Town-Gown talk on topics of mutual interest and impact

December 19, 2008
by Ann Marie Fallon and Christine Yeres

On Tuesday, the Chappaqua School Board and the New Castle Town Board met for an hour in a joint meeting held in the academic commons at Horace Greeley High School.

Update on Reader’s Digest property DEIS review by town board

Town Board Supervisor Barbara Gerard gave an update on the Summit Greenfield proposal for the development of the Reader’s Digest property.  She stated that the Board is still reviewing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or DEIS, for completeness. Board members have noted several gaps in the document that need to be filled. They do not expect their response to be ready until the beginning of 2009.

[Editor’s Note: In a town board work session later the same night, Summit Greenfield’s attorney asked the town board to inform his client of those gaps now. The board’s attorney advised against it, since the board has not yet fashioned its findings into a finished report. The board agreed with him.]

School Board President Jay Shapiro offered to provide to the town board the traffic studies of the Roaring Brook Road area that were completed eight or nine years ago when the possible siting of the new middle school on the Greeley campus was being investigated. School board member Janet Benton stated that a number of variables had evolved since then and that the information may be outdated.

Traffic concerns relating to Bell Middle School

The two boards discussed traffic concerns relating to the pickup and drop off of students at the Bell Middle School. According to Town Administrator Gennaro Faiella, he and Martin Fitzgerald, the principal of the Bell Middle School, and others have been actively working together to improve the current situation. Their proposed plan would address, among other items, adequate parking for teachers and visiting parents, children walking to school, bus pickups and parent pickups of students with the goal of keeping all these activities separated.

Joint contracts

The Town and School District have entered into a joint contract for trash removal and are considering joint bidding for asphalt and field maintenance.

Parking at Reader’s Digest for Northern Westchester Hospital employees

Supervisor Gerard noted that the off-site parking for Northern Westchester Hospital has begun at the Reader’s Digest property.  She asked if there have been any notable changes to the traffic patterns at the high school. School board members responded that there were no changes worth reporting. School board members described the recently implemented drop off policy at the high school, which forces cars dropping students in the morning to drive all the way to the front entrance of the high school, then down past the gym before turning left and out of the campus.  Preventing cars from dropping off in the parking aisles brings more cars more quickly into the campus, decreasing the number of cars waiting out on Roaring Brook Road and clogging up that intersection.

Pending tax certiorari cases, possible tax revaluation for New Castle

The town board provided the members of the school board with a document prepared by Town Assessor John McGrory on pending tax certiorari cases. Such cases are a source of worry to both boards, since some certioraris have – and others may still—result in a decrease in tax revenue. Although the Town of New Castle and Chappaqua Central School District are not coterminous taxing authorities, changes in revenues impact the budgets of both. Supervisor Gerard stated that the town board is interested in conducting a town-wide revaluation of properties that would bring them to full market value as opposed to the assessed value currently found on tax bills. This exercise would cost the town approximately $1.3 million and take two or three years to accomplish. The last revaluation of properties in New Castle was in 1978.