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Backing into Zoning Change #6

February 5, 2009

Imagine a situation in which two members of a jury in a high-profile trial announce that they had made their minds up even before the trial opens. Next, imagine these same two jurors trying to convince the public of the rightness of their premature verdict by advocating for it at every opportunity. A similar troubling ethical problem is on display in Croton right now. Two trustees who have each sworn to keep an open mind before voting on any law have been advocating changes to an existing law even before the new legislation has been framed.

Of even greater concern is that the two trustees, Ann Gallelli, whose relationship to the Harmon Committee was only to be as liaison, and Richard Olver, are now actively lobbying for their premature support of the Committee’s unilateral recommendations. They do this despite evidence that all of Croton is in economic doldrums. It is interesting to note that both Ms. Gallelli and Mr. Olver live far from Harmon and any personal consequences of their hasty decision-making.

A case in point is Mr. Olver’s recent letter to The Gazette. After two patronizing paragraphs in which he tries to scare residents with exaggerated rumors and then knocks down the straw men he has erected, Mr. Olver offers such gems of wisdom as: “The experts tell us the current zoning is not attractive for business investment and vacancies and empty lots in Harmon confirm this. The zoning change would make Harmon more attractive for the smaller businesses and professional offices we need to revive the area.” He concludes with, “The Harmon proposals would encourage private development of new, tax-paying commercial and professional space. Now isn’t that something that we all want?”

When I voted for Mr. Olver last year, I never thought he would turn into a snake-oil salesman. It was experts, Mr. Olver, who gave us those three ugly gigantic parking lots in downtown Croton. The inadequate current zoning to which you refer happens to be the disastrous Gateway Law of 2004 that Ms. Gallelli pushed so hard on—the law that has not attracted a single new business investor to Croton in five years. Who’s going to take the fall for that? Moreover, Harmon is not unique in vacancies. And Realtor Dick Albert would dispute that Croton needs more professional space; he owns plenty of such empty space. Finally, if you think that high-rent stores and high-rent apartments in Harmon will be Croton’s salvation, I’ve got a big dam I’d like to sell to you.

— Robert Scott

On February 10, 2009 11:00 AM, Mrs. Jones said:

I don’t think that anyone has given any thought to exactly WHO will move into these theoretical apartments. When I was a single woman, I wouldn’t be caught dead living in a place like Croton. It was the Upper West Side for me, thank you very much. I grew up in a town like this and there was no way that I would continue to live in one. As a young married, childless woman, my husband and I lived in an apartment close to our workplaces. It was only after our second child was born that we felt the need for the suburbs. I daresay that most people feel the same way. Croton has little need for apartments because single people have nothing to attract them to the place and childless couples want to live near their work places or at least a SHORT commute from them. THat’s why White Plains is somewhat successful with its new developments. The commute from Croton is just too long for any young banker or lawyer who works downtown who wants to have convenient entertainment on the weekends. One can only eat at Umami so many times.

I have a request. Can we stay on topic and away from politics and personalities? I feel the subject is too important for it to digress into the usual namecalling and finger pointing.

On February 6, 2009 10:00 AM, Richard Olver said:

Robert Scott has his facts wrong. Ann Gallelli and I are against hasty rezoning. What we want is for the Village to examine the Harmon proposals, and all the questions and concerns that have been raised about them, in a SEQR process that is orderly, thorough, transparent and fact-based. In this way we all can forge an improved plan with wide support.

Instead, we get scare tactics - for instance, the frightening and absurd untruths about Harmon rezoning I debunked in the letter Mr. Scott attacks come directly from a letter by Joe Petit to the Gazette.

Let’s stop the misinformation, personal attacks and name-calling, and get serious about the facts. Rebuilding Croton’s commercial economy is too important to us all. Rick Olver

On February 5, 2009 4:59 PM, Ian Murtaugh said:

Two excerpts from Mr. Scott’s entry, with responses.

A) “It is interesting to note that both Ms. Gallelli and Mr. Olver live far from Harmon and any personal consequences of their hasty decision-making. “

Dear Mr. Scott,

Do Leo, Demetra & I live close enough to Harmon to have our opinions matter?

B) “It was experts, Mr. Olver, who gave us those three ugly gigantic parking lots in downtown Croton.”

Mr Scott’s history may be fascinating, but the first of the parking lots was for our first “super” market, the Grand Union, before that all Croton had was a tiny market in the upper village in or nearby the current vacancy of Wondorous Things. If I recall correctly the aisles were too narrow for shopping carts. Aside from that there were several Mom & Pop markets scattered thoughout the village. The village welcomed with open arms the new supermarket (and it’s convienient parking), and then eventually it’s competition the A & P (Croton Commons) across the street.

There is no sense in trying to go back and understand the motives of the village planners from 50 years ago, but my gut tells me that we are far more informed as to the negative potentials of rezoning today that planners were in 1955.

If you like the staus quo in Harmon vote Republican, if you want to explore the possible alternatives vote Democrat, it’s as simple as that.

Ian Murtaugh


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