UPDATED 3:35 p.m.
CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – The Chappaqua Crossing bashing tour continued Tuesday night when the New Castle Planning Board took its turn to criticize Summit/Greenfield’s proposal for retail development at the 480 Bedford Road property.
“I’m having trouble understanding how this works in the real world,” said board member Tom Curley. “It just doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Summit/Greenfield’s current petition calls for 120,000 square feet of retail space that is anchored by a full-service grocery store of 36,000 to 66,000 square feet. The grocery store would be supported by smaller retail stores.
Summit/Greenfield is acting on a town-initiated proposal to rezone the property to allow for retail development in the currently zoned Research and Office Business District. The petition was referred to the Planning Board for review.
The board piggybacked concerns local residents brought up Nov. 27, when the Town Board opened the proposal for public comment. Curley continued to question the actual need for the retail center and wondered what type of grocer would want to occupy such a “nontraditional” site.
“I think there is this notion somehow that we’re doing this because we’re underserved,” he said. “I guarantee if you do the market study you’ll find we’re not underserved.”
Andrew Tung, a planning and engineering consultant for the planned new uses on the site, agreed that the space is a difficult sell but said it has already garnered interest from major grocery store chains.
Tung said stores and restaurants like Chipotle, Five Guys, Starbucks, Petco and Staples would be the type of national chains that would round out the development. He said the names were only hypothetical and the ancillary stores would mostly depend on the main grocery store.
Curley described Petco and Staples as “category killers” that would prevent similar stores from ever coming to the town. He said the proposal doesn’t have a “campus feel” and believes it is a missed opportunity to capitalize on the historical significance of the property, which formerly was the headquarters of Reader's Digest.
Curley and other members agreed that significant market studies need to be carried out before the proposal can be approved, and put the onus on Summit/Greenfield to prove there is a desire and need for such a development in Chappaqua.
“As long as it takes,” Curley said about the study. “Once this gets built, there’s no going back.”
Geoff Thompson, a spokesperson from Chappaqua Crossing responded "We are not attempting to compete with the downtown merchants. In fact, we have responded to the Town Board’s zoning proposal which explicitly states that there will be no 'big box' stores and no fast food restaurants. By keeping shoppers now leaving town in search of groceries and other merchandise, it serves to benefit the entire retail community. The success of Chappaqua Crossing as an office location, a residential community and a retail source means more people in Chappaqua who will be looking for local shops, restaurants and services, not just on site but in the downtown. We respect the concerns of the businesses in the hamlet and are confident that going forward the retail approach we are taking and that the Town Board has put forth will be a benefit to the overall health of the local business community."