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League of Women Voters of New Castle, NY

P.O. Box 364, Chappaqua, NY  10514. e-mail: lwv.newcastle@gmail.com

Local Planning Committee:
Reader's Digest Property

The League's Local Planning Committee has been involved with major development issues in New Castle: the proposed redevelopment of the Reader's Digest property(this page); changes in the Chappaqua hamlet and the repair of the Route 120 bridge; the 120/133 intersection; and the Millwood Fire House



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Second Proposal for Reader’s Digest Site

August 2007. Summit/Greenfield, owners of the Reader’s Digest property, have returned to the Town of New Castle with a second application for redevelopment of the site. Presented to the Town Board at its July 10th meeting, the new plan retains 520,000 square feet of the existing 700,000-square-foot office facility, while proposing to add 278 residential units to the site. Summit/Greenfield’s previous application for redevelopment was denied by the Town Board in December 2006.

Once again called Chappaqua Crossing, the development would include 222 market-rate units targeted for seniors, with deed restrictions limiting the households to at least one adult 55 years or older and no children under the age of 18. The remaining 56 units would be set aside for affordable housing — 24 units as affordable housing for seniors, with the same restrictions on adults and children as in the 222 units; and 32 units designated as affordable workforce housing, with no restrictions on the ages of adults or children in the household.

Summit/Greenfield is asking the Town to grant two zoning changes on the property to enable the proposed development to go forward. The first is the removal of the four-user limit that restricts the number of commercial tenants and the amount of space they can occupy in the existing Reader’s Digest facility. According to Summit/Greenfield, these restrictions have prevented them from securing additional renters for the buildings. The Town Board adopted the four-user zoning in June 2005, in response to a petition from Summit/Greenfield, to allow Reader’s Digest and three other tenants to occupy the facility. Prior to 2005, the offices were restricted to use by a single tenant.

The second zoning change would subdivide the main 114-acre parcel into two separate zoning districts. Summit/Greenfield has petitioned that approximately 49 acres retain its current B-RO-20 zoning for office and business use; and that the remaining 64.3 acres be designated a Multi-Family Planned Development (MFPD) District, to allow for the construction of the residential complex. The MFPD District is a “floating zone” in the New Castle Town Code, requiring Town Board approval for its application and use.

An overview of the residential campus shows two separate “villages.” The North Village would comprise four three-story buildings with a total of 170 units, and the 24 affordable units for seniors would be interspersed in these four buildings. The “East Village” has four three-story buildings totaling 64 units, as well as 44 two-story town homes. The affordable workforce housing would be clustered in two buildings in the East Village, in order to provide a common playground area for the families who would reside in these units. All units would have access to the campus clubhouse, which would feature a pool and meeting/gathering room.

To make way for the new construction, Summit/Greenfield plans to demolish two buildings and the maintenance garage of the existing Reader’s Digest facility, along with the Wallace Auditorium and the Bedford Valley House. In its petition, Summit/Greenfield has also offered to donate two one-acre parcels along Roaring Brook Road to the Town of New Castle for municipal use.

In August, the Town Board adopted a resolution declaring that Chappaqua Crossing is subject to review under New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA); and signaled its intent to serve as Lead Agency for the project. The Town Board’s status as Lead Agency was officially adopted on September 18th, at a joint meeting of the Town Board and Planning Board which featured a presentation on Chappaqua Crossing by Summit/Greenfield and members of its legal and engineering team.

Proposed Reader's Digest Redevelopment Visioning Sessions November 2006

Two visioning sessions for the proposed redevelopment of the Reader’s Digest property will be held at the Robert E. Bell Middle School. They will take place on Thursday, November 16th, 7:00-9:15pm; and on Saturday, November 18th, 9:45am-12:00 noon. Both sessions are open to the public. For more information call Town Hall at 238-4771, or log onto the Town’s website to access relevant documents at www.town.new-castle.ny.us/ReadersDigestProperty.html.

What is Visioning?

The purpose of the visioning sessions is to create dialogue about possible alternative uses for the Reader’s Digest property. This is an important part of the SEQR process under New York State law. In the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) the applicant, Summit/Greenfield, must discuss alternatives to the plan they have presented. It is anticipated that some of the ideas generated at the visioning sessions will be incorporated into the Final Scope Document, which forms the outline of all issues to be addressed in the DEIS. The visioning sessions will be led by BFJ Planning, consultants hired by the Town of New Castle to advise on the Reader’s Digest project. Planning expenses incurred by the Town are borne by the applicant.

The Town Board was originally scheduled to adopt a DEIS Final Scope Document by October 31st. That deadline has now been extended to on or around December 15th, allowing time to incorporate ideas from the visioning sessions in the final scope document.

Public Comment on DEIS Draft Scope

The visioning sessions follow the close of the public comment period on the draft scope document prepared by Summit/Greenfield. At three packed public scoping sessions held at Town Hall on September 26th and October 4th, speakers drew attention to a broad range of potential impacts. These included, among other issues, density of the number of condominium units proposed (348); enforceability of age restrictions; traffic and congestion in the surrounding area and around town; enrollment and tax implications for the Chappaqua schools; preservation of the hamlet-like character of the New Castle community; visual impacts of the proposed buildings, coupled with the proposed removal of trees; and the need to explore other options for the site. While the purpose of the scoping sessions was to elicit questions for inclusion in the final scope document, what emerged from the speakers’ comments was a picture of resounding disapproval of the proposed redevelopment plan.

The League's Local Planning Committee has reviewed the Draft Scope Document and has submitted formal comments to be considered for the Final Scope Document. For the complete text of the League's comments (8 page Word document) click here.

League Comments on Reader’s Digest Scoping

Jan. 15, 2008.  The window for public comment on the proposed redevelopment of Reader’s Digest closed on Friday, January 25, 2008.  The purpose of public scoping was to solicit input from the community on issues to be addressed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that is required under New York’s SEQR law. 

As lead agency for the review, the Town Board now has until February 25th to adopt a final scope document, which will outline all the issues Summit/Greenfield must address in the DEIS.  The Town Board will be considering speakers’ comments from the three public scoping sessions held on January 9th and January 22nd, as well as written comments that were received by the January 25th deadline.  The League’s Local Planning Committee reviewed the redevelopment proposal and draft scope document prepared by Summit/Greenfield, and submitted comments that raised questions about a number of major issues, including density, traffic, age restrictions, taxes and town services, and zoning, among others.  Download Word Document to read LWV's full comments

Where to Find Important Documents Related to Reader’s Digest

The draft scoping document prepared by Summit/Greenfield, the redevelopment proposal for Reader’s Digest/Chappaqua Crossing, and other important documents are available on the town website at www.town.new-castle.ny.us/ReadersDigestProperty.html.

Reader's Digest Update

Hospital Parking Approved and Other News

The Town Board voted at its July 8th meeting to approve a temporary zoning amendment for the Reader’s Digest property, allowing Northern Westchester Hospital (NWH) the use of 140 parking spaces on the campus for up to three years.

NWH is embarking on an expansion that will add 30,000 square feet to the hospital, designated in part to house a new emergency room facility. The project will also add a parking garage with 430 spots. During construction, which is expected to take up to three years, the hospital needs 250 off-site parking spaces for employees. It approached Summit/Greenfield for 140 of those spots. Summit/Greenfield petitioned the town on behalf of the hospital for the temporary change.

A central issue during discussions leading up to the vote was ensuring that the additional traffic did not interfere with peak periods at Horace Greeley High School. Accordingly, a blackout period has been established when hospital employees may not enter the Reader’s Digest parking lot. The jitney service that will shuttle employees between Reader’s Digest and the hospital is also subject to restrictions.

In addition to the spaces at Reader’s Digest, the hospital has secured 50 parking spots at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Mount Kisco, directly across the street from the hospital on Route 117. Negotia-tions are in process for another 60 spots at the Universalist Fellowship of Northern West-chester, on Route 172 in the Town of Bedford.

Summit/Greenfield Grieves Tax Assessment

Grievance Day, the annual day to grieve your taxes, was held at Town Hall on June 17th. Representatives of Summit/ Greenfield appeared before the Board of Assessment Review to ask for a substantial reduction in the assessed value of the Reader’s Digest property.

Currently, the property is assessed at $11.1328 million. Using New Castle’s tentative 2008 equalization rate, established by the New York State Office of Real Property Services (www.orps.state.ny.us), this assessment results in a full market value of approximately $65.5 million. Summit/ Greenfield has requested a reduction in the assessed value of the property to $4.839 million, which, when using the same equalization rate, would result in a full market value of approximately $28.5 million. In 2007, at the current assessment, taxes on the property totaled $1.424 million.

Decisions of the Board of Assessment Review are expected in mid-September. This year, approximately 131 grievances were brought before the Board.

Town to Examine
Possible Municipal Uses

At its June 24th meeting, the Town Board adopted a Request for Proposal (RFP) to hire a consultant to analyze a number of possible municipal uses of the Reader's Digest property.

The RFP is the result of several months’ work, as the Town Board sought input from the Planning Board, the Recreation and Parks Commission, and the CCSD School Board on ideas for the property. The purpose of this collective “brainstorming” was to come up with a menu of options for further examination. These are outlined in the RFP as: playing fields; ownership of the Wallace Auditorium as a community facility; relocation of the Recreation Department offices or other municipal use; open space preservation; an indoor recreation center with pool, basketball courts and teen facility; studio space for NCCTV; and adaptive reuse of the northernmost buildings of the Reader’s Digest complex.

Working with the Town, the consultant will produce a feasibility study that will prioritize these uses and examine the impacts of each, both alone and in combination with other uses, including those proposed by Summit/Greenfield. A short list of scenarios will become the subject of a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) and design study.