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GREENBURGH PUTS MIDWAY SHOPPING CENTER’S EXPANSION PLAN ON TEMPORARY HOLD

The Greenburgh town board last night adjourned until September a public hearing on the Midway Shopping Center’s plans to expand by building a new restaurant near Smashburger.

In order to expand, though, the shopping center needs to operate with several hundred fewer parking spaces than would be required.

Given the lack of sufficient parking at present, and the overall unsafe manner in which the Town has allowed prior expansion plans to be approved, ECC president Bob Bernstein told the town board last night it would be unconscionable to allow these latest plans to go forward.

The shopping center’s owners last night said they would be willing to make a number of safety improvements to the facility, but only if the cost of such improvements can be funded by the additional revenues they would receive from constructing a new building.

Mr. Bernstein said any quid pro quo that would hold needed safety improvements hostage to approval of an expansion was “outrageous” and should immediately be rejected by the town board.

Mr. Bernstein also said the time had come for the town board to show leadership and “go bold,” by insisting, among other things, on the applicant building a structured parking facility before the board even considers any expansion of the shopping center, and he urged the board not to engage in “incremental” bargaining with the applicant where, in exchange for some safety improvements, the town allows a phased in expansion.

Town Supervisor Paul Feiner said he was aware of the safety issues at the facility, but was willing to bargain with the applicant anyway, Mr. Bernstein’s suggestion notwithstanding, saying he would consider the applicant’s request for an expansion with an “open mind” —  but only if the applicant first dealt with some of the safety issues.  Town attorney Tim Lewis also seemed to suggest that he too had reached some “incremental” understandings with the applicant that he wanted to share with town board members too – but only in private.

The board decided to adjourn the public hearing until a town board meeting in September to give the applicant a chance to decide what it wants to do.

The planning board had previously rejected Midway’s plans for an expansion by a narrow 4-3 vote, with the planning board chair Fran McLaughlin and vice chair Walter Simon both of whom sit on the Town’s Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee,  voting to approve the application.

Because the application received a negative recommendation, the application requires approval at the town board level by a supermajority consisting of at least four members.  It does not appear that Midway would have the required support as of right now, but because Mr. Feiner seemed willing to negotiate — over ECC’s strenuous objection that he not do so — Edgemont residents now have renewed reason to worry that the project may end up getting approved anyway.

In other news last night, the Town Board tabled for the time being a revised proposal that would have allowed new car dealers to open on Central  Avenue. The Town appeared to have dropped a required 1,000 foot buffer between competing dealers that, if enacted, would have prevented any new car dealers from opening up showrooms in Edgemont, which was the entire reason for enacting the legislation in the first place.

The legislation was first proposed after the ECC warned that the town board was exposing the town and its taxpayers to the risk of an antitrust lawsuit after agreeing to a joint request from Edgemont’s three existing car dealerships — Scarsddale Ford, Curry Acura and Curry Chevrolet — for the right to continue to operate on Central Avenue on condition that no other competing car dealers be allowed to open up their own showrooms on that street.

The problem with the revised version of the law is that the town board is now insisting as a condition for allowing new car dealers to compete that such dealers arrange for an off-duty police officer to monitor new car deliveries so that traffic along Central Avenue is not obstructed.  Existing car dealers on Central, which offload their new cars from car carriers parked in the center lane of Central Avenue, are not subject to that requirement, which would give them a competitive advantage.

The new car proposal also states that the planning board — not the town board — would have the right to grant them a special permit to operate.  The three existing car dealers only had to ask the town board for such approval.

The town board also heard last night about a proposal that would require all residents and businesses of unincorporated Greenburgh to purchase their electricity and gas from a company contracted for by the Town through a non-profit start-up known as “Sustainable Westchester” that is engaged in a pilot program.

The program is controversial because, among other  things, all town residents would be enrolled in the program, they would have to “opt out” in order not to be included, and if they did so, and then decided to opt back in, they might be subject to different rates that could be less advantageous.  The town would be given the right to approve any contract for such energy use, but it is not clear that the town would have the expertise to know how to review and approve any such contract.

There was also concern raised that even if Sustainable Westchester managed to enter into long-term contracts on behalf of town residents at favorable rates,  such residents locked into such contracts might not be able to take advantage of lower costs should prices decline.

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