Two Inherited Disasters

Four years ago, the outgoing administration handed us two of the most controversial and botched development projects in the Town’s history: Chappaqua Crossing and Chappaqua Station. Both were the work of a Town Board and Town Attorney who were all members of the New Castle Democratic Committee.

With Chappaqua Crossing, the outgoing administration issued a legally binding SEQRA Findings Statement just one week before we were elected that closed the book on the Town’s ability to review the project’s impacts on traffic, community character and environmental issues. The Findings Statement resolved all of those issues in favor of allowing the retail development to proceed.  Click above photo to read press coverage.

Chappaqua Station, a 28-unit affordable housing project on Hunts Place, was equally disastrous. Prior administrations had encouraged a developer to build an apartment building on a sliver of land wedged between the Metro North railroad tracks and the Saw Mill River Parkway. Our Planning Board had declared the site unfit for residential development of any kind, but prior administrations had ignored their advice and decided that the site was good enough for low income renters. The Town Board approved the project and issued a special permit about two months before our election.  Click photo to see Conifer Special Permit Approval dated 09/10/13.

Ironically, the current candidates from the New Castle Democratic Committee have criticized us for how we handled the challenges we inherited from their predecessors.

Let’s talk about some of the things we did at Chappaqua Crossing:
• We persuaded the developer to move away from its original proposal to build big box stores, and instead design a more community-oriented, walkable retail development.
• The Wallace Auditorium was slated to be demolished. We now own it, it’s called the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center.
• We required that 20% of the total retail space on the property be dedicated to health and fitness-related uses. Life Time Fitness is now coming and taking up 1/3 of the retail space.
• Instead of 60 townhouses being taxed as condominiums, they will be taxed as fee simple.
• Affordable housing units planned for  two new apartment buildings were relocated to the cupola building, which will also have market rate and workforce housing.  Click photo to watch virtual tour.

With Chappaqua Station, we advocated for moving the project to a different location, or alternatively, making it smaller, so it could provide better emergency access for first responders. In the end, we were unable to persuade the developer to downsize or relocate the project to a better site. We caught a lot of heat from the US Attorney’s Office for trying. But we believed we had an obligation to do everything we could – within the bounds of the law – to achieve a better result.

Now the candidates from New Castle Democratic Committee are criticizing us for not completely eliminating their disasters. Sorta ironic. Luckily we have an intelligent electorate. Most understand that we did the best we could under the circumstances without exposing the town to significant legal liability. We all know who created the problems.

The Town is now being run in a more responsive, responsible and respectful fashion, all while still cleaning up the mess that was made under the arrogance of the New Castle Democratic Committee.