The Examiner

New Castle Strategizes on Enticing Developers to Chappaqua

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New Castle officials last week grappled with how to attract developers to propose mixed-used development in downtown Chappaqua, one of the key goals in last year’s updated Comprehensive Plan.

Discussion at a joint Town Board-Planning Board meeting last Tuesday zeroed in on Goal 26 in the plan, which calls for creation of “a sustainable mix of commercial and residential uses within the hamlets.” That was one of the most common objectives raised during the public outreach sessions in hopes of enlivening downtown Chappaqua.

Last month Town Board members decided they would meet with planners in public session to enlist their suggestions about how the town should start working toward that goal.

Planning Board member Thomas Curley recommended that the town take control of the process by identifying what they would like to see rather than soliciting developers’ ideas. Then it could draw up a Preliminary Development Concept Plan (PDCP) and initiate the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) as a way to advertise the town’s commitment and vision to developers.

He reminded both boards that the town and developers will need each other in order for anything to get accomplished.

“I think what would be to look out for what the developer would have to go through and figure out what you can do for the developer to make it something that they would want to take on,” Curley said.

He said that could come in the way of incentives or having such an attractive streetscape that it catches the attention of those in the development community.

Supervisor Robert Greenstein last week reprised his suggestion to change zoning to encourage the creation of apartments as part of mixed-use development to bring more people downtown. While that is part of the solution, said Planning Board Chairman Robert Kirkwood, it’s not the only answer.

“One of the things I’m a little bit concerned with is that we’re only emphasizing commercial and residential,” he said. “Clearly, even right here in the goal, they talk about leisure and entertainment, they talk about a focus, they talk about a destination. That is something we really have to come to grips with because it seems to me before you do any of this, we jointly have to come up with what we feel is the vision that best represents that study, what we did and what we want this town to be all about.”

Councilman Jeremy Saland raised the possibility of the town also focusing on North Greeley Avenue, which is another part of the downtown that has redevelopment potential. However, there are about a dozen separate property owners from the corner at King Street to the post office, which could make it difficult to get much done, Curley said.

The Town Board asked Curley, an architect by trade, to come up with a plan that captures the town’s vision. He said that it’s something to start the discussion and cautioned residents to not jump to conclusions about what could happen.

Once Curley’s draft is done, the two boards plan to hold another joint meeting regarding the town’s strategy.

“I think there’s tremendous opportunity,” Kirkwood said. “I think this is extraordinarily exciting about what can happen. This is a very well-to-do community that is currently underserved by its hamlet from what it could be and should be. I think if we jointly try to come up with a road map, we will get the right people coming in here.”

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