This past Tuesday, while most residents attending the public hearing for zoning and Master Plan changes to Chappaqua Crossing, continued to express serious concerns over plans they described largely as flawed and unwelcome, a couple residents did speak out in its favor.
The plan has been in the works for a while, and has sparked much tension from merchants and residents. It calls to permit a grocery store and multiple chain retail stores at the Chappaqua Hamlet. 120,000 square feet will be devoted to retail space of which, 36,000 to 66,000 square feet is intended to house a grocery store.
Earlier on Tuesday, the board received a petition signed by many who live in close proximity to the site. It demanded the rezoning for the Chappaqua Crossing plan to be passed by a super majority, meaning that four out of five board members must vote either for or against the plan, instead of the typical three.
Before starting, councilman Jason Chapin made it clear to the public that the board had no intention of closing the public hearing that night, and that it would be adjourned until another date, later decided as September 3, 2013.
In regard to the first AKRF report, Chapin commented by mainly showing support for the overall project. He said that it would be beneficial to the town, both in terms of accesibility and finances. Chapin made note that the rumors of adding 15 chain stores to the plans are false.
He said, “The amount of leakage of retail dollars spent by the town totals millions of dollars. Adding a grocery store and other retail that complements the existing stores in the hamlet can address unmet consumer demand and increase out commercial tax base by as much as 60 percent.”
Chapin’s comments were followed by those of the public. Most were firmly against it, bringing up concerns of potentially devalued properties, increased traffic and pollution on streets that already have such concerns, as well as competition that would wipeout local downtown merchants.
Some, like Mary Helen Hendricks, agreed that something should be done for the benefit of the town’s sales tax income, but this plan is surely not it.
She said, “I do not doubt that this is important. We do need more revenue sources, but this should not happen at the expense of those who live on or use Roaring Brook Road… If you approve the zoning change, please protect all of us. Buffer the single family residents along Roaring Brook Road, the students of the high school, and the drivers of cars who use that particular East/West thoroughfare from the negative, unintended consequences of what I know are your own best intentions to increase tax revenues.”
Resident, candidate for town supervisor, and founder of the Chamber of Commerce, Rob Greenstein spoke on three occasions, he said, to defend the local businesses who have always supported him and the community. He said that by going with the existing plans, the existing Chappaqua shops will eventually go out of business. Many of these local favorites are members of the Chamber of Commerce, he noted. Without them, the Chamber of Commerce will not have the necessary sponsors for the Chappaqua events that take place year round.
“If you think that creating 15 box stores at Chappaqua Crossing is not going to kill our downtown Chappaqua, you’re living in a fantasy land,” he said. “What shop small means is that you support the mom and pop shops that make your community great. By building 15 chain box stores at Chappaqua Crossing, you are going to destroy them.”
Chapin was quick to react to Greenstein’s comment, noting that the number of stores he stated was false, and that the board definitely does have the merchants in mind. After many concerns were expressed, it has postponed a large-scale infrastructure upgrade for the downtown area until 2014.
A few residents, however, were very much in favor of the potential prosperity this plan brought forth. Philip Werbel was one of them.
He spoke for ten minutes, first reminiscing over the old Chappaqua shops and businesses and then calling opposers to the plan “NIMBYs” (Not In My Backyard) until he was called out for going over time, which the audience applauded.
In between, Werbel alluded to the Chappaqua Crossing plans as being part of an economic evolution.
“Buy local?,” he asked. “That’s a joke. Everyone’s looking to be economical. Speaking for myself, if something costs 30 percent less or 25 percent less at a box store – Oh my god. I said it! It’s a sin! – or chain store, so be it. This is America. Things die and are reborn and things evolve and become alive that never existed before. This is evolution. The 2 percent cap. What about the retired person who can’t afford the taxes? Get out of the bubble and compete with everyone else.”
The hearing ended with the board going into a short executive session.
One thing to note: The public comment for Conifer’s Conditioned Negative Declaration is open until September 3, 2013. Those who would like to submit written comments can send an e-mail to email@example.com.