Letter to Ed: Creating options through “New Castle’s Big Brainstorm”

Town Board, out of the way!  Just let Pace do its job.
May 2, 2014
by Chuck Napoli

Retail development at Chappaqua Crossing is the conflict that needs to be resolved, the result of a broken decision-making process exemplified by leaders defending pre-determined choices and pushing for “buy-in” from the public. Happens all the time, conflicts go unresolved, civic trust erodes.

Retail at Chappaqua Crossing cannot be considered a choice of the people just yet.  It’s a land use plan proposed by the Town Board in concert with the property owner, devoid of any public participation or preparation of that plan. Back in 2012, the decision-makers’ issue was “How do we meet our grocery needs?” The size-restricted 40,000 square foot major grocery anchor, used to attract and benefit other retailers, has become the only option investigated for the commercial use of the property.

Defending the Retail Overlay Zoning Amendment option using the same top-down, decision-making process that created it is like “déjà vu all over again.”

The previous Town Board prepared a draft Local Law for a Retail Overlay Zone without public participation.  Big mistake. Now, without knowing the needs or having the participation of the most interested parties, the public, the current Town Board has a revised Concept Plan proposed by: the developer and counsel, New Castle Development office (our Town Planner, Sabrina Charney), a planning board member (Tom Curley) and the “Greenstein Authority” negotiating and lobbying to further implement and reinforce previous decisions.  This is an even bigger mistake. Changes in direction or exploring alternative options now become awkward for lawmakers; choices—other than what’s on the table – become less likely.

Pace is wiser than to push the proposed retail land use option at Chappaqua Crossing in the outreach component of master plan update. I’m sure Pace recognizes the Chappaqua Crossing issue for what it really is: a community conflict, a civic friction begging to be resolved.

While how to satisfy food-related needs to meet the interests of the local market remains a problem, the big issue in the room is how to transform the Summit-Greenfield property to meet changing conditions and development patterns with the right mix of uses for our community. Thoughtful and comprehensive planning to preserve New Castle’s character, its environmental, its scenic, aesthetic and natural resources, must be the context for sensitive solutions, above and beyond just mitigation measures for a clumsy plan with no respect for the town that surrounds it.
Pace Land Use Law Center is about to facilitate just such an interplay of multiple stakeholder values. We are about to learn how to create some choices for the decision-makers. People have to have the time and the freedom to invent together, then come up with well-considered revisions to our Master Plan.  The brainstorming starts this Wednesday, May 7, at Bell, 7:00 to 10:00 p.m.

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

How can we allow the movement of money to dictate what becomes of CC and downtown Chappaqua? How can The Town of New Castle allow investment dollars to go where investment dollars want to go? If you invited Donald Trump to call Town Hall and told him that he would get any approval that he wanted under 9 months, the same time needed to have a baby, what do you believe he would propose to develop, redevelop, and design and layout better? Now if we extended this invitation to ALL builders and developers, what bonanza of ideas would Town Hall be flooded with? I think the best thing that The Town of New Castle can do is to find out how to invite investment dollars into the community, and to hear ideas that at least 60% of the area would welcome and like. I happen to believe that a developer like Mr. Trump already understands our community coming in, and would propose his own development ideas that would have a good chance of being viewed as being in alignment with the community only because this has been his life long trademark. His trademark has been always building and developing, and preserving, what the communities naturally want or come to love. Greenstein it’s 10am in the morning you’re sitting at your desk in town hall the phone rings and its Mr. Trump calling you. How would you keep his interest from first point of contact and would you allow him to land his helicopter next to Town Hall? Remember, never say ‘No’ when trying to do your best for New Castle, allow him to land. Stop the master plan process and let the private sector step forward or fly forward with their own ideas. It would be nice to hear from those that have the money to develop or redevelop how,where,what, and when. they would do so, if given the promise of a speedy approval.

By Up in the sky it’s a ?? on 05/02/2014 at 1:59 pm

To Chuck Napoli- at least you are consistent. When it comes to retail at Chapp Crossing you have always maintained that The Master Plan is old and needs revision. But when you have presented your plan for downtown Chappaqua you made no such demand. How is that that the town board and planners must tackle the master plan for Summit Greenfields development plan but for the Napoli developemnt plan it is not discussed. I recall your multiple town hall apperances, your letters to this editor complete with detailed drawings and renderings, and your comments all advocating for your “for profit” plan. You have admitted that applications have been filed, investors and bankers linerd up, and this is in full process. I will refrain from offering my opinion of your plan but suffice to say it will dramatically change the charecter of downtown.You charecterize the SG plan as not a “choice of the people” and “devoid of any public participation”.
Is your downtown plan (Napoliville) the choice of the people and with puiblic particpation?

By not buying it on 05/02/2014 at 2:37 pm

Napoli is a developer with plans of his own for downtown Chappaqua. Nowhere in this letter does he divulge this important fact. The editor should have included a disclaimer. Napoli should not be on the master plan sub committee as he has a self serving interest. Katz, Brodsky, Weitz are all involved too and their personal agendas dominate the proceedings.
For years all we have heard is “the master plan is old and must be updated”. If this is any indication of the process than why should we expect that the results will be anything but a bunch of GIGO – garbage in garbage out.

By RG on 05/03/2014 at 6:47 am

Really Chuck- the least you could have done is reminded the readers that you wear 2 hats. You are a resident but you are most definitely a developer with a very specific and advanced plan for downtown Chapp. You have been a long time opponent of retail at Chapp Crossing because progress there negatively impacts your plan. You advocate for The Master Plan process before retail at CC can proceed but you don’t hold your development plan to that standard.
I do not understand how you should be on the commercial/ commerce Master Plan sub-committee. People would be up in arms if Summit Greenfield or the Legionairres developer had a seat on this committee.

By Resident on 05/03/2014 at 7:45 am

Greenstein was a big supporter of Napoliville but has gone radio silent on it. Call it a hunch but I bet he has cut a deal with Napoli ( and Katz) that once he secured retail at CC for a downtown land swap he will take care of them too. What’s in it for you Chuck? After all you are a developer and architect with real skin in the game.

By Red storm rising. on 05/03/2014 at 9:26 am

To “Resident” – sorry, but no one is more openly open minded about the options for New Castle as Chuck Napoli. Napoli never asked to be given a pass by the master plan.  In fact, Resident, a plan very much like his Bell field plan is in the current master plan. Whaddayathink about that? You should learn more, accuse less.

Summit Greenfield and the Legionaries developer have something better than “a seat on this committee” – they have Supervisor R. Greenstein.

By Learn more, accuse less on 05/03/2014 at 11:11 am

To Learn More, accuse less- you are catogorically wrong about Mr Napoli being open minded and never asking for a pass. On many occasions he spoke before the town board and wrote letters/ comments imploring town officials not to entertain SG development plans until the master plan was updated. He then on multiple occasions made presentations and applications for his own development. If SG plans should not be heard and advanced without a new master plan than why should the planning board- town board entertain his? If he wasn’t looking for a pass or looking for special treatment than he should not has advanced his development until master plan update.
His plan requires multiple zoning changes too. He needs land owners to give up some land so he can build chain stores. He needs the school district to surrender school property so he can build a 400 car cement garage bunker. The size and height of his proposed 5 story theater requires special attention. It is true the old master plan (40 years old?) mentions moving bell field for more parking that was at a time when our train station was much less crowded and our student body considerably smaller.
Napoliville will dramatically alter the character of the town. We have a middle school and a train station dead center in town. It’s the biggest parking lot in the metro north system. It’s absurd to bring chain stores, theater, and 400 car garage to this.
If Chuck was as open minded as you suggest then he would hold his own plan to the same standard as SG and waited until the master plan is finished. As others have said- given the process and the agendas of the people involved, the master plan will be meaningless anyway. Greenstein is correct in advancing negotiations to brin retail and Whole a Foods to CC.

By Chapp mom on 05/03/2014 at 2:36 pm

Chuck – your plan for downtown is very radical. I have watched you on several occasions appear before town boards complete with sophisticated drawings and slide decks. You are well past a simple concept that you are asking our town officlas to review. Your plan calls for the constrcution of 20K – 25K sq ft of additional retail to house chain stores of 3k – 5k sq ft. It calls for a large underground parking garage and a raised turf field above – all right on top of Bell MS and across from the train station. You also plan for a large performing arts facility – a theater. I was in town this past Friday as Bell was dismissed. The kids (8-12 year olds) are everywhere including the new Scoops ice cream parlor. Your plan would be perilous for these kids and make it impossible for commuters to exist the train station.
In regards to development at CC you demand that there be public particpation and that the peoples “choice” be heard. I do not recall any public particpation in regards to your plan before you applied and presented it to the town officials. Seems like a double standard to me!

Editor’s Note: Wrong. Chuck Napoli did indeed hold public meetings to gather input on what should go into his plan. It was two summers ago.

By ronnie on 05/03/2014 at 3:07 pm

To chap mom: Let’s see…. if I were Chuck Napoli, and I saw the ridiculous plan for Chappaqua Crossing’s 1980s shopping center and saw all the attention it was getting from a town board shoving it forward, I’d sure want my alternative out on the table, for comparison purposes. Have you heard him say he does not want the master plan to go forward?  That’s not what I read here, in this article. But then I don’t know his mind as well as you claim to.

By So you’re a mind reader on 05/03/2014 at 9:08 pm

Dear Editor- you are taking some liberties with the truth. Chuck Napoli did hold public meetings to gather input but he did not divulge his plan for public scrutiny. In the meeting that I attended we were asked and we discussed the short comings of downtown as well as suggestions for improvements. Of course everyone complains about parking but at no time in the meeting that I attended was there mention of a 400 car underground garage right next to Bell school. We discussed the poor mix of stores downtown and offered suggestions for improving them. At no time did Mr Napoli suggest he planned on building large format stores to attract chain stores. At the time my youngest son was attending Bell School. I would have remembered if Chuck mentioned that his plan was to bring parking and chain stores next to a Bell.
The best you can say is that he held hearings to get public input but formulated his plan on his own. He did not unveil his plan seeking feedback at the meeting I attended.
No way the people at my meeting would have supported/approved of the big cement garage and chain stores. We did discuss a performing arts center for downtown but nothing the size and scope of the one included in his plan.

Editor’s Note: An increase of parking spaces was always central to Napoli’s plan.  I don’t know what you mean by his not “divulging his plan for public scrutiny.”  He’s not sneaking anything past anyone. His plan is out there, and so are others. You may like them or not—as you wish.

By I was there on 05/03/2014 at 10:09 pm

Hey resident

An insight for you regarding developers: having a developer at the table is what we need, still need and were promised would happen.

The other participants at that “table” must include the all interested members of the public. The preparation of any proposed plan by the developer and the town officials without the public is the problem: Conifer, Chappaqua Crossing and Spa, for example.

Meeting the developer’s needs as well as community needs creates a worthy project for all—or not. Most of all the collaboration saves time and money by including the people and the developer early on in the scoping sessions.

Maybe a new amendment to our Town Code should require a public discussion of all interested parties for any zoning change with the developer before the elected officials give him/her permission to move forward.

By Chuck Napoli on 05/04/2014 at 2:59 pm

I have been listening to iterations of chuck Napoli’s “plan” for the Chappaqua hamlet for decades.  It raises really serious issues- I don’t have any idea if it could work or what it really would look like.  that’s what the SEQR process is for.  Chuck is invested- by more than just potential profits- its been his dream.  he has certainly done a lot of the architectural work that has shaped the hamlet, so of course he has been imagining the big picture= and Chuck is certainly a dreamer.  Is that a bad thing? It might work- I would like to know more.

By lets be fair on 05/08/2014 at 9:40 pm

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