Guest Columns

Recently Retired New Castle Planning Board Members Were True Community Assets

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By Robert Kirkwood

Volunteerism is one of the critical underpinnings to our self-governing model. Our community is diminished if we fail to recognize and celebrate the critical contribution of volunteers in our community.

Two New Castle Planning Board members recently retired. Each served with integrity and intelligence, and our community is better for their efforts.

Eldad Gutfeld served on the New Castle Planning Board for more than four years. During that time, he was a consistent and zealous supporter of affordable housing. He sought appropriate solutions to this problem wherever possible.

Eldad’s real-life expertise is in zoning law and zoning regulations. His professional background is city planning. His input with this specialty background was especially helpful. Eldad’s dissent from other Planning Board members during the Form Base Code exercise remains a prime example of measured, cogent argument that serves all interests.

Guided by his own internal North Star, Eldad was consistently able to refocus applicants and the board on the critical matter at hand in particular applications. He was a critical factor in the board’s ability to reach consensus with applicants as well as formulating broader planning policy.

The Planning Board will miss his input and guidance.

Tom Curley served on the Planning Board, off and on, for well over 20 years. His service was more than distinguished. His legacy of service is extraordinarily remarkable.

Tom is from the west side of New Castle. During his years of service, he remained an articulate spokesperson who gave voice to the concerns of the west side of town, especially when the Millwood Task Force receded from view.

Tom was a significant contributor to the Millwood Design Guidelines. These guidelines continue to provide direction for the development to the Millwood hamlet.

Tom is perhaps best known on the west side of town for his involvement in the design plan and implementation of the Millwood Fire House. The project languished for years, and he was one of the critical catalysts that enabled the department to move the project over the finish line.

One could also argue that Tom was the critical participant in the re-imagining of Chappaqua Crossing. Tom spent hours of personal time working with the applicant’s design team, and ultimately convinced the applicant to amend the original development plan. Tom convinced the applicant to develop the project with a main street rather than a swath of parking lots in front of box stores.

Tom also convinced the applicant to retain the Reader’s Digest auditorium that ultimately became the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center. He was a critical supporter of the effort for the award-winning re-use of the Reader’s Digest headquarters building. Tom was a leader who insisted on an appropriate blend of market, affordable and workforce housing in a manner that is invisible to residents and visitors to the complex.

Tom was the Planning Board member who articulated our policy of avoiding construction on the town’s ridgelines. When residents navigate through our town and see unspoiled ridgelines, they can thank Tom for his vision and protection of these visual assets of the town.

Throughout his years of service on the Planning Board, Tom was a zealous protector of wetlands, our forested areas and parks. His arguments helped the town to convince applicants to donate land that ultimately became the Burden Preserve and the Sunny Ridge Preserve.

His architectural background was critical in the design and orientation of homesites in individual applications, small subdivisions as well as major subdivisions such as Hammond Ridge and the Christian Herald subdivision.

Tom often spoke about the “there” there. Rest assured that Tom was always there, and the Planning Board will miss his articulate and tireless work on behalf of New Castle.

We wish each of these two members the very best in their retirement from the Planning Board.

Robert Kirkwood is chairman of the New Castle Planning Board.

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