Letter to the Editor: Form Based Code Would Be No Friend to Chappaqua’s Small Businesses

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I have owned and operated Squires Family Clothing & Footwear in downtown Chappaqua since 1987. Chappaqua’s small-town, neighborly feel has enabled me to maintain a loyal customer base for more than 34 years.

I am deeply concerned that passage of the Form Based Code could incentivize large-scale construction in the hamlet and have a serious impact on businesses.

During the two-and-a-half years that the town underwent a massive streetscape project, which took longer than expected and only partially helped with the flooding issue (we had a flash flood recently that affected the sidewalks in front of my store and allowed water to once again enter the store), many stores in town, mine included, suffered greatly. Customers told me that they didn’t want to deal with the traffic, parking and construction debris on the roads. It was easier to take their business elsewhere. Thankfully, that project was completed by 2020.

But now, the town is forecasting a buildout under the Form Based Code that could last 15 years!

I realize that the Form Based Code is being “tested” on just part of the hamlet. But as I understand it, the entire hamlet is still being studied for future buildout. If a subsequent Town Board were to proceed with it, I don’t know if many businesses in our hamlet could survive. In my case, the increased traffic could result in widening lanes surrounding the T-intersection coming over the bridge. This is right in front of my store. I shudder to think what that will do to business.

I have heard Town Board members promise that the increased number of residential units will add vitality to the town, but more residents doesn’t guarantee more customers. New York City has plenty of apartments, condos/co-ops and still there are empty storefronts. This is also true for communities like Scarsdale. And now, in the aftermath of COVID-19, we store owners are competing more than ever with online retailers. Easy, quick access to a store, sufficient parking and a steady and reliable customer base are the key to keeping a small business afloat.

The Form Based Code will undermine all of that. Construction will drive our long-term customers elsewhere. And when it’s finally over, if any of us are still standing, what guarantee do we have residents won’t just shop and dine someplace where the parking is better?

Beyond the construction nightmare, I have concerns property development will likely result in rent increases for small businesses that operate in the hamlet. I have seen no analysis on how that will impact other store owners and no assurances from the Town Board that anything will be done to help keep our much-loved local businesses in town.

One of the things that makes having a store in Chappaqua so special is the neighborly feel of the hamlet. I have now clothed generations of customers. I hope to continue. The Form Based Code is not a friend to small businesses. I sincerely hope the town recognizes this. Our little stores are the backbone of the town’s business community. The local stores are just beginning to recover from mandatory lockdowns as most were not deemed essential. Please don’t let us down.

Michael Kushner
Owner, Squires Clothing & Footwear

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