The New Castle Town Board accepted the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the Chappaqua Crossing retail proposal last Tuesday, moving the project closer to a crucial rezoning vote.
The action, which was preceded by the closure of concurrent public hearings on amending the town code to allow for retail uses in the Research and Office Business District and on the town development plan, allows the board to finalize a findings statement within 10 days of the official adoption, Town Attorney Clinton Smith explained during the Sept. 3 meeting. Official adoption is expected to take place once the developer, Summit/Greenfield, submits an invasive species report, which will then be reviewed by town staff.
After the findings statement is approved by the board, it can proceed with a vote on the rezoning and town development plan.
Summit/Greenfield must obtain the zoning change in order to gain site plan approval to build a proposed 120,000 square feet of retail at the former Reader’s Digest property. The retail plan would be anchored by a 36,000- to 66,000-square-foot supermarket and a variety of other stores up to 5,000 square feet each.
Before the board closed the hearings, several residents questioned various aspects of the proposal, including whether the current town development plan calls for the introduction of retail at the site. Officials are in the midst of revising the plan, which was last updated in 1989.
Resident Robert Lewis said it was his understanding that the town development plan allowed for only two business hamlets.
“Was the intent of this section to suggest that the town development plan anticipated and agreed to consider retail specifically?” Lewis asked. “I understood the town development plan envisioned only two hamlets, and I know this isn’t just a formality laying out the reasoning.”
Throughout the public hearing process, opponents of the retail plan have argued that New Castle would not be able to sustain a third business center in addition to downtown Chappaqua and Millwood.
Officials indicated they would reexamine the town development plan’s wording. Smith said it was his belief that it called for the site to have new uses, although not specifically retail.
“I believe the 1989 plan did anticipate there might be alternate uses for the property,” Smith said. “I don’t think, as you suggested, I do not think the second clause, that retail might be appropriate, that was not part of the 1989 plan.”
Two other speakers criticized the proposal, contending that one of the key premises behind the retail project — to provide town residents with a supermarket after D’Agostino’s closed on Route 117 and King Street in 2011 — was faulty.
Chappaqua residents John Erlich and Danny Gladstone felt New Castle was not underserved. Erlich, who also mentioned a litany of other problems with the project, said between the A&P supermarkets in Millwood and Mount Kisco, Shop-Rite stores in both Thornwood and Bedford, Target in Mount Kisco and several other outlets, the town’s grocery needs are well met.
“There is no need, nor is it desirable, in view of the traffic crunch in the community, to place this as a basis,” Erlich said. “You don’t need a grocery store.”
He added traffic has already overloaded Route 117, which will not be able to support constant deliveries to the site of a major supermarket and other retail stores.
Councilman Jason Chapin replied that studies have shown that only about 5 percent of the traffic on Route 117 is truck traffic. That would increase minimally should Summit/Greenfield’s plan move forward, he said.
“If the proposal were to be approved, we’re not talking about another five or 10 percent increase in truck traffic,” Chapin said. “We’re talking about a handful of truck deliveries each day.”
Gladstone told the board that having a community with a large modern shopping center is not why most Chappaqua residents moved to the area as opposed to more congested locations.
“I love Chappaqua, not because it was a shopping district — and I don’t think you did either,” he said. “I think we came here for the lifestyle, we came here for space, we came here for the schools. We chose Chappaqua because it didn’t have what Scarsdale has; it isn’t what the down county towns have.”
Town officials and Summit/Greenfield are still considering the possibility of an optional layout for the retail project. The current application calls for a shopping center plan, while planning board member Tom Curley has proposed a design that is similar to a downtown.