CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- New Castle Council woman Elise Kessler Mottel has ended her recusal from the review of the Chappaqua Crossing retail rezoning petition.
Mottel, at a Tuesday joint work session of the Town Board and Planning Board, spoke about the history behind her recusal and why she was ending it. It began on March 22, 2010 during the environmental review for Summit/Greenfield's earlier rezoning petition to allow for multifamily residential use on the site. Mottel said she chose to withdraw from that review because her employer, a law firm, was representing an affiliate of Greenfield Partners. Summit/Greenfield is a joint venture between that company and Summit Development. The affiliate, according to Mottel, was co-sponsoring a condominium offering plan. Since then, all of the condominium units have sold, Mottel explained, and her employer no longer provides legal services to the Greenfield Partners affiliate.
While Mottel did not work with the affiliate, she explained that she recused herself in order to prevent the appearance of impropriety.
The councilwoman also said she based her decision on a legal opinion from Keane & Beane, which serves as the town's law firm.
Speaking at the meeting, Mottel promised residents that she would be “completely impartial” in consideration of the rezoning petition.
The retail proposal includes a 40,000-square-foot space for Whole Foods plus 80,000 worth for over retail spaces, all of which would be developed on the southern section of the former Reader's Digest campus.
It is not the first time that Mottel's recusal was reversed, although it is the first time it is done voluntarily. On April 11, 2011, she participated in a Town Board vote on the residential rezoning petition, according to meeting minutes, due to the fact that the Rule of Necessity went into effect because of a petition submitted that required four votes (the board is made up of five members) for approval. This also led to the recusal of then-Councilman John Buckley being discontinued, according to the minutes.
The vote involved Town Board approval of residential rezoning, but only for 111 residential units, which was less than what Summit/Greenfield requested, according to minutes. Mottel voted in favor of rezoning for the 111-unit version, minutes show.
The joint work session included a presentation from the town's traffic consultant about data and a statement from a representative of Whole Foods, which recently agreed to become a tenant. Additionally, several residents who live near the property raised concerns about traffic, while an attorney representing neighbors urged the creation of another Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) due to modification of the proposal.
A public hearing regarding the rezoning legislation and the proposal's preliminary development concept plan (PDCP) will potentially be held on June 10. A video of the full joint work session is available on NCCMC.