CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- The Chappaqua Daily Voice accepts original, signed letters to the editor. E-mail your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I was elected to this position this past November, I can honestly say that -- after my wedding day and the birth of my four children -- it was one of the happiest days of my life. I was deeply honored and appreciative that the residents would come out and support me as one of their leaders to help chart a path forward. The election was a whirlwind and a tremendous challenge.
I can’t tell you how deeply I have been affected by the almost overnight turn of events that has changed the atmosphere from optimism to pessimism. Having spent untold hours with Rob and Lisa and now Elise and Jason, I can honestly say I have never met a group of individuals as dedicated to our community as this group. We may differ in our approach, and we won’t always agree on every decision we have to make, but this is a healthy and vital part of the democratic process. What’s important is that we’re all trying our best to be responsive to the needs of our community.
Against that backdrop, I want to address the current situation with the train station lease. Upon taking office, I was tasked with leading the effort to negotiate lease terms with the purveyor of the Via Vanti restaurant in Mount Kisco. After numerous calls, emails and face-to-face meetings, we reached what appeared to be an impasse – public access to the bathrooms. The operator was insisting that commuters and the general public not be permitted to enter the depot during dinner hours solely to use the bathrooms. The operator believed this would be disruptive to patrons eating dinner at the restaurant.
Although the operator later indicated she was willing to accept a compromise on this issue, this episode raised doubts in my mind as to whether a full-service restaurant was the best option for our train station. I also had concerns as to whether a full-service restaurant could be successful in such a small space. Finally, I was also mindful of the historic nature of the train station depot and the fact that permanent interior alterations to the depot would be required to make the space work as a restaurant.
When discussions with Via Vanti faltered, the board concluded that it would be advisable to solicit additional lease proposals for the train station depot. The process that the board followed, as well as the prior RFP process that actually began in April 2012, is explained in a statement that the town posted to its website earlier today. I encourage all residents to review the town’s statement so they can be fully informed about the RFP process that was followed in this matter.
In March 2014, Via Vianti and three additional applicants who had stepped forward made presentations to the Town Board during a public meeting. The board also received RFP responses from Via Vianti and two of these new applicants -- the Chases and Leslie Lampert, the owner of Café of Love. When I balanced the merits of each respective application, I voted in favor of awarding the lease to Leslie Lampert. I concluded that Leslie’s proposal offered the best overall value to the town and was the best fit for the train station space. It’s that simple.
I understand that the Chases and Via Vanti are disappointed with the board’s decision. Nevertheless, if their petition for a permissive referendum is successful, it will delay the occupancy of the depot for at least four to six months. Residents will be denied a fantastic new amenity, and the town will be saddled with unnecessary costs. The board worked diligently on this matter with the hope that an operator would have the space ready this summer. I think it would be a shame to see this goal delayed into next year. The board exercised its judgment and made its choice based on sound rationale. Four board members voted for Leslie. Let’s move onto the pressing issues that our community faces.
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