Councilwoman Elise Mottel’s statement on Chappaqua Xing retail zoning approval

Tonight, the Town Board will be voting on whether to make certain modifications to the New Castle Town Code to allow retail uses on the former Reader’s Digest site, the Town’s only B-RO-20 (Business and Office Business) District. 

In January 2006, at the beginning of my second year on the Town Board, Summit Greenfield submitted a petition seeking to establish a new zoning district called a Planned Campus Development Site.  Their proposal was to build 348 market rate residential units having 2-3 bedrooms, and 80% of the units would have been age restricted.  After many public hearings and much public resistance, the Town Board rejected the proposal on December 12, 2006.  Among other reasons, the Town Board recognized that the Reader’s Digest campus was the Town’s last major commercially-zoned property, outside of our Chappaqua and Millwood business hamlets.  The Town Board at that time acknowledged the importance of preserving and expanding our commercial tax base, as reflected in the Town’s Development Plan.
Since that time, the Town Board and the residents of New Castle have been presented with various applications by Summit Greenfield for the development of this site.  Since 2006, we’ve also been faced with the following events: (i) the bankruptcy of Reader’s Digest and Reader’s Digest vacating the Property in December 2010, leaving approximately 250,000 feet of unoccupied office space, (ii) economic conditions and trends that do not support the use of the Property as a large commercial office park; and (iii) the closing of the D’Agostino supermarket in the Chappaqua hamlet. 

I have struggled with the question of whether Chappaqua Crossing should be rezoned to allow retail uses.  On the one hand, allowing retail at Chappaqua Crossing would serve an important community need by enhancing the commercial tax base.  On the other hand, the 2013 Supplemental Findings Statement considered the potential impacts of the proposed retail development and determined it would have significant adverse traffic impacts, some but not all of which could be mitigated. 

I am also concerned that the revised retail Preliminary Development Concept Plan, which now relocates the grocery store to a free standing building in the southern portion of the project site and reconfigures the remaining retail stores proposed for the site, is less than ideal.  Summit Greenfield initially proposed placing retail stores in the existing office buildings, which would allow those facilities to be adaptively reused while supporting the remaining office and research uses.  Having new freestanding buildings on the site is not what I prefer, though I recognize that Summit Greenfield may have certain constraints in terms of creating a space acceptable to Whole Foods.

When I net this all out, I believe that allowing retail uses at Chappaqua Crossing will encourage commercial occupancy of currently underutilized property and enhance the Town’s commercial tax base.  The Town Board will ensure that Summit Greenfield implements the required mitigation measures to reduce the adverse traffic impacts, including, without limitation, improvements to Roaring Brook Road, turning lanes, and restricting delivery hours to retail users.  Further, I intend to press Summit Greenfield to work harder to incorporate traditional neighborhood design concepts into the Preliminary Development Concept Plan and to adaptively reuse the existing buildings.  For tonight, I intend to vote in favor of the resolutions before us.

Elise K. Mottel
December 18, 2014

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