No surprises in Chappaqua Xing lawsuits, except for odd timing
With 86 comments since publication Tuesday
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
by Susie Pender
Late last Friday afternoon, February 25, Summit Greenfield, the developer of Chappaqua Crossing, filed lawsuits against the town of New Castle in New York State Supreme Court, County of Westchester, as well as in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The plaintiffs in the federal case, SG Chappaqua, are suing the town of New Castle, the New Castle Town Board and Town Supervisor Barbara Gerrard, Town Board Member Robin Stout and Town Board Member Michael Wolfensohn in their official capacities (the “Defendants”).
Summit Greenfield has been threatening throughout the environmental review process to bring a lawsuit against the town and the town board for not giving them what they want, permission to build their proposed residential development at Chappaqua Crossing (the “Property”). See “Letters between lawyers for Summit Greenfield and town board end in standoff,” NCNOW.org, January 14, 2011.
Indeed, throughout every incarnation of the plan: originally 348 age-restricted housing units (2006 Planned Campus Petition); then 278 housing units, 246 age-restricted and 56 or 20% affordable housing (2007 Multifamily Planned Development District); and now 199 units with 20 or 10% affordable housing (2010 Modified Project Plan), Summit Greenfield has demanded that the town board end its environmental review and grant its application to rezone the property.
Why sue now?
As Supervisor Gerrard stated in her Supervisor’s report last week, “As I said two weeks ago, we intend to finish our work by the end of next month – that is, by March 31, 2011. That means that we intend to finish the environmental review and make findings under the State Environmental Quality Review Act and then decide on Summit Greenfield’s petition for application of a Multi-Family Planned Development zone and other zoning amendments to the former Reader’s Digest property.” To read the full text of the Supervisor’s Report, click HERE.
So why sue now?
“We will have to study [the complaints], of course,” explained Clinton Smith, legal counsel to the New Castle Town Board, “but at first glance, there is nothing in there that they haven’t threatened before. The timing is a bit odd for two reasons. They filed suit before the end of the deadline that they set, the end of March. And they only delivered a compliant parking plan in January, and this is February.”
“Despite recent statements by the Town Supervisor that a Final Environmental Impact Statement will be adopted in March,” stated the press released issued on behalf of Summit Greenfield by its spokesperson Geoffrey Thompson of Thompson & Bender, “the Town Board’s well-established history of missed deadlines and its demonstrated unwillingness to deal with the serious economic and social responsibility issues confronting the town has led the owners to turn to the courts to seek relief and damages.”
The federal complaint
“This action,” the federal complaint alleges, “arises out of Defendants’ continued efforts to prevent affordable housing in New Castle – which is highly likely to be occupied by racial or ethnic minorities and the elderly –by unconstitutionally and intentionally denying Plaintiff its rights and expectations to a fair, timely and unbiased decision on its long pending land use application.”
The plaintiff lays out three motivations for the Defendants’ actions:
1. To prevent the construction of affordable housing;
2. To maintain Chappaqua Crossing in its “stately and bucolic condition;” and
3. “To limit economic activity in the commercial portion of the Property so high-priced residential housing in the immediate vicinity can enjoy the benefit of having a sleepy, park-like campus atmosphere at the Property.”
The Plaintiff argues that the town board’s actions are a violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. Sections 3601 et seq and have deprived it of its constitutional rights to substantive due process and equal protection under 42 U.S. C. Section 1983.
The Plaintiff is asking for compensatory and punitive damages, to be determined by a jury, and attorneys’ fees. To read the full text of the federal complaint, click HERE.
The state complaint
The complaint filed in state court is only against the town of New Castle. In it, the Plaintiff alleges that the town’s failure to act on their application has deprived the Plaintiff of all economically viable use of the commercial portion of the Property, and therefore, constitutes a taking without recompense. The Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees. To read the full text of the state complaint, click HERE.
Unless the Town Board capitulated to each and every one of their demands, it was inevitable that we were heading to Court. The good news is that SG’s claims are premature, weak and an obvious attempt to intimidate more than anything else.
can’t say i blame the developers. i hope they win in court.
I read the complaints. I am actually surprised that Richard Leland from Fried Frank would sign his name to them. They are a rambling mess that states nothing new and hinges most of their complaint on a claim that the town wants to stop affordable housing. That, in light of the recent proposal to build a 5 story building in downtown of affordable housing, is an erroneous claim. If SG wants affordable housing so much, let them build it without the other 199 residential condos. If as stated in paragraph 68 they think there will only be 58 students, let them back that up with a performance bond. (The mouthpiece lawyer said no way to that last fall). They keep citing Berensen which is not relevant in NC now.
This is a case of having a losing position and trying to intimidate and coerce. Why file now? Why not wait 4 weeks to see what they get from the town? Makes no sense. The suit also claims that SG has spent over $12 million on their consultants and attorneys and the town’s consultants. This suit is a waste of another million or two.
Leland who has worked on some big cases should be embarrassed to take this case.
This is typical “I have lots of money and big law firms and will sue you – and say bad things about you” bullying.
I will personally write a check to the town for a litigation fund to fight this.
The only way to beat a bully is to not back down.
This is so much better than sitting down with the developer and trying to work out a win-win, isn’t it? After all they are just a bunch of evil, profit-mongering, lying, intimidating developers! : )
How can this community have so many intelligent people who are so afraid to try, vigilantly and cautiously, to make something work with these guys? Now it’s in the hands of the courts, I’m sure they’ll keep all of our interests in mind and this will work out great, and we’ll get reimbursed our legal costs.
Yes yes Bully, Leland is brilliant except in this one case. Sure Rob, these guys think that by filing the suit they’ll intimidate us and we’ll cower to them. Leland isn’t stupid, and SG isn’t stupid. We are in trouble, and if we don’t react as such we will just be in deeper trouble.
The “just say no” crowd is going to bury us.
The developer has only one real agenda—it wants ALL residential, one way or another. Their obligations are exclusively to their stockholders, not this town, and their sole goal is to maximize the finances. Period. End of story. There is no possibility of any win/win at this time because “giving” something to the town means taking away possible additional income from their stockholders. I don’t know and you don’t know what the board decision is going to be on CC but I assume SG thinks it is not going to give them the residential approval they seek. So, they evidently believe the pressure of the lawsuit is worth a shot. It is not a winner by a long shot but many a lawsuit is started because the plaintiff thinks it is “worth a shot” to see what happens in the filing aftermath. Read the complaints carefully, there isn’t much there. No, I don’t think SG or their lawyers are stupid, but having been a litigator for a long time, I know a thin complaint when I see one. Even where the prospect of success is highly unlikely, there are lots of reason for filing a lawsuit, in state AND federal court no less! Intimidation and running up your adversaries potential costs are two that come to mind. If anyone feels wrath, it should be against the developer. If this project goes through, every single homeowner will be impacted in many ways that have already be set forth in other posts on this topic.
Oh my lord, isn’t it clear the developer does not want to negotiate?????? It wants what it wants and nothing less. They have had every single previously commercial amendment approved but they tied up everything they really want in this multi-use proposal which is tied to the environmental study. Please don’t tell me they have done everything in their power to promptly move this along because that simply isn’t true. Just one example, as I recall, in the fall of 2008, they couldn’t even be bothered to provide a several hundred page document in electronic/searchable form even when repeatedly asked for that by the town. This meant the town slogging through everything manually which was very time-consuming. When they now cry delay by the town, pot meet kettle.
The temporary trouble of this lawsuit is nothing compared to what will permanently happen to this town if CC goes through as even partial residential. You think home values are bad now, just wait for that development to go through and then get bigger and bigger. (And, lawyers for SG, that will have nothing to do with the affordable housing “elderly or minorities” SG is suddenly so concerned for—and everything to do with fiscal net loss as homeowners support the condos at CC as well as the host of other problems to be created by it.)
The only problem is that if you lose a case that alleges these types of violations you have to pay the plaintiff’s fees as well.
you have been a sane voice, crying to the wind, for quite some time now. i fear everything you’ve said will come to pass. like you said, to take this lightly will be to our own peril. if the “just say no” crowd have an ounce of decency, they will cut a check to fight this, starting with rob greenstein. i won’t hold my breath though, this thread has been unusually quiet.
@Clittle I don’t think Leland has won every case he has tried and I do think he would take a case for the money. Don’t you?
I see it reasonable to agree to the commercial zoning changes and the parking variance. I do not see it as reasonable to grant the residential changes unless all the units are such that they are taxed as fee simple. I support development as long as you pay your share. Of taxes that is.
To “Blind person could see this coming”, once you said Clittle has been a sane voice you lost all credibility. And I agree, a blind person could have seen this coming…..no one should be surprised by the lawsuit or the weakness of plaintiffs’ claims. Many, however, are surprised by the timing.
Anyone experienced in land use and/or housing discrimination would understand what a difficult position the Town is now in.
To those advocating negotiation, please describe what you think would be a win/win.If that includes partial residential, please describe what will stop the owner from the property from coming back to add more and more condos over the years until they get up to the 300 plus condos they originally wanted or maybe even more if they take down the commercial buildings. I really want to know. I have read other posts over the past months about the problems with partial residential. I am worried that one step towards residential weakens the town’s ability to control the development and 300 or more condos would be a mess for this town.That is a fair thing to be worried about. I have lived here a long time and don’t want to see the character of the town chipped away at. Thanks.
I think we should be very grateful to Rob Greenstein and this website for encouraging this discussion and providing lots of information. I don’t know him or the people responsible for this site but they have been key players in an invaluable process regardless of what side you are on.I would rather be informed on such an important issue than stick my head in the sand.
“I support development as long as you pay your share.”
Will this be Exhbit 1 or Exhibit 2 in the plaintiff’s affordable housing claim? Its time to smarten up.
I am so moved by SG’s concern for people of limited income e.g.,the elderly, etc. Which limited income people are going to buy your 179 $1 million town houses and $700 thousand condos, or are you going to donate them?
This case deserves to be thrown out of court. It is an abuse of the judiciary system.
Smarten up? Yeah how about that. If you think that an anonymous comment on a local blog that could have been written by anyone including the developer himself is going to be exhibit 1, 2 or 1002, then you need to smarten up yourself!
This isn’t about discrimination. This is about money. The developer wants it, the lawyer Leland is going to get it and towns folks want to keep it.
To: “By Response to response to beachball”—
People differ in their views of affordable housing and the county settlement just as people in the U.S. differ in their views of just about everything. Our strength is that we discuss these issues openly. Individual comments are not scientific polls and never will be. They are what they are. They float ideas for discussion. For you to imply that they are evidence of discrimination in a legal action is foolish. Whether people support or oppose affordable housing, they are free to say what they believe.
I have made clear my opposition to any residential because, in short, once you open the residential “door,” there is no effective way to keep SG from coming back for more and more until the entire property is comprised of hundreds of units. That I honestly believe will alter the essential character of New Castle in a materially negative way—forever. Still I believe that people may have good faith disagreements about what to do with the property. For those who think SG is an entity that can be reasoned with, please consider the implications of the nonsense and antagonism that is spewing forth from the developer as to the “true” motivations of New Castle residents. They don’t hide it, it is right up from in Paragraph 3 of SG’s NYS complaint: “The Town’s motivations for indefinitely preventing any development and economic use of the Property are: (1) the Town’s continued desire to prevent, unlawfully, the construction of affordable housing units in New Castle, effectively foisting this social responsibility on other municipalities in the region; (2) to maintain, to Plaintiff’s economic detriment, the Property in its stately and bucolic condition, even though changing economic realities have made such a state of affairs economically unsustainable; and (3) to limit economic activity in the commercial portion of the Property so that the high-priced residential houses in the immediate vicinity of the Property can enjoy the benefits of having a sleepy, park-like campus atmosphere at the Property, essentially forcing Plaintiff to create economic value for the Property’s neighbors to the Plaintiff’s economic detriment.” [Cont.]
Why do I call this nonsense? First of all, even if you don’t agree with the particular concerns that have been voiced on this website about CC, in fairness you have to acknowledge that the vast majority of people have set forth genuine fiscal or quality of life issues they see stemming from CC. Not one of those concerns (e.g., taxes, school, environment, traffic, septic, parking)—not one—is included by SG in its paragraph 3. Doesn’t that tell you something? No, they rather reduce the dispute to claims of exclusion and discrimination, to another example of the supposed “haves” trying to keep out the supposed “have nots.” The real basis for the concerns won’t help SG in the press but what they have chosen to delineate will play into ginning up animosity towards New Castle and its residents. While not surprising, I suppose, it is offensive and it is one of the reasons people see this lawsuit as not being in good faith but rather primarily as an effort to intimidate. It is also a reason there appears to be no negotiating. When one party is so willing to dismiss reasonable concerns of the other, where is there room for talking? [Cont.]
As to (1) in Par. 3 above, while I am sure some Westchester County residents are opposed to the concept of “affordable housing” in their towns, it is not something that has crossed my mind and I have never heard it mentioned by anyone I spoke with in connection with this property. In fact, many people are not even aware that a small portion of the units will be affordable housing. What gets attention is the size of the non-affordable housing development and the potential for it to keep growing as well as all the quality of life impacts it would have. In addition, those condos are certainly not going to be cheap. (I know many people in New Castle who have been here so long they could not afford to buy a condo at the expected price.) So SG is highly likely to market them to a broad demographic, including the very same demographic that SG claims (based on statistics alone) makes up the bulk of existing New Castle residents acting in a discriminatory and exclusionary manner: relatively well off and non-minority. If those two criteria perforce make someone opposed to affordable housing (which is SG’s argument—not mine—about existing New Castle residents), how then can SG expect to successfully market their high priced condos? Obviously, they are not worried about that because SG does not really believe its argument is true. (But they will say or do whatever works for them. They also claim it is close to the commuting railroad, technically true since the tracks run right there, but you cannot say it is an easy walk to the station from there.) [Cont.]
As to (2) above, my main point is, they lay out their true end goal right there: they don’t really want all commercial because if they did, they would not be arguing that they are being prevented from changing the overall physical layout of the property. In other words, if they intended to keep all commercial, they would upgrade the existing buildings, maybe take down or replace some parts, maybe change parking but there would be no need to revamp the entire property. Instead, they are saying the property as presently laid out (meaning the existing commercial buildings) is “economically unsustainable.” That is the very argument that a property owner in the position of SG must make under applicable law in order to seek a use variance from commercial to residential. Although there is some language buried near the end of the complaint, about needing to utilize the office space, that paragraph 3 makes it clear that materially altering the “bucolic” property is key to them. Clearly, it telegraphs that the “commercial” aspect is merely a straw man for their true goal of a large residential development. [Cont.]
As to (3) above, this argument turns basic fairness not to mention the law, on its head. I live FAR away from this property, don’t know anyone who lives even close to it, and have only set foot on it for parking once in a while at a high school event. Other than occasional open events like the Easter egg hunt, I have never heard of the property being open for use by ordinary town residents. So all this talk of its purported “park-like” benefits is lost on me. I believe such wording is being used to create the impression, without expressly stating so, that people are using private land for public benefit which as far as I know is not true. However, if you assume that the abutting property owners get a benefit from looking out at the undeveloped property, my response is that of course the impact of proposed changes on existing homeowners should be considered as that is an important part of the whole zoning process. What homeowner would not be concerned about major proposed changes to abutting property? Wouldn’t we all want to be heard and our concerns taken into account? How would you feel if a neighbor wanted to add a third story to their home so that it towered over your yard? Or decided to build several permanent structures in the backyard crowding your view? Wouldn’t you be upset? I am not saying the views of the abutting homeowners control, but it fair to take them into account and indeed that is part of the established process. There is nothing arbitrary about what is going on here. [Cont.]
Lastly, it certainly turns reality on its head for SG to claim in (3) that it is being “forc[ed] … to create economic value” for the property’s neighbors by not residentially developing the land. As we all know, SG bought this property not so long ago in its present condition. No one is asking it TO CREATE anything. It is a sophisticated purchaser that knew what it was getting and whatever “economic value” exists is a product of their own decision-making process. It is completely preposterous for them to assert “economic detriment” from a fact pattern that does not exist. Again, doesn’t that tell you something about dealing with them now or down the road? Fairness, the facts, reason, considering what is good for the residents of this town—all out the window.
I have read these blogs for a while now, and it is clear that some posters drink Chappaqua CoolAid. This developer has active tax appeals (which they will win) and now 2 law suits that will cost our town significant dollars when we are already struggling. I find it hard to believe a compromise could not be reached and now whether true or not Chappaqua may be the test case for the County Affordable Housing agreement being watched by the federal government.
Look at what others in the county are saying about our hamlet on Lohud.com, not pretty! If the press continues with this story and they will, the negitive perception of Chappaqua will damage property values perhaps more than Chappaqua Xing… As for affordable housing i do not believe the intentions of the developer but the location and support of the Hunts Lane project is insulting to any affordable housing advocate.
Stuck between the train tracks and the Saw Mill….Really!
Your views on this matter have been consistent and principled from the start. You had done a very good job avoiding the temptation to demonize those with differing views, that is until now. Do you really think that comments such as “once you said Clittle has been a sane voice you lost all credibility” advance the discussion in any meaningful way?
By the way, not EVERYONE in Town loses if Summit/Greenfield gets approval for residential development. There are at least 500 property owners in the OUFSD who would likely see their town taxes go down with negligible impact on their quality of life and no impact on their schools. Town residents in the Pleasantville, Byram Hills and Bedford school districts may view the situation similarly. An argument in favor of residential development from any of the taxpayers outside the CCSD is just as valid and credible as your argument against it, and is likely to be as well reasoned and “sane” as your view.
Personally, I just want to see the tax base maintained. If that can be done with just commercial development, that’s fine with me. Forcing a fire sale that drives the tax revenue to zero and spending hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars on legal fees is something that I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to avoid.
I told you before the courts now will decide the fate of our town.
We the tax payer will also flip the bill. Yes Rob Greenstein my firm does this all the time as I stated before. SG is following the script as many developers have done before. Sorry gang they lead the town board right to courts where they needed to be. Rob where are your comments now, we need you, and you’ve been silenced, pity.
Yes. RG’s comment does advance the discussion.
It eliminates those who have questionable motivations. The two (or is it one?) who always tries to poison the well.
It is ironic that you, WestEnder, whose sole motive is to attack other posters is complaining.
The town board deserves our support and will get it to fight this lawsuit.
This is money well spent. Amazing how a developer can come to a town and hold the club of a lawsuit over its head if it does not change its laws to suit their financial interests.
It is an outrage!
SG is filing the lawsuit now b/c they think it will give them leverage with the Board and intimidate them into approving their application.
If it goes to court it will seen as premature and probably receive a summary judgment dismissal.
There is no case.
Maybe I am misunderstanding.I do not understand all the comments about how the town should have compromised.There are set out procedures and parameters a town must consider under the law.They have no choice.That is what our board is doing.It is not like a disagreement between neighbors that could be settled by finding a middle ground.
Such interesting comments!
Being in a hurry this morning, I’ll just say this. I have lived in this town long enough to see it live through it’s “certain destruction” multiple times. Every condo complex we built in New Castle spelled “the end of life as we know it” in this town, and “the ruin of house values and our schools”. Each time we somehow managed to live through it.
Let’s give ourselves credit here. We are smart enough to make this work, and while we shouldn’t just say no, or just say yes. We should intelligently, in good faith, find a solution rather than letting this sort itself out in court.
for anyone to suggest that dissenters are one and the same, i would suggest that those in agreement are one and the same. and for those who think defending this lawsuit is money “well spent,” speak for yourself. i’d rather pay some bills. the town could start fund raising by holding a fire sale for a pre-fab gazebo. perhaps some other town has a need for a trophy bench.
SG’s job was to propose, the town board’s job was to hear. But between those two jobs, there should have been a citizens’ committee to talk about what might work. There was, kind of, once. There were “visioning sessions” at Bell school, remember? But SG came out of them and forged on ahead to continue pursuing its big condo development plan. In the visioning sessions people said “commercial” and “assisted living for seniors” (as opposed to “senior living” for 55+) and SG never heeded that advice. Condos are costly to taxpayers. One-tenth of the housing stock is condo already. There are plenty for sale right now. Commercial or senior assisted living in the existing buildings would have worked.
Calm down about legal expenses, blind person. The town board has acted very carefully and fairly toward the developer and has had advice of counsel (both inside and outside) all along the way. Do you really think that the board has not carefully followed legal advice in this process? This is lawyer bluster by SG. Sit back and watch.
What exactly is questionable about my motivation? I have made my motivation crystal clear. I don’t want the town’s tax revenue from Summit/Greenfield’s property to continue to decrease. I would prefer to see it increase.
Am I particularly concerned about how many children from a residential development at Chappaqua Crossing enter the CCSD? No I’m not. How concerned are you about the hundreds of children living in illegal housing units that my taxes pay for in the Ossining schools(four of five families in a two family home, and since the code enforcement has to come from the Village of Ossining, where I do not live, I can’t even vote out the officials who refuse to do a thing about it)?
Do I care about the traffic backed up on Rt. 117 at the start of the school day? Not at all. How concerned were you about the dangerous road conditions on Rt. 133 heading down the hill to Rt. 100 while West End residents waited for over a decade for the DOT to fix the problem?
My motivations are different from yours. You just seem to think that what “all” of the people in the CCSD want to see happen is the only valid view on the matter. There are hundreds of properties and thousands of residents of the Town of New Castle that don’t live in the CCSD and have different concerns than you. It’s no wonder the comments on LoHud.com are mostly of the “Whiny rich Chappaqua folks should just shut up” variety.
Agree with The town board has acted prudently. They have done exactly that. They knew what they were doing.
SG would have gone to court sooner or later until they wiped out all the commercial and converted the entire property to residential.
The board has done a good job.
We support them all the way.
Boo Hoo, I have not been silenced at all. I will post a comment when I feel I have something to say. I will also use my real name. I’ve posted several comments in response to this article.
Also, as I recently mentioned to The Journal News, The Patch & The Wall Street Journal, these lawsuits are an obvious attempt to intimidate the Town Board right before they adopt a Final Environmental Impact Statement (“FEIS”) under SEQR, adopt the Finding Statements and decide on the proposed zoning amendments. The developer’s tactic seems to have worked on you. But the Town Board must not be intimidated – we have the facts and law on our side!
I would also add that I agree 100% with “Think Again”, once again. It’s worth reading.
Ahhh! Now your real motives emerge. You could not help but to reveal them, (@ come clean-West Ender-Clittle).
You are upset about the Ossining school system and the poor immigrants who live there, as you state “four or five families in a two-family home” that “my [your] taxes pay for” and “that you can’t even vote out the officials who refuse to do a thing about it.”
You should sign yourself “green with envy.”
The town board has acted strictly according to the law. The lawsuit is no surprise. It was coming.
Why the developer has brought it right before the final deadline, which they themselves set and the board was honoring, is a legal mystery.
The court will probably have the same reaction. In that sense it is a frivolous legal action and the town should be financially compensated.
the operative words in this case are affordable housing. No matter waht happens now with respect to the Readers Digets Property, the developers case and the law suits that will follow will be haunting and costing the Town for years in the future.
The 11:11am comment above is mine. I flagged the post I was replying to in the wrong box…
Agree with Rob Greenstein.
The town board followed the law to the letter under SEQR. They were following the protocol of the FEIS toward a final decision on the Applicant’s petition for rezoning when they were interrupted by this lawsuit. It is just for the purpose of intimidation.
It is doubtful that SG will continue with a lengthy lawsuit that prevents any town decisions on their CC property, allowing it to hang in limbo with no variances for their commercial space and for parking for years.
Their lawsuit is just strategy hoping to intimidate the board and the town board should not fall for it.
RG is right—no surprise, weak case. Knew it was coming. The timing is strategy.
This is an obvious one.
To Mr. or Ms. “I will personally write a check to the town for a litigation fund to fight this”[otherwise known as Yawn 3/1]…. you know where town hall is. Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is. We need it. How can we say no to teachers for our children, but it’s ok to fight a lawsuit in which we have no chance. I would like to know who has the connections to the litigation team that is opposing the suit. And how much money those litigators are making off this.
Are you joking? In the first place, there are only three of them involved at this point. Second,New Castle will never be the same after this utter fiasco is complete.
could you provide a link for the comments you mentioned? i been looking without success.
To Rob Greenstein:
First, thanks for all your help on this. I have one question: Is there a way to subject the SG plan to federal oversight based on their transparent claims that they want to build “affordable” housing? They seem to be making lots of claims about economic sustainability, but is true affordable housing sustainable under their plan? Will they be providing shuttle service to the train station to make up for the fact that the development does not comply with the “distance to public transport” requirement?
B/t/w this whole “affordable housing” debate is absurd. I lived in affordable housing in the past and it was near the highway, which is why it was “affordable”. Now I can afford not to live near the highway and in a lovely town that did not discriminate against me when I bought my modest home. Perhaps since my “race” has experienced historical discrimination, I deserve to live in a more exclusive town like Bedford, in a bigger house, with a larger yard. Like I said, “Absurd”!!!
“We have the facts and law on our side!”
What a silly comment. I hate to say it, but the developers legal strategy here is brilliant, New Castle has built only a few affordable housing units in the last decade. When a federal Judge hears that, the Board and Town will get slammed.
Leland is not in control here. He was just stuck on the case. Look at the signature block and do some research.
Suing Board Members individually was gratuitious and repugnant.
There’s only one way to respond, and it’s not by inviting Greenfield over for coffee. This a war, and we’ll need to knock out the suit.
Since when are $700,000 and $1,000,000 dollar town houses affordable?
179 of them!
Talk about silly comments!!
“Minority” Chapp Resident, you raise 3 very good points….SG’s claims that they want to build “affordable” housing, true affordable housing may not be sustainable under their plan and their development does not comply with the “distance to public transport” requirement?
The fact is that the Town Board has no power to ensure when, or even if, these affordable units will be built. Summit Greenfield is proposing to build primarily market units – 60 fee simple townhouses & 119 market rate condos. We cannot know, nor can we ever have control over, the staging of construction on the Chappaqua Crossing site. The market rate units will most certainly be attempted first and the developer may never reach the point of building the affordable units. And the 20 affordable units will NOT comply with multifamily planned development requirements, nor the HUD settlement. They are not located near shopping, community facilities and public transportation. They are in an office park two miles from downtown, unconnected by sidewalks.
It continues, the majority of posters here continue to drink the Chappaqua Cool Aid. Can a town full of attorneys agree on anything? I laugh at the attorneys who post here indicating they will contribute time and cash for the Chappaqua Defense Fund, how long would that last? All of New Castle will now suffer for what those who live in the CCSD wanted… once again.
It seems that few people have not realized the fact that New Castle is facing a battle not with SG but with the County and the Federal Monitor, PERIOD! Face it, since the settlement, Westchester has essentially done nothing for affordable housing and has been admonished by the monitor. If I were the Federal Monitor, I would certainly look very closely at Chappaqua’s record since Berenson, and closely at the Hunts Lane Proposal and come to the conclusion that Chappaqua is continuing to stiffile real affordable housing that is integrated into the community. The county is obligated by the settlement to use all means including legal action to force communities to comply. What do you think – Will the Republican County Executive like to sacrafice a liberal democratic town like Chappaqua?
“By as it turns out” is correct this will haunt us for yeas to come and the and you can bet the farm/mansion that if the Monitor gets involved…GAME OVER, the entire town will loose.
Reply, what’s silly is thinking that a Federal Judge will ignore the SEQRA process, the FEIS, the Finding Statement & the truckload of documents in the administrative record and decide the fate of this dense residential development based on “New Castle has built only a few affordable housing units in the last decade. When a federal Judge hears that, the Board and Town will get slammed.”
But, since you brought up the smallest component of this dense residential development, the affordable housing component, I will address it. The Town Board is not opposed to affordable housing. The New Castle Town Board already approved a local law that adds workforce housing to permitted zoning uses in parts of downtown Chappaqua in an effort to bring affordable housing to the area. (”Town board eases the way for affordable housing in downtown,” NCNOW.org, June 25, 2010
The fact is that the affordable housing component is the only appealing part of SG’s denise residential development. But SG’s 20 affordable units do not comply with multifamily planned development requirements, nor are they responsive to the requirements, intentions and spirit of the Westchester Fair Housing Settlement.
The Hunts Lane proposal, on the other hand, satisfies the conditions of an MFPD and of affordable housing that our town code and the Settlement require. Hunts Lane fulfills which Chappaqua Crossing does not, in that community facilities are within the half-mile requirement. Shopping, the Metro-North train station, library, post office, pharmacy, a hardware store, delis, Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks, a variety of restaurants and take-outs, senior community center and more are within walking distance, plus there are sidewalks. [cont]
And we have the certainty that the Hunts Lane units will be built as affordable units since that is the sole mission of the developer on this site. Unlike Summit Greenfield, the Hunts Lane developer specializes in the development and management of high-quality, affordable housing communities.
Unlike Summit Greenfield’s proposal, these affordable units don’t come bundled with a dense residential development. Unlike Summit Greenfield’s proposal, these units don’t come at the expense of losing our last large commercially zoned property and they don’t risk bankrupting our school system.
For good reason, the Town Board has been very receptive to the Hunts Lane affordable units project.
Really Rob, The Hunts Lane Project from the settlement persepective does not need to meet the MFPD requirements. If you think the Hunts Lane is integrated into the community you are kidding your self. It may fulfils what you believe is appropriate for low income housing where it is stuck between the Saw Mill and the MTA tracks where everyone can point at it, but that is not what the settlement requires and certainly what the Monitor will like.
I agree with ByStander and disagree with “Minority” Chapp Resident.
After this is over, the only “federal oversight” will be of the Town of New Castle.
Bystander, many people who live in affordable rental housing don’t have cars. They need to be near downtown for their shopping needs, as well as for public transportation. You are entitled to your opinion as to which site satisfies those criteria best. But for anyone to accuse New Castle of being opposed to affordable housing because 20 affordable units are being added to a dense residential development with so many negative economic impacts—financial analysis has shown it to be a very-short-term positive and long-term negative—is disingenuous.
Objecting to affordable housing at Reader’s Digest and suggesting that it instead be put in an industrial area like Hunt’s Lane between the Saw Mill and RR tracks is exactly the type of comment that the plaintiff is going to use on their affordable housing claim.
Objections to Chappaqua Crossing’s proposal are objections to ANY housing as impinging on the commercial potential of the site, not to affordable housing. SG’s lawyers are trying to spin the story another way. Clearly, this is their strategy. And they’re allowed to try. But spinning doesn’t make it so.
I like “Think Again’s” term “non-affordable units” to describe the market rate condos. Not only are they high-priced condos but they are going to help boost our already “non-affordable” school taxes.
You may try to rewrite the objection to encompass “ANY housing,” but there’s enough on the record to suggest the objections were directed to condos, apartments and increased school population (families with school children) so as to give the housing discrimination argument some traction. That said, I hope you are right.
Hey, Wake Up. Where do YOU suggest that the affordable housing be put? Do you not understand that the settlement requires the affordable housing have access to public transportation and services? Take a drive around Chappaqua. Where would you put it!?
When I was growing up, I would have loved to live in what “Wake up” calls the Hunts Lane “industrial area.” I did not feel entitled to a Million Dollar home, but rather was raised to believe that I had to work at it. I take personal offense at the characterizations being made by certain posters that suggest the town of Chappaqua is engaging in housing discrimination. That argument is feeble and an embarrassment. By the same logic, I should be entitled to a 5th ave apartment near the Metropolitan Museum of Art that overlooks central park. Oh and throw in a membership to the Metropolitan Club while you are at it. I simply can’t afford it, but last I checked there weren’t a lot of “my people” living there. Can’t you see how utterly ridiculous your argument is and that the more you repeat it the less convincing it is?
It makes no sense at all to have affordable housing several miles from town. It is a long hard walk from RD to town particularly in bad weather and the Bee Line buses don’t operated often enough or early/late enough for a lot of jobs or even shopping. There are something like 10 buses over a 12 hour period starting around 6:45 am and ending around 6 pm. Then there is the weather and service suspensions. It all makes it pretty rough to do things you need. But it’s a whole different story in town where the train alone can take you lots of places. Just my 2 cents.
Many of you may not know that when SG bought this property they came to the town board because Readers Digest had multiple tenants not just 1 as called for in the BR0-20 zone.
The town board changed the zoning at their request. Then they came back to the board for another change because Pepsi was going to move in which the board was willing to act on very quickly. Pepsi fell through. Anyone buying property does their homework. Did SG think residents would not react badly to housing with 50 foot tall buildings? New Castle Fire District 1 does not have 1 truck for this type of building. We cannot depend on Mt. Kisco to respond in the event of a problem. No where have they addressed the additional cost to the district if they get their big buildings. They have also not addressed the additional cost if decking has to be built at the train station. Wake up and be aware the hidden costs will raise taxes for many who do not even live near the site.
As you all know, I have advocated vigilant negotiations with the developer. I asked in one of my previous posts about all of the doomsayers who were against the first, then the next, then the next, then the next condo development in town. They all spelled the end of the town as we knew it. I could take almost every negative post from here and find a comparable article in the Patent Trader or Reporter Dispatch as each development was debated. It was widely believed, and people were as certain as you opponents are now, that it would ruin the schools, destroy our real estate values, create unmanageable traffic, etc. Somehow this town has survived all this and by my count we have at least 5 condo complexes, and all is well.
I’m not saying we should be frivolous, I’m just saying we can manage this thing if we handle it right. In my view the biggest risk is in turning this over to our court system, or being so obstinate that we are temporarily satisfied with a delay but then the ending is a disaster.
Let’s talk to them, in good faith, with an objective to find a manageable solution for us that is acceptable to the developer too. No naysayers allowed, no wimps allowed, but a committee (or the board) committed to a resolution.
clittle, your reality is a bizarro-world opposite to what happened here. SG practiced its spin on this community from Day One. It packed meetings with actors, it hired the son of a prominent town personage, it sent out brochures making bull**** claims of tax revenues to the town over and over again. Its publicity people watched our school board meetings and then told us in mailings “You could sure use the taxes from our condo development to pay for a lot of teachers and whiteboards and chalk or whatever” and generally treated us like idiots. Didn’t you see all of this over all these years? Were you living here at the time? SG basically insulted our collective New Castle intelligence. And they never ever listened to what people were saying. They just have it in their heads STILL to make out like bandits with a large condo development. At our expense.
This is a zoning issue and zoning issues followed established procedures. There is no option for an ethical local government under NY law to do anything other than what our board is currently doing. When towns short cut established zoning procedures, they do end up in court. There are thousands of cases along those lines. There are no specific discussions that can go on at this time with the developer without making it appear the town is short cutting established procedure. The board has been trying NOT to end up in court.
For those of you who’ve been wondering whether we should have or could have negotiated with SG, this “in terrorem” move on the part of the developer—a lawsuit in which he implies that the town has, in effect, “taken” something from him by not granting him his zoning change and that the town should now compensate him by buying the property—shows even more clearly what has been apparent from SG’s first Big Ask for 348 condos: that SG’s appetite is huge and if we give him an inch he’ll take a mile. It’s not a matter of the latest ask for 199 units. He wants much more. Having failed to persuade us that we should fork over a zoning (residential) that will greatly increase HIS return on investment while fobbing the costs off on residents, he’s making a grab to have us compensate him for his bad investment.
What benefits the town is commercial revenue from this commercially-zoned property.
Now that the town board is so close to making a decision ON THE MERITS of SG’s application, SG attempts to intimidate and distract from THE MERITS OF THE CASE by filing lawsuits in state and federal courts. SG, this is a town full of lawyers who are unfazed by this latest ploy.
Just for the record, I consider my questions and proposal to be completely unanswered. In fact, the responses to my post only lead me to believe that we this opposition is generally being dominated by a group of people who are not thinking clearly, who are emotional, and who are unwilling to open their minds to reason (this would exclude many who thoughtfully oppose, but unfortunately includes too many from our community).
Please give me some sound, unemotional arguments. Why is it that in 5 or 6 other instances in the past we were predicting doom exactly as so many of you are today and it didn’t come about, that this time doom is imminent? Why is it that we won’t sit down and talk and negotiate with the SG side? Again, we can always walk away, but we have never have sincerely and deeply engaged the other side.
I’m OK with being obstinate and saying “absolutely not”….but not until I engage sincerely and focus on a constructive solution and the other side let’s me down. We are not there yet.
Sorry the other people on this site do not share your superior intellect.
What exactly is your proposition other than “sitting down.”
Are you well acquainted with SEQR and have you read the County Affordable Housing Settlement with HUD?
They are available and there is even a SEQR Handbook.
The town board, two of whom are attorneys, and their internal and outside counsels are more than acquainted with the laws that the town board must follow.
It has all been so thoroughly explained by Rob Greenstein and others.
Sorry there are no tutors available right now, they are all busy in the spring semester with the high school students.
Hey someone cites a really interesting case in comments to Rob Greenstein’s letter to the editor. Here’s the case:
“Frooks” is certainly of help. Y’all should read it.
You gotta see this! It’s in legalese, but pretty comprehensible, honestly.
Dear “Ignorance is Bliss”,
Your posting is a shining example of why the developer turns to the courts rather than to try to overcome the hateful, obstinate, mean-spirited nature of some of the opposition (again, not all of the opposition) to this project. Were I them (and I am not!) I would have concluded by now that the only way to get anything done with this property is to file suit. They see and hear people like you and they say “how in the world do we reason with a person, or group of people, like that? We will never reach even the most reasonable compromise”.
It’s obvious what we have been doing here, and to simply throw the SEQR Handbook and HUD regulations at me as a response to my questions is to obfuscate the issues. We have been using every tool we have to delay and discourage the developer, and to drive up their expenses hoping that they’ll give up at some point. I guess if that strategy ends up working it will be worth it to the opponents. It’s just not the way we should do things, it isn’t what I would expect from an intelligent, informed, business-oriented set of professional adults in our community.
And for a 3rd time I ask you Ignorance is Bliss…why is doom imminent this time, and why should we believe it is when 5 previous times we had an even gloomier forecast prior to each condo complex coming in?
We can manage this if we are thoughtful, but not if we apply our intelligence to a delay, obfuscate, and litigate strategy.
The most material problems with this condo development are: 1. The RD property is the last chance for the town of New Castle to retain existing commercial structures which, when fully marketed, has a reasonable prospect of injecting monies into the tax base (this did not apply to the other condo developments in town); 2. The residential development’s proposed size both in the current stage and in the likely ultimate projections is quite large and has a significant risk of becoming a net fiscal loss for the town just on a comparison of per student costs to property taxes but there are a host of other costs in the picture (even if this applied when the other condos came in, it is clearly a major issue now and so far there is no way around it); 3. There are environmental concerns in the form of septic/sewer issues (don’t know if this was an issue with the other condo developments but under current state law it involves a significant analysis); and 4. The town roads, in my opinion, in that area are already extremely crowded and simply cannot absorb yet another development without significant detriment to the community (since the other condos were built, the town has grown significantly).
Today was an example of a problem that ties into the proposed development at RD. Chlorinated sewage was discharging into the wetlands on the east side of the Saw Mill, right by RD, starting at 12:30 am and going on for many hours due to an inability of the pump station to handle the rain. 300 gallons per minute was the estimate of what was flooding into the surrounding wetlands. The parkway north was closed for a long time because of it. It is a credible environmental concern what a condo development housing many hundreds of people would impact this area.
Frooks is very interesting.
Two other reasons this development is different—taller proposed buildings which will have much different visual impact that the other condos and will possibly require different fire equipment to service the residences at the heights involved; and not enough parking unless CC keeps the land it said it would donate to the town as an incentive for approval.
It goes on and on. There are so many problems with CC, that if residential rezoning were ever to be approved for that site, there will be continuing lawsuits over the years.
The town will never be free of them.
As many comments above show, there are quite a few people who have thoughtful, reasonable and non-emotional reasons for opposing the residential development of RD. These concerns are the very ones the town board is considering as well. The Frooks case mentioned above support what the board is doing and completely knock down the approach of SG.
Taller buildings? That’s the best we can come up with? The chlorine can be managed, everything within reason can be managed. We have a desired conclusion in mind and we come up with anything possible to rationalize that conclusion being the right one.
This will be like opposition to so many things. We’ll feel we have the right point of view and that our justification will win the day, and convince ourselves the other side is completely in the wrong….and then, the development will proceed nonetheless, likely with far less control from the board and our citizens. This is how the first few condo complexes were built, how Seven Bridges was built, the new town bridge, etc.
CLITTLE – you ask many questions and then are frustrated by the answers you get. You want to negotiate “in good faith” with the developer. Let me ask you a question…in what way shape and form has this developer earned the right to be treated as a fair negotiating partner? How can we negotiate in good faith with party that has not been honest with us from the start? SG bought a commercial parcel of land for commercial purposes-period. While Readers Digest was still a tenant , SG began to make proposals and ask for accommodations of our town. They start with one proposal, amend , add, change it into another. It has been going on for years. They use excuses and lame explanations. 400 condos? 199 condos, senior housing? affordable housing? Tech center? parking issues? It’s never ending.
The bottom line is that SG bought a commercially zoned property. They bought at the top of the market and have since lost a key tenant. They are looking to the New Castle taxpayer to ease their burden, lessen their load and absorb their losses. Why should we? If they had spent as much time and energy properly developing, preparing, and marketing for commercial purposes these last years they would already have the commercial tenants they need to begin to recoup their losses. How do you bargain in good faith with that?
I have been here over thirty years and have not a clue what you are talking about in regards to how the other condo complexes were built having “far less control from the board and our citizens.” Please explain.
This was a post months back:
In clittle’s dictionary, those few supporting CC are “fair, reasonable, balanced, and prudent”, while the majority of our residents who oppose CC are “obstinate, unreasonable, defensive, emotional, unbending, and impolite”. If I am the developer, I will give clittle a medal.
By majority NC voters and residents united against on 10/19/2010 at 11:30 pm
Yes, in this town, the height of buildings does matter and the zoning laws dealing with building height apply to us all. But it has been clearly and repeatedly stated that there are many other credible issues with CC being developed residentially. By the way, the NYS law that the town must follow mandates that the “essential character” of a neighborhood be considered when a property owner like SG is seeking a use variance. There is no way around this requirement under the law. Currently, that neighborhood is made up of only one and two story buildings above grade. Same general idea applies to the sewer issues. The law does not allow the town to just assume they can be handled. A lot of work goes into that determination and this is one of the things the town board is looking at.
I think the idea that this development will generate a net fiscal gain for the community is totally wrong. I could be slightly off in the numbers I am about to recite, but as I recall, if more than 60 school age kids occupy the 199 units in this development, then the average cost to educate those kids will exceed the taxes generated by the development. I think the developer estimated that 58 kids would be in the development. So if two more are there, it is a wash. To me, numbers like 58 or 60 for basically 200 homes with 2 or more bedrooms is ridiculously low. The school board said there would be 100+. I forget the town’s estimate, but it is more than 58 that is for sure. If there are 199 units, I think there will be 199 kids or something like that. People move here for the schools. I know lot of people in houses and condos who are waiting to sell now that there kids are done in the schools and every single one of them expects to sell to a family with kids.