UPDATE: Supervisor Gerrard on issues raised about Chappaqua Crossing in NCNOW letters and commentary
UPDATED Monday, July 19, 2010
Editor’s note: At the regular Town Board meeting last Tuesday, July 13, Town Supervisor Barbara Gerrard read aloud her Supervisor’s Report, which in large part addressed issues about Chappaqua Crossing that have been raised recently on the pages of NewCastleNOW.org through three letters to the editor and over 70 comments on those letters. Click HERE to see those three letters and the commentary attached.
NEW: Superintendent Gerrard’s July 13 Supervisor’s Report has generated an additional 40 comments on this topic, so we are rerunning the article to facilitate further discussion.
Supervisor’s Report, July 13, 2010
The Report this evening is a brief update on the Chappaqua Crossing application currently before the Town Board as lead agency for the application to increase their permitted number of commercial tenants and to receive approval for a residential community.
There are some hard facts both Summit Greenfield and the Town and all its taxpayers have to accept – and that is the imminent departure of the one-time sole corporate owner and then tenant, Reader’s Digest Association. There isn’t anyone in the entire Town who ever wished for Reader’s to depart from Chappaqua. Many residents were one-time employees there, or had family members who were.
But any analysis of the Chappaqua Crossing application must first give recognition to that overriding economic fact. And once Reader’s Digest is gone and no longer paying rent to the property’s owner, there will be changes. Without any additional revenue stream, I believe everyone understands that the commercial property owners would most likely be successful in challenging their real estate assessment. For commercial properties in New York State the value is determined by rent rolls. No rent, or a small amount of rent, makes a compelling case for reduced value and therefore reduced taxes – to the Town and to the Chappaqua School District. So for anyone who believes “nothing” should happen on the site, that “nothing” results immediately in higher taxes for all of us. No Town or School District expenses would go down, but there would be significantly less tax revenue from the property, which automatically results in an increase for all of us.
Recognizing that that option is undesirable for everyone, it falls to the Town Board to analyze the potential impacts of every portion of the application, and that is why the project, over five years later, is still under exhaustive review.
A few recent statements have been made that are in error, and I wish to make a few matters clear for all. It has been suggested that the applicant has “suddenly” decided to not use age-restricted housing. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is our understanding that the applicant is still intending to market the non-work force housing to “active adults – 55 and over.” And the plans for the proposed units contain mostly 2 bedroom units, with layouts designed for that demographic. It is this Town Board which insisted that the applicant have the entire project reviewed as not age-restricted because the comments that came in last year at both sessions of the public hearing made it clear the public (1) did not believe that having 55 or over would mean no children in the school district; (2) that the age restriction may not be economically viable, if not immediately then sometime down the line when the first generation would want to sell or will their property to “younger than 55-year olds;” and (3) that there was the issue of enforceability – which could conceivably be an issue for the Town.
The Town Board announced early last fall that we would analyze the impacts of any proposal as if there were no age restriction for purposes of impacts on the school district, while still reviewing the project as age restricted (because that continues to be the applicant’s economic decision) as to the issue of impacts on our Seniors Programs and our first responders’ preparedness. We thought it was clear that this was the Lead Agency’s determination for review purposes, not a change from the position of the applicant.
In addition, there appears to be some confusion concerning the methodology about how any residential units, should they be built, would be taxed. Although the applicant currently proposes some condominium units, which would be taxed as all condominium units are in New Castle, as commercial property and therefore dependent on – in some cases, “fictitious” rent rolls, the applicant has also proposed town house residences, which the Town would anticipate to be owned in fee simple as single family homes are and would be taxed accordingly.
Although the Town Board continues to discuss this project openly and all our minutes are posted on our web site, we regret that the above information has not reached some residents, and we hope this will offer some clarification.
There is currently a spirited discussion concerning whether the applicant should be allowed to create any residential units on that property because of the impact on the school district. Of course we are all concerned about maintaining the high quality of education this School District has been recognized for for so many decades. I have seen estimates of the potential number of school children range from 49 to 72, with some guessing there would be even more. It needs to be put into the context of a school district that is currently anticipating a sizable decrease in enrollment, possibly a decrease of over 200 students or more in the next several years. The BOCES report to which the School Board and the Town Board look for such demographic information is well researched and is the kind of information that is routinely used for guidance for such planning purposes. When one is considering the cost of educating each student, fixed costs per student go up as enrollment goes down, and the School District itself estimates that 27.1% of the cost per student is capital and administrative.
What all this means is that there are many, many variables to be considered in weighing the impacts of such an important project.
The applicant has indicated through its counsel that it will be presenting a further refined Alternative to be considered which purportedly will be addressing some of the issues raised by the public and the Town Board over the past 12 months. We look forward to seeing those refinements, hopefully before the end of this month.
In addition, the Town Board and the Chappaqua School Board have scheduled a joint meeting for August 10, 2010, at which point we anticipate having the opportunity to review many of these issues affecting the entire community.
Barbara S. Gerrard
For NCNOW.org‘s archived material on Chappaqua Crossing and Reader’s Digest, click HERE.
The supervisor sounds as though she’s preparing residents to hear that the board means to grant residential zoning. Why in the world would the town board not tell the developer to get serious about filling the RD space soon to be available instead of letting him focus his energies on making a fast buck on condos at the town’s expense? What ABOUT RD leaving? Does Ms. Gerrard think the answer to that problem is to grant residential zoning? I could understand it if residential units were going INTO the RD space. But the RD space STILL has to be filled.
Last I heard, only 44 of the 278 housing units the developer is asking for were townhouses. Ms. Gerrard makes it sound as though ALL of the units will be taxed as houses, not condos—but there are many more condos proposed than town houses!
Who’s wrong—the town board or the school board? The school board tells us we can only hope to reduce costs by a decrease in numbers of students. Yet the town board is clearly thinking that the empty space should be filled with new students/customers. They can’t both be right.
How, exactly, would handing the developer residential zoning solve the emptiness of Reader’s Digest? Remove the four-tenant restriction NOW and tell him to concentrate on renting it. THAT will get us taxes. Condo unit will COST taxpayers money.
The town board has been talking too much with the developer and has lost its mind. Consult with residents. We don’t WANT residential development in the form of condos up there at RD. What’s so hard to understand. Talk to voters, not to the developer.
It sounds like Ms. Gerrard has made up her mind in favor of the developers—which coincidentally might explain why she and some of the other board members refuse to engage in emails with town residents. Here are some of the facts:
1. Only four people (not five, Elise Mottel has recused herself from voting) will be deciding on this issue. And it appears as if some of them are not taking the wishes of their voting constituents into account.
2. Because a majority of the units have not been structured as fee simple, the town residents will bear the brunt of the cost of new students to the schools regardless of the enrollment (more students who aren’t footing the per capita bill DOESN’T make the cost of education per child go down)
3. The town has completely let the developer off the hook regarding filling his commercial space instead of concentrating on residential rezoning—this was why he got the lower price on the property—it was commercially zoned and we should encourage every effort to have him fill his commercial space—just as every other commercial property owner must do—in our town and surrounding towns.
4. The Boces predictions for student numbers are based on COUNTY-wide estimates. Those numbers do not apply to Chappaqua where EVERY condo development in town has more children than those predictions. The town board knows full well that as soon as the developer can’t fill his 55 and over units, he will sell to anyone (including designating a portion of those units to meet the county’s mandate for affordable housing. Let’s not ignore that this is in the cards…) That’s why the board wisely ignored the age-restricted zoning idea. So let’s not pretend that those units won’t be filled with children.
It sounds to me as though Supervisor Gerrard is preparing the town for a ruling accepting Summit Greenfield’s proposal, or some version of that proposal. If the developer is refusing to use the property for any purpose, commercial or residential, if it does not get its way—in other words, threatening to cause an increase in the town’s taxes by leaving the property vacant—then the town should not submit to such blackmail, but should call Summit Greenfield’s bluff. Let them leave. Let them sue. But let’s not sacrifice our privacy, traffic and the quiet character of our village—because the schools are not the only issue—to a developer who is bent on getting its way, regardless of what the voters desire.
Who in Chappaqua wants this housing? Nobody, so far as I can tell. Aren’t we the ones who make the choices? Who cares what Summit Greenfield wants?
We can win this fight if we don’t cave in to pressure tactics. I hope that the Supervisor realizes that, if the developer’s plans are approved, that won’t be the end of the matter. Many of town residents are attorneys, and attorneys can press for the rights of the citizens of New Castle, if the town authorities fail to do so.
The Town Board is looking out for the best interests of the TOWN. When are the folks in the CCSD going to realize that the Town of New Castle is not the same as the Chappaqua Central School District?? It’s bad enough that the State’s dysfunctional equalization system causes those of us who live in other school districts to pay higher school taxes than the rest of our districts because of the impact that the CCSD has on the Town’s equalization rate. Now you want our Town taxes to go up too (as the assessment on an empty RD campus goes down and down and down) because an additional 75 students is going to somehow destroy your school system.
Remove the four tenant restriction, allow some residential development and re-assess the entire Town treating condos just like any other residential property.
Fact – school enrollment is down and going lower. No surprise there. That is what we were warned when the “build the new middle school” proponents and school board pushed through Seven Bridges Middle School. Fact- Readers Digest is gone and tax revenues from the property will be going down. Fact- a just passed school budget increase combined with lower tax revenues from RD means the rest of us will be paying even higher taxes. Because we have the capacity to handle more students thanks to the school board’s push to build another and unnecessary school there is no reason not to consider residential housing in Chappaqua Crossing. The traffic argument holds no water because there will be less traffic with townhouses and condos than a bustling office complex with many hundreds of workers driving in and out everyday. Personally I am opposed to Chappaqua Crossing development but I see no reasonable grounds to stop it. Perhaps the developer pulled a fast one on New Castle but because of poor planning, past decisions, and a weakened economy the developer has some leverage. We certainly can not make the argument that our schools can’t handle more students.
To “facts matter”: There is NO WAY that students of condos at Chappaqua Crossing will pay their freight in the school system. Not the 44 townhouses (even if they are fee simple) and not the 200+ condos (which will be taxed at low condo rates). Residential will COST us all. Limited commercial will BENEFIT us all. Remove the four tenant cap and tell the developer to find tenants.
Janet Benton built the excess capacity at Seven Bridges. She should lead her board to find a way to deal with it. A solution? Abandon Bell—leave it to private development of shops and condos downtown—put fifth graders back in elementary schools where they are perfectly fine, and make Seven Bridges a 6-8 for all.
Bravo West Ender!- CCSD does not run this town. They made some very bad structural and economic decisions and ignored important demographic shifts. The school budget goes up, enrollment goes down, and the town needs the taxes. My children are out of the schools and I support any project that keeps taxes in check and preserves quality of life. I see no impact if 50 more students enter the school system. I see less traffic if we have condos instead of a busy commercial- office complex. We can hold the developer to the original agreement and play a game of chicken. We have much more to lose if Summit Greenfield sues or walks then if we allow and manage properly a condo/commercial solution.
West ender is mistaken, I believe, to think this is just about the schools. Summit Greenfield is talking about somewhere between 225-278 mostly two-bedroom condo units on that property. The infrastructure in that area simply can’t handle it (and I live on the other side of town so this isn’t coming from a neighbor but from someone who recognizes the traffic congestion that will result, especially right near our high school.) I have no argument with allowing Summit Greenfield to increase the number of commercial tenants to its property. When Reader’s Digest was fully occupied, there was commercial traffic, but office workers tend to come and go at predictable times.
Also, west ender is assuming that the taxpayers who occupy these units will be bearing the full brunt of their increased services. But unless every unit is taxed as fee simple, this is not the case. Taxes may go up—not down—as a result of massive residential building, especially if the town ends up taxing a chunk of them as affordable housing.
If Chappaqua wants to add tax base and is dead set on having some of it residential, let them build a few houses on the property. Those at least will be taxed at the full value of the services they will incur. The condos are just a vehicle for Summit Greenfield to get their money maximized quickly while we taxpayers foot the bill.
To By But…would you rather have an occupied Chapp Crossing with Town Houses/Condos and with students paying less “freight” or an empty Chapp Crossing generating no revenue at all? Because that is a very real possibility. An empty Chapp Crossing will COST us all not residential. You do not grasp the reality of the economic conditions when you suggest that we should tell the developer to “find tenants”. That is like telling the hundreds of homeowners in New Castle that have their houses up for sale to “find buyers”. If only it were that easy.
I am in complete agreement that we did not need Seven Bridges when it was built. (I voted against it despite having school-age children) And I also agree that down the line we might want to reconfigure our schools. But let’s not mix issues here. Seven Bridges exits and the school board probably built it by relying on “studies” and panicking when they should have considered the character of the town and our need to preserve open space.
But aren’t we doing the same thing here? We are willing to make a deal with a developer that will ultimately cause us to bear not only more congestion but higher taxes because we think that the numbers we are looking at matter more than common sense. Common sense says that more children in more houses doesn’t mean that we will have lower taxes (especially if they aren’t paying full freight). More people means more road work, more teachers, more classrooms, more congestion. This isn’t just a school issue, it’s a quality of life issue. Office complexes don’t disrupt the character of the town the way large-scale condo complexes do. Just look at Armonk and all their office buildings.
Dear facts matter:
You clearly have no idea how MUCH “less freight” is involved—enough to put us in the red. We don’t know what the developer can do toward finding tenants—no one’s pressuring him in the least to do so!
Town Board please understand that the community is behind you and thankful for the way you are holding to the rules developed and agreed over many years to maintain our community.
I wanted to add an addition to my house and you made me do that within the rules. I was not happy to have to limit what I did and you made me jump through hoops but in truth what you required made what I did more reasonable for the community as a whole.
What no one is saying but everyone realizes is that we like our community of single family homes and it is our community. If you allow changes in zoning to allow these large condo communities then where will this stop? The developer could come back to add more. I think I could fit 10 units on my land and make a killing but what does that do for the community?
The developer bought a property that was zoned a certain way based on what the community had agreed to. Let them have more tenants so they can keep to the existing use but let’s keep to the rules we have set for our community and not allow any change to be a detriment to it.
We are in support of you. Don’t let the developer frighten you with threats to leave the building empty. Let us do what we can to work with the developer but within the rules.
TO “lets not confuse..” Had the school board relied on the “studies” as you suggest, they would have heard that the student population would be declining a few years after construction. And that is exactly what happened. As the school budget is increasing even in the face of a decreasing student population and a strain on town budget increases all while real estate values crater we are certain to see a more rapid decline in student enrollment. Empty nesters can not sell their homes, new buyers will avoid New Castle and move to more affordable communities (also with good schools). That is common sense and reasoning. It may be unpleasant to hear but that is the reality.
Common sense also suggests that if the schools can handle the capacity and they certainly can thanks to overbuilding and ignoring those very “studies” you sighted then it would be better to have those students even at a reduced tax rate than have an empty Chapp Crossing and have no taxes at all. Common sense also suggests that the traffic and congestion associated with office workers who pile in and out at the very time our school children are picked up and dropped off is much worse then the associated traffic with a residential community.
I too am opposed to changing the character of our town and allowing the developer to “play” us. I agree with a previous post that suggested Bell School be converted to a downtown development so that we can begin to reclaim the appropriate structure our school system should have. I agree with the position that the CCSD board was part of this problem and should be part of the solution. So what did they recently do? – increase the budget when the student population is declining…Crazy!
Yes, she certainly is preparing town residents for accepting what the developer is proposing. That comes through loud and clear. Think again, Town Board, before going further! You have not answered the issues raised by the school board which need a thorough analysis. Stop with the simplistic increased taxes scare tactics. None of us want to pay more in taxes but that is the very point, the developer plan would result in more school taxes than are offset by property taxes. And what about the increased commercial tenant option? I know commercial real estate is down, but long term that may be the most viable option.
@By This is not just about the schools
I agree that if condos are built that the owners do not pay their fair share of taxes. That is why I closed my post with: “re-assess the entire Town treating condos just like any other residential property”
The Town is already considering a reassessment at full market value which will eliminate some of the equalization problems that residents outside of the CCSD are subject to. At that time, the Town can elect to treat condos the same as single family homes for assessment purposes. The Town would assess all residential property at full market value, rather than using the “income method” for condos. This will treat all residential property fairly, regardless of the form of ownership, and single family homeowners will no longer be subsidizing the condo owners. If this were done, residential development at Chappaqua Crossing would generate more than enough property taxes to support the additional students added to the CCSD.
Posters who suggest that the developer should just “live with what you bought” and then threaten to sue if the Town allows otherwise are being counterproductive. I have no desire to see my tax dollars spent by the Town defending itself from lawsuits brought by either the developer or aggrieved residents.
After years of petitions, filings, deliberations and disorganized public discussion, we have become overly confused about the core issue.
The owner wants zoning changes, and the town should consider granting zoning changes if they are in the town’s best interest.
The town’s best interest is doing whatever results in lower taxes for its CURRENT residents and businesses both now and into the future.
Any change in zoning for an individual or group of landowners in the town must be justified by a lessening of the tax burden on all OTHER CURRENT landowners who are not seeking rezoning for their own property.
Show us a believable case where granting the current RD property owners a zoning change will result in lower taxes now and into the future.
Without, at a minimum, confidence that our taxes are going down, we are naturally concerned that they will go up.
It may be, as Commissioner Gerrard points out, a foregone conclusion that the RD property is unlikely to generate the same tax revenue that it has historically under existing zoning.
And so our taxes have gone up and may continue to go up as a result of RD having vacated the property.
But changing the zoning to allow for different use of the RD property could (and seems WOULD, under the proposed plan) generate a higher net cost for the town PER CAPITA than we currently have.
If that is the case, we would be better off just leaving the zoning on the RD property as is.
The current owner does not wish to maximize the value of its investment under existing zoning, and continues to seek a variance through a protracted, confusing proceeding that (it seems) may be working to its benefit.
Rather than seek to maximize occupancy under existing zoning and reduce the towns overall tax burden, the owner is focused on a development plan that requires zoning changes and will increase taxes for the rest of us.
I don’t think that the community would be unreasonable or “living in the past” if we refuse to grant zoning changes without confidence that the town benefits (at least through immediate and projected tax REDUCTION) by doing so.
The calculation needs to consider the increased cost of public services for the increased population that would result from zoning changes.
Some incremental costs are easier to predict than others. But we need to agree on cost categories and apply sensible weightings to each cost category (based on confidence in accuracy) in order to properly consider the current property owner’s request for zoning changes.
Soft factors (like the communities concern regarding the conversion of what is effectively commercial + broad open space into a densely populated development + substantially less open space within a relatively sparsely populated, residentially zoned area) have to be considered, too. In the end, such “soft factors” have real economic impact.
But such “soft factor” considerations should be taken up once we have a solid handle on the incremental tax risk associated with zoning changes.
If zoning changes increase costs more than revenue, the town should just say no.
If the town reaches the conclusion that no zoning changes will be granted and the current RD property owner does not shift its strategy and focus on maximizing value through permitted use under existing zoning, the current RD property could consider selling the property to an entity comfortable with current zoning.
If the current RD property owner is successful in getting zoning changes that result in the town being incrementally burdened, why shouldn’t the rest of us? We might be able to extract similar profits by subdividing our property for incremental use. At least those of us who move fast and can persuade the town that incremental use is good for everybody!
I believe the Board needs to focus on the commercial space first and allow the developer to get multiple tenants for the space. The last thing this town needs is more residential units added to the inventory of homes that are trying to be sold in Chappaqua given this economic environment. Also the developer will have a hard (if not impossible) time getting financing from a commercial bank for a construction loan. They have already restructured their loan with their bank for the office building.
Final point—many of the real estate fund managers are in trouble and have liquidity concerns especially ones from the 2005-2007 vintage. Their limited partners do not want to put money in over leveraged properties where values have declined 30-40% from the peak. This is another issue that the town has to focus in on to make sure the property would actually be fully developed and not left half completed.
I would have had the town hire a firm to do a fairness opinion on the solvency of the developer/fund manager and a feasibility analysis of the market for construction financing/demand for the product. I believe an accurate analysis would prove this residential project is not feasible.
If you’re correct—and what you say certainly seems reasonable—the town would be up a creek if the developer either abandons an incomplete project or threatens to do so unless the town agrees to major modifications including, perhaps, a gross increase in the number of units permitted.
I agree with Lawrence Farm South Resident. The last thing that the Town needs is unsold housing or an unfinished development. Why won’t the developer go the commercial route? Is it because he is tied to his current plan by the unavailability of alternate funding? Why are we adding an enormous number of additional housing units to a market that is already glutted?
I’ve just heard on NPR that the backstock of unsold homes in the US is not likely to thin out until 2014. Okay—so this is Chappaqua, not Peoria. We know how many homes are unsold, and we know from Zillow.com what has happened to our values. Do we want to add additional residential units, built by a developer who may or may not be solvent?
The quality of life issues are not easily dismissed. We do not need crowded housing placed in the middle of a open space, residential area. Nor are the traffic issues associated with offices the same as those that arise from residential housing, where people own more than one car, drive in and out several times per day, at all hours. Moreover, office workers access the RD property mainly from the Saw Mill, not Route 117. That is why the RD property did not cause undue strain on our traffic; whereas the residential project will create an ongoing mess.
Clearly, the weight of public opinion is against the developer. Why, then, has his plan not been rejected? Supervisor Gerrard claims that we must be realistic; but so must she. Her community does not want this project, and has offered alternatives—enhanced commercial use—that would raise tax revenues. While nobody wants to sue the town, the truth is that, if this project is being forced upon us by a developer who is willing to stoop to economic and legal blackmail, then we should fight back.
It sure does sound like the supervisor is preparing us for a vote in favor of the developer’s proposal. That is sad. It is sad because it is hard to find an actual Chappaqua resident in favor of the proposal. I’ve been to public meetings. I’ve read the letters and comments posted. I’ve had informal discussions. Who is in favor of this thing?
We accepted the departure of Readers Digest long ago. We know their departure will result in significant changes. But we also know it is foolish to let the current economic environment cloud our judgment. The economy will get better but Chappaqua Crossing would be here long after better times arrive.
Our elected officials must often struggle with difficult decisions. This is not one of them. Deciding how to best utilize the Reader’s Digest property is not easy. Rejecting the developer’s proposal should be. Every solution to our budgetary challenges will be unpopular. I ask the Town Board to choose measures that can end when our finances improve. Please Town board, stop the insanity.
Members of the Town Board,
I would strongly encourage you to take a breath and then read the comments on this board. Candidly, the Supervisor’s remarks are negligent. I saw no FACTS that defend her obvious bias to move forward. This nonsense about RD leaving actually changing our lives is ridiculous. I have now reviewed both the school budget and the town budget on the web sites. Readers Digest pay taxes that represent significantly less than 1% of our tax collections. Less than 1%! Are you telling me Madame Supervisor that your budget is so lean that you cannot reduce your costs by less than 1% per year to offset the effect of Readers Digest and make this problem go away for good? It is time for the Town Board to get a grip and start imposing the fiscal discipline required of responsible government leaders. And by the way, if you are concerned about potential litigation from a greedy developer who is seeking a change to zoning laws that the town has the absolute right and discretion to decide—wake up. The litigation from the residents if a rezoning is to occur is going to make that look like a drop in the bucket….Violation of fiduciary duty is a serious matter. Members of the Town Board, you had best take notice, dispose of your conflicts and get back on track…
Dear Wake Up Call:
Your point is a good one. If we need to swallow a bitter pill (with unknown costs) to avoid losing only 1% of revenue, shouldn’t it be weighed against the relative cost of reducing the town’s and school district’s expenses by 1%?
It may come to litigation, but this should really be decided by the political system. If the board thinks it represents the majority on this issue, let the board members state their positions and call for a vote of confidence in themselves.
CCRC’s—or “continuing care retirement community”—is what the developer should have considered early on. Like Kendal at Phelps, we have Northern Westchester Hospital nearby. It’s what our town’s master plan envisioned for the RD property one day. It’s the future: medical care for increasing numbers of elderly. “The Club” at Briarcliff Manor was licensed by NYS fairly recently:
Three or four YEARS ago, in town “visioning” sessions, this type of use was strongly suggested by residents. Go back and look. Why was it ignored?
I’m not sure anyone’s paying attention how condo owners will be affected by adding 278 or 250 or 200 condos to New Castle. There are now about 600 condos (and their owners) in town. What does the addition of even 200 condos do to our home values? What will my OLD condo sell for up against NEW condos? All the fee-simple talk would apply only to the townhouses—only 40 or 50 of the whole number of units. The rest would still be CONDOs—in direct competition with ours.
Dear condo dweller,
Me too. The town council seems to be willing to cause OUR home values to suffer in order to bring in more taxes from somewhere else (the RD property). When OUR values go down, so will our tax contribution (we can grieve too, you know). So the town GETS taxes in one place and LOSES them in another. Current condo dwellers will suffer disproportionately and the whole town has to live with 250 more units of housing (500 more adults/X number more children, cars, etc.). This, in turn, brings down the quality of life (and therefore value) of the whole town. That property should remain commercial – or, like someone up above says – make it a continuing care place for elderly people to go from independent living to complete care.
Who does the town board represent? It is obvious that they are not representing the taxpayers of this town. If the town board continues on this course, it is time to ask them to step down and to be replaced with representatives who will protect and serve the true interests of the Chappaqua community.
This issue has raised serious questions. We need board members who have the sophisticated business and legal acumen to deal with a shrewd entity such as Summit-Greenfield. It is time the town board realized that Summit-Greenfield is our adversary not our partner.
Instead, Supervisor Gerrard’s statement of “facts” appear as an apologia for Summit-Greenfield and advances their cause. We were taken aback by the half-truths in her statement such as the fee-simple issue.
The greater threat of litigation is from residents not Summit-Greenfield; taxpayers in this community will not stand for the sea change in their quality of life, the devaluation of their property, and erosion of a good school system that will inevitably follow if the former Reader’s Digest property is rezoned for residential use.
Funds will be readily available for a recall referendum on the fitness of current town board members to serve and for litigation if it becomes necessary.
To Disgusted New Castle Residents Who Have Had It!,
I am in total agreement with you. I cannot believe what I just read. I just Googled the bios of the town board members. Is this right. Is one of the men really a local real estate agent? Has this person recused himself from this matter? Isn’t this a complete conflict of interest?
Have any residents established a litigation fund that you know of?
I think it is time to organize the resources and pool the town residents together.
Once again the good people of the CCSD forget that it is not the job of the Town of New Castle to prevent the “erosion” of the Chappaqua Central School District.
All of the threats of litigation from the entitled NINBYs are getting tiresome. Maybe it’s time for those of us who don’t live in the CCSD to seriously consider seceding from the Town of New Castle and joining the Towns of Ossining, Bedford, North Castle and the Village of Pleasantville. Then the Town can use the tax dollars you pay out of one pocket to defend the lawsuits you plan on funding out of your other pocket. By the way, how much of the Town’s tax revenue comes from those of us who don’t live in the CCSD? I’m willing to bet it’s significantly more than 1% and I doubt that the loss of that revenue will be made up by the reduced need for Town services.
How about proposing a constructive solution, or is “Don’t do that or I’ll sue!” all you can come up with?
Your property values have been artificially inflated and your taxes kept low for years because NY State’s broken property tax system treats your owner-occupied condo as if it were an income-generating investment property instead of a single-family residence. If the thousands of single family homeowners in Town really knew how much of their property taxes went to subsidize the 600 condo owners in Town, they’d be marching through the streets with torches and pitchforks.
Regardless of whether or not condos are built on the RD property, your subsidy is going to come to an end. You might as well prepare for the inevitable. The creation of additional taxable residences in Town will at least soften the blow.
You simply don’t get it. The CCSD and Town Board represent the same taxpayer. There is over 90% overlap. It is not the “Town Board’s” responsibility to protect the erosion of the CCSD? You are hurting the same taxpayer. This is All LINKED. We all go sink together if this happens…School taxes will sky-rocket up to pay for Chappaqua Crossing students, which will force more empty-nesters to sell at distressed prices to families with children, which will further increase enrollment and property taxes. This is a death spiral for our town….
I do get it. You folks in the CCSD just seem to think that whatever is good for the folks in Chappaqua is good for the entire Town. The fact is that declining property values in the CCSD would be terrific for those of us who live outside the district. It would increase the Town’s equalization rate and bring our non-CCDS school taxes down. The inevitable drop in Town tax revenue, as the assessment keeps dropping on the almost-vacant, unrentable and undevelopable RD campus, will raise taxes on the entire Town, yet you don’t see anyone from the West End threatening to sue the Town if the residential development at Chappaqua Crossing is NOT approved. That would really be in our own, parochial, best interests. I really can’t get too riled up about your school taxes. They are completely out of my control. You (collectively) voted to build Seven Bridges. You elect the CCSD school board and you approve the budgets.
If you really want your school taxes to go down, you should support some form of reasonable development at Chappaqua Crossing coupled with a reassessment of the entire Town and an election to assess all residential property equally. Once the existing condos start paying their fair share and the residences at Chappaqua Crossing pay full freight, the vast majority of taxpayers in the CCSD will see their school taxes go down, even with the additional cost of educating 75 students from Chappaqua Crossing. Of course, it you’re one of the NIMBYs who think that any new development in the Town is bound to destroy it’s “unique character” then there really is nothing to discuss.
I am a litigator—20 years experience—and will gladly donate my services to any organization of New Castle taxpayers willing to file a lawsuit to oppose any approval by the Town Board of the Summit Greenfield development. Someone needs to set up a web site and start taking contributions for court costs, et al.
The Town Board needs to be “realistic” and “face facts.” New Castle residents do not want this development. We, not Summit Greenfield, are the Board’s constituency. Many of us are experienced lawyers who will litigate for free, and the Board should be on our side, not Summit Greenfield’s.
If the citizens of New Castle sue the Town Board for breach of fiduciary duties, and ask for an injunction prohibiting the project from proceeding, the town will pay legal costs, at least initially—i.e., people of Chappaqua will be helping to defray Summit Greenfield’s legal fees. On the other hand, if Summit Greenfield sues New Castle, then the many attorneys who live in New Castle may provide our services— pro bono—and thereby reduce the town’s costs.
Think about whose side you’re on and which actions will benefit the taxpayers of New Castle. Moreover, do you really think that SG is ready, financially, to fight a long legal battle, against a town with virtually unlimited legal resources—i.e., the many, many lawyers who live here and are willing to fight to protect their community? Don’t let the developer bluff you; he knows who is admitted to practice in NYS, and where those lawyers live.
There is no compromise sceanrio as you suggest. This developer is pursuing the “pure greed” scenario only. That is the problem. The Town Board needs to force SG to be reasonable and stop this proposal in its tracks and say no. That will force reasonableness the next time around. Your comments are too academic and do not reflect reality.
Finally a good discussion of these issues. But it seems to me that underlying this debate is whether the town board will view the developer’s request to apply an EXISTING zoning—the MFPD, or multi-family planned development, a “floating” zone that may be planted in appropriate places—a zoning that is on the books and appears elsewhere in town, in a location where it is NOT now.
Does the town board view the MFPD as appropriate on the RD site? An MFPD should be close to public transportation and to retail shops. IS the RD site close to public transportation and shops? Not now it isn’t. Will MetroNorth build a Chappaqua Crossing train station there? Will retail shopping pop up there to cater to residents and workers at Chappaqua Crossing? Unless the town board means to set up a rival hamlet there, I think the answer is that the RD campus is NOT an appropriate siting of the MFPD.
Too academic?? How about some simple numbers to reflect reality?
Here are the sale prices from the Journal News website and approximate property taxes paid in 2009 (from Zillow) for two condos and one single family home that sold recently:
35 Ledgewood Commons – condo – sold for $464,000 approx taxes $6,500
128 Bayberry Close – condo – sold for $505,000 approx taxes $5,200
34 Old Mill Rd – house – sold for $615,000 approx taxes $14,000
Property taxes are supposed to be based on value. Why does the condo with a value of about 75% of a single family home pay less than 50% of the property tax paid by the home? If all of the condos paid taxes based on their value (condo property values would likely drop somewhat to reflect the loss of the tax subsidy, but not enough to keep the taxes at current rates) the amount of tax paid by single family homeowners would drop.
Condo owners use the same roads as single family homeowners. They require the same police and fire services. They have the same access to Town recreational facilities and programs and I’m pretty sure that even in Chappaqua it costs just as much to educate their children. Why shouldn’t they be taxed at the same rate as every other residential property owner?
If this is too academic, it’s no wonder that the only solution people can come up with is sue, sue sue.
To Condo Dweller…. with all the ramifications and implications this debate has on our school system, our taxes, and the character of our town there is no place for your position that newly constructed condos will negatively effect the value of your condo. All of us that live in houses have had to deal with the endless construction and renovations (small houses to large houses), and tear downs that are rebuilt that have taken place in our town for years. Homeowners have seen an increasing supply of houses for years. This current debate is not about supply and demand of condos and its impact on the value of the condo you live in. All of us are suffering from lower real estate prices and to make this about your condo distracts from the substance at hand.
To West Ender…. Although I agree with some of what you say I must strongly disagree with your position that the Town Board and the CCSD board are not linked. I, like most others who moved here, did so because of the outstanding reputation of the school district. Having lived in NYC and having sent 3 kids to private school I am happy to pay these taxes so my kids can get a great education. The Town Board and School Board must work together so that we have appropriate infrastructure to support our needs.That also means having to make some tough budgetary decisions when appropriate. This of course includes revenues (taxes) and regulations that ensure stability. Policy and structural changes by one board affects the other entity. Perhaps these two boards need to work for the greater good of our community but your position that they are separate and that the town board does not have the responsibility to “prevent the EROSION of the CCSD” is way off base.
IF CCSD were to erode it would negatively impact EVERYTHING! My frustration is that the school board has acted in recent years as if the good times would go on forever and they ignored repeated warnings from experts and residents that overbuilding of our schools would lead to exploding budgets just as student enrollment would decline. That has all come to pass and even more pronounced than predicted. I agree with a previous post that suggested that since the CCSD Board helped create some of this problem that they should also be part of the solution. I am angered by all the self praise and accolades heaped upon the school board.
To West Ender…. I have been following your comments for a few weeks regarding this discussion. You had my attention and even some of my sympathy UNTIL you just wrote that “The fact is that declining property values in the CCSD would be terrific for those of us who live outside the district”. TERRIFIC??? Declining property values hurt us all. You chose the address at which you live and I assume you understood that your house would be in our town but the school district would not. That was your choice. Declining property values impact everyone regardless of the school district in which your house sits. Perhaps your taxes may get a bit more favorable treatment but slightly marginal tax rates NEVER off set the damage of declining property values. Not only does the value of your house go down but the supply/demand equation makes it nearly impossible to sell. There is nothing worse than an asset you cant sell! So what have you gained if your taxes normalize while you lose value of your house? You are in a very small minority of homeowners in our town but outside the CCSD. You concerns are noted but you will never have the clout to impact change. You should be supporting all efforts to keep taxes down and home values up. That includes a school board and town board that work together regardless of the fact that your house is not in the school district.
The developers have gotten to the town board. It is time to begin impeachment proceedings against Gerrard et al.
Have we been given the option of raising our taxes from the board?
Has the board entertained that they can cut the town budget?
Most importantly has the town board listened to and read what the town residents overwhelmingly want? They are in bed with Summit Greenfield behind closed doors.
Let’s begin the process either to ask the board to step down or divest them of responsibility.
I thought of our town when I read this article in the New York Times last week: Parents’ Real Estate Strategy: Schools Come First.
The link is: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/13/nyregion/13appraisal.html?_r=2&hpw;
Here the builder is being required to actually build a school in order to get its proposed condo development approved. While we certainly don’t need a new school here, the idea of an escrow funded by the developer to pay full costs if more than an agreed number of students ends up in the development seems appropriate. Let them take the risk, not the taxpayers of New Castle.
To West Ender… yours is a very narrow and self serving argument. You would be better off advocating for a controlled school budget and a town board that was in harmony with the CCSD board and the community at large – even if your house does not sit in the CCSD. To your point about taxes and condos, you clearly don’t get it. Taxes are not solely and purely based on value of the dwelling. If that were true than homeowners that had the value of their houses that doubled and tripled in value the past decade would have had there taxes double and triple. Our taxes did go up but not proportionately to home vales. Condos pay lower taxes because they sit on very little property in comparison to houses. Compare a $600k condo that sits on almost no property to a $600k house that sits on 2 acres. Same comparison? I think not. Infrastructure costs associated with homes on large tracts of land are certainly higher than those of people in condos that require much less space. ..The problem with these type of posts and public debates are people can represent themselves as experts when in fact they don’t have the facts.
Boy, you folks in Chappaqua sure don’t know how to appreciate sarcasm. Of course I don’t want to see ANYONE’s property values decline. If I was solely looking out for MY best interests, I would be advocating a massive development at Chappaqua Crossing that maximized the tax revenue to the Town. What I am opposed to is an attitude that appears to be prevalent (at least from posts here) of “if the Town Board lets the developers do anything residential, we will sue”. Especially now that it appears that local attorneys are willing to provide their services to sue OUR Town for free!
I have repeatedly proposed that there be some limited residential development at Chappaqua Crossing coupled with a Town-wide reassessment which treats condos the same as single family homes. This eliminates the possibility of condo owners at Chappaqua Crossing adding children to the CCSD and not paying full freight. It is obvious from some posts here that not everyone understands how the property tax system works (I could write pages correcting all of the misstatements in Chapp Lifer’s post above), but I think that this would address one of the biggest concerns residents have about the developer’s plans. I really don’t see what is unreasonable about trying to reach a compromise with the developer that addresses legitimate concerns about residential development (ie: impact on school taxes). The “take it or leave it” attitude that many are expressing here is sure to lead to Summit Greenfield getting a huge reduction in their assessment and eventually to litigation. The threat of litigation from the residents espousing the “take it or leave it” position doesn’t leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling either….
There have been a handful of good ideas posted here, but mostly it is anti-development vitriol and threats. I think that the Town Board is trying to make a realistic assessment of the situation and would like to arrive at some sort of compromise that we all should be able to live with. I don’t see much willingness, however, to accept any zoning changes coming from the community. Perhaps, living so far away from the action, I’m the only one who can say anything and not have to worry about having to deal with a neighbor who is viscerally opposed to any changes in the status quo.
I noticed that there is “Discussion – Amending the 1989 Town Development Plan RE: Residential Development Densities” on the town board’s agenda for tomorrow, July 20.
I vaguely remember there was an issue early on in the Summit-Greenfield RD rezoning petition and that there is a valuable document that really protected the town legally. It was so well done. It is apparently an issue for affordable housing, too. Is this the document? One wonders about changing a longstanding “Residential Planning Development” regulatory document away from public observation and participation.
Does anyone know more about it? PLEASE INFORM US.
Should concerned residents show up for this meeting tomorrow night? I have been informed that the meeting is conducted publicly and Supervisor Gerrard may call for comments from those attending.
To West Ender…If you had bought a house (and many of us did) next to or near Readers Digest—now Chapp Crossing—with the firm understanding and confirmation from the Town that only certain type of development/tenants would be allowed there only to now hear that the rules have changed perhaps you would not have a willingness to see zoning changes either. As you so eloquently stated you “live far away from the action”. If it were your house and your neighborhood that would be impacted I am sure you would not have such a calm approach.
This owner/developer bought the property with specific and exact understanding of what they could and could not do. What they could and could not build! This is not about “NIMBY” not in my backyard. I checked town hall records before purchasing my house. Others in my community participated in Town Board meetings and planning board meetings and were assured of what Chapp Crossing could and could NOT be. For you, from the other side of town to encourage zoning changes and compromises without knowing the facts that exist on our side of town is inappropriate and unfair. Lastly, you are off base about condos and taxes. There is a reason condos pay less taxes and that is consistent in all communities in NY State. You are correct – it would take pages to explain it but regardless you are not going to get a homeowner on a parcel of land paying the same taxes as a condo owner even if the value of the dwelling is the same.
@Lawrence Farms East
The reason condos pay less in property tax than single family homes owned fee-simple has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of land that is owned or whether or not there is individual garbage collection. It is simply a quirk in the property tax system. There has been legislation proposed in the NYS Legislature for years that would treat all condos and coops the same as single family homes throughout the State, just exempting tall buildings (more than 10 stories, I think) and cities with populations of over one million. Communities like Heritage Hills lobby against the bill and it never makes it out of committee. Developers upstate have built entire subdivisions of single family homes on large plots of land but have the ownerships as a condo to keep the taxes down. Condo owners are being subsidized by single family homeowners. This subsidy keeps their taxes down and artificially inflates the values of their units. It’s not fair, it’s not equitable and it will change. Any assessing unit in the state has the ability to choose to assess all residential property equally. It is just a matter of time before this comes to pass.
@Lawrence Farms East
Zoning changes. I remember people complaining bitterly about the location of Seven Bridges because they were assured that the land was always going to be a nature preserve. I understand that many (perhaps most) residents want nothing to change at Readers Digest. I just don’t think that is a realistic attitude. Something is going to happen there. Perhaps the four tenant restriction will be lifted and it will become a busy office park with traffic coming and going throughout the day. Perhaps an “aging-in-place” community will be built. Maybe there will be condos along with workforce and/or affordable housing. I can’t imagine that the developer will decide that the best course of action is to unload the property and write off the loss. This seems to be what many posting here are wishing for. Personally, I would rather see a mixed office/residential development that is scaled appropriately to the site and increases tax revenue to the Town (and the CCSD). I don’t see how we get to anyplace but a courtroom if the Town’s attitude towards the developer is “go away.”
How long is it really going to take to get anywhere around the RD property if the RD campus has multi-family housing plus an increased number of commercial tenants? I can’t tell no matter how hard I squint at the traffic report prepared by the town’s experts and available on the town’s website. The town board would do the community a great service by explaining this to us.
What will the increased time be? This traffic report is useless to people. Relying on technical expert reports isn’t enough. If the town board can’t or won’t describe the real traffic effects—HOW MUCH LONGER WILL IT TAKE TO MOVE AROUND THE TOWN—please, please have your experts make a comprehensible presentation at an open, televised meeting.
West Ender….It is entirely different when a community, town or school board changes zoning and usage as in the case of Seven Bridges school than when a commercial developer does! I opposed Seven Bridges but in theory the zoning was changed for the greater good of the community by the community. That is entirely different than zoning changes that is to the benefit and give advantage to an outside developer for purely financial gain! Any support for Summit-Greenfield zoning changes is entirely about making money for them. We should only support a development (commercial or residential or combination) if it works for our community. This is not about bailing out Summit Greenfield. Most of us have had our investments take a beating and many have lost jobs and suffered economic setbacks. Who changes the rules for us?
While I share your dislike of litigation in general, there are certain times when you simply don’t have a choice. I have been a resident for nearly 20 years and I feel that there is no alternative in this situation. We have a “bully” of a developer, a town board that is allowing a local real estate broker to have a vote to approve a massive residential real estate development and an “over-taxed” community that will see a sharp further increase in taxes if CC is approved. Unfortunately, the system is not working. The zoning laws that are meant to protect us are being usurped with no community vote. Unfortunately, litigation against the town maybe the only way to protect the residents here. Very sad.
It appears that the town board will go with the developer’s condo plan. If we are the constituents that elected the town board, we probably should comply with its executive order. West Ender appears to represent the town, while the rest of posters only represent a piece of the town or CCSD. So it’s CCSD vs. town. After this feud, the winner is Summit Greenfield?
I have been anxious to hear the perspective of the Town Board and unfortunately what has been written is worse than feared. After stripping out the excessive melodrama about how unfortunate and unexpected the developments are at Readers Digest, it seems like it essentially boils down to accepting the fact that doing nothing results in a loss of tax revenue, so we should accept the proposal that increases revenue because the projected burden on town resources would be acceptable. To call this simplistic is being kind.
What is the magnitude of the expected revenue decline associated with the RD vacancy? Do you assume this to be temporary as one would expect the property to ultimately be put to some productive use? You say “I have seen estimates of the potential number of school children range from 49 to 72, with some guessing there would be even more”. What are your assumptions? You make reference to the BOCES report and I understand how this might provide the bureaucratic cover of providing reasonable support for your conclusions. But do you really think that the projections of additional students make any sense as applied to Chappaqua?
There are so many more questions and every appearance is that the analysis by the Town Board doesn’t even scratch the surface. On the last one I raise above, we simply cannot afford to be wrong in terms of the additional burden on the school system. I think this development is wrong for the town, but if somehow it goes through, an absolute requirement must be that this risk is shifted to the developer. If we are asked to believe all of these optimistic projections, then money needs to be put behind those claims. Some sort of escrow that covers this risk must be put in place. The town should have zero tolerance for exposure on this point.
This does not have to be zero-sum game where either Summit Greenfield wins (and the Town loses) or the Town wins (and Summit Greenfield writes off their bad investment and walks away), although many are portraying it as such. The primary concern of many (not all, but many) who are opposed to residential development at Chappaqua Crossing seems to be the impact on the CCSD and that is why they think the Town should deny the zoning change. I haven’t seen anyone say that if the age restrictions were iron-clad and no new students would accompany the development, then they would be OK with Summit Greenfield’s plans.
So the question remains: If there is excess physical capacity in the schools (and many have posted that there is), and if the school taxes generated by the development can cover the cost of adding those students to the system—and I have repeatedly explained how it can—and the traffic issues can be resolved (which in my opinion may be the most valid concern raised so far), why would we still want our answer to Summit Greenfield’s request for a zoning change to be simply “NO”?
I’m all for having a discussion of what is the appropriate scale of a residential development at Chappaqua Crossing. I just don’t believe that the answer to that questions is “nothing”.
The problem is there is no way to control the scale of residential development. Even at the town board level, there will have to be an increase in taxes for more services needed. Once approved, the town loses complete control of the # of units and how they are marketed. 55 and over is legally unforceable with substantial precedent to back that up. The school board has clearly laid out that when more than 51 kids enroll, the taxpayers will begin subsidizing dollar for dollar. Any developer will tell you that the best marketing approach for sellling these condos is parents with children who want the CCSD on the cheap. In New Castle, each house with kids has nearly 2 per household. SG is talking about nearly 300 units. Based on the current census of the town, you are looking at 250 – 400 students enrolling. That is game over for the town as taxes will have to increase more than $8 mm per year plus compounding forever…What don’t you get West Ender??