The Examiner

A Decade in the Making: New Castle Approves Chappaqua Crossing

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ChappaquaCrossing_PleasantvilleBy Martin Wilbur and Arthur Cusano

After more than a decade of review and legal entanglements, Chappaqua Crossing developer Summit/Greenfield was granted site plan approval Wednesday night by the New Castle Planning Board for the retail portion of the mixed use project.

The unanimous vote at a special meeting came after a flurry of activity in recent weeks on the part of the applicant and town officials to finish the planning work by the end of the year.

Summit/Greenfield plans to build 120,000 square feet of retail, anchored by a 40,000-square-foot Whole Foods supermarket and a 40,000-squre-foot Lifetime Fitness facility along with a series of smaller shops. There will also be 91 market-rate townhouses, which is expected to be reapproved in the next few months, and 28 affordable housing units in the former 114-acre former Reader’s Digest property’s signature cupola building.

Site plan approval followed a series of approvals on Tuesday night by the town board that allows for residential units in the cupola building that has been zoned for commercial and office use, including workforce and market-rate housing at a future date.

In addition, the town board’s approvals also make several changes to the 2013 findings statement that now allows changes in the retail plan such as inclusion of the two-story Lifetime Fitness building and bringing a roundabout to the intersection of Route 117 and Roaring Brook Road to improve traffic flow. The planned roundabout must still be approved by the New York State Department of Transportation in order for the project to be built.

Summit Development President Felix Charney told planning board members after the vote he was happy to finally have the project move forward 11 years after his company bought the property.

“Through a host of concessions in terms of scheduling, an awful lot of volunteerism in terms of meeting as often as we met, what you guys have done in terms of giving your time for this stuff is incredible,” Charney said. “I think collectively we’ve accomplished something that hopefully we’ll all be very proud of.”

Charney, who made it a point to shake the hands of each town board member on Tuesday night, declined to answer questions from reporters following the site plan approval vote.

Summit/Greenfield hopes to start on- and off-site work next summer, including making improvements to the Horace Greeley High School driveway across the street from the Chappaqua Crossing complex on Roaring Brook Road, said attorney John Marwell, who represents the applicant. An agreement with the Chappaqua School District to do the work was reached earlier this month.

It is anticipated that construction will not be completed until at least 2017, he said. The planning board attached between 175 and 180 conditions to the final approval, all of which must be satisfied before a certificates of occupancy can be obtained from the town’s building department.

“The roundabout has to be fully constructed and all the improvements have to be in before the first (certificate of occupancy) for the retail or for the (Multifamily Planned District) is issued,” Marwell said.

Town Attorney Nicholas Ward-Willis said the planning board must still grant site plan approval for the 91 market-rate units in the complex’s East Village. Although the town approved that part of the project in 2011, relocation of the affordable units to the cupola building requires a new approval for that aspect of the plan, he said.

The town board also approved a lease agreement to use the property’s Wallace Auditorium as a municipal performing arts and cultural arts center, said Supervisor Robert Greenstein. The town and the developer entered into a two-year agreement where the municipality pays no rent or common charges. Summit/Greenfield will pay for the utilities for the first year, he said.

The town has an option to assume ownership of the auditorium but must decide whether to do so by Sept. 1, Greenstein said.

This week’s developments end a decade-long saga that started with Summit/Greenfield’s initial submission of more than 300 units of housing at the site in 2006. That was reduced several times before a former town board went ahead and approved 111 units of housing in 2011.

That year, the developer sued the town in federal and state court alleging that officials had deliberately used delay tactics in hopes of derailing development at the site. The two sides reached an agreement later that year whereby the town would have to adhere to a timetable to complete review, although it did not compel the town to grant approval.

By 2013, Summit/Greenfield agreed to include retail at the site, and at the town’s behest, revamped the proposal into a traditional neighborhood design that includes streets within the complex.

Last December the town board rezoned a portion of the property to allow for up to 120,000 square feet of retail space.

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