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Katonah CVS Expansion Jeopardized As Town Board Lowers Cap On Store Sizes

Several attendees give standing ovations after the Bedford Town Board approved lowering a cap on first-floor storefronts in the town's hamlet centers. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
A packed audience attends a meeting on proposed legislation to lower a cap on first-floor store space in Bedford's hamlet centers. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Lionel Weinstein speaks at the Bedford Town Board's meeting. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Neil Alexander, an attorney for CVS, addresses the Bedford Town Board. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. -- The outlook for a proposed CVS expansion in Katonah is dim following the Bedford Town Board's vote on Tuesday night to lower an existing cap on first-floor storefront space in hamlet centers.

The unanimous approval of the legislation, which was met with applause and some standing ovations from a packed crowd at the town house, reduces the allowable number from 7,500 square feet to just 4,000 in a pair of commercial zoning districts that cover Bedford's three hamlet areas.

CVS, which is currently located on the southern end of Katonah Shopping Center, filed a building permit application so it could relocate to the central part of the building and take up 6,928 square feet. The pharmacy chain's proposed expansion would result in filling four storefronts, which would be combined as part of the construction work.

The proposal was blasted by concerned residents, who feared negative impact on the hamlet's character and noted that there is already a large CVS near by. An online petition articulating these concerns currently has 1,416 signatures. Additionally, a protest rally was held on a Saturday in June , where demonstrators marched through downtown Katonah.

Resident Kate Galligan, who has been a vocal opponent of the expansion, was in attendance at the meeting. Asked for comment following the vote, Galligan said she is “really happy” and “really proud that it worked out this way.”

Lionel Weinstein, former owner of Weinstein's Pharmacy in Katonah, said before the approval that he did not want Katonah being "broken up" by corporations.

“I’m fearful of what’s going to happen to Katonah."

A small number of attendees spoke against lowering the cap.

Lee Presser argued that it should be up the customers in terms of where they want to shop.

“Just let the markets resolve the issue."

Prior to the passage, Neil Alexander, an attorney representing CVS, urged the board to adjourn the hearing. He noted that only three weeks passed since the introduction of the legislation.

“We’re very upset by it. It’s disconcerting,” Alexander said about the timeline.

Alexander and a fellow attorney sent the town a letter on July 7 with objections, arguing that their client's expansion proposal, which would raise its space from the current 3,370 square feet, is the reason why the legislation is being considered.

The letter also notes that town staff were informed about the proposal by landlord Firestein Management, Inc. and its architect on several occasions in March and April, which included displaying the plan.

The letter recaps the weeks-long legislative process and adds that the town was feeling pressure from expansion opponents and the Katonah Village Improvement Society (KVIS), a local civic group that has supported a lower cap.

KVIS representatives backed the plan in remarks at the meeting.

CVS has not determined how to react, according to company spokesman Mike DeAngelis.

"We are reviewing the board's decision in order to determine our options."

Bedford Planning Board Chairwoman Deirdre Courtney-Batson, who backs the legislation to lower the cap , denied that it singles out chain stores or a particular proposal. She noted that it applies to all businesses regardless of ownership.

Courtney-Batson also argued the legislation is a continuation of “an ongoing process of analyzing and updating our zoning regulations to reflect economic and social realities.”

Jeff Osterman, Bedford's director of planning, discussed results of an in-house survey done for existing first-floor uses in the zones affected by the legislation. The findings show that 97 percent are below the 4,000-square-foot figure.

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