DEIS hearing closed; written comment period continues until at least Sept. 18
See the July 28 hearing in video “on demand” on NCCTV’s website.
July 31, 2009
by Susie Pender
At least 130 residents and other interested parties turned out for Tuesday night’s town board meeting whose first agenda item was the continuation of the hearing on the draft environmental impact statement submitted by the Summit Greenfield developers in support of their proposal to build a mixed use commercial and residential project, Chappaqua Crossing, on the former Reader’s Digest property.
Despite the packed house and the intensity of feeling about the issues under discussion, Town Supervisor Barbara Gerrard maintained a firm hand on the proceedings and kept speakers moving apace throughout the three and one-half hours of presentations.
Important procedural announcements
Supervisor Gerrard also gave the developer a heads-up about the likely timing of the final EIS. In light of the complexity of the DEIS and the multitude of comments and questions relating to it that will have been received by September 18, it is unlikely that the final EIS will be completed in the normally expected 45 days. The State Environmental Quality Review Act under which the DEIS process is prescribed provides for an extension of the 45 day period if the lead agency, in this case the town board, believes an extension is necessary to do an adequate job.
Reports and recommendations from consultants and staff still in the works
According to Town Administrator Jerry Faiella, as the town board receives reports and recommendations from consultants and staff relating to the DEIS, they will be posted to the special web site created for all formal documents relating to Chappaqua Crossing, http://chappaquacrossingreview.mynewcastle.org/
Faiella confirmed that the town board is still expecting a report from their consultants HR&A Associates on the financials in the DEIS, especially as regards anticipated tax revenue. The town administrative staff, lead by Town Planner Lincoln Daley, is preparing a report on the increased service costs to the town that will be generated by the project, including recreation, police, public works, water and sanitation.
The Chappaqua Central School District, Faiella reported, has hired Westchester-Suffolk BOCES to investigate the school demographics presented in the developer’s DEIS. Mike Galante, a traffic engineer with F.P. Clark, the town’s consultants, is reviewing the traffic studies. And Hahn Engineering is looking into the storm water issues. As the town has repeatedly reassured the residents, all these consultants are paid by the developer as required by law.
Developer defends school age children projections in DEIS
Summit Greenfield’s legal counsel, Stephen Kass of New York’s Carter, Ledyard & Millburn, started the proceedings by introducing a school demographics consultant who explained the methodology behind the prediction of the number of school age children who would attend the Chappaqua schools from Chappaqua Crossing.
According to this demographer, if the age restrictions were enforced, the 32 workforce affordable housing units would generate 11 students. If they were not enforced, the total residential complex of 278 condominiums would generate 66 students.
He based his analysis, he explained, on “good comparables,” condominiums in surrounding communities including Byram Hills, Briarcliff Manor and Scarsdale, as well as Ledgewood Commons and Stone Creek in New Castle. Later speakers questioned the reasonableness of comparing these relatively small complexes of 40, 50 or 60 units to a large complex of 278 units.
Twenty-six speakers run the gamut from total opposition, compromise, to total support
The clear majority of the twenty-six speakers who rose to the podium to address the town board and the standing-room-only crowd spoke in opposition to the project as currently proposed, supporting their opposition with their own statistics and analyses. Many of these opponents of the development made it a point to identify themselves as residents who do not live near the Digest property.
The speakers called into question the developer’s assertions on the following topics:
* Tax revenues projections;
* Validity of projections of the school age population that will be generated by 278 condominiums;
* Plausibility of the low number of train station parking permit requests that 278 units will generate for a parking lot that already offers more permits than there are spaces;
* Concern that this is not the time to be adding to the housing stock in Chappaqua, especially in light of the fact that tax grievances by current homeowners in New Castle rose from 190 last year to 643 this year;
* Challenges to the “incredible claim” in the DEIS that the project would have no material impact on traffic at any of the 19 intersections studied in the DEIS, including across the Saw Mill River Parkway and at the Route 117 intersection;
* Challenges to the designation of this as a senior community when it is isolated from shopping and other services desired by seniors;
* Problems with enforcement of the age restriction in light of life’s challenges, like having a daughter with school age children come to live with elderly parents to care for them;
* Concern that the project is inconsistent with the stated goals of the Hamlet Plan to encourage low density housing and to promote higher density in shopping and transportation areas.
The compromisers encouraged the town and the developer to work together to build something on the site that “we can all be proud of 20 years from now.” Even some of the nay-sayers conceded that it’s this massive project that they object to, not the concept of change at the former Reader’s Digest property. Several speakers suggested that the developer demonstrate belief in his own projections by providing a reserve fund to pay for the cost of educating students beyond the 66 students projected in the DEIS.
The speakers in favor of the project included seniors who are very interested in staying in New Castle but who can no longer afford the houses in which they raised their children; supporters of the affordable workforce housing; and merchants from downtown Chappaqua whose representative told the board they hoped that Chappaqua Crossings’ 278 units would generate much needed new customers for them.
See the video “on demand” on NCCTV’s website. Once the video loads, you can freely scroll forward and backward to hear the various speakers.
The town board has mounted the DEIS and related documents on a dedicated website:
For a complete listing of NewCastleNOW.org’s previous articles and letters to the editor on Reader’s Digest, click here.