Review process for retail at Chappaqua Crossing gives planning board the jitters
Each box contains one copy of Summit Greenfield’s application. See a video of the work session in “Read more”
October 19, 2012
by Christine Yeres
In a Tuesday work session, Planning Board members revisited their concerns about the proposed zoning change that would allow a grocery and other retail uses at Chappaqua Crossing. They’ve been asked by the Town Board to comment on the zoning change and continued in the work session to tweak their memo.
For an account of the Planning Board’s first discussion of the issue two weeks ago, see Planning board weighs in on rezoning for retail at Chappaqua Crossing, NCNOW.org, 10/5/12.
Planning Board members continue to be uneasy with the Town Board’s request that they consider the zoning change before seeing details of the proposal in Summit Greenfield’s application. That application, as it turned out, had arrived the day before and sat in boxes on their dais, to be taken home to study.
The five pressed Town Planner Sabrina Charney Hull to hear what progress she’d made on scheduling the review of the town’s master plan. Charney Hull laid out a schedule of 1.5 years with assistance from the County in “base planning studies,” and two to three years if the town undertakes it without the help.
[Charney Hull will learn in November whether the County believes New Castle to be a good candidate for the assistance. Since the County doesn’t have resources to burn, one of the its criteria is “the will to complete a master plan.”]
Even with a shortened timeline for a master plan study, the Town Board has given the Planning Board the impression that the Chappaqua Crossing zoning amendment needs to be acted upon sooner, and has scheduled a public hearing date of Tuesday, October 30, for both the zoning amendment proposed by the town and the application submitted by Summit Greenfield.
Retail on the left, residential on the right, office across the top
“Third hamlet” worries
Planning Board members reiterated their worries that the zoning amendment would, in effect, create a “third hamlet” that would harm the existing Chappaqua and Millwood hamlets. They also disputed the requirement for stores at Chappaqua Crossing to take up “not less than 5,000 square feet.”
“We’re not retail developers,” said Planning Board member Tom Curley. “Once you start to build another hamlet, you need to let it be what it’s going to be. You don’t want to restrict its future. Just as you wouldn’t want to restrict Millwood’s future or Chappaqua’s future. You need to let it be what it needs to be—in a partnership with the town, obviously with all the restrictions on it, but you’re strangling its future potential for being a real, viable, lively, commercial center. The way to protect the other commercial centers is: Don’t build this one.”
“They’re taking for granted,” said Planning Board member Doug Schuerman, “that this proposal is meeting an ‘underserved’ market. I think that’s an issue. Tell us why this is an ‘underserved’ market. Some people have a perception that its underserved, some people have the perception that it isn’t. That’s why we want a study. We could suggest [in our memo to the Town Board] that they not rush into anything without an evaluation.”
“And are we comfortable,” asked Planning Board member Sheila Crespi, “with becoming a destination retail center? We’re inviting ourselves to be a destination retail plaza in the same way that Target in Mt. Kisco is.”
“That’s in the proposed master plan study we want,” said Curley.
“I’m questioning the desire and need on the part of the residents of the town,” said Schuerman.
“Does the town code permit drive-through windows?” asked Crespi.
“The zoning doesn’t prohibit them,” responded Les Steinman, counsel to the Planning Board.
“What’s clear to me,” said Curley, an architect, “is that this is a strip mall development, like Millwood’s. Now, however we feel about strip malls—whether some of us like them or not—I’ve done enough planning to know that the boundaries of a development can severely constrain any planning ideas that one might want to bring to the table. So I’m afraid that with the hard definition of this boundary—derived from a strip mall—the town may end up maybe boxing itself in to a particular kind of development when we could instead be a little more inventive about this, have a little more imagination. Which gets us to the process question….”
“A good segue,” said Steinman. “You’ll have a chance to review what’s in those boxes. There was a petition filed yesterday for a whole host of things including retail zoning. Also a SEIS [supplemental environmental impact statement] accompanying that document. I expect that the Town Board will acknowledge receipt of the petition, then refer it to the Planning Board for comment, just as it referred this [zoning] legislation to the planning board for comment.”
“But those are two separate tracks [the zoning legislation and the application], aren’t they?” asked Curley.
“Yes,” said Steinman, “and at some point the two of them may catch up to each other.”
“My point is that the need to catch up with each another,” said Curley. “The zoning legislation should not precede the application.”
“Yes, why are we even considering the zoning legislation?” asked Planning Board Chairman Richard Brownell.
“So let’s make a recommendation to the town board,” said Curley, “saying that planning should precede zoning and the legislation should wait until the community has gone through the process of understanding what they really want to happen up there.”
“Yes. We’re rushing to put the zoning in place,” said Crespi, “but first should come the study to see if there’s something viable there and that it’s something the community wants. This is sort of leapfrogging to talk about putting the zoning in place.”
“The application,” Steinman explained, “combines the request for a change in zoning with an application—which is how the multi-family zoning started too: [an applicant] submits a application for a new use along with the environmental review to support it.”
The video of the 1-hour and 18-minute work session is below: