Open letter to the community: Petition opposing residential zoning at Chappaqua Crossing

August 20, 2010
by Rob Greenstein

I was taken aback by town attorney Clinton Smith’s remarks in the Town Board meeting of August 10, 2010, regarding the town board’s authority in enforcing its existing zoning code.

Mr. Smith said, “You have to realize that the town is not a party to the transaction. The town is the approving agency.  And one of those prisms [through which the board is obliged to look at the developers application] is the Fifth Amendment, which says that a person has the right to do what he will with his property, subject to reasonable regulation. That means that when you want to put a deck on your house you have to get planning board approval, but nonetheless that [approval] can’t be arbitrarily withheld.  If the town is to say ‘No, go away,’ there must be a rational, legally supportable basis in fact—and in law—for doing that.” 

Mr. Smith seems to be suggesting that the town board does not have the authority to enforce the town’s zoning, or that the town board must agree to a proposal even if it is shown by experts to be deleterious to the community. I can’t help but wonder if the Town Board is ignoring some very rational and compelling data, and that its is fear of litigation is causing members to turn in the direction of approving a zoning change.

The Town Board seems to ignore the fact that the property was purchased as a commercial property, and it’s still zoned as commercial property, with some few one-acre residential lots. 

The Town Board seems to ignore the submission by the Chappaqua School Board to the Town Board on September 25, 2009. “With this submission [members of the Board of Education]…seek to emphasize the potential financial burden associated with student enrollment resulting from the development of Chappaqua Crossing. . .  We are concerned that, to the extent that Chappaqua Crossing units do not pay their ‘fair share,’ this financial burden will be borne by all other CCSD taxpayers.”

The Town Board also ignores Gregg Bresner’s Op-Ed in dated 6/28/10, in which Mr. Bresner writes,  “The case here is very simple.  If the development goes forward as planned (the developer has already suggested that the 55-and-over age restriction on Chappaqua Crossing be removed), the education costs of the new children enrolled in the District will likely be borne in large measure through either drastic and deleterious cuts to our current programs, increased class sizes and/or hefty increases in the property taxes of residents outside of Chappaqua Crossing – you and me.”

Let’s show the Town Board that our community doesn’t fear litigation.  To that end, I’ve set up an on-line petition where members of our community can join in the fight to stop the current proposal for residential rezoning at Chappaqua Crossing.  Those signing this petition are willing to do anything in their power—including litigation – and to contribute time and/or money to fight the developer or to stop the the Town Board from approving the current proposal for residential rezoning at Chappaqua Crossing.

Take a look at our petition and, by signing, send a message to the developer and to our representatives on the Town Board that our community does not want them to approve the current proposal for residential rezoning at Chappaqua Crossing, and that we’re ready to fight to stop it.  Please pass the petition along to your friends in the community.

To view our petition, click Fight to Stop.

Rob Greenstein

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

“Mr. Smith seems to be suggesting that the town board does not have the authority to enforce the town’s zoning, or that the town board must agree to a proposal even if it is shown by experts to be deleterious to the community.”

Rob, I signed your petition, but your conclusions about Clinton Smith are ridiculous. He never said that the Town Board MUST agree to the proposal. He just stated the obvious, that anyone can petition the Town Board and the Town Board has an obligation to listen. As a matter of fact he asked the School Board to not hold back on info that might be important in the Town Board’s decision.

I feel the Chappaqua Crossing project rezoning should never be approved by the Town Board, but let’s not start slinging misinformation about what occurred at the Town Board/School Board meeting.

There is enough real stuff to attack about this project.

By M.Harris on 08/20/2010 at 8:06 am

Thank you, Mr. Greenstein. 

Your petition is a great idea!

Wondering why Mr. smith so eager to advance arguments, which are usually specious, in favor of Summit-Greenfield.  Can anyone answer that question for me?

Perhaps, we should have a petition calling for his resignation.

By Wondering on 08/20/2010 at 9:45 am

Mr. Smith’s attitude revealed by arguments ad nauseum, ad absurdum,in favor of SG are troubling.

As to his 5th amendment argument, it would seem that a zoning code would be presumed to be “reasonable regulation.”  The onus should be on the petitioner challenging the code to prove that it isn’t, rather than on the town to defend it, as he suggests.

If he opens that Pandora’s box, declaring the town’s zoning code invalid, we’ll all have a field day following suit.

That property has always been zoned as commercial.  SG subscribed to that designation when they bought it and essentially made an agreement with the town to abide by its regulations, as we all do, when they purchased it.

By What Is He Thinking? on 08/20/2010 at 10:04 am

Mr. Harris,

The town board has been “listening” for 5 years! 

How much longer do you suggest they should “listen”?

By In answer to Mr. Harris on 08/20/2010 at 11:50 am

Using Clinton Smith’s logic I suppose as a home owner in Chappaqua living in a community zoned for residential I have the right and ability to go to him and the town board and change my property to commercial. I can use my garage to fix and service cars, I can fire up my BBQ and open a cafe, and use the driveway to wash cars. I can make a few bucks to offset my escalating taxes. I hope my neighbors don’t mind all the noise and traffic. I knew when I bought my house it was a residential block but it seems Mr. Smith is opening the door for me and the rest of us to change the zoning to serve our own purpose at the expense of the community. I think not! Chapp Crossing is zoned and was purchased as commercial—PERIOD. No residential.

By What is he thinking? on 08/20/2010 at 12:10 pm

These must be the “dog days of summer”….

one resident compares the Readers Digest/Chappaqua Crossing project to opening a barbeque cafe at home, another notes that their must be a time limit for town zoning appeals, another implies that Clinton Smith is in cahoots with Summit Greenfield.

To: “By What is he thinking”….I don’t think the auto fix-it shop in your garage will fly….but the BBQ Cafe is worth a shot. Please make an arrangement to be heard by the zoning board. Do you think you will be offering take-out?

By M.Harris on 08/20/2010 at 4:26 pm

I’m signing the petition.  We can stop this project if we show the Town Board that we will support a decision to reject Summit Greenfield’s proposal.  They need backbone; we’ve got it.

By Lawrence Farms East Resident on 08/20/2010 at 10:02 pm

To M Harris-
I attended the meeting. Mr Smith’s attitude and and the way in which he was combative certainly should cause all of us to ask ” who’s side is he on”. As far as your characterization of “what is he thinking’s” comments—He did not compare Readers Digest to opening a BBQ cafe. I believe he pointed out that if SG-Chapp Crossing developer can convince the town board to change zoning to accommodate residential (even though that was not the zoning when it was purchased) then any homeowner (who bought in residential zone) should be allowed to change the zoning to commercial to suit their financial needs as well. We all know this is a non-starter—so if I can’t change my residential to commercial – SG should not be able to change their zone from commercial to residential.

By More Noise on 08/22/2010 at 9:28 am

Readers Digest founders, the Wallaces, purchased the residential lots as accommodations for visitors and corporate executives to use.  These were company uses.  Even they did not intend these for general purpose residential.  They would be mortified about this residential proposal.

By The Wallaces Would Not Approve on 08/23/2010 at 9:10 am

What does “there must be a rational, legally supportable basis in fact—and in law—for doing that” mean in this context?  The town largely has one acre zoning.  By all appearance this merely meets the hurdle of preference, essentially this is the way people in the town want it.  Putting aside all the very strong arguments against this project related to fiscal and other matters, I’m not sure why it isn’t enough to merely not want this type of development in the community.

By Concerned Citizen on 08/23/2010 at 3:07 pm

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