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It's Not About Costco

It's really not. And Yorktown shouldn't have to settle.

. It heartens me to know that so many people care deeply about the future of Yorktown and just hope we can keep the discussion civil, constructive and focused.

It's not about Costco.

They are a fine corporate citizen and certainly have their place. I'm just not convinced it's on the subject parcel. It's a matter of sound planning. The Yorktown Comprehensive Plan (YCP) is a legal document that the town adopted in 2010. It outlines, very comprehensively, how Yorktown plans to ameliorate the vibrant and quaint assembly of five small business hamlets that comprise "Yorktown": Shrub Oak, Jefferson Valley, Mohegan Lake, Crompond and Yorktown Heights.

I encourage you to read the YCP. It's located here. It's a local law that is critically important to this discussion.

For example, in the "Economic Development" section of the YCP, one of the 11 stated goals is to "strive for tax and fiscal stability for Yorktown residents by continuing to seek out stable, low-impact, high-quality ratables." Propose something truly unique and high-quality, like a Fairway, and I'm going to overlook the terrible traffic impact and be it's most vocal supporter. It's not literally my backyard.

The YCP continues, "[a]n attractive commercial area not only contributes to community pride, but also helps attract customers. The hamlet business centers can be improved in terms of their overall attractiveness, the quality and mix of stores, and walkability."

When I read that, it's hard to convince me that adding a Costco across from a BJ's passes the smell test; no matter how hard the development team and certain Patch commenters try, I'm not buying that Costco is so "extraordinary" from BJ's.  Really? And don't get me started on the 5-50 cent (depending on who you talk to) savings on gas. 

To quote the 35th President of United States – who just so happens to have relatives who live in a town very close to our fine municipality – "a rising tide lifts all boats." We pay the highest property taxes in the nation and are not some podunk, back-water town in middle America on the verge of bankruptcy and somehow Costco is going to ride into town and save the day.

Let's aim for a little decorum and adhere to vision laid out in the YCP. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Evan Bray June 14, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Bill, this is an interesting statement and I may be misreading it: "You are obviously mistakenly thinking that only Yorktown residents would shop at Costco, so making it convenient to us is important. Nothing could be further from the truth." I feel that might be a bit hypocritical. It's a terrific idea to add traffic on the 2 lane section of 202 for Costco, but you are aghast at the suggestion of more traffic on 202 in Yorktown Heights? I'm guessing you live on the southside and that's your proverbial backyard. I'd just like to note that adding any new retailer to that FE site would technically not add any traffic to that area because this was approved by the town, built and occupied. The traffic is already baked into the site by default. Which brings up another point. Once something gets approved, we're stuck with it. That's why I feel this discussion is so important and believe it's imperative that we take the time to really look at it closely. Details are far too scant at this point to have a fully informed and constructive discussion.
Janice June 14, 2012 at 08:06 PM
The old Food Emporium is not NEARLY the amount of space needed by Costco to move in, so we can throw that idea out the window. Are we living in fantasyland here, Mr. Bray? Sure, some people think it's nice to put locally-owned businesses in a whole new town center in this location, but who exactly is going to go in there? And, let's face it. All of these locally-owned businesses combined cannot bring in as much money to our town as Costco will. Let's be realistic and think of the future of our community and how they can benefit...or how they will suffer if Costco's development is turned away.
Evan Bray June 14, 2012 at 08:25 PM
I think you missed my point. I'm wasn't saying Costco could or should move there, I was saying that parking/traffic is technically not an issue on that site as the town approved and permitted the construction of a retailer on that parcel already. As long as what goes in that space is a retailer, there's no need to study traffic or parking; it's already there. Yorktown residents have no say about parking or traffic to/on that site. It's all baked into it already. It's not all about money. Fiscally we're very solvent and we don't need Costco to survive. We're not the richest town in Westchester, but we're pretty affluent (e.g. average single family homes here cost more than 500K; households average more than 100K of income, per the last census). People don't normally marry the first person that courts them. While Costco is respectable, it doesn't fit with the vision our community voted into law in the form of the YCP. You could say that Costco is well-meaning and nice, but a little overweight and socially awkward. We are an attractive community and can do better. We should aim for tall dark and handsome, metaphorically speaking. Read the YCP and you'll see what I mean. It's not you, Costco, it's us. I'm sorry, but I think we're going to have to break up. If you suffer because Costco doesn't come to town, you must be suffering already. I think we're doing just fine without them.
Bill June 14, 2012 at 09:08 PM
And many people can't realize when Mr. Right comes calling because it didn't match the picture they had in their head and they end up lonely. Just because YOU and a few others don't think that Costco looks like Mr. Right doesn't mean that it isn't. Despite what you are dreaming about our attractiveness to business, history has shown that Yorktown has absolutely no business thinking that our standards should be as high as you seem to think that they should be and turn away Mr. Right in the hopes of finding Mr. Perfect. And even discussing the possibility that Costco could consider opening in downtown only confuses the issue and isn't worth wasting time on.
Bill June 14, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Once again, Evan, you are completely wrong. First, I live north of town, up near Route 6. I was simply saying that having people shopping at Costco (if it were downtown) having to drive into the downtown area is ridiculous because you'd have a large amount of traffic having to travel to town from the Taconic, since it is clear (to me, at least, obviously not to you) that many of their customers will arrive that way (from the Taconic). So yes, it is fine to have them traveling on Route 202 ending up at a newly widened *4* lane stretch, as opposed to driving in and out on 2 lane roads such as 202 or Underhill Avenue. Do you understand now or do I have to make it simpler?
Janice June 15, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Agreed, Bill. I'm not saying to "marry the first person," considering Costco is certainly not the first "person" to come around, looking to develop. The question is, who exactly is Mr. Right? Are we going to sit around, twiddling our thumbs, just waiting for who a few of this think Mr. Right is to come by? Who's to say Mr. Right won't come for another thirty years, if ever? Rather than betting on black with the well-being of our town's future, doesn't it make more sense to make a decision that is best for the majority of our community members, not just a select few? Doesn't it make more sense to agree to a development that will immensely contribute to our community's security in the present and future? This is a risky gamble that could do our community harm if some of us don't take our head out of the clouds.
Evan Bray June 15, 2012 at 06:49 PM
I love that you like my metaphor, Janice. Who were the other suitors? It's a gamble to bet on Costco, I would argue. We can't undo it if it gets approved. There are so many un answered question at this point about the project. I asked the planning board to review the file but nothing becomes public til they complete the DEIS, probably around November. Until then we have crude plans that show them greening the off-ramp of the southbound Taconic. That's my favorite detail and shows just how developed the plans are at this point. Let's all read the YCP while they get a little more granular with their proposal. I'm really curious where the sewer capacity come from. We seem to use Peekskill as a crutch, in that regard.
No Costco July 07, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Costco is wrong for Yorktown....put in in and no new local merchants will come, only more big box stores. Remeber...Port Chester has Costco Mt Kisco - No Costco New Rochelle has Costco Chappaqua - No Costco Yonkers has Costco Bedford - No Costco Yorktown -- Wants Costco?? Follow the Comprehensive Plan....It was well thought out and Approved!!
Bill July 07, 2012 at 08:29 PM
So are you trying to tell us that because Port Chester, New Rochelle and Yonkers are primarily minorities, that allowing Costco to come to Yorktown will make the whole town go down the tubes? Clearly there's no other reason to bring it up. Why not mention Nanuet and Norwalk and Brookfield, CT? They're pretty nice areas and also have Costco. And I don't know where you come off comparing Yorktown to Chappaqua and Bedford. Mt. Kisco is a much better comparison but has much more upscale shopping because of their proximity to Bedford and Chappaqua. BTW, Evan, I assume this person is not to be believed because of their bogus name. Oh, and Mr (or Ms) No Costco, are you the same person complaining about the class of people who will be coming to town to eat at Pizza Hut and IHOP?
Bill July 07, 2012 at 08:31 PM
BTW your assertion that only other chains will come in if Costco comes in has no merit. There is plenty of room for locally owned stores downtown. How many local merchants are coming into Yorktown now?
Samantha Jacobs August 08, 2012 at 07:26 PM
This is an interesting debate. As far as taxes go, most big box stores go to the town and ask for abatement. In my town our big box store got severely cut down tax assessments. Another store wouldn't open with unless the town agreed to several years with very low tax payments. Developers often ask the town for abatements while the project is being built. Questions for the people here: Did BJ's lower your taxes?
Evan Bray August 08, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Great question, Samantha. I don't have that data, but am guessing the answer would be a resounding no. A local man, Bob Rohr, with knowledge of the assessment process recently wrote a post on just this issue. The tax benefit and menial jobs they hang out as a carrot are more window dressing than substance. It's an easy fall back to say that if you're against costco, you're against development and or business. They hired the best lawyer and site engineers, and I wouldn't expect anything less. Thankfully, it seems, the (most) people of Yorktown are not that gullible. Here it is: http://yorktown-somers.patch.com//blog_posts/the-costco-development-can-come-back-to-bite-ya
Evan Bray August 08, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Oh, by the way, I'm pretty good; the crude plan they put forth has already had to make a pretty major plan change. They recently had to revise the site plan because they hadn't looked at the setbacks required for the gas station. They had to set it back from the residential district that borders the site on the westerly edge; any architect or engineer worth their salt would have picked that up that rudimentary zoning requirement before submitting a DEIS. They are slowly starting to prepare a detailed plan. I'm betting we see something with more details put forth this September. Up till now, they've just been taking the town's temperature, so to speak.
Samantha Jacobs August 08, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Thanks for the link. Good stuff. I don't think taxes will ever go down, even with big box stores. It's just a myth. The other issue with traffic is - it will increase the cost of car insurance. More traffic = more car accidents = higher car insurance.
Bill August 08, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Wow, that's a stretch that even the anti-Costco folks hadn't come up with. How about this one. Closer shopping = less miles driven = lower insurance rates (that one has to be a fact since insurance rates are based on miles driven). Road improvements = less congestion = less accidents = lower insurance rates.
Bill August 08, 2012 at 09:04 PM
I don't know where you live but I am not aware of any deal like that in Yorktown or Cortlandt Manor and I have not heard of any request for that with Costco. It's impossible to tell if BJ's lowered taxes. Clearly they are paying taxes that were not paid before and the town would have to make it up somewhere else or reduce services. So a better question is, would taxes be higher without BJ's, and the answer is probably yes, if only marginally.
Bill August 08, 2012 at 09:06 PM
What's going on here? In one post you say "They hired the best lawyer and site engineers, and I wouldn't expect anything less." and then in the next you tell us that their engineers are incompetent for not putting the gas station in the correct place. Which one is it?
Bill August 08, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Bob has so much knowledge of the assessment process, that he was not able to tell me if there are people you can hire to prevent the tax certiorari process from taking place (which is hat he suggested doing), but he knows for sure that they are people who specialize in filing them. And it's been pointed out several times that the Costco jobs are not menial or low paying. Are they high tech jobs? No. But they're likely to be better than most of the other retail jobs in Yorktown. My wife works in retail and I can assure you that working for Costco would be way better than where she is now.
Bill August 08, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Also, even if taxes do not go down, at least maybe they won't go up as much.
Pat September 21, 2012 at 04:57 PM
As a mom living in the northern Yorktown, This store will not impact MY shopping in Yorktown. There are no stores in that area that hold my interest. A lot of business owners would not be happy to hear that! Bring on Costco. Increase the revenue for Yorktown. If my husband were told he could keep his job that puts a little in the bank, or he could have a job that would put more in the bank, fund the kids college and pay for retirement I would tell him take the new job. Are people in town willing to settle for a small reserve? The point of business is to meet customers demand. If the business owners in Yorktown are fearful of what this store will do then they need to reassess their business plan. I have a neighbor who has been here since 1965. She loves how much this area has been developed. Imagine if business owners back in the day argued against development. There are loyal customers businesses have and will always have, there are chance customers, who are in the neighborhood by chance and stop in and then there are those like me, living on a tight budget trying to stretch that dollar. You will never see me in your stores in Yorktown, unless, by chance, I am in the area-OR you start advertising some very good prices. So you can't lose a customer you do not have. Think about that before you argue Costco will take me away from your business. Don't write me off as the "minority", there are many moms in this area who live like I do, and shop like I do.
j September 29, 2012 at 02:43 PM
To the poster who compared Yorktown's situation to that of Bedford, Mt.Kisco and other well regarded towns in the areas, I applaud you. Why should we not aspire to create a town that is more suited to affluence, higher educated individuals, professionals and so on? Is this such a bad goal? There are plenty of areas within driving distance where you can shop at any establishment you'd like. Why put this monster in your own back yard? What amazes me is that some people forget how hard their parents and grandparents worked to be able to move their families to better places such as Yorktown. You want the tax money, the financially driven development, every store within walking distance, well move back to Brooklyn, you can have it all. If we go this route , mark my words, this town will be unrecognizable in 10, 15, 20 years. Don't you think others have fought this fight in New Rochelle, Port Chester and so on in the past and obviously lost? I advise anyone who is in favor of massive development to visit some of these places when they have some time.
Yorktowner September 29, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Mt Kisco is certainly the best model in Northern Westchester for creating a viable downtown "main street" that includes both big box stores (Rite Aid, Gap, former Borders) and smaller stores and restaurants. This is clearly the model that Yorktown was following when the taxpayers created the Comprehensive Plan. The proposed plan for a stand-alone big box store on Route 202 is a throw-back to an outdated model that has clearly failed in Yorktown. Take a look at the string of empty commercial buildings on the southern side of 202 and you can see exactly what stand-alone commercial development leads to--suburban blight. What the town of Yorktown needs to do is focus on following the taxpayer-created Comprehensive Plan and creating incentives to businesses to revitalize the existing commercial centers. The Yorktown Green (home of Big K and the former Food Emporium) is ripe for redevelopment and the town should be working with the owners of the property to develop plans for making that into a more vibrant commercial center. Personally, it really isn't about Costco. I would be happy to have Costco as the anchor of a new development to replace Yorktown Green as long as the development included small retail spaces for a vibrant mix of stores and shops. That is the kind of development that Yorktown needs now and for the future.
Bill September 29, 2012 at 11:42 PM
Mt. Kisco does well as a retail center with high end shops because it is surrounded by high income communities like Bedford Hills, Chappaqua and Armonk. What is Yorktown surrounded by that would support those sort of shops? Do you think that most of the customers at Banana Republic are from Mt. Kisco?? What standalone big-box store has failed on Route 202? Costco is a destination -- you do not need to worry about putting it with other stores because people will come to shop at it by itself. It is very rare for it to be located in a shopping center with other stores (even in Port Chester it's really in a separate lot). The locations that are empty on 202 are the result of the downturn in the auto industry and yes, having them all as individual properties probably does not help them but it has nothing to do with Costco. And putting it downtown is a terrible idea because then all the people who would drive here on the Taconic would have to drive down Underhill or 202 to get there, plus all the trucks that people are worried about. Not to mention that Costco would never want to go there and I doubt there is enough room for the parking that they need. Also, Rite Aid, Gap and Borders are definitely NOT big box stores. The only big box store in Mt. Kisco is Target (and maybe Staples, but that's a stretch).
Bill September 29, 2012 at 11:53 PM
For the record, here is an article from the NY Times that indicates that some elite people from the DC area shop at Costco. Your so-called "affluence, higher educated individuals, professionals and so on" already shop at Costco. In the article, a Costco rep says "their stores do better in high-end locations". We should be honored that they want to be in Yorktown. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/25/fashion/25costco.html?_r=0&ei=5087&em=&en=14f641af60c51647&ex=1196226000&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1348962227-0sgYzZDwAp32Jn/WQtArCw And I don't see how putting an office building "in your back yard" is any better than a Costco. And if you want to talk about stores that will be empty, put some of those locally owned stores there and see how long they last.
Bill September 30, 2012 at 12:03 AM
What should we visit in New Rochelle or Port Chester? Their retail areas that Costco is located in? The New Rochelle area isn't all that nice (but that has nothing to do with Costco) but Port Chester is really nice and Yorktown would be lucky to have something like that (I especially like the two story Costco they have and the big movie theatre nearby). Are you trying to tell people they should drive through those towns and see all the minorities that live there and be fearful that Costco will cause that to happen here? And only you folks would look at Route 202 and see anything other than a retail center. Outsiders see a run down area in need of revitalizing, which Costco will help with. And I'd be surprised if people there fought it like you folks are. Sadly, the rest of Westchester is probably shaking their heads in disbelief after the Journal News article this week. I hope they don't think that all residents are crazy like that. I spoke to the guy at the Costco gas station in New Rochelle today who told me that he saw the article and couldn't believe it.
Yorktowner September 30, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Bill, I'm not "worried" about Costco, I'm worried about Yorktown. What Yorktown needs is what the taxpayers approved in the comprehensive plan--a viable and vital mix of chain and independent stores and restaurants in cohesive centralized commercial districts. Stand-alone big box stores--like Gap, Borders, Barnes and Nobles and other national chains that takes a huge amount of square footage-- are antithetical to the comprehensive plan. They are part of the failed non-planning of the '70' to '90's that have led to moribund strips of suburban blight like Rt. 202. As for what Yorktown Heights can support, I didn't actually say anything in my post about "high-end" vs. low-end. But, since you did, the median household income in 2009 for Yorktown Heights was $112,201, so local residents have a fair amount of spending power. Not to mention that YH is a shopping hub for the larger area, regularly bringing in customers from neighboring towns. I am quite sure that an appealing mix of commercial businesses (large and small, independent and chain) in an appealing setting in YH would thrive.
Bill September 30, 2012 at 03:57 PM
None of those stores you used as an example are big box stores, and none of them are (or were, in the sad case of Borders) stand-alone. And if you're claiming that the comprehensive plan would not have welcomed one of those to be part of the office/retail complex where Costco wants to go, then I've got an even bigger problem with it than I thought. As for your claim that Yorktown can support high-end retailers, reality has not shown that to be correct, given that none of them have come to downtown Yorktown or the JV mall. Turco's might be the most high end store we have in Yorktown.
Yorktowner September 30, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Bill All the stores I mention are Big Box. Barnes and Nobles is sited as an an example in the Wikipedia definition of Big Box. The local ones are/were not stand-alone, but there are many stand alone examples of those stores. The fact that Yorktown doesn't have high-end stores doesn't mean that it can't support them. Just as people go to Thyme and Peter Pratt's and other high-end restaurants in YH, a Whole Foods or other such store would have no problem drawing a steady stream of customers. This has become one of those pointless little tangential arguments that people get caught up in on these idiotic forums. How sad. I'll let you have the last word...
Bob Rohr October 01, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Bill, you underestimate your Town. Look incomes here, look at cars you see in the streets. We are far enough away from White Plains, and Danbury to make Yorktown a perfect place for high end retailers. First you have to make them understand you want them, and offer them a location which is fairly easy to reach. Route 6 and 202 fit the requirement. Those two corridors can be your mixed Commercial areas. The areas in between those two strips should remain residential and open space. Lord and Taylor now has a store in Yonkers along with a Chesecake Factory, Pandora, Apple, Stew Leanords and more to come. None of it on Central Ave. Yonkers is more desirable than Yorktown? I don't believe that for a second.
Bill October 01, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Ridge Hill is Yonkers in name (and bribes) only. And Costco was the first there, right across I-87. And I'm sure that many of the shoppers for L&T and the other upscale stores are coming from Scarsdale and other well-to-do neighborhoods nearby. Before Costco, there was a proposal for a high end shopping center at that location. It died, and at the time I didn't think it was appropriate for the area. I will get far more use from a Costco in that location than from an upscale mall. Look at what Simon is doing to the JV Mall. If they thought they could transform the mall into an upscale mall don't you think they'd do it, given that they do not own the Danbury Fair Mall and are losing lots of business to them? Let's get Costco in first and then if developers think there is a market for upscale they can put it with Lowes on the property further down 202 (now I'll really get the smart growth people angry).

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