New Castle officials are expected to reissue a new Request for Proposal as soon as this week in hopes of filling the town-owned Chappaqua train station depot after the previous lease was successfully challenged.
Town Attorney Nicholas Ward-Willis said last week the town board will make several minor revisions to the RFP and post it on the New Castle website once it has been finalized. Board members were poised to hold open the response period for three weeks, he said.
New information anticipated in the next RFP includes the term of the lease, such as its length and hours of operation. Officials were still eyeing a food establishment for the 112-year-old building.
“What we’re proposing is, as the town board says, substantially the same format as before but we’re going to tweak it,” Ward-Willis said.
In May, the board approved a 10-year lease with a five-year option for Leslie Lampert, owner of Cafe of Love and Ladle of Love in Mount Kisco, to operate a bistro in the space. However, one of the two other candidates, Erin and Peter Chase, filed a petition challenging the validity of the RFP process because critical information was omitted that would have been helpful to those who were vying for the lease.
The petition containing 520 signatures forced the town to either schedule a permissive referendum or scrap the lease and reopen the RFP process.
The third lease candidate from the previous round urged the town board last week to keep the new RFP response period open for about six weeks. Carla Gambescia, who believed that she had an agreement with last year’s town board before a squabble over the restrooms with the new board short-circuited that possibility, said three weeks isn’t adequate time to attract a strong cross-section of candidates who might want to consider the space.
“Three weeks time to become aware of it and be able to put together a proposal is shorter and I think would limit the possibilities,” said Gambescia, who continues to operate the morning commuter food service at the station. “And I think at this point, you waited this long if you waited a few more weeks you would be able to cast the net more broadly.”
She also appealed to officials to be as specific as possible in describing what the town wants to see in the space. For example, if the board doesn’t want a proprietor to touch the interior millwork that could have a significant impact and limit the types of operations that could move in, Gambescia said. She also recommended that the town list selection criteria and use a grading system, something that is commonly used in an RFP.
At its July 1 work session, the board didn’t give any indication whether it would consider her suggestions. However, Ward-Willis said that while the board is free to include what it would like in the RFP, he would oppose selection criteria and a grading system because it unnecessarily limits the town.
He said “the law vests in the town board (the ability) to make the decision you think is in the (town’s) best interests, but again, you have the ability if you wanted to include that.”
In this instance, the town also doesn’t have to go with the proposal that yields the most money if the board concludes another proprietor offers a facility that is better for the public, Ward-Willis said.