To the editor:
In 2004, an elaborate “Gateway Law” was concocted by consultants to rezone and make retail areas in Croton more inviting to new businesses. Its local sponsors assured us, “Pass it and they [new businesses] will come.” Well, we passed it, and five years later they haven’t come. And they won’t be coming. Apparently, no one noticed that the new law’s discriminatory zoning changes were actually inimical to new business. Hardly a testament to the free-enterprise system, the Gateway Law definitely was not Croton’s finest hour. In fact, it has been a disaster. Yet the head of the ad hoc committee, Kieran Murray, calls this law “brilliant.”
In what can only be described as the Sovietizing of Croton business, the Gateway Law shamelessly dictated what entities can and cannot operate here. Among the five banned categories were “fast-food restaurants”—although no definition of the term was offered. When I quizzed then-trustee Georgianna Grant, my friend and a prime mover of this legislation, about what constituted a fast-food restaurant, she alluded to “Golden Arches” and said bluntly, “We don’t want places like McDonald’s or Burger King here.”
Obviously, Croton emulates Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland, who, when pressed for a meaning, says, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean.” Despite the Gateway Law’s prohibition of fast-food establishments, it was selectively enforced. Pizza parlors, a Dunkin’ Donuts, a Subway sandwich shop and the Mex-to-Go blossomed. All clearly fall under the rubric of “fast-food restaurants.” My beef isn’t with these establishments, a plus for any community, but with Croton’s deliberately anti-business legislation. In their misapplied zeal to brand certain legitimate businesses as taboo, the authors of the Gateway Law were curiously blind to socially undesirable businesses. Tattoo parlor or sex shop? Yes! McDonald’s or Burger King? No! Brilliant indeed.
We sowed the wind with the Gateway Law and inevitably reaped the whirlwind and are still reaping it. How many potentially tax-paying businesses were turned off by that Law’s unfriendliness to business can never be known. Instead of portraying Croton as snooty and anti-business, we should have welcomed any legitimate business willing to come here and invest its dollars in this community, Croton can consider itself lucky that some national chain of fast-food restaurants with deep pockets hasn’t challenged this inequitable legislation in court as an unconstitutional denial of its due process rights. (For reasons why, see next installment)
— Robert Scott