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Backing into Zoning Change, #9

February 21, 2009

Let’s pause and review: The mantra of the Harmon committee, most of whose members live in Harmon, is “Build it and they will come.” Opponents say it should be “Build it and they won’t come.” Proponents of the divisive Harmon proposal admit they’re greedy for the bigger tax revenues new properties will bring. Fearing a depression is coming, critics say the concept slights other struggling areas of Croton. Moreover, they point out, every Harmon property, occupied or unoccupied, is still yielding tax revenue.

The proposal focuses on the former Dodge and Nappy’s properties. It foresees a developer purchasing them, demolishing the buildings (including a Harmon landmark) and erecting mixed-occupancy structures with ground-floor stores and an indefinite number of apartments on two floors above. The fly in the ointment is the existing zoning law that must be changed. Opponents of the plan, including this writer, have pointed out that such spot zoning is illegal in New York. Why is the Village getting into the real-estate business and accommodating developers anyway?

The Harmon committee cannot guarantee that tenants will show up. One of its members, Jeremy Ezra, 31, currently employed by a New York City real estate firm specializing in large commercial properties, has offered to assist in finding tenants. What the owners of barely profitable businesses elsewhere in Croton will think of this one-sided favoritism to Harmon is anybody’s guess.

With the first phase of new buildings nearing completion, the committee predicts individual property owners will begin to erect matching structures. The scenario goes something like this: I am the debt-free owner of a thriving store on South Riverside Avenue in Harmon, and I live above my store. Succumbing to the committee’s hype, I scrounge for credit and contract for a new building. Next, I close the store, sell off inventory and fixtures at a loss, lay off my two employees, move my household furniture to a storage facility, and rent a furnished apartment.

Fast-forward to the time when the replacement building is ready. After being without income for almost a year. I move into a new upstairs apartment, restock the store and try to entice former customers to return. It’s not easy. Because of my heavy debt load, I must charge higher prices. Kicking myself for ending up with a struggling business, massive mortgage, two empty high-rent apartments above mine, staggeringly higher tax bills—and a view of the new empty stores and apartments of the bankrupt developer across the street, I have just one question for the Harmon committee: What planet do you people come from?

— Robert Scott

On February 25, 2009 12:03 PM, Georgianna Grant said:

For everyone’s information, I called Bob Scott this morning and apologized if I had offended him. I assured him I had no intention of doing that, only to gently remind him that, in my opinion, some of his Backing Into Zoning articles were approaching the “mud”.

He and I have been friends for a long, long time and I respect him greatly. That doesn’t mean we can’t (and in fact have in the past) had different opinions on village issues. We discussed the pros and cons of the Harmon enrichment program and discovered we agree on some pieces and disagree on others. We were willing to listen to if not accept the others interpretations. That’s called open-minded and honest debate.

I continue to believe the HED has done a fine job and that the recommendations are well worth pursuing further with an open mind and an ability to make changes as needed. The end result, I believet will benefit Harmon specifically and all of Croton in general.

.

On February 25, 2009 5:01 AM, Robert Scott said:

Georgianna, I take exception to your shaming me over perfectly straightforward remarks I made, and I’m certainly not down in the mud. Because of the outlandish claims made for the Harmon project, I concluded my #9 with the rhetorical question, “What planet are you people from?” My use of the Martian analogy was meant to be jocular, and your objection to it can only mean that you have lost your sense of humor. I may or may not know the political affiliations or the addresses of the members of this committee, but it was certainly Leo’s task to reveal them, not mine, since this seems to be a Democratic project largely in the interest of Harmon, as contrasted with all of Croton. Speaking of mud, I have been called senile by an anonymous blogger and my telephone rings at odd hours with crank, hang-up calls. What’s next? Slashed tires? You may call those acts just more mud. I call them shitty acts of desperation.

On February 23, 2009 10:34 AM, Georgianna Grant said:

Bob, shame on you my friend. Please don’t get down in the mud with others. You’ve reminded me on multiple occasions of the age old adage “If you want to get down in the mud with ……… ” What’s with the “Martian” comment? The committee members are are all intelligent professionals and good neighbots. As you already know, the Chairman is a registered Republican and all others are registered Democrats.

On February 22, 2009 9:33 AM, Robt. Scott said:

In response to my rhetorical question posed at the end of my #9, “What planet do you people come from?” Mr. Wiegman has commented by supplying a list of seven names that only shows that some organizations are not above allowing Martians to be members.

He very conveniently forgot to list more pertinent information about the seven committee members—namely, their political party affiliation as shown by their registration and their local addresses. Such information might enable voters to decide whether the committee is driven by (1) narrow political interest and by (2) a vested interest in the economic health of Harmon as contrasted with the economic good health of all of Croton.

On February 21, 2009 3:34 PM, Leo Wiegman said:

Mr Scott: You ask “What planet do you people come from?” It’s a fair question. The short answer is the committee represented well in excess of 100 hundred years of directly relevant professional experience with building development, design, and economics. The following is taken verbatim from the FAQ the Harmon committee gave the Village last fall.
What are backgrounds of Harmon Economic Development Committee?
Kieran Murray, Committee Chair, Business Consultant, Real Estate Developer
Joseph Biber, Urban Planning Consultant, Chair COH Conservation Advisory Council
Julie Evans, AIA, Julie D. Evans Design and Architecture
Jeremy Ezra, Retail Real Estate Consultant
Rob Luntz, AIA, Resolution:4 Architecture
Douglas Wehrle, Senior VP, New York State Empire Development Corporation; Chair COH Advisory Board on the Visual Environment
Leo Wiegman, Environmental Consultant, former Village Trustee.

-Leo Wiegman

On February 21, 2009 12:00 PM, Kieran Murray said:

ROBERT SCOTT QUOTE: “I am the debt-free owner of a thriving store on South Riverside Avenue in Harmon, and I live above my store. Succumbing to the committee’s hype, I scrounge for credit and contract for a new building. Next, I close the store, sell off inventory and fixtures at a loss, lay off my two employees, move my household furniture to a storage facility, and rent a furnished apartment.”

If an existing property owner so chooses, they could easily add stories above a store without closing it down. You are making alot of assumptions here that are not likely at all. Also, you are implying the property owners would “succumb to the Committee’s hype” and not do their own economic modeling before knocking down their building. If I were a property owner in Harmon, I would take this as a direct insult on my intelligence.

ROBERT SCOTT QUOTE “Fast-forward to the time when the replacement building is ready. After being without income for almost a year. I move into a new upstairs apartment, restock the store and try to entice former customers to return. It’s not easy. Because of my heavy debt load, I must charge higher prices. Kicking myself for ending up with a struggling business, massive mortgage, two empty high-rent apartments above mine, staggeringly higher tax bills—and a view of the new empty stores and apartments of the bankrupt developer across the street”

Again, in my opinion a direct insult to the intelligence and financial ability the Harmon property owners.

On February 21, 2009 11:57 AM, Kieran Murray said:

Mr. Scott:

Let me again address some statements you make it your latest installment:

ROBERT SCOTT QUOTE:”The mantra of the Harmon committee, most of whose members live in Harmon, is “Build it and they will come.”

We do not have a “mantra”. Could you please provide your reference for this statement. If we did have a mantra it would be “Provide Flexibility so Things Will Happen in Harmon”

ROBERT SCOTT QUOTE:”The proposal focuses on the former Dodge and Nappy’s properties. It foresees a developer purchasing them, demolishing the buildings (including a Harmon landmark) and erecting mixed-occupancy structures with ground-floor stores and an indefinite number of apartments on two floors above.”

1) The proposal focuses on South Riverside Avenue from Croton Point Avenue to 200 feet past Oneida, not the former Dodge and Nappy properties.

2) After hours of discussion (despite your earlier claim that we dont care about Croton’s history) we have not recommended any more or less protection for this building than what is currently in place. It is suspicious that 100 years into its existance no administration past or present has put any formal protections in place for this property.

ROBERT SCOTT QUOTE:”What the owners of barely profitable businesses elsewhere in Croton will think of this one-sided favoritism to Harmon is anybody’s guess.”

Our committee was limited from the onset to Harmon by the Mayor, therefore the geographic limitations of Jeremy’s offer to help is entirely appropriate.

ROBERT SCOTT QUOTE:”Why is the Village getting into the real-estate business and accommodating developers anyway?”

We are not advocating for buying and developing properties, so saying the village is getting into the real estate business is off base. Saying the village is accomodating developers by making it possible for them to invest in our community and make a slightly better return for their risk and effort than treasury bonds provide is like saying President Obama’s mortgage assistance program will not just lower your payments but pay off your mortage entirely. It is just not what is being proposed in either case.

… continued



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