Town board gives developer Summit Greenfield an “Incomplete”

Janaury 30, 2009
by Christine Yeres

The town board delivered its scoping document 11 months ago to developer Summit Greenfield listing its worries about the environmental impact of the project proposed for the former Reader’s Digest property. That project calls for the construction of 278 condominium units and no-limit on the number of commercial tenants permitted in the existing Reader’s Digest buildings. 

Summit Greenfield returned its answers to the board last October in a document called a “draft environmental impact statement,” or DEIS.  Since then, town board members have plugged away at the developers DEIS, a series of documents contained in several volumes that measure 20 inches in height. The developer has declined repeated appeals to supply the board with a searchable-disc copy of the documents.

Last Tuesday, January 27, at its regular meeting, the board announced that it had finished its review of Summit Greenfield’s responses and declared the DEIS incomplete. The board’s conclusion is documented in a 39-page list containing 273 points about which Summit has an obligation to provide more information. Click here to view the board’s response.

For the many who have been unable or unwilling to view the mountainous DEIS (one copy at the Chappaqua Library, another at town hall, neither to be removed from the premises), this “Summary of the Completeness Review” is a valuable peephole into the nature of the answers originally provided. Naturally, the town board’s summary is limited to pointing up the deficiencies of Summit’s DEIS, since that is the town board’s duty under New York State’s Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQR.

The 273 points are divided among such headings as “Land Use and Zoning” (p. 11), “Socioeconomic and Fiscal Conditions” (p. 12), “Land, Water and Ecological Resources” (p.13), “Community Facilities and Services,” (p. 19), “Utilities” (p. 24),  “Traffic, Transportation and Parking” (p. 26), “Community Character” (p. 31). There is an intriguing “Irretrievable and Irreversible Commitment of Resources” (p. 34) section under which is an instruction to the developer to find out more about the possible presence of bog turtles on the property, since execution of the proposed project “could lead to an irretrievable loss of habitat for this endangered species.”

What happens next?

In her Supervisor’s Report, Barbara Gerrard laid out the next steps. “The Applicant must … revise the current DEIS and when they believe they have addressed all the points this Board has identified, re-submit a new ‘red-lined’ DEIS which the Town Board and its consultants will again review for completeness.” 

Summit Greenfield may take as much time to do this as it wishes, but once they have submitted their red-lined copy, the board “must make a determination of completeness within 30 days.”  Afterwards, the board will give notice of a public hearing to learn what residents think of the effects of the proposal and the acceptability of the mitigation measures proposed.

In the meantime . . .

The board is in the process of reviewing several proposals from planning firms who may have some ideas about ways for the town to maintain some of the Digest property for public use. Suggestions have included the creation of a ball field, preservation of the Wallace Auditorium, a new home for NCCTV.  “More ambitious,” said Gerrard in her statement, “would be construction of a recreation center and pool, something the town has tried to acquire for its residents for many years.” 

Gerrard concluded her report by saying, “What happens on that very beautiful site will affect this Town for the next 50, 70, maybe 100 years. The Town Board continues to be concerned about the development of the site, and will examine every option open to us as we work through this process with both the Applicant and all our residents.”