

West Ender, wont you be a good neighbor?  It is time for the town
to act as a community with concern for each other’s interests and for the township as a whole. 

I still wish you my best, my West Ender neighbor.

By JUST SAY NO on 08/01/2010 at 12:29 am

West Ender,

I simply don’t understand your reasoning.  Under all scenarios proposed, CC will result in higher taxes to the town and schools - the increased services to the town and value decline will more than send the town budget into the red and big tax increases for the schools.  Do you want to pay higher taxes to subsidize a for-profit investor?  If so, just write SG a check and let Us protect our town.  Enough already…

By Confused by West Ender on 08/01/2010 at 11:38 am

I guess I’ll have to state it very simply so everyone understands. Any parent of an elementary school child who feared that the redistricting that accompanied the building of Seven Bridges would have the result of their child being “subjugated to the dominant culture” of one of the other elementary school could use a serious reality check. “Subjugated to the dominant culture”? Of an elementary school? Really?? I didn’t support the building of Seven Bridges. I could care less about how many middle schools there are in the CCSD. I don’t live there and it has no impact on my life.

The same colorful language has been used in this debate: “Subjugated to the developer”. I haven’t seen the National Guard holding back the defenseless townspeople while Summit Greenfield’s bulldozers rumble down Roaring Book Road. Yet once again the locals are being “subjugated”. I simply found the similarity of the language in the arguments to be amusing.  There is certainly no hyperbole deficit in New Castle.

Since you all seem to keep missing the point I have been making about taxation, I would suggest you call the assessor’s office to confirm what I have been saying all along. The Town can reassess the entire Town (they have already hired a consultant to study the issue) and as part of the reassessment, decide to assess condominiums and co-ops on the same basis (market value) as single family homes. This will eliminate the subsidy of condo and co-op owners by single family homeowners. I would not support any residential development at Chappaqua Crossing without the Town taking these steps to eliminate the subsidy. Read my prior posts. I have consistently called for a reassessment that would accomplish this.

So, besides taxation, school capacity and traffic, all of which are issues that I believe can be resolved to the satisfaction of those who live in the immediate area, why do you think that the Town should not allow any zoning change that includes residential?

By West Ender on 08/01/2010 at 6:10 pm

It would be helpful if the School Board and others focused on marginal cost analysis in considering the impact of adding any particular number of students to the school system. The use of an average cost number tells you nothing. If you add, for example, 100 students across the system—particularly in an environment of declining enrollment—you may find that the incremental cost is a few textbooks. You don’t need an additional superintendent, new principals, new administrators, new guidance counselors, and probably no new teachers. You might even find that the school’s budget was coming out ahead, even with condominium level tax rates. Now if the School board was to say that a decline in enrollment of 100 students would result in saving 100 times the average cost per student, that would be a different matter, but I doubt very much they could say that. Let the numbers fall where they will, but let’s use the right numbers.

It would also help the basic analysis to see some numbers on what revenues (and therefore ultimately tax dollars) commercial development could bring. The commercial real estate market in Westchester is in far worse shape than the residential market, so leaving the zoning as it is may be a losing proposition for the town and School Board. Additionally a location such as this no longer provides the amenities and access that an employer and employees seek. Again let the numbers tell the story.

By Back to basics on 08/01/2010 at 7:02 pm

I don’t assign too much weight to a few hyperbolists.  Let them . 

But your solution, West Ender, to taxes-too-low on condos—reassessment of all properties in New Castle, both houses and condos, AS THOUGH THEY WERE ALL SINGLE FAMILY HOMES—will meet with a great deal of resistance.  So much resistance that it will probably never happen.  So it’s not much of a solution to depend on.

By Easy on the hyperbole on 08/01/2010 at 7:32 pm

In answer to rct123’s worries that those people who are resisting condo development for the RD property will somehow naturally resent people with large families or families with special needs children as too costly to educate: this is a false issue, meant to discredit those who are looking at the facts and figures. 

First of all MOST families who have even ONE child in the schools pay taxes enough to cover only that ONE child.  The second child is paid for by empty nesters or people who pay really HUGE taxes.  So everybody subsidizes everyone else already.  And we take whomever moves here and educate their children. 

HOWEVER… as far as the declining school population goes (that Summit Greenfield is so keen to replenish for us), it is likely that the demographic decline is fairly random—that is, comes as a result of many different kinds of houses and households graduating or moving away.  On the other hand, the INFLUX of students Summit Greenfield is inviting will ALL come from 199 low-taxed condominium townhouses and apartments.  That’s for sure.  It’s not in-kind replacement of population. This is the problem.

By To West Ender and to rct123 on 08/01/2010 at 7:43 pm

Thanks for repeating Fri content on Mon. I like following the train of comments this article picked up.  Very helpful. 

No FIVE of us come close to being as smart as 50 or 500 or 5000 of us.

Thanks for providing this forum.

By Thank you. on 08/02/2010 at 10:18 am

To West Ender…I have followed your many posts on this website and it is clear you speak only for yourself. Your NIMBY (not in my backyard) position is obvious and transparent. By your own admission you live on the “other side of town” - a resident of our town but not in the CCSD - school district. You represent only yourself and show little concern for the rest. A recent post of yours was insulting and way off base. I attended almost all discussions regarding a new middle school - Seven Bridges. I opposed it and was deeply involved and heard all postions. At NO TIME was there ever a Roaring Brook parent(s) that was concerned with “gangs of students targeting Roaring Brook students”. That is absolutely false and a ridiclous charecterization! Making such a false and outrageous statement proves you are not really a resident of our town. You are just a west ender with your own agenda. You insult us all and tarnish the spirit and intent of honest dialogue that this blog/website is intended to promote.

By Be Honest or Stay Out on 08/02/2010 at 10:40 am

These postings remind me to a certain extent of long standing family arguments where affronts or harsh feelings of many years ago are brought up each time there is a new subject of dispute.  Let’s put aside the (evidently) still warm antagonisms of the middle school debate of seven(?) years!  To linger over whether it was a good decision or bad or rehash the involvement of this group or that, does not materially advance the current issue relating to Chappaqua Crossing.  Really what good does it do?  Let’s focus on the here and now.  Pleeeeease!

By My Two Cents on 08/02/2010 at 4:28 pm

We have to remember that the developer does not have the right to build these units.  We have to convince the Town Board of this fact.  Perhaps a rehabilitation facility in the commercial space would be a better fit for all.

By NJH on 08/02/2010 at 7:45 pm

To MY TWO Cents…. It is difficult to accept the CCSD’s letter as sincere and honest as they “sound a note of alarm” regarding the financial, tax, and budgetary impact of Chapp Crossing. Where was that concern when warned of the financial and community impact during the Seven Bridges debate years ago? If you do not want to go that far back in time then ask yourself where was the CCSD school board concern for budget and taxes when they recently proposed, supported , and passed an increased school budget while we have a declining student enrollment in a financially difficult environment. You cant be a liberal spender for your agenda and then claim to be a fiscal hawk (conservative) on another’s agenda. You either are concerned for our financial well being or you are not!

By EmptyNester... on 08/03/2010 at 10:29 am

I was against the new middle school.  I voted for the recent school budget.  I have my reasons for both decisions which I came to after a lot of thought.  I don’t think I am either a liberal spender or a fiscal hawk or that I am being inconsistent.  I took each situation as it arose and formed an opinion.  I look at Chappaqua Crossing and I struggle to see where the plus is for this community, including our financial well being, but it is a decision I make regardless of what happened seven years ago with the middle school or this past spring with the budget.  Yes, both those events have current tax consequences but getting tied up in past school board decisions, whether you are defending them or criticizing them, adds nothing material to the current issue.  I have lived here nearly 25 years and plan to stay.  I have a lot invested in this town, and that is from both an emotional and financial perspective.

By My Two Cents on 08/03/2010 at 6:29 pm

To EmptyNester—I am honestly wondering, what would be the school board’s motivation in opposing CC if it is not based on a fiscal analysis? I just don’t see what it else it might be.  I am pretty new to the area and probably just don’t know enough.  So would you please explain it to me?  Thanks

By Wondering on 08/03/2010 at 7:36 pm

To Wondering….I can not answer your question with certainty. However, having been involved and closely followed the CCSD boards actions all these years I can say with out a doubt they have been terribly inconsistent. If all of their actions were based on fiscal analysis then Seven Bridges would not have been built. Now that we are stuck with it and the expert studies and opinions have come to pass, we now have a declining enrollment and will shortly have excess capacity in our school system. That is actually happening right now. So given that reality a prudent fiscal analysis by the CCSD school board should have rendered a reduced school budget or at the very least a ZERO budget increase. Instead we got an increase. I can only speculate that since the CCSD is responsible for our taxes continuing to rise they find Chapp Crossing an easy target to oppose and point fingers blaming them for future increases. I oppose Chapp crossing but I too find it an empty objection by the CCSD given their lack of fiscal responsibility.

By EMPTYNESTER on 08/04/2010 at 9:46 am

Empty Nester,

I just went on the school district website to look at the last many years of school budgets.  The archives go back many years.  The last two budgets were a 0% increase and less than a 2.0% increase.  Compared to the rest of Westchester, that seems very favorable.  Why do you continue to rant at the School Board?  There is no way that the current school board members were the people who voted on the building of the middle school so many years ago.  Don’t these people change every few years?  In any event, what does that have to do with Chappaqua Crossing situation?  Do you want to jack up the property taxes here even more in order to punish residents for building the middle school?  Everyone appears to agree that Chappaqua Crossing will result in higher taxes.  It seems like the last several budgets have been very responsible.  Am I misunderstanding something??

By Confused on 08/04/2010 at 11:43 pm

Dear Confused:

Board members change, but Ms. Benton remains for these last nine years.  She helped promote the new middle school.  All the other spots have turned over. 

But your other point: Let’s see what the town board’s consultants say at this stage about the finances of the proposed project. When they last reported to the board and community they showed that the tax benefit to New Castle was MINIMAL.  Very little.  Very little in taxes for quite a windfall for the developer—and a lot of worry for the town and school district.  This is what the board has to weigh.  Don’t be too quick to assume that that development will bring us the taxes Summit Greenfield claims, which have been greatly inflated in their advertising.  The board has experts.  Let’s hear what they say now, at this newest proposal.

By Look at the numbers on 08/04/2010 at 11:57 pm

To Confused….The longest standing member of CCSD school board was a strong proponent of Seven Bridges.

You are mistaken when you compare our school budget with “the rest of Westchester”. First of all there are many excellent and comparable Westchester school districts ( and Conn and Long Island) that have zero and DECREASED budgets. CCSD is somewhat unique in that we have a student enrollment decrease (which was forecasted by experts) and yet we still could not decrease our spending! The school board acknowledges the “difficult economic times” that surrounds us and they certainly see the declining enrollment. If we can’t get the budget down now - then when??? You are correct about other Westchester school budgets but few if any are experiencing the student enrollment decline (which is accelerating).

The connection between this and the Chapp Crossing discussion was the letter by the CCSD school board advocating for fiscal responsibility. Shouldn’t they get their own house in order and deliver a reduced budget to reflect declining enrollment and the difficult economic times before they advise others?

By EMPTYNESTER on 08/05/2010 at 10:25 am

To Empty Nester:

To be fair, the year the board kept the budget increase to ZERO was a year—like all years—when to simply keep the very same programs would have cost 5% more (cost-of-living increase, inflation? not sure which).  To get that 5% DOWN, the board made cuts that put the budget increase back to ZERO. 

I admit, though, that I don’t know how to factor the decrease in population into that equation.  WHY were costs going up 5% to keep the same program rolling forward when we were losing 60-odd students at the high school?  I’m not sure.

Perhaps the board of ed meant, “If we lost no population and kept the exact same program as last year, it would cost us 5% more overall. But because we ARE losing population, we can make cuts in staff that will bring that 5% increase down to ZERO increase.”  This seems to be the argument the school board makes in addressing the Chappaqua Crossing matter.  In effect, the board is saying: “Loss in student population is the ONE WAY we can justify cuts in staffing (and the health and pension costs that go with staff).  Loss of population is GOOD.  We don’t WANT to fill the empty building capacity with students.  We don’t know how to cut anything unless we’re losing population.” And they may be right.  There may be no will in the parent population to cut costs more than proportionately, as we lose student population.

By To be fair... on 08/05/2010 at 5:20 pm

To “To be fair…”

Economic conditions are bleak enough that it is no longer only the business of parents of school age children to decide these things for the town.  Parents will always say “Yes, spend!”  The more-than-half of us who are wiser and have grown children must participate in school decisions now also, to save the ship.

Whether the board of ed can or should cut their school budget is one matter; whether Chappaqua Crossing has the potential to increase school costs for us all is another.  Let’s treat these questions rationally—first separately, then together.  I’d like to see numbers.

By Even those without school age kids must pay attent on 08/05/2010 at 5:35 pm

To Empty Nester,

While I appreciate your passion, must agree with “To be Fair”.  The school board does not approve budgets, voters do.  Voters always can override.  There must be a reason that these budgets are being approved.  Perhaps you need to convince people to vote to pursue your position.  Aren’t the voting turnouts really low?  That may be your problem.  Remember, voters don’t have a vote on Chappaqua Crossing.  That is a real travesty.

By Voters on 08/05/2010 at 7:23 pm

SG’s intention from the time of purchase was to build residential housing that was not age restricted.  That is why they named the property CHAPPAQUA Crossing in order to sell the CCSD. The signs are posted at every entrance to the property.

Their MO as a “raider” developer is to come into a town and ram through their agenda, such as residential zoning on a commercially zoned property, at any cost to the town.  The question is why OUR town board would ally themselves with this ruthless developer in carrying out its nefarious scheme.  Our school taxes will rise, the traffic flow will be intolerable, sewer and services will be compromised, the pastoral landscape will disappear (their plan calls for razing hundreds of trees), at least some residents will suffer losses in property values.  Why would the Town Board want to do that to its own residents?  Why is the Town Board the ally of a “raider” developer and standing with them against the town’s residents?

Chappaqua residents stand firm.  Attend the August 10 meeting.

By Not in This Town on 08/09/2010 at 2:02 pm

I am completely against allowing the former Reader’s Digest property being rezoned for residential development, period.  I don’t care if the developer’s plan has been scaled down from 300+ units to the current 199 units, or to 10 units.  The town should not allow one unit to be built on this property.  New Castle has been transformed over the past 30 years from a quiet, quaint community to an overbuilt nightmare.  If you think I’m exaggerating, try making it through the intersection of Hunts Lane and route 120 at 8:30 a.m. on a weekday.  It’s a clogfest of traffic.  There are too many residents in New Castle as it is.  Can you imagine allowing 199 more units and the additional congestion that will be created, not to mention the increase in taxes to pay for educating hundreds of additional schoolchildren?  I vote no, let’s keep the property as commercial zoning only, or better yet, let’s turn it into a new community park or build a new set of high quality athletic fields for our beloved Greeley Quakers!

By NO-RD-Residential Development-Period on 08/14/2010 at 11:43 pm


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