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Chappaqua Crossing: Officials Eye Law Change for Housing Zone

Recent settlement between town and developer calls for extending the existence of the multi-family housing zone, which come with a deadline for getting planning board approval.

New Castle's Town Board is eyeing a change to the town code that would give Chappaqua Crossing developer Summit/Greenfield more time to keep its multi-family housing zone.

The legislation, which is on the agenda for Tuesday's board work session, applies to getting extensions for the zone, which is officially called the Multifamily Planned Development (MFPD), so that the developer can have more time to get site plan approval from the town's planning board. While the change applies to any property that has an MFPD, Chappaqua Crossing is the only property that would be immediately affected by the change due to where it stands procedurally.

Currently, once an MFPD zone is granted—the town board gave one in April 2011 that applies to 111 units, a mix of condos and townhouses—the applicant has one year to apply for and get site plan approval before the the change lapses. After that, two, six-month extensions can be requested. The change in the law would allow for an unlimited number of six-month extensions that can be asked for.

Under the existing law, Summit/Greenfield sought each extension and was granted both from the town board. However, it has run out of extensions to pursue, leaving a change in the law as its next possible path.

The housing component has been perhaps the most contentious element of the former Reader's Digest site since Summit/Greenfield acquired it in 2004. The developer presented several multi-family housing proposals during the later half of the 2000s, settling on a 199-unit plan as its most recent in 2010. The last plan involved a 111-unit "East Village" cluster and an 88-unit "North Village" Cluster, but the town board only approved the East Village. The board made its decision after months of opposition from residents, including Chappaqua school board members. Concerns ranged from fear of cannibalizing the site's commercial space zone, to adding more kids into the school district without enough tax revenue to pay for them.

The developer, frustrated with the review process—it went on for several years and included multiple versions of an environmental impact statement—sued the town in February 2011, in federal and state courts. Summit/Greenfield claimed that the process was a sham and that it had been deprived of its economic use of the property. The complaints were amended after the board approved the East Village component nearly two months later.

After a protracted pair of legal battles, both sides agreed to a settlement in December. The deal led to Summit/Greenfield suspending its lawsuits, which would be terminated if the town board approves rezoning for its retail and grocery store rezoning proposal, and if the planning board approves a corresponding site plan. The grocery and retail proposal was submitted in October, crafted in response to a similar plan that the town board produced months earlier. If the retail proposal is rejected, then Summit/Greenfield has the right to bring back its lawsuits.

Summit/Greenfield is currently working on responding to town feedback for an environmental impact statement, spokesman Geoff Thompson recently told Patch, which it submitted for its retail plan.

One provision in the settlement, however, calls for the town board to give Summit/Greenfield more time to keep the residential zone so that site plan approval from the planning board can be sought. The settlement gives an April 1 "milestone" for approving an extension.

The town board's work session starts Tuesday at 7:45 p.m., at New Castle Town Hall in Chappaqua. Click here to search for the agenda and its accompanying packet. Generally, when code changes on are a work session agenda, it does not mean that the town board will vote then on the measure. Instead, a formal vote is set for an upcoming regular session, with discussion of its contents at the work session.

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