Pelham Manor Trustees unanimously passed a 6-month zoning moratorium affecting the historic retail shopping district at Boston Post Road Monday night over sentiments ranging from concern from co-op residents to outright disdain from the shopping plaza's real estate managment Urstadt Biddle.
"I am pleading with the board to not interfere with the replacement of Gristedes with Dollar Tree," said Charles Urstadt, Pelham native and co-owner of real estate investment firm Urstadt Biddle. But his pleas were set aside for the final vote.
The Trustees and Mayor James O'Connor voted with one accord to enact the permit freeze, even after hearing the move could negatively impact an in-the-pipeline lease agreement with Dollar Tree stores to take over the former location of Gristedes market - a deal Urstadt Biddle has been working on for months.
Willing Biddle, president and chief operating officer of Urstadt Biddle Properties, was direct in his critique of the moratorium.
"If this delay is imposed, it will almost certainly cause the collapse of this deal," said Biddle. "Your actions will surely torpedo this deal."
Biddle insisted the Board had specifically drafted the moratorium to thwart ongoing attempts to close a lease agreement with Dollar Tree discount stores.
Trustee Neal Schwarzfeld denied Biddle's accusation. "One's imagination can run wild as a layperson," Schwarzfeld said. "Right now [the zoning mix] doesn’t including dining, we might consider that."
But Biddle was unconvinced by Schwarzfeld, pointing out there was only one vacant property at the site that would be directly impacted by the moratorium: the former Gristedes location. Biddle offered his own theory.
Dollar Tree was never embraced by the Trustees, Biddle argued, due to their perception of the brand.
"Think back to 50s, 60s, 70s, almost every town had a Woolworth's [discount retail store]," said Biddle "To me, the Dollar Tree is a Woolworth. It's just the price has gone up from 5 and 10 cents to a dollar."
Several residents of Schuyler Park also expressed concern about the impact of the moratorium of their co-op building which is located in the retail zoning district even though its use is residential.
Mayor O'Connor explained that there was a provision in the terms of the moratorium law that allows co-op residents to receive permits for renovation inside their properties. If the co-op requires any external work during the moratorium, Village Manager John Pierpont said the law did allow the Trustees to consider and act upon permit applications and uses "not inconsistent with the law."
"Fifteen years ago, we began discussion on what could be done to encourage development in southern part of village" Nanette Bourne of White Plains planning firm AKRF. Calling the commercial district a "pretty remarkable transformation," Bourne said the review process will take four to six months and will cover existing use, tenancy patterns, progressive zoning tools.
Bourne said the study was an opportunity similar to the circumstances when Pelham Manor was able to redefine the commercial district farther south on Pelham Road.