Transparency Needed to Ensure Chappaqua Rezoning Plan is in Public Interest

New Castle Acting Supervisor Jeremy Saland has made multiple public requests that explain who is privately lobbying the town for favorable development regulations. He claimed that no one has lobbied him or other town leaders. I am writing to respond and to publicly call for much-needed transparency.

Freedom of Information requests reveals written correspondence between the town and numerous developers and their representatives that have not, until now, been publicly disclosed. The communications contain insults against the Chappaqua Board of Education for “fighting back” against the 997-apartment development plan for Chappaqua, and claims that the impacts of the development will be much smaller than the town has publicly acknowledged. Town officials deride community residents standing in principled opposition to the town’s development plan as “NIMBYs.”

Town records reveal that Mr. Saland, former supervisor Ivy Pool, Councilwoman Lauren Levin and the-Councilwoman-elect Lori Morton met privately, away from Town Hall, with high-level associates of Joseph Tavolacci, the developer of a newly constructed three-story building in Chappaqua. His representative, William Spade, who made the arrangements, had told them in advance to expect that they would be lobbied to increase the height limit for buildings in Chappaqua to four stories, which is contrary to the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

The public was never noticed either before or after, and no meeting minutes were published. New York State’s Open Meetings Law prohibits three or more Town Board members from meeting to conduct town business in private, let alone together with private interests to be lobbied about pending legislation.

Mr. Spade also privately lobbied the town in pursuit of other lucrative legislative changes relating to properties owned by his clients including eliminating retail requirements and reducing setback requirements, which was then quietly introduced by the town, without public discussion of the merits).

Mr. Saland should know how lobbying works. His father, a retired state senator, is a registered lobbyist paid to represent development and construction interests. Mr. Saland should have publicly disclosed his family ties to developer interests, because this knowledge would help the public interpret his support for this pending developer-friendly legislation.

Mr. Saland is currently refusing to release numerous communications between the town and developers. New York State law permits him to disclose this correspondence. In the interest of transparency, I call on Mr. Saland to now publicly release all correspondence with private development interests relating to the pending zoning legislation. Keeping these influences on governmental decisions private is contrary to the public interest – which demands sunshine, nature’s best disinfectant.

Scott Le Vine
Chappaqua

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