Next week town board will decide whether Reader’s Digest DEIS is complete

January 23, 2009
by Christine Yeres

This week at the New Castle Town Board’s work session, Robert Davis of Bryan Cave LLP, special counsel to the town board on matters relating to the Chappaqua Crossing proposal for the former Reader’s Digest property, was on hand to answer questions on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or DEIS, still under review by the board.

He reported to the board that the applicant, Summit Greenfield, “says we’re taking too long.”  The developer continues to decline to supply the board with a searchable disc version of the massive document until the board declares the document complete. 

On substantive issues, the board is relying on F.P. Clark consultant, Joanne Meder, for advice and help in reviewing the DEIS. Meder had circulated a memorandum amongst the board synthesizing all comments by board members relating to whether they consider the information supplied in the DEIS by developer Summit Greenfield to be complete, incomplete or not supplied.

Board members agreed to deliver their final comments to Meder in time for her to revise the memorandum for next week’s regular meeting. At that time the board plans to either declare the DEIS complete or request more information from the developer.

Supervisor Barbara Gerrard suggested to the other four board members that, going forward, they should each focus on one of the six main topics in the DEIS, since the SEQR process will continue to require board attention. The topics are traffic, housing, infrastructure, environment and cost-of-service as against cost-of-service-delivery.

Robin Stout offered to make traffic his area of specialty; Elise Mottel asked that she be given housing. Michael Wolfensohn suggested that Supervisor Barbara Gerrard take on environmental issues, given her interest and expertise, and she agreed. Wolfenson and John Buckley agreed to take on any subject the board might need covered.

Proposals for possible uses of Reader’s Digest property by New Castle

In order to find a consultant to explore possible use by the town of some part of the Reader’s Digest property and buildings, the town board issued a request for proposal, or RFP, that drew only one response, at a proposed price of $250,000, which the board considered too high. The board quickly whittled down the requirements contained in the RFP, eliminating some elements that will be included, as required by law, in the Summit Greenfield’s DEIS.

Rather than duplicate completed research, the second RFP asked only for a study of what the developer’s attorney has called “your town’s unrequited interest in our property,” which includes possible ball fields, an auditorium, government office space and adaptive reuse of certain buildings, perhaps for housing. The RFP has elicited nine responses so far. Candidates for the work will be narrowed to three, and then the board will interview the finalists.

The newly requested study should cost half the $250,000 proposed for the first RFP. Town planner Lincoln Daley says he hopes the study, called a generic environmental impact statement, or GEIS, will run concurrently with any work Summit Greenfield may have yet to do to supply the board with any additional data. Daley estimates that both the DEIS and the GEIS may take five to eight months to complete.