Costco: It's Not a Done Deal

Yorktown is at a crossroads: Costco will change the town forever. Explore what this means for you and the community.

There is now a proposal before the Yorktown Planning Board to build a 151,000 square foot Costco at the intersection of 202-35 and the Taconic Parkway. The building would be surrounded by 8 acres of macadam parking lot and include a huge gas station. The developers have been trying desperately to give the mistaken impression that this is a done deal. Far from it.

In order to ensure the most sensible direction for the growth of our town, the citizens of Yorktown came together, hired experts and spent years and well over a hundred thousand dollars of taxpayer money to create the best plan for development. The Comprehensive Plan was adopted by the Town Board in 2010, and now has the force of law. To quote from the Plan itself,

β€œIn the end, not only did the process yield a Plan of exceptional quality and detail, but it also built the consensus and community support necessary for the Plan to be implemented in the future. This is truly the community's plan.”

The community's plan. That's us: we the people of Yorktown. Essentially, it calls for the town to continue to grow as it has for the past 200 years: mixed use. Stores, restaurants, offices, housing: the kind of place people don't just want to live but are proud to call home.

The proposed Costco is the exact opposite of this vision. Fourteen acres of building and macadam on the top of a hill, bathed in the harsh light of 25-foot lamps, serviced by a constant stream of semi-trailers on our local roads. Making a cynical mockery of our carefully considered plan for growth – the town we envision and hope for – the developers don't even bother claiming that it in any way comports with it: they say only that it is "allowed."

But there are any number of reasons why this plan for a superstore will forever alter the nature of our community. Over the next few days, we'll look at them in detail. In the meantime, if you want to know more, go to nocostco.com.

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 September 20, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Scott, that's actually a great suggestion that comports with town law. While I think that our property taxes are a bit higher than the Dallas area and we might be north of the 1200 mark you noted, the Comprehensive Plan definitively calls for a "mix" of office, residential, and commercial occupancies and uses. Not a monolithic big-box wholesaler. We shouldn't scrap existing law just because Costco is throwing a ton of money at a very sharp attorney and engineers to fit this square peg into a round hole.
Vegas September 20, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Why was my post deleted? Who owns the domain?
Ben Falk September 20, 2012 at 11:48 PM
But there is already box stores on 202. There are no more local stores left in that part of Yorktown. I don't think the argument that it will effect local businesses aplies.
Jim McKean September 21, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But seriously, whoever you are: we are engaging in something rare for the internet -- a serious discussion in a public forum over what the implications of this development might be for Yorktown. That suggestion for apartment housing on 202 was the perfect example: a new idea, a way of thinking beyond the box (ouch, sorry; bad pun). But the sad truth of the internet is that the use of aliases somehow inhibits the usual courtesies of social discourse; and things usually descend very quickly into name calling and silliness. I've already been in fifth grade, and I really don't want to have to go through that again. This is a matter of crucial importance to this town. So anyone who wants to participate is welcome to do so; but only under your own name. That's what we all are doing. Anyone posting with an alias is automatically shown the door. Sorry; if you want to join the discussion, and contribute to a greater vision for our town, we would welcome your joining us. But as a real person. Thanks!
Jim McKean September 21, 2012 at 12:32 AM
The Comprehensive Plan calls for exactly that. It's a great idea -- affordable apartments. In a complex with something else than just a parking lot -- stores, restaurants, even the office nearby. My son just moved to Houston, and made a point of heading straight downtown: enough suburbia, he said; he wanted to live in a place where you didn't have to get in the car to go everywhere. But you can have that here, if it's designed right. Brilliant!
MJS September 21, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Sometimes you have to work with what is offered. The Town is reacting to a proposal, not creating the proposal. And the details of that proposal are only now being fully reviewed. I wish we could wait to hear and see the details before we condemn the developer and the project.
Evan Bray September 21, 2012 at 01:33 AM
Very reasonable comment. The key is that all available details are already out. You can read about the details on the official town website, links provided below. It's well into 3 or 4 copies of War and Peace, so try to read it in bite sized pieces; do take notes. Let's all agree to read it and come prepared to have a constructive discussion on October 15th at 730 at Yorktown hall. Huzzah! It will be exciting and no one's going to get to remain anonymous and make inappropriate comments :)
Evan Bray September 21, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Oops, here are the links: 1) http://www.yorktownny.org/planning/costco-wholesale-club-site-plan-application-seqra-page 2) http://www.yorktownny.org/planning/costco-accepted-deis [note: this is the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that was formally accepted by the town. Word on the street is that it's dramatically different from the first draft that was not made available to the public.] Seriously, do read it. I have been for about a week and a half and am not even half way through, but I'm slow :(
Jim McKean September 21, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Good point, MJS. Now that the details are available, they need a thorough and close review. I think some of us were worried that not enough time would be given for a proper review; the DEIS is the size of a phone book, and full of tables and legal language. But we do have the promise of the Chairman of the Planning Board that it will not be rushed through, and he's a man who is good for his word. We're lucky to have him and his fellow Board members who are willing to devote the countless hours they have to this. But there's a lot to go through. I agree with you: let's keep the discussion where it should be, on the proposal itself. Thanks for the comment --
Jim McKean September 21, 2012 at 02:00 AM
I don't know about that, Evan -- I for one plan on wearing my Batman mask --
Bill September 21, 2012 at 06:25 AM
Olivia, there is no Costco on Central Avenue. In fact, there aren't really a lot of big box stores on Central Avenue. There are, however, a bunch of big box stores on Route 202 already. And lots of ugly spots, too.
Bill September 21, 2012 at 06:29 AM
How much does the state propose spending on upgrading Route 202 in their report? How much have they spent since that 2004 report? Why would you have expected traffic to improve without any work being done? Now, how much does Costco propose spending on it? Claiming that the traffic will get worse because of additional cars while at the same time ignoring the improvements that will occur because of the money being spent to finally address the problems is ridiculous.
Bill September 21, 2012 at 06:38 AM
Jennie, please tell me how you see the lovely nursery while you are driving down Route 202. I've been down that stretch many, many times, and the extent of the nursery that I've ever seen is the sign (which as I recall isn't very lovely and sits next to a former gas station). I really need to get a pair of those rose colored glasses that you folks have. Also, according to several online job sites, the average salary of a Costco cashier is in the $15 range. They provide benefits to all of their employees and are routinely rated in the list of top employers to work for. I don't know that it's enough to support a family in Yorktown as a sole income, but not all jobs have to be that and I'll bet it's better than the majority of retail jobs in Yorktown today. The location is already zoned at least part for retail. Does the comprehensive plan insist that the retail jobs there be well paying? If not, then why is it an issue here?
Bill September 21, 2012 at 06:39 AM
Evan, given that I'm pretty sure that BJ's is over 100,000 square feet, how is a 151,000 Costco over twice the size of BJ's? You've posted lots of mistruths and outright lies, but this is pretty obvious.
Bill September 21, 2012 at 06:42 AM
Does the 750 number include cars arriving and departing? That is, does it actually only mean 375 additional cars? Because, as I've mentioned many times in the past, claiming that 750 cars will be entering and leaving Costco every hour simply does not pass the sniff test as it would mean 12.5 cars per minute, and 12.5 customers per minute checking out. Also, of course, you ignore the fact that the highest number of customers would not be at rush hour, so it would not add nearly as much traffic during the time the road is overloaded, as you claim it would.
Bill September 21, 2012 at 06:50 AM
I was going to ask what local hardware store we have but I guess there is still one in town, although I've never been there (I know there used to be one on 202). Do you honestly think that Costco will take business from them that Home Depot hasn't already, especially given that BJ's already carries much of the same stuff, and I don't think there's all that much overlap with a hardware store? And how much in taxes do we get for Home Depot in Cortlandt? Oh, and how many local merchants can you identify that have closed because of BJ's?
Bill September 21, 2012 at 06:54 AM
Until Patch has a rule saying that you need to post using a full name, I don't see it being your job to enforce a rule that does not exist.
Bill September 21, 2012 at 06:56 AM
Housing is a TERRIBLE idea (especially apartments). You end up with lots more kids in the school district and the taxes will not pay for the additional cost. It ends up costing everyone more.
Jim McKean September 21, 2012 at 09:59 AM
It's not a rule, Bill -- it's an agreement among everyone using this particular forum. If it's not to your liking, then there are plenty of other discussion groups you can join -- or start your own. Experience has shown that this is the only way to keep the discussion civil and productive. We're focused on the issues that Costco presents to the people of Yorktown.
Adam M September 21, 2012 at 11:24 AM
Absolutely! The town of Yorktown is simply reacting to a proposal (and one that will never come around AGAIN). For those of you who say "Let's get a Trader Joe's," or "Let's just create a shopping center with Mom and Pop stores," easier said than done. Same for office spaces and apartment buildings. Who's going to build these? Not me, and probably not Bob next door. Instead of sitting around complaining and pointing fingers, let's stop making our recurring mistake of pushing away anyone who wants to bring positive change to our community. Costco is the store wanting to come in and we should embrace it with open arms. We are living in 2012, not 1945. Healthy and thriving communities are comprised of a balance between so-called "big box" stores and "Mom and Pop" stores. Costco happens to be one of the better said stores (would you rather have a Wal-Mart proposing to come in?) As far as aliases, come on people. 90% of people on Patch are under an alias..but that's besides the point.
Adam M September 21, 2012 at 11:29 AM
"Big box" stores are a part of any thriving community, and Yorktown is no different. These stores don't "force" small businesses to close. If a small business is doing well, they will continue to do well with some healthy competition. If a small business is not doing well to begin with and Costco moves in, giving it competition it cannot keep up with, it may close, but would we have wanted this business around to begin with if it cannot keep up? I'm not saying Costco and small businesses fall under the same category- rather, I'm saying their coexistence is what contributes to a community's healthy economy.
Adam M September 21, 2012 at 11:44 AM
I think $15 an hour is FAR from a minimum-wage salary (which, FYI is $7.25 an hour). Since the average employee (such as a cashier) paid WAY more than minimum wage found at the mall, I can bet that these positions will be sought after by local residents who would otherwise have to work at the mall and be paid less. Not to mention the fact that Costco gives benefits to their employees. That's HUGE! I don't know of any other hourly position at a large retailer who not only pays way above minimum wage but also pays benefits. If I were a parent of a high-school or college-aged kid, I'd be sending them over to fill out applications at Costco right away! Development in this area has been talked about and talked about for years but no real actions have been taken yet. If we chase away Costco now, we'll be left with an empty, ugly lot generating zero dollars for our community for another ten years to come. Is that really what we want? Come on people, turn on your brains. These opportunities are few and far between and we can't act like the band of angry villagers chasing out every realistic opportunity that comes our way.
Bill September 21, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Who's everyone? You and the rest of the pro-Costco folks? Clearly that's not everyone. Does Patch Local Voices allow you to delete a reply that you don't agree with? I certainly hope not. And the foolishness of your "rule" is I could set my id here to some completely bogus name,but you'd be happy with it because it looked like a real name.
Jim McKean September 22, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Sure, Bill -- you can always find a way to get around the rules. The same way that even though the Costco superstore makes a cynical mockery of the Comprehensive Plan worked out by the community over years they say it's 'allowed.' I used the wrong term; It's not a rule. It's an agreement. But it's the internet; as the famous cartoon in the New Yorker has it, on the internet, no one knows if you're a dog. But by not participating as the rest of us are willing to, it lessens the force of your arguments. As does that tiresome belligerence that one finds so often in internet discussions.
Bill September 22, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Once again Jim, this is not a Patch rule, nor is it an agreement. It is your arbitrary rule that you have placed in this thread. Internet boards historically have allowed people to create handles and use that without identifying themselves. If Patch wants to force people to use their own name, then they can use Facebook logins for posting, as Lohud has done (of course you still don't know that a Facebook id is real since it could be a phony name). And the only thing that lessens the force of my arguments with you is my pointing out things that you cannot come up with answers for, like the truth.
Adam M September 22, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Because Costco is the only business of its size who can actually provide our community with a plethora of benefits who is proposing to open a location in our town. Are there other businesses lined up wanting to develop on this land? We cannot sit around for years to come and wait for something to happen. It's in our faces right now.
Adam M September 22, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Also, who is opening a "people-friendly hamlet" in that location? You? That land has been empty for quite some time and we've had our chance if that's what our town really wanted. As I have stated before and will state again, communities are comprised of a diverse group of businesses and organizations. Costco's addition will not magically make 10 other national retailers pop up in a row down 202.
Jim McKean September 26, 2012 at 12:19 PM
A recent article said that that plot of land is worth $30 million. Do you seriously believe that there is one and only one possibility for developing it? If derelict buildings have stood there for so long, then shame on the Town Board for allowing that; but it's not for lack of offers, you can be sure of that. Developers often warehouse property -- particularly in the worst economic times since the Depression. And it's their job to maximize their return -- and as awful as this might be for the people of Yorktown, that's not their concern. It is very much the concern of our Town Board -- we elected them to watch out for our best interests. What makes the most money for a few developers does not always make the best sense for the people who have to live with it. It's not either/or; this or nothing. There are many, many ways to develop that land that would give them a fair return and actually do what our town motto says: Progress with Preservation. It's worked for 200 years.
Bill September 27, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Jim, are you a real estate expert? Have you considered that the fact that the land is worth so much (and to be honest, $30m seems high, given that I think it's being sold for $6m) is what forces most proposals to not be considered? Why would anyone buy it for office space when there is a glut of office space in the county in areas far more desirable for offices than Yorktown (and I didn't see proposals before the economy went south, either)? There was a proposal for an upscale shopping area there a few years ago (I happened to be at a town board working session when it was presented). It appeared to die soon after the initial presentation to the town board. And how can you blame the town board for lack of development proposals there? It's not like they own the property. Just because you think this is an awful proposal for the town does not think that everyone thinks that way, in fact I think you folks are in the minority on this. This brings in a tremendous about of property taxes for the town and school districts, and a huge amount of sales tax, some of which will go to the town. And it puts Yorktown on the retail map in a way other than having a crappy mall, which is the way it is because they could not get approval from the town board to make it a size that would have made it competitive with others in the region. And many residents will actually enjoy having someplace as great as Costco to shop at in their own town.
Bill September 27, 2012 at 01:37 AM
BTW, the truly awful thing the town board could do would be to reject this proposal and then wait while the land sits idle for another decade, generating a fraction of the property and sales tax it could have while people sit in traffic on Route 202 heading from town to the Taconic and back, and Costco finds another town to give the tax revenue to. Then you folks can start working on protesting the State Land proposal further down Route 202, and deprive Yorktown residents of more taxes and shopping, so we can continue shopping in other towns and giving them our tax revenue. Now that would truly be awful.


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