In 2004 Croton declared war on business. Not all businesses. Just businesses certain people arbitrarily decided they didn’t want here. The attack weapon was the Gateway Law. Zoning laws usually specify permitted businesses or occupations. Croton turned common practice upside down. It designated five categories of undesirable businesses that any community wanting tax revenue would have gladly welcomed. Croton’s message: “Keep out!”
This 2004 law’s ban on parking lots was probably intended to prevent competition with the Village’s own lucrative station parking lot. Other exclusions foolishly targeted existing businesses—two local automobile dealerships and their storage lots. When the owner of the Dodge dealership discovered that if a fire destroyed more than 50% of his business, it could not be rebuilt, he moved his operation to the former Kayson property.
It turned out that Croton had shot itself in the foot by becoming a business-unfriendly community. Its punitive action actually created the empty Dodge dealership. Planners now call it an eyesore, and are pushing hard to eradicate it. For five years, Croton discouraged tax-paying businesses from coming here. Advocates of the Harmon scheme would have you believe that they can magically attract tenants to new apartments and storefronts in Harmon when existing facilities there are empty.
Other 2004 law prohibitions targeted businesses wanting to come to Croton. Its ban on drive-through windows was initially aimed at the Eckerd pharmacy chain. Eckerd wanted to buy the undeveloped Katz property, but the village said no to a planned drive-through window for prescription pickup. When the village attorney cautioned that it was unwise during negotiations to write a law solely directed at Eckerd, planners added fast-food restaurants to list of banned businesses as cover. Thoroughly disgusted, Eckerd decided it didn’t want to come to a community so openly hostile, and withdrew its offer for the Katz property.
As TV hucksters say, “Wait, there’s more.” Another shot in the foot. After the Eckerd deal evaporated, the owner of the Katz property sued Croton, charging that the village had, by its actions, caused the purchase to fall through. Croton settled the suit by buying the property, thus taking it off the tax rolls. Taxpayers are now the unwitting owners of a million-dollar white elephant yielding no taxes and worth less than what we paid for it. The village still doesn’t have a clue about what to do with its unintended acquisition. Such debacles are called “planning.” Meanwhile, we are being offered a snake-oil scheme that would destroy Harmon’s first and oldest building.
— Robert Scott