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CVS Attorneys, Katonah Landlord Blast Lowering Cap On Hamlet Store Sizes

Attorney Neil Alexander speaks to the Bedford Planning Board. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
The Bedford Planning Board at its June 30 meeting. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. -- Local landlord David Firestein and attorneys for CVS sternly criticized proposals to limit the size of first-floor retail space in Bedford's hamlet centers.

One proposal being considered by the Town Board, which would lower the cap from the current 7,500 square feet to 4,000, was introduced in June following protests from community members to a plan for CVS to expand its existing location at Firestein's Katonah Shopping Center. The proposal would relocate CVS from the center's southern end to the middle and give it 6,928 square feet.

There has been no explicit mention from town officials that the proposal is in response to CVS, meeting records show. The draft legislation came in response to a similar proposal from the Katonah Village Improvement Society (KVIS), the hamlet's civic group, which called for a 5,000-square-foot cap. It would affect storefronts in the Central Business (CB) and Neighborhood Business (NB) zones, which cover Bedford's three hamlet centers.

In a letter, the pharmacy chain's attorneys, Neil Alexander and Anthony Marano of Cuddy & Feder LLP, suggest that the proposal law is designed to target their client.

"It seems that in response to CVS and the Owner's upfront efforts to discuss the CVS proposal at the Site, the Town Board and KVIS quickly organized and processed the Proposed Law with the intention of developing a zoning scheme to use as a proxy to prohibit CVS's pending application," the attorneys wrote.

The attorneys also argue that CVS would not be out of character in Katonah - they note that the shopping center is out of the historic district and hosted larger retail uses in the past - and that the proposed law is unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, Firestein defended the merits of having some chains in Katonah, writing in a letter that local tenants are in weaker financial shape than their big counterparts and therefore riskier. Firestein further argues that having larger tenants helps provide financial support for a landlord to take risks on smaller ones.

"In my experience, new, local tenants seeking to lease space are generally undercapitalized, unless they are a vanity business investment," Firestein wrote. "New businesses have a higher failure rate; and therefore, represent higher turnover for the landlord."

Firestein is a principal in Firestein Management, Inc., which is the shopping center's direct owner. His letter only named KVIS' initial iteration of the proposal.

Both Firestein and CVS' attorneys noted that Katonah already has chains, with Mrs. Green's and a DeCicco's rumored to take over a vacant A&P space as examples.

Alexander reiterated his concerns at a Bedford Planning Board meeting on Tuesday, noting the timing between his client's application and the emergence of the legislation. Board members spoke favorably of the legislation and agreed to issue a letter in support.

"This amendment will encourage the development of uses which would add to and be in harmony with the character of the three hamlets," the board's letter states.

The Town Board will hold a public hearing on the legislation on July 7. It is scheduled to start at 7:20 p.m. and will be held at the town house in Bedford Hills.

Firestein's letter can be read here , while the attorneys' letter is available here. The Planning Board's letter can be found here.

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