It was standing room only as hundreds of residents attended the public hearing for the proposed Costco Wholesale Club on Monday at the Nutrition Center Room, located at the Yorktown Community and Cultural Center.
About 58 residents had signed up to speak at the meeting, which lasted more than three and a half hours. Some speakers exchanged back-and-forth dialogue with the public, others received laughter and applause.
The proposal for a 151,092-square-foot retail store available to club members at 3200 Crompond Road, just west of the Taconic State Parkway, drew supporters and opponents of the development. Some people held up signs that read "Say 'Yes' to Costco," others wore pins showing their unfavorable position toward Costco.
The purpose of the hearing focused on the company's draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) and gave the public a chance to comment or ask questions about the project. The applicant will respond to comments and questions raised in a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).
Monday night people spoke about traffic, the impact on local businesses and the environment, taxes, jobs, emergency services and public transportation.
"We have an opportunity to bring jobs to Yorktown," Yorktown Chamber of Commerce President Joseph Visconti said. "[The company is] making a major multi-million investment in Yorktown. In this economy, we should welcome that."
Costco representatives said the store would generate approximately $910,803 annually in property taxes: $92,248 for Yorktown; $613,290 for the Yorktown Central School District; $92,657 for the county, $113,608 in property taxes for special districts.
An additional $22,140 would be generated annually to the county sewer district. The developer has proposed to create a sewer district and pay for the installation of lines and the connections to the homeowners on Old Crompond Road.
Representatives also said Costco would create 200 permanent full time jobs and 350 temporary constructions jobs during the project on the 18.75-acre site.
Phillip Grealy, a traffic engineer and long-time Yorktown resident, said the Department of Transportation (DOT) will be making improvements to the intersection in the Route 35/Route 202/Bear Mountain Parkway area. The project, estimated to cost $7 million, will be completed whether or not the Costco project gets approved.
Costco in turn would complement the DOT and spend $2.5 to $3 million on their own project by widening Route 202 in the area of Stoney Street, Chase Bank and BJs Wholesle Club. Grealy said the improvements would not only help with the anticipated traffic, but also alleviate some of the current problems. Some of the improvements include sidewalks, signal-timing improvements to traffic lights and adding turn lanes.
"We're looking at taking care of a major bottleneck," he said.
Vince Ferrandino, a planning consultant for the Costco project, said a market study has shown that area residents travel to other places to shop, which he described as "sales leakage" – money that could have been spent in town. He said bringing in Costco won't have a negative impact on other businesses – who already shop wholesale for their own businesses.
"Competition is healthy," he said. "Everyone is entitled to compete."
Some residents said they believed Costco and BJ's Wholesale Club, just down the street from the proposed store, could not co-exist. Mohegan Lake resident Andrew Fisher said he thought either Costco or BJ's would go out of business in a few years and pointed out to the closed Circuit City and Bed Bath and Beyond.
Yorktown resident Jennie Sunshine, who is opposed to the project, questioned Costco's impact on traffic, police, fire and emergency services. She pointed out a letter written by Yorktown Police Chief Daniel McMahon who said he anticipated 106 calls of service annually at the Costco site.
"Will Yorktown have to hire additional police, fire and EMS personnel so residents could receive the same level of service?" she asked.
Tim Miller, a traffic consultant who was speaking for about 20 residents, said he was concerned about the site not having enough parking. Ron Buehl, who was concerned about an increase of traffic, said he was a "fan of Costco," but didn't think it belongs in Yorktown.
Charles Monaco, who owns 100 acres of undeveloped Yorktown real estate off of Route 202, across from Parkside Corners and Grandma’s restaurant, said he thought Costco would be "beneficial" after having seen the prices at the New Rochelle Costco gas station, which were about 30 cents lower than the current prices in Yorktown.
Due to the large number of people who still had comments, planning board members adjourned the public hearing – having heard about half of the residents who had signed up to speak that night.
The next public hearing will be held on Monday, Oct. 29. Once the planning board votes to close the public hearing, written comments will be accepted for 10 additional days.
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