Am I alone in being slightly disappointed in the proposed plan for the redevelopment of Murphy’s? While I understand that there are many stages to go through and that the planning board will do its usual sterling work in buffing up often self-serving plans, what we know so far looks less than encouraging.
Leaving aside that one of the few buildings with any character in the Heights will be replaced by (presumably) another corporate-looking box, there are some deeper issues at stake. First, the location may be considered as one of the “gateways” to Yorktown for traffic coming along north on 118. Do we really want to present our hamlet with yet another car park, as the preliminary plan proposes? More importantly, do we want to replace one of the few reasons to come into Yorktown Heights, a restaurant and meeting place, with yet another bank? Don’t we have enough already? Why does practically every new development incorporate a bank? (That is a rhetorical question: it’s because they have the most money, but that’s another conversation.)
The major issue, so far unaddressed in the preliminary plans, is the lack of any notion that this development could, in some way, contribute toward the vision for Yorktown Heights enshrined in the Comprehensive Plan. The idea, overwhelmingly supported by the residents of Yorktown, is to use new developments to migrate from the current “strip mall and parking lots” landscape to a mixed-use hamlet with visual appeal and walkability. I don’t see any discussion of this critical issue in any of the plans so far presented. For many enlightened communities, this would be the starting point.
Finally, and at the risk of poking the hornets’ nest a little, I notice that the two land-owners who will gain the most financially from this development are both publicly elected officials. While I have no issue with anyone, elected or otherwise, realizing investments and making money, it would be nice to think that in their roles of public stewardship, these gentlemen could steer this development toward something a little more inspired. Something that will bring people into a community and encourage them to stay a while.
Jonathan Nettelfield is the chair of Yorktown Smart Growth.