Letter to the Editor: Town board should approve an all-commercial plan for Chappaqua Crossing

December 24, 2010
by Kevin J. Shaw

As a 12-year Chappaqua resident and commercial property developer for 20 years, I’d like to add my own two cents.  Plain and simple, it’s development 101, no savvy real estate developer buys a property without a profitable business plan based on the current “as is” zoning configuration.  While SG’s “as is” plan may not be as profitable as the residential proposal, it’s inconceivable they don’t have an all-commercial back-up plan in case the residential plan fails public approval.

With property values down, town tax revenues falling, and the number of residential properties on the market up for the foreseeable future, it’s unclear to me whether the town really needs luxury condo housing.  But what is clear is that the town needs to derive commercial tax revenue from the RD property.  My advice: the town board should inform SG to move forward with an all-commercial plan that benefits the town.  The only zoning change the town should agree to is an increase in the number of tenants permitted on the property, which apparently is limiting how they can market the property to potential tenants.

Considering the iconic RD building is both visible and accessable from the Saw Mill River Parkway (approximately 35,000 cars per day) in a highly desirable market, I believe there are a number of commercial users who would consider the location extremely desirable.  SG just needs to get out there and find them.  The key from my perspective is to compel SG to “turn the buildings around,” by designating the gate off the Saw Mill River Parkway as the main entrance point, closing or minimizing the Route 117 gate (maybe exit-only), and perhaps using the Roaring Brook Road gate (near the Greeley HS entrance) as an exit-only access point or limited-hours entrance gate. 

The success of any future project at the RD site must be based on two criteria: 1) truly increasing tax revenues to the town, and 2) minimizing the traffic impact along 117 and near the entrance to Greeley.  The town must communicate clearly with the developer what is acceptable on the property.  Until that happens, SG will lose money and the town will miss out on tax revenues. 

To catch up on Chappaqua Crossing/Reader’s Digest matters, see all NCNOW’s archived material, in chronological order, by clicking HERE.

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I agree.

By Nancy King on 12/24/2010 at 10:46 am

Bravo!!! It is commercial. It was purchased as commercial. We need commercial tax base. It should remain commercial. We are all tired of SG trying to change the rules and game the system. They are a deep pocketed sophisticated real estate company. They bought commercial- let them figure out how to make it an economically viable commercial property. The town should be flexible and accommodate reasonable requests by SG that will assist in promoting commercial property. If we need to increase and expand the number of commercial tenants then lets help out. That’s it!

By longtimeresident on 12/24/2010 at 11:12 am

What makes SG think they are privileged???

Let us assume that I purchased a one family home for the purpose of renting to a tenant at about the same time that SG purchased the Readers Digest property. Let us assume that I am being faced with the same set of circumstances that SG is claiming to be faced with. Suppose at the same time that SG requested the Town to provide a re-zoning of the Readers Digest property for a use that did not exist at the time of their acquisition, that I requested the Town to provide me with a re-zoning of my one family residential rental property for the same set of circumstances.

Would the Town approve my request to construct an additional home on my property for rental purposes on a site that is not large enough to accommodate two homes per zoning ordinances? I think not. Would the approval process continue for as long as the SG process has continued? I think not. Would I be taking a temper tantrum and making statements that sound like legal action if the Town did not approve my request by an arbitrary deadline that I made? I think not.

Apparently, push has proceeded to shove and the Town must respond accordingly. SG, you are not privileged!!!

By Don’t Cry On My Shoulder on 12/25/2010 at 2:06 pm

When the word “commercial” is used, I would like clarification as to exactly what that means.  Would “commercial” jeopardize our current retailers that are downtown now? Would it pull current residents from our current downtown area?  It is vital that our town protect our current merchants as much as they are trying to protect our residential interests.  If a commercial plan for RD takes away from our downtown at all we will all see HUGE drops in our residential property values.

Editor’s Note: People have come to use “commercial” and “business” interchangeably when discussing the zoning of the RD property (in contrast to the single-family residential part of the property), but “business” is more accurate.  “Business” includes offices and laboratories, not retail businesses, not stores, as such.  There has been some discussion by Summit Greenfield to include some convenience retail services such as dry cleaning, coffee and newspapers.

By concerned merchant on 12/27/2010 at 8:27 am

I certainly appreciate “concerned merchants” concern and the helpful info from NCN’s editor.
I wonder how the towns’  merchants feel about the tire marking and aggressive ticketing
by the police as of late. As other towns cover their meters and welcome visitors to their towns during this holiday season, Chappaqua squeezes people who wish to shop at and support our towns businesses.  What in the world is the Board thinking !!!

By Bob on 12/27/2010 at 10:55 am

As a merchant I would like to point out that the only way to keep parking spots open is by ticketing.  The worst offenders of using parking spots for ALL day parking are the merchants /real estate brokers themselves.  Yes, we can purchase parking permits, but a lot of businesses don’t so their employees hover in the spots for hours at a time.  I have personally observed day after day where the same car is in the same one hour spot for 8 hours a day with no ticketing and the person works in one of the local businesses.

The other issue is that the merchants that do follow the rules and purchase the parking permits are also the ones that use the closest spots to the stores.  I strongly feel that the town should designate the farther back spots for merchants to use.  It doesn’t make any sense when our prime parking spots are all filled up before the stores even open and it is all employees vehicles.  You would think this would just be common sense to store owners to leave the closer spots for our customers and especially those carting babies and kids, but I guess one man’s common sense is not the same as another.

My suggestion is that merchants are designated to non-prime spots for the 8 hours their cars are parked and then perhaps the town could pull back a little on the ticketing, although I do not ever feel the ticketing should go away, we need the turn over in these spots to help with the downtown foot traffic.

By a merchant on 12/27/2010 at 2:05 pm

How do the merchants in the downtown business district feel about the deplorable condition of the sidewalks and other similar derelict conditions in the business district. How do the merchants feel about the money spent on the discretionary gazebo and fancy lighting recently installed in the parking lot located opposite Susan Lawrence. These funds would have been better spent on repairing the sidewalks.

By Sidewalks on 12/27/2010 at 4:02 pm

To a merchant, I really do think that you are mistaken about the parking.  I know from
many conversations with shoppers and with merchants that people do not like to shop in towns with hour spots and the fear of being ticketed. 
I do not know what your business is, but it can easily take more than an hour to shop or to
have lunch.  The merchants with whom I have spoken are against the town’s policy and
feel that it hurts and discourages their business. Perhaps there could be a few designated
15 or 30 min. spots for quick pick ups.
As far as merchants/realtors taking up the spots, that is clearly another matter.

By Bob on 12/27/2010 at 6:58 pm

Most spots in town are two hour parking, there are only a few spots that are designated as one hour.

Trust me, I stand there all day and watch. The problem is not the shoppers, it’s the merchants staying in spots longer than allowed.

In addition, if you arrive before 9 am to the parking lot behind Starbucks you will see how many people get out of their cars and go directly to the train.  This is not right either.  These cars stay there ALL day and deserve tickets. 

All towns that I shop in are more aggressive about their parking tickets than Chappaqua. Pleasantville and Mt. Kisco are ruthless.  I really think the answer lies in the town figuring out merchant parking and getting the commuters to not park in shopping areas.

To address the other comment, I find the downtown area totally unacceptable in it’s upkeep. The town puts no attention into our true downtown where our merchants operate.  If our government officials would ever stroll north of the town offices they might discover that “downtown” is not the train station but in fact where our stores are and the intersection where Starbucks is.
I find the gazebo ridiculous and all of the beautiful lighting, planters, and seasonal banners at the train station a representation of an unaware government.  Yes, the train station is beautiful and I applaud the find job they did, but that type of attention and money should have been put towards the area where people come INTO town and not the ones departing town on our trains.

By a merchant on 12/28/2010 at 11:31 am

The train station fix-up was done before our world turned upside down, economy-wise.  Perhaps it seemed rational three years ago to spend that kind of money on a place where people had no choice but to use it (you either take the train or you don’t), but not anymore.  The train station was just something that could be made to look good relatively easily, as is the gazebo project now. 

The gazebo project is a late—and I hope LAST—such feel-good, look-good project with no real justification.  It’s a new world now. Residents will expect better justification on expenditures going forward—especially that there are real, true under-the-street types of repairs the town board is telling us will soon have to be made.  Enough with the discretionary spending!

By I agree with A Merchant on 12/28/2010 at 12:23 pm

Every parking spot on upper and lower King, as well as on North and South Greeley are for one hour. The two hour spots are in the parking lots, where a merchant says they are occupied by commuters, merchants and realtors. 

My experience in the other towns is that it is not difficult to find two hour parking. It is hard to it find here, and during the holidays the towns that a merchant mentions, do cover their meters. That is welcoming and certainly a boon to the merchants.

The upkeep of the town is and has been a problem.  Bridge construction aside, Chappaqua is not a welcoming destination.  And by the way, the new sidewalks on 120 only add to the town’s upkeep, which as has been noted, is wanting.

By Jeffrey G. on 12/28/2010 at 7:18 pm

I could well be wrong but I think the all commercial plan for Chappaqua Crossing cannot be approved by the town—at least not at this juncture.  I believe the problem is that since SG has proposed an alternative combined commercial/residential plan, everything is tied up in the environmental impact study relating to the combined use proposal and so it means that the board is presently precluded from saying to SG that the all commercial alternative is approved. Had SG just gone the all commercial route from the start, the process would be less complicated and the board might have been in a position to approve it. Again, I could well be wrong about this.  I would love clarification/correction from anyone better informed than I am.

By On the topic of the letter on 12/28/2010 at 8:17 pm

Agreed! Commercial zoning—a couple of commercial tenants that can benefit the town in some way. Stop the empty threats, stop trying to hold the town hostage for profit, and let’s all move forward.

By Agreed! on 01/02/2011 at 3:07 pm

To the merchant(s) who support aggressive ticketing – I parked in town a couple of days before xmas; I was shopping, shmoozing, getting spruced up for the holiday. I was definitely longer than an hour, but not longer than two. Imagine my surprise and, admittedly, anger upon returning to my car to find a ticket. “Most expensive manicure ever”, I thought, and immediately went to town hall to pay and express my dismay. A thoughtful and sympathetic clerk suggested I cross the hallway to share my feelings with everyone in the main office. Though already well done with the whole situation, I approached the main office with good cheer. There I found a defensive front in the name of the merchants who have requested, according to one spokesperson, aggressive ticketing. Noting the bagged meters elsewhere and the relative ease of finding spaces and using the meters even when not covered, I have to say, the shops of P’ville and Mt. Kisco are looking very appealing.

By Another disgruntled shopper on 01/03/2011 at 7:46 am

Another disgruntled shopper’s post is most interesting.  So, it is the merchants themselves who have requested aggressive ticketing.  I, along with many friends
in town have made a concerted effort to support our local stores.  I wonder just who these particular merchants are.  It more than gives one pause.

While this thread is off the topic of the letter, it is pertinent to the commercial base of the town.  Maybe NCNOW will do a story on this so that we can better know the background of this aggressive ticketing decision and what merchants are behind it.  I believe that many will steer clear of their stores.  I know that I will.

By Bob on 01/03/2011 at 10:55 am

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