Letter to the Editor: Density of Chappaqua Crossing is excessive

August 6, 2009
by Robert Lewis

Dear Editor,

Thanks to NCCTV’s “video on demand,” I was able to replay the July 29 zoning board meeting during which Summit Greenfield representatives appeared before the ZBA to discuss removal of their four-tenant cap on the number of tenants they are permitted in the site’s office space.

The intensity of the commercial and residential development that Summit Greenfield is proposing for their site is excessive. It is incompatible with existing patterns of use and bulk. It would totally change the character and use of the site, introducing uncertainty about future development all across town and undermining property values of both condominium and fee simple residences.

Town residents rely on a stable development plan, starting with the Zoning Ordinance and the Town Development Plan, which explicitly encourages controls to maintain the rural and residential character of New Castle. In the visioning sessions held at Bell School two years ago, the community discussed the need for additional controls in an area zoned for both residential and business occupancy such as the former Reader’s Digest property, which also contains 26 acres zoned for single family homes. The town’s consultant for the November 2006 visioning sessions, Frank Fish of Buckhurst Fish & Jacquemart, Inc., a planning and design firm, recommended at the time that the town, for its own protection, implement a commercial floor-area-ratio.

The town seeks to limit the space consumed by driveways and parking on the site of Chappaqua Crossing to reduce the acreage of paving, to limit vehicular traffic and parking, and to preserve open space and surface water resources. I urge the Town Board to take advantage of objective measures like FAR (floor-area-ratio) and OSR (open-space-ratio) to preserve open space and limit development to an acceptable density.

FAR and OSR allow us to quantify existing conditions and reasonable restrictions. Let’s consider adding the FAR and OSR to our community’s tool box.


Floor area – total square footage of building floors, including covered parking and driveways

Lot area – total area of site, with appropriate adjustment for restricted areas such as wetlands and steep slopes

Lot coverage – area enclosed by projection of building footprint at grade

Paved area – roadways, parking areas; sidewalks subject to discussion

Open space – undeveloped/unpaved area

Objective Measures

FAR = total floor area divided by lot area (%). Higher values signify more intensive development. Without appropriate controls, the development that S/G proposes would result in an FAR of 25-30% for the remaining business portion of the site, and 45-50% for the portion they wish to rezone multi-family planned development, or MFPD. That’s 5 to 10 times as dense as the 5% to 10% FAR of existing one-acre single family development in the vicinity of Chappaqua Crossing, and throughout the Town.

OSR = total open space divided by floor area (%). Higher values signify more open space. Without appropriate controls, the development that Summit Greenfield proposes would result in an OSR of 35-40% for the portion of the site remaining business zoned area, and 30-35% for the portion they wish to rezone MFPD. That’s 30 to 40 times as dense as the 1000% to 1400% OSR that characterizes New Castle.

There is room to debate the definition of open space and the calculation details, but I hope we can agree on the need for objective measures that will discourage development that is grossly incompatible with the hopes and expectations of our citizens.

Robert Lewis