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Croton's Gateway Law Designed to Enhance Business Development

May 3, 2007

Every community has gateways where arrivals first encounter its streets and residents and shops. Croton has three commercial gateways that have been studied: southerly at Croton Point Avenue, Route 9 and S. Riverside; centrally at Route 9, Municipal Place and Maple Avenue; and northerly at Route 9A/Albany Post Road border with Cortlandt.

An attractive, active gateway boosts a community’s sense of pride and, of course, a visitor’s desire to linger. So the question becomes what would best fit in a community like ours?

Think of a gateway overlay as a mild dress code for the sites that are the most visible in Croton. To create a better looking, more consistent, higher functioning gateway, sites within it are being asked—upon redevelopment—to dress up more than is the case for less visible sites further removed from the main entrances to the village.

Over time this dress code raises property values in the gateway and adjacent to the gateways. Investors and villagers both will like that long term economic benefit. In the long run, good design costs less and earns back more than lack of design.

What kind of dress code fits our village entrances? Through surveys, workshops and many public meetings, Crotonites have made specific preferences clear. We want a greater variety of shopping experiences. We want shops that are scaled to the small-town feel of the Upper Village or Harmon districts. We want high quality in what is offered, whether in services or goods. We want safe pedestrian and bicycle access and better sidewalks. We want to see plenty of greenery wherever we go in town. We do want places to park, but don’t want more strip-mall style parking lots. We don’t want large big-box stores. We don’t want a concrete and asphalt-only environment.

In 2004 Croton adopted a Gateway Zoning Overlay Law that provides specific guidelines for developing sites in the three commercially zoned entrances to our village. The Gateway law added specific design criteria to the already existing zoning in each of the three areas.

In response to citizen input and, in accord with well-established patterns in attractive gateways in other cities and towns, new development in the 3 Croton Gateways set out the following specifics:

  1. Building Size: any single building is limited to 20,000 square feet and any single use to 8,000 square feet.
  2. Parking: Off-street parking is to be located on the side or rear of buildings, unless this makes the site unworkable.
  3. Green space: at least 15% of the site should be open space, not including parking, buildings, or sidewalks.

Does a Gateway overlay benefit developers? Yes. Why? In simple terms, the improvements in the Gateway are those that (1) embody positive changes the community is seeking, (2) raise the overall aesthetic and functional value of the sites; (3) help ensure that each site will eventually be improved to a higher standard.

Potential developers benefit from knowing, in advance, what the community desires and what is likely to be approved regarding bulk, appearance, parking requirements, and green space. Avoiding contentious approval processes is a strong incentive to development. The Gateway law lets developers tailor proposals to what is approvable without a lengthy and contentious process.

Of course, defining a desirable gateway doesn’t make developers appear overnight. Once such a law is in place, a municipality must market its approach and desires. This type of marketing already occurred in bringing Zeytinia to Croton at a time when Grand Union had left and its entire site was almost totally unoccupied. Residents were asking the Village to be instrumental in bringing a new grocery to the area. Village-to-business marketing made that happen. That is what needs to happen now to help redevelop our Gateway areas.

We should note some uses are prohibited in the Gateway such as parking lots, dealerships, automobile storage lots, fast-food restaurants, and drive-through windows for some commercial establishments.

The criteria set in the Gateway law were based on extensive research on similar situations throughout the county. Examples currently in Mamaroneck and Mt. Kisco as well as other municipalities show small-scale, stroller-friendly commercial environments.

Under our Gateway criteria, chain stores such as a typical Starbucks at 1,500 square feet, or a Red Lobster at 5,000 square feet could be easily accommodated. On the other hand, a typical Stop & Shop at 70,000 square feet or a CVS/Eckerd Drugstore at 12,000-15,000 square feet would not.

Typical commercial and retail or office sizes in Croton fall well within the new ceiling of a 20,000 total square foot building and 8,000 square feet per use within that building. Of 132 commercial uses examined in Croton for the Gateway Zoning study, 54% or 71 were less than 2,000 square feet. The Gateway size range is designed to match existing sizes of commercial uses in the Village. As an example of these current uses, Zeytinia’s current size is 6950 square feet, soon to expand to 7,950 square feet. Other examples of existing uses which we all know are (in square feet) the Black Cow at 1,000, Wondrous Things at 6,872 , Wachovia Bank at 2,500 and the Post Office at 4,772.

Recently, key properties in the gateway areas have become available. If residents want these properties to be developed as we previously indicated we would like, we should be marketing them in the context of our larger plan. We currently have several opportunities to do that for both privately—and village-owned parcels. Additionally, I would be interested in hearing more (by email or public comment on the blog) from readers with thoughts on this issue.

Ann Gallelli, Trustee, Croton-on-Hudson

On May 14, 2007 3:22 PM, KWilly said:

Harley, From your disgraceful behavior i have seen so far i bet your not even a real person. Maybe i would know who you are if you signed your name because i doubt you legally changed your name to Harley Davidson. I disagree with you when you said that you only open your mouth when you have something reasonable to say because the fact is that so far you haven’t said anything important.

I actually never said anything about the Gateway plan all i said was that i agree with Tom Faranda that people should sign their names. I seemed to always be attacked by the mystical Harley Davidson whenever i defend Republicans.

Since Harley Davidson went back to my Prostitution position by using the usual claim of it being demeaning i have a question for him that i bet he won’t answer. Stripping, Pornography & Rap are legal and Demeaning towards woman, why should Prostitution not be regulated like them. Ask people from Nevada, Netherlands, and Germany how legalization is working out for them and i bet you’d be surprised with the answers.

Kevin W. Davis

On May 13, 2007 10:30 PM, KWilly said:

I agree with Tom because if people have the balls to write lengthy nasty notes than they should sign their names. The fact is i bet none of these people have went to any of the meetings to put in some input into the current policy and instead would rather vent behind a computer screen.

Kevin Davis

On May 13, 2007 9:55 PM, Tom Faranda said:

Georgianna,

I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment that you are glad “the parade has passed us by.”

I’m sorry there are some empty storefronts, but there are also more then a few home-based businesses doing fine in Croton. And there are quite a number of professionals with practices in town - there are three different ones just in the house where I rent space at 104 Grand.

What do people want - a steel mill on the northeast end of town?

By the way, I still find it galling that people post anonymously on this site.

Tom Faranda

On May 13, 2007 2:17 PM, TeaDrinker said:

The favorable comments exchanged between Businessperson and myself make us sound like members of a two-person mutual-admiration society. As a disclaimer, I can honestly say that I have never met Businessperson and, in fact, do not have an inkling of his or her identity. It’s obvious that Businessperson is a former Crotonite who knows something about big-box stores and merchandising.

It was illuminating to learn that all the talk about keeping big-box stores out of Croton is pure bushwa—a useful expression for bullshit regrettably not heard much anymore. It turns out that the term “big-box store” has been misused to scare Crotonites just as WMDs were used to scare the nation. It also turns out that there is simply not enough room to put a giant free-standing big-box store or stores in Croton nor would there be an economic incentive for anyone to do so even if there were enough room. So why does the Gallelli-Grant combo keep on pinning spit medals on themselves for keeping big-box stores out of Croton?

Croton’s planning is as riddled with holes as a Swiss cheese, and full of curious anomalies. Would Ms. Gallelli please explain why it’s okay to have a Dunkin’ Donuts in Croton—but she wants no part of a MacDonald’s, which she mistakenly characterizes as a big-box store? Why is it okay to have a CVS Pharmacy here—but the idea of having an Eckerd Drug, also mistakenly characterized as a big-box store, sends cold shivers up and down her spine? Give me a break! The benefits in lower prices from competing businesses can only accrue to customers’ advantage. Of course, this only happens in a genuine free-enterprise system.

State planning proved unworkable in the Soviet Union and failed miserably there and in the client states behind the Iron Curtain in which it was tried. Crotonites pretend to fear the health hazards of pollution caused by traffic to a waste transfer station. Yet the village purchased a privately owned parking lot, expanded it into a village-operated cash cow that brings thousands of automobiles to Croton, with nary a peep of concern expressed about the pollution it causes. Happily, Croton is in the process of losing whatever monopoly it had and is about to discover how the law of diminishing returns operates when a service provider gets greedy.

With all their talk about wanting to keep Croton “a small town” and at the same time attract new, tax-paying businesses to the village, Ms. Gallelli and Mrs. Grant sound like the proverbial fat lady in a shoe store who told the salesperson she wanted a shoe that was large on the inside and small on the outside. By Ms. Gallelli’s own admission, business-hungry Croton tailored its zoning law to target certain businesses judged to be undesirable, and puts the bar up artificially high to exclude them. This is unseemly, anti-business behavior on the part of a community. It’s an action that would be adjudged to be in restraint of trade if done by a private business. But what else would you expect from a village that is, in Mrs. Grant’s words, “caring and neighborly,” yet limits use of its waterfront park to residents to keep out what are euphemistically referred to as “those people”?

Let’s face it! Ms. Gallelli is a technocrat who sees Croton as a laboratory in which to mold a vision of the Croton she would like it to be, as contrasted with the Croton we have in the here and now. In the recent election, she deserved to lose because the office of mayor needs someone attuned to reality and the winds of change, rather than an inflexible technocrat. In fact, all three Democrats deserved to lose, as was pointed out in an analysis of the election on Crotonblog, because they allowed the Republicans to reduce the issues of the campaign to a single spurious pocketbook issue, whilst they blithely ran on an ambitious, meticulously detailed pie-in-the-sky agenda that failed to lock horns with their opponents’ single issue.

The Republicans’ campaign was aided and abetted by a cohort of activists who bombarded the local newspapers with partisan letters and cartoons, monopolized and hijacked board meetings with electioneering by board members and audience alike, and fanned the flames of mistrust and fear at every opportunity. The Democrats sat on their hands and, as the expression has it, they were mugged by reality. In a war, the battle is the payoff, and the babes-in-the woods Democrats, rendered toothless by internal factional policy differences, missed opportunities and outright timidity, were defeated decisively. It will be interesting to see whether the Democrats will even be able to cling to their two-member minority in the 2008 election.

Another classic expression declaims, “To the victor belongs the spoils.” It will also be interesting to see whether the Republican majority will act like old-fashioned Republicans and make Croton truly business friendly with inducements and concessions, rather than merely continuing the Democrats’ standard practice of paying lip service to the concept while legislating against it. I have enjoyed these exchanges because they reveal the giant rift valleys that exist between word and deed in local politics and government. I might add that while I have some Libertarian leanings, I am happy to be an independent voter willing to call the shots by all parties as I see them and then to go into the voting booth armed with that knowledge. My advice to both parties in Croton: Cut out the bushwa!

On May 12, 2007 12:05 PM, TeaDrinker said:

The following are my responses to Mrs. Grant’s selective comments. By way of identification, I am a Democrat by birth and a Libertarian by persuasion. I returned to Croton a few months back after an extended sojourn away from these precincts. I do well remember the Croton of the past when CHOPA (the Croton Homeowners Protective Association) fiercely guarded village values. I must say that upon my return I did not recognize the Croton of yore in today’s Croton, nor did I find Mrs. Grant’s “community of caring, neighborly and close knit friends.” Instead, I saw a village tearing itself apart in a bruising election carefully orchestrated around an issue calculated to frighten the bejesus out of voters. I suspect that it will be a long time recovering from that experience, but I will happily be gone again from here by then. First, let me thank oldtimer for reminding me of the origin of the term “backwater.”

By the numbers, here is my response to Mrs. Grant’s comments:

  1. She claims that Ms. Gallelli qualified her plan’s three gateways as “commercial” gateways, not merely as gateways. If the fourth gateway I claim was omitted from the plan—namely, Grand Street from the Y-intersection with Route 129 to as far as where Old Post Road branches off from Grand Street—is not a commercial gateway, what is it? Chopped liver?

  2. In her essay, Ms. Gallelli wrote, “We don’t want any big-box stores.” This is as dishonest as the President saying, “We’re fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.” It also shows a woeful lack of knowledge about the term that Ms. Gallelli and Mrs. Grant both bandy about so freely. As the author of the Wikipedia entry on the subject, I can tell them that the term refers to the buildings in which they are housed—large, one-story flat-roofed concrete-block “boxes” that range anywhere from 50,000 square feet to 200,000 square feet in area. (The words “big-box” in the phrase “big-box store” does not refer to the packaging in which the merchandise is sold, “big boxes,” as so many believe.) The piddling square footage numbers Ms. Gallelli throws out as being taboo in Croton are by no means big-box stores by anybody’s definition.

Big-box stores are of two types: general merchandisers (Wal-Mart, Target) and the so-called “category killers” (Home Depot, Circuit City, Barnes & Noble) that specialize in goods within a specific category, such as hardware, electronics or books. By the very nature of the clientele sought, big-box stores avoid stand-alone locations like the plague, preferring to be in large groupings of other big-box stores, category killers and mixed smaller specialty retailers. A lone big-box store sited in Croton could not make it through its second quarter and would be shuttered in six months without ever making a profit.

Thus, for anyone in planning or associated with it or supporting it to say, “The Gateway Law is keeping big-box stores out of Croton” is dishonest. And so is identifying MacDonald’s and Eckerd Drugs as big-box stores, as Mrs. Grant does. Both are as dishonest as the President’s statements about success in Iraq or anyone in Croton saying, “The Police Department has been successful in keeping the village safe from man-eating tigers.” If you were to raise your eyebrows and demand proof of these statements, they will ask, “You don’t see any big-box stores here, do you?” or “Seen any tigers roaming around in Croton lately?”

  1. If ours were a truly a free-enterprise society, no community should be able to accord to itself the right to dictate that only businesses with “a small town feel”—whatever that is—can come into Croton, as Mrs. Grant stipulates. Try opening a legitimate business like a tattoo parlor in Croton and watch the bluenoses gather and ride you out of town on a rail.

  2. If there are indeed 17 local delicatessens in Croton, this can hardly be a healthy business mix. Could it be that the astronomical number of delis is related to the failure of the school system to provide hot lunches for high schoolers and instead allows them to roam the village at lunch hour without supervision? There’s another disaster waiting to happen.

  3. Despite what Mrs. Grant says, the friendly and loyal residents of Croton did indeed desert the family-run movie rental business to patronize Blockbuster. I was one of the few who tried to drum up support to keep the threatened business going, but loyalty, such as it was, succumbed to the siren song of lower prices. For my part, I have never set foot in Blockbuster since it opened.

  4. Mrs. Grant’s speculations about locations where big-box stores might be placed in Croton have no validity whatsoever and demonstrate a woeful lack of knowledge about mass merchandising practices today. It would make no economic sense for an entrepreneur to place a big-box store in a retailing backwater like Croton. As a marketing geographer, I know that big-box stores cannot survive in stand-alone locations, and no retailing entrepreneur would have the slightest interest in locating a lone big-box store anywhere in Croton. What operators of big-box stores seek is an agglomeration of stores, large and small, all thriving in a symbiotic relationship such as exists in the Cortlandt Town Center. By reason of the variety offered, the location selected, in the classic words of the Guide Michelin, must be “vaut le voyage” (worth the trip). Moreover, a location anywhere in Croton is simply too geographically close to the Cortlandt Town Center to be feasible, so Ms. Gallelli and Mrs. Grant can stop taking credit for having kept big-box stores out of Croton. No self-respecting big-box store entrepreneur would want to come here and lose his shirt.

Ms. Gallelli is not above fighting to protect her own interests when commercial development looms as a possibility near her residence. I recall her strong opposition to a major development that was considered to be constructed along Route 9A in the northern part of the village, but well away from her residence. “Where would they find employees?” was the theme of her argument against it.

  1. Communities, like humans, go through stages of life. Croton is by any standard going through the period that can best be described as old age. With its aging infrastructure breaking down, it should be paying attention to encouraging commercial development with entities like professional office buildings. Croton should recognize that it is a peculiar entity—the result of the marriage between a planned early twentieth-century community designed to extract the utmost utilization from a single parcel of land (Harmon) with a centuries-old riverine village whose major industries were clay extraction for brickmaking and railroad shops (Croton). Why at a late stage of its life, Croton should clamp down on development and be concerned with face lifting is beyond explanation. (By the way, Croton, which pretends to revere its long history, has totally neglected to take notice that 2007 marks the hundredth anniversary of the time when the first lots in the new community of Harmon went on sale to the public.)

Similarly, after much of Croton had been constructed on steep slopes rivaling those of Beverly Hills, this village passed a steep slopes law with no grandfathering provisions. It was ostensibly aimed at developers of large tracts, but the net result was that owners of undeveloped small lots were victimized.

The only yardstick by which to judge the success of any plan like Croton’s Gateway scheme is how successful the village has been in attracting new business willing to buck the new law’s stringent requirements and still turn a profit. More than three years after the law’s adoption, the Croton management team has racked up a no-hits and no-runs record with more than a few errors. What happens to the now-empty commercial properties along the east side of South Riverside Avenue in Harmon will be the acid test of the Gateway Law. After they have lain fallow for years, will the meddling planners’ response be an unrepentant, “Oops, sorry?”

On May 11, 2007 1:14 PM, weewill said:

The above comments were indeed well written but I’m not so sure they were well-thought out. Because they were so precise readers might be tempted to accept the arguments at face value. I urge readers to consider a thorough analyses of the wisdom behind the Comprehensive Plan before reaching any quick judgment. Having attended every public input community meeting where residents were invited to share their opinions, comments and hopes for the future of Croton, I respectfully question some of the assumptive conclusions drawn by the writer. I also attended each and every meeting of the Comprehensive Plan Committee work sessions and witnessed first hand the depth of their research and exploration that resulted in their recommendations to the Village Board.

  1. I don’t believe Ms. Gallelli said there were “three gateways;” I believe she said there were three “commercial” (zoned for business) gateways.

  2. It’s been clear for as long as I’ve lived here (50+ years) that the huge majority of residents want to keep Croton a small home town. Over the years, big box developers have surfaced (Caldors, MacDonald’s, and Ekerd Drugs to name a few). The majority of residents made it clear they wanted neither the traffic congestion nor the “Golden Arch” perception for Croton. Thus, I believe Ms. Gallelli’s comments about “boosting a community’s sense of pride.”

  3. If the writer remains unaware of any “public clamor” in favor of small town attributes I suggest he/she may not have attended the numerous public input workshops convened by the Comp Plan Committee during their 4+year deliberations. I also suggest to any readers that input is only valuable when shared with those having responsibility for developing the plans. (If any reader has opinions about a potential community center, it would be wise to let the committee know before recommendations are made.)

  4. I don’t claim to know for sure, but I would suspect no bakeries have surfaced in Croton because fresh baked goods are so available at our local delis (17 of them at last count) and the supermarkets.

  5. I think the writer is speculating when he states Croton “deserted the small family-run business renting films.” Many, many Crotonites supported and fought for them to remain. Perhaps the comment author was one of those residents? Unfortunately the effort was unsuccessful and the owners decided to move on and, I believe, out of the film renting business. Many mourned the loss!

  6. The author might be surprised at the places a “big-box” store could go if he or she knew Croton well. While no one has a crystal ball, developers can get very creative. Think Ossining waterfront; think Yonkers waterfront; think Croton waterfront; think 1A Croton Point Avenue. Imagine what might have been possible to build on the Katz property if we hadn’t purchased it. Imagine it being combined with the Croton Auto Park. Picture what might go into the vacated Croton Dodge property. Imagine that block, from the now empty Croton Dodge building to the vacated Four Season’s Restaurant; think north end of the village and vacant land there; think the eastern end of Croton’s 129. All the crazy possibilities make it necessary to plan ahead and protect what we treasure by comprehensive planning.

    1. The Comprehensive Plan Committee was hardly a group of “starry-eyed planners.” It is comprised of Ann Gallelli as Chair, with 25 plus years experience in planning, 2 attorneys, a commercial appraiser and 2 architects. This dedicated, and smart, smart, smart group of village volunteers was guided and aided by Frank Fish of Buckhurst, Fish and Jacquemart, a highly respected professional consulting firm. Hardly a group of “starry-eyed planners.”

And in closing, this long-time resident of Croton is happy the “parade has gone by” and wholeheartedly salutes the reality we are a community of caring, neighborly, and close-knit friends. We can all point to a few proposals to come before the various governing boards that neither citizens nor thankfully our boards, wanted to see in our small village. I rejoice in the reality that “the parade has passed us by”. It’s enabled us to retain the quaint, small town atmosphere that is so special. Croton is so much more than a formerly industrial Hudson River village that has become a “bedroom town” for New York City and elsewhere. These newcomers have chosen Croton to be their home for very solid reasons. I welcome them as new neighbors. I believe it’s largely because of the personality, people, character and beauty of our village that they selected Croton as their home..

I sincerely hope “oldtimers” prediction is true … that Croton will see a return of such local businesses as butchers, grocers, bakeries and specialty food stores to which people will walk or bike to do their shopping. And I applaud the Village, in particular the Comprehensive Plan Committee” for their insightful and thought provoking concepts for the future of our beloved hometown.

Georgianna

On May 11, 2007 12:30 PM, TeaDrinker said:

Boy, oh, boy! I could not have said it better had I written Businessperson’s critique and the response to Waffels myself. Let’s face it, folks. Everyone interested in Croton’s future should wake up to reality. The parade’s gone by. In addition to having been isolated by the Expressway, Croton is now just another formerly industrial Hudson River village that has become a “bedroom town” for New York City and elsewhere. Like so many others, it clears out during weekdays. Should a fire break out in your house or apartment, count yourself lucky if it happens on a weekend or between dusk and dawn on a weekday, rather than the other way around when many volunteer firefighters are simply not here.

As the hydrocarbon energy crisis deepens, motorcar usage will drop off and public transportation will flourish. We will see a return of such local businesses as butchers, grocers, bakeries and specialty food stores to which people will walk or bike to do their shopping. The Expressway will then be regarded as having been a blessing. Shopping patterns will resemble those of the arrondissements of Paris, each of which is to this day a self-sufficient neighborhood. To achieve this almost inevitable outcome, Croton planners must make it easier for new businesses to take root here by offering inducements instead of making it harder for them with impractical restrictive legislation.

On May 11, 2007 12:02 PM, TeaDrinker said:

First, let me say that I am not Maria Cudequest. Although we do not agree in philosophy or methodology, I have to say that it is refreshing to find someone in the public eye who uses the English language correctly, as Ms. Cudequest does. In my comment, I attempted to write a carefully crafted, reasoned response to Ms. Gallelli’s spontaneous essay on the controversial Gateway scheme (and I use that word in the British sense). In it, she pointedly had invited commentary, and I obliged somewhat reluctantly. From my reading of past exchanges on the Crotonblog, Waffels, as usual, insists on viewing the critique of Ms. Gallelli’s essay through her own distorted personal prism as an assault on Ms. Gallelli. Waffels wants to kill the messenger instead of reading and understanding the message. I would have thought that any fool could see my effort as an even-handed analysis, but obviously I was wrong. I suggest that in the future Waffels let her head, not her hormones or her friendships, govern her responses.

My screed was not so much an attack on Ms. Gallelli as it was a point-by-point dissection of her essay on the Gateway Law for which she bears full responsibility and which has truly been a calamity for Croton. Readers with long memories will recall that after running successfully for reelection as a Trustee, Ms. Gallelli abruptly resigned that elective office to accept appointment as an eventually long-serving Planning Board chairperson, where she wielded much power. In that capacity, she cost the village some $120,000 dollars by foolishly insisting that Croton bring suit against Exxon for erecting a canopy at the Exxon service station at the corner of Croton Point and South Riverside avenues on the grounds that it was unesthetic and interfered with “the view.” At that point, the Exxon station was the only one in Croton without a canopy. Ms. Gallelli was apparently unaware that such canopies do more than merely shield self-service motorists from rain or snow. They also contain foam fire-fighting equipment that springs into action to quench fires at the pumps. I hold no brief for an oil industry giant, but to make a long story shorter, Croton lost that suit. So much for her expertise.

I have met Ms. Gallelli, and I am sure she is sincere in her desire to improve Croton. But sincerity alone does not automatically foster merit in an otherwise flawed pie-in-the-sky plan with no basis in reality. And that reality is the dire straits in which the Expressway has left Croton economically. History offers proof of the Expressway’s bypassing effect. As railroads pushed westward in the nineteenth century, communities used every blandishment to cause rails to pass through them. Those that were bypassed experienced little commercial growth and remained local market towns. Similarly, communities on rivers that cut new channels experienced the same bypassing effect to become “backwater” towns languishing on oxbow lakes.

Thanks to the Expressway, Croton now shares this fate. Combine the Expressway with the reality of Croton’s existing widely separated “shopping nodes,” as oldtimer has pointed out, and you have a recipe for disaster, especially if you impose arbitrarily restrictive gateway overlays that further discourage development. An old expression holds that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Well, the Gateway Law and its fanciful parking, footprint and greenery requirements have produced neither one iota of new development nor one dollar of new taxes. Under the guise of the shibboleth of intelligent planning, Croton now smothers in its crib any new venture that might consider locating here.

On May 10, 2007 9:03 PM, sacklabs said:

Well, thats a far too cheap and easy way of dismissing someone. I think that Businessperson had a well thought out, and well written intelligent response to Ms Galelli’s post…I don’t know how you can just say “It’s cudequest”. I agreed with some, but not all of his/her statements, but I am confident enough in my own thoughts to appreciate their argument without summarily dismissing it as a judgment on how much the writer doesn’t like Galelli. It seems that every time there is an intelligent point-counterpoint of well thought out debate on Croton Blog, one or both sides tends to throw out silly and juvenile retorts like Waffels’ last post that adds nothing to the debate.

On May 10, 2007 8:34 PM, waffels said:

Boy that was just too many words to say you don’t like Ann Gallelli. You sound a certain Cuda-Quack that used to frequent this blog……

On May 10, 2007 5:51 PM, TeaDrinker said:

I had hoped that by now one or more of the readers who add comments to Crotonblog’s postings, such as “Devil’s Advocate” or “Oldtimer,” would have rebutted Ms. Gallelli’s essay extolling the virtues of her gateway scheme. It is interesting to note that, despite her appeal for comments and suggestions about her gateway screed, not a single reader has responded. I therefore feel compelled to critique it with my maiden effort on Crotonblog lest Ms. Gallelli interpret lack of comment as approbation and endorsement by default.

Hers is such a bald example of casuistry and so replete with distortions and unfounded assertions, it should not be allowed to stand unchallenged. Take her keystone statement that Croton has three gateways, a sheer distortion of fact. Her contention completely ignores the Route 129/Maple Street/Grand Street entrance to the village, which is a gateway by any definition. The village certainly considered this a gateway when Sam Watkins spearheaded the drive to have a large welcome sign erected on Route 129 to greet motorists entering Croton from the east.

She next makes the totally unsubstantiated statement that “an attractive, active gateway boosts a community’s sense of pride and, of course, a visitor’s desire to linger.” After referring to her gateway overlays as a “dress code,” she states unequivocally, “Over time, this dress code raises property values in the gateway.” This is another undemonstrated statement whose truth may only exist in Ms. Gallelli’s imagination.

She then enumerates certain parameters that completely disregard the realities of Croton’s situation: “shops scaled to the small town feel of the Upper Village or Harmon districts”; “a greater variety of shopping experiences”; “high quality in goods and services”; “safe pedestrian and bicycle access and better sidewalks.” She claims these as examples of what people have expressed a desire for “through surveys, workshops and many public meetings.” I am not aware of any public clamor by Croton’s citizen for such attributes, which all have the same drummed-up quality that surrounded the nonexistent public clamor for a community center.

All that I have ever heard residents call for has been more business to relieve the heavy burden of property taxes. Questionnaires are notoriously unreliable tools for assessing the public’s tastes. In such surveys, people always show themselves as wanting more than they are willing to pay for, once the costs are totted up. Croton has shown itself to be fickle in its loyalties to local business. For example, there has never been a successful bakery in the village. When Blockbuster came to town, Crotonites deserted a small, family-run business renting films in favor of this big little-box store. Those in Croton who complained were told that it was the free-enterprise system at work. How Croton Hardware continues to survive in the face of a proximal Home Depot never ceases to amaze me. The explanation surely must lie in the exorbitant cost of gasoline.

Following her litany of “wants” are the “don’t wants”: These turn out to “big-box stores” (and where, pray tell, could a big-box store with its oversize space and parking requirements, be put?) and “a concrete and asphalt environment.” Ms. Gallelli has got to be kidding. In her Croton Point Avenue gateway zone is the ShopRite parking lot, the only commercial area in the village that has anything approximating adequate parking space. Is this what would no longer be approved? And despite the fact that drive-in windows are the best solution in situations where parking space is limited, they are anathema in Croton’s gateway scheme.

The most serious error in the entire gateway concept is that it fails to take into account one salient fact: In terms of road net and traffic patterns, Croton is now—by accident rather than by design—a commercial “backwater” community. The accident, of course, was that it was one of the four communities (Montrose, Buchanan and Peekskill are the others) bypassed by the so-called Croton Expressway, a short section of a proposed superhighway along the east bank of the Hudson. (The superhighway was torpedoed because environmentalists objected to its construction in part on fill dumped into the Hudson River.)

Certain communities, Ossining, Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, were not bypassed. Through these, traffic has continued to snake its slow way. Therefore, it is not surprising that these communities all have thriving commercial areas. So long as Croton is bypassed by major streams of traffic and continues to make unreasonable demands on potential developers, it will continue to be an unattractive prospect for commercial development.

Finally, the fundamental sin committed in Croton’s name by the gateway concept is that it is inimical to free enterprise. In three years there has not been a single new project attempted in any of Ms. Gallelli’s three gateway zones. My advice is: Don’t hold your breath. Her gateway law is a classic case of the cure being harsher on the patient than the disease. The recent purchase of the so-called Katz property for almost a million scarce village dollars to keep it out of the reach of a commercial developer is a prime example of bureaucratic high-handedness and abuse of power in the name of planning and the gateway law.

Croton now finds itself like a cat that has captured a clockwork mouse and doesn’t know what to do with it. The sooner this village gets out of the real estate business the better. The name of the game of commerce is profit. So long as Croton continues to inhibit development with restrictions that make profit less achievable and has a Planning Board that doesn’t know the meaning of the word “expedite,” it will be less attractive to business. Free enterprise flourishes only when it is free and unfettered by government, especially a well-intentioned government staffed by starry-eyed planners who have never engaged in entrepreneurial commerce.



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