See: Recycling Issues, Open Space Issues , Energy Issues , Stormwater Issues , Wetlands Issues,, Wetlands Law, Solar, Tree Law
Solar (For discussions involving the proposed solar law and proposed solar projects for Foothill St and Underhill Avenue, use a keyword search or scroll down. See also "Legislation" for the proposed Battery Energy Storage Facility Law) 11/9/2020 update: Solar farm project orginally proposed by Clean Energy Collection has been resubmitted with a new devloper. Click here for summaries of the Planning Board's review of this new application. Town Board, 10-13, 2020 Working with Sustainable Westchester, Lodestar, a company constructing two solar farms in upstate New Yotk that will sell its power to NYSEG, invited the town to participate in its community solar program that would result in a 10% savings for the town and its NYSEG customers. The town would enter into a long term agreement with Lodestar but residents could opt out at any time without having to pay a termination fee. The town could take advantage of the electricity produced by one or both of the company’s solar farms which are currently under construction and should be online by the first quarter of 2021. Bedford and Lewisboro have already agreed to participate in the program. According to a review of the town’s NYSEG bills, the company estimates that the town could save about $23,000 a year. Supervisor Slater noted that the town’s participation in the program would serve as an example to homeowners and encourage them to participate. The board directed the town attorney to finalize the details of an agreement with Lodestar. Nina Orville explained the organization’s community solar program and three programs the town could participate in. Through the organization, residents in either Con Ed or NYSEG can subscribe to a community solar project that would result in their saving 10% on their electric bill. The solar project does not have to be in Yorktown. The online registration can be completed in a few minutes and subscribers can withdraw from the program at any time without any penalty. The organization’s three programs are: 1) An outreach program to encourage solar energy. 2) An incentive program that would give the town $50 for every client it motivated to sign up for community solar. 3) A community solar assessment program done in cooperation with NY Power Authority where the agency would do an assessment, at no cost to the town, of installing solar on town properties. If the assessment showed that a solar installation made sense, the town would then lease the property, e.g., a town parking lot or roof on a town building, to a vendor who would construct and maintain the facility. The board considered this program a “no brainer” and Supervisor Slater said he would provide Sustainable Westchester a list of town properties ASAP in order to meet the program’s submission deadline. It was noted that the Climate Smart Task Force has already compiled a list of potential town sites that could accommodate solar. Supervisor Slater said he would also inform the school districts that they are eligible for the program that is limited to municipalities and school districts. Town Board 11-5-2020 After reviewing five proposals, the board awarded a bid to construct a solar carport at Granite Knolls to HESP Solar. The board directed the town attorney to negotiate the terms of an agreement with the company based on earlier discussions with the company. The final agreement will subject to a vote by the Town Board. While the terms of a likely agreement were not disclosed, based on the board’s initial discussions with HESP Solar, the agreement is expected to include an up front lump sum payment that will enable to town to potentially pave the parking lot, an annual revenue, four charging stations for electric vehicles, a public marketing and educational campaign and outreach to local schools.
Town Board, 7-16-2020
Solar carport at
(For discussions involving the proposed solar law and proposed solar projects for Foothill St and Underhill Avenue, use a keyword search or scroll down. See also "Legislation" for the proposed Battery Energy Storage Facility Law)
11/9/2020 update: Solar farm project orginally proposed by Clean Energy Collection has been resubmitted with a new devloper. Click here for summaries of the Planning Board's review of this new application.
Town Board, 10-13, 2020
Working with Sustainable Westchester, Lodestar, a company constructing two solar farms in upstate New Yotk that will sell its power to NYSEG, invited the town to participate in its community solar program that would result in a 10% savings for the town and its NYSEG customers. The town would enter into a long term agreement with Lodestar but residents could opt out at any time without having to pay a termination fee. The town could take advantage of the electricity produced by one or both of the company’s solar farms which are currently under construction and should be online by the first quarter of 2021. Bedford and Lewisboro have already agreed to participate in the program. According to a review of the town’s NYSEG bills, the company estimates that the town could save about $23,000 a year. Supervisor Slater noted that the town’s participation in the program would serve as an example to homeowners and encourage them to participate. The board directed the town attorney to finalize the details of an agreement with Lodestar.
Nina Orville explained the organization’s community solar program and three programs the town could participate in. Through the organization, residents in either Con Ed or NYSEG can subscribe to a community solar project that would result in their saving 10% on their electric bill. The solar project does not have to be in Yorktown. The online registration can be completed in a few minutes and subscribers can withdraw from the program at any time without any penalty.
The organization’s three programs are:
1) An outreach program to encourage solar energy.
2) An incentive program that would give the town $50 for every client it motivated to sign up for community solar.
3) A community solar assessment program done in cooperation with NY Power Authority where the agency would do an assessment, at no cost to the town, of installing solar on town properties. If the assessment showed that a solar installation made sense, the town would then lease the property, e.g., a town parking lot or roof on a town building, to a vendor who would construct and maintain the facility. The board considered this program a “no brainer” and Supervisor Slater said he would provide Sustainable Westchester a list of town properties ASAP in order to meet the program’s submission deadline. It was noted that the Climate Smart Task Force has already compiled a list of potential town sites that could accommodate solar. Supervisor Slater said he would also inform the school districts that they are eligible for the program that is limited to municipalities and school districts.
Town Board 11-5-2020
After reviewing five proposals, the board awarded a bid to construct a solar carport at Granite Knolls to HESP Solar. The board directed the town attorney to negotiate the terms of an agreement with the company based on earlier discussions with the company. The final agreement will subject to a vote by the Town Board.
While the terms of a likely agreement were not disclosed, based on the board’s initial discussions with HESP Solar, the agreement is expected to include an up front lump sum payment that will enable to town to potentially pave the parking lot, an annual revenue, four charging stations for electric vehicles, a public marketing and educational campaign and outreach to local schools.
The board received six responses to the RFP (Request for Proposal) to install solar canopies over the parking lot. Town attorney Rodriquez advised the board that while all six proposals had similar programs, e.g., 25 year leases, there were differences between the proposals on their assumptions and how they would pay the town. Three proposals were described as being “generic.” Acting on Park Superintendent Martorano’s comment that he liked three of the six proposals, the board will set up closed door interviews with the vendors. (Note: by law, discussions of RFP proposals are made in closed session.) It was noted that while there was no timetable associated with the RFP, some of the assumptions in some of the proposals could be based on tax incentive programs which do have time factors.
Town Board, 6-16-2020
In an item not on the agenda, the board rescinded the resolution passed last week to enter into an option/lease agreement and instead voted to advertise an RFP for the potential project. Supervisor Slater explained that the decision was based on additional discussions and information. Councilman Diana said the RFP route should have been done earlier and Councilman Lachterman said the RFP route provided more transparency.
Town Board, 6-9-2020
Before ultimately voting to enter into an option agreement with the developer to install solar panels over the parking area, the board considered the following issues.
· Recreation Commission: The group voted to support the project. The only negative issue during the discussion was the concern of at least one member that an industrial installation was not appropriate for a park and concern.
· RFP process. The Rec Commission also raised the issue of why the town didn’t go through the RFP process to see if the town could get a better financial deal. In response, the developer explained the timing constraints he was under and that if there was a delay in his getting a signed option, he stood to lose out on the available window of opportunity with Con Ed and that future windows might not be financially feasible for the project. Once the developer has a signed option agreement with the town, he will have to apply to Con Ed, whose approval process could take about four months. If approved by Con Ed, then the developer would seek NYSERDA incentive financing.
· Alienation. Supervisor Slater explained that whether alienation was needed was a murky issue as the project only involved air rights, not actual parkland. The developer said that even if alienation is needed, that approval could come later.
· Paving the parking lot. Based on DEP approvals when the complex was built, it was pointed that the DEP might not permit the lot to be paved. The developer’s engineer has advised his client that he thinks there’s some give on this initial restriction. The paving issue was suggested by the Rec Commission because a paved lot would result in more parking spaces; the developer said the project could be completed without the paving. The developer was prepared to pay for the paving but the final cost, whether higher or lower than initial estimates, would affect the lease terms.
Town Board, 5-26-2020
The company is proposing to lease the air space above the parking lot at Granite Knolls to construct a solar facility. The company would initially pay the town $60,000 a year; under the terms of a proposed contract, the air rights would be leased for 25 years, with the possibility of two five year extensions and a 1.25% yearly payment increase. The developer met with the Recreation Commission last September but Supervisor Slater said that he only heard about the proposal five days prior to the meeting. As part of the project, the company would pave the existing parking lot.
The facility would be a community type system and Yorktown residents in the Con Ed district would be able to subscribe and receive a 10% discount on their Con Ed bills. The discount would also apply to the town’s Con Ed bill.
Because the site is designated parkland, the town would have to get permission from the state legislature to alienate the property. Given the legislature’s schedule and the deadlines for submitting bills, this could become a timing issue, but Supervisor Slater said he has been in touch with our state representatives. The company explained that it is facing time constraints but it was not clear what would happen if the alienation bill had to wait until next year.
The company said it was interested into entering an option agreement with the town while it worked out details of an agreement with Con Ed and did further site planning for the project.
Matt Talbert of the Rec Commission advised the board that the Commission had some questions, including whether the solar panels could be installed in the winter so as not to disturb the park once the season opens; how the eventual decommissioning would be funded; and whether the plan included any battery storage. The company said that it currently had no plans to add a battery storage component to the solar system.
The board had no problem with the concept and it was not clear how soon the board would be able to vote on an alienation home rule resolution. The Rec Commission is meeting on June 4 and may be discussing the plan.
Parks Superintendent Martorano wanted to know if the lease revenue would go towards the turf replacement fund; Supervisor Slater said no decisions had been made about this.
Town Board, 9-15-2020
Without any discussion, the board approved the solar law
Town Board, 7-28-2020
Mr.Tegeder reviewed proposed changes to the law based on input from the public hearing. Changes included requiring screening for ground installations, referring applications to the Tree Commission, provisions regarding carbon sequestration and requiring the minimum lot size in non residential zones to be the same as in the current zoning code.
The only person to speak at the hearing was Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary. In a series of comments, Ms. Siegel said she was correcting a series of misstatements made at the previous hearing. There was no response to her request that each board member explain why they would not discuss the rezoning option she had proposed (Mr. Tegeder gave his reasons for rejecting that option) or considering an energy overlay zone similar to the economic development overlay zone the board was planning to discuss later in the evening. In response to the town attorney’s comment that SEQRA would allow the Planning Board to require the applicant to consider alternate sites, Ms. Siegel advised the board that the Planning Board very seldom requires a full Environmental Impact Statement type of review from applicants. She also reminded the board that a change not included in Mr. Tegeder’s list dealt with the questionable repeal section of the law and she questioned how the public was supposed to prepare comments at hearing on changed provisions in the law when the changes were only announced once the hearing started.
The board closed the hearing in a 4-1 vote, with Mr. Patel voting no.
Town Board, 7-21-2020
(Given the length of the hearing, readers interested in more details are encouraged to watch the video of the meeting at https://yorktownny.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=1040. Scroll to
130 on the time bar for the beginning of the hearing.)
Because several additions to the law were suggested during the hearing, the board decided to adjourn the hearing so that it could review a revised draft.
Supervisor Slater opened the hearing by explaining that the proposed law was an effort to balance competing interests: the need to encourage new clean energy sources and the need to protect the integrity of the town’s natural resources. He also explained that the law was not meant to address specific solar projects, although a proposed solar farm on Lockwood Road was mentioned several times during the hearing and Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, pointed out that the yown first began considering a solar after when te developer of the Lockwood site presented his proposal to the town.
Mr. Tegeder walked the board through changes that had been made from the earlier draft, including a new provision that prioritized the sites for potential installations and restricted accessory ground installations on residential parcels to at least one acre.
On the subject of preferences, Sarah Wilson said she supported the law and liked the addition of the preferences but she questioned how they could be followed. Commenting later, Susan Siegel reminded the board that when the preferences were first proposed, Mr. Tegeder advised the board that including them in the law didn’t preclude applications for other locations being considered.
Nicholas Miriam (sp?) said the proposed law broke the existing zoning laws by allowing a commercial use in a residential zone.
Paul Moskowitz suggested that the law include a maximum size for the facilities and questioned why the proposed law included a provision that repealed other laws that conflicted with the solar law. Supervisor Slater asked the town attorney to look into that provision.
Michael Grace, the attorney representing the developer of the proposed solar farm on Lockwood Rd, advised the board that the town didn’t need a separate law; all that was required, he said, was adding solar farms as a permitted use to the zoning code and that the applicant would have to abide by already existing land use laws.
Swarnav Pujari, chair of the Climate Task Force, spoke in favor of the law and supported additional language, suggested by the Task Force that would require proposed developers to calculate the amount of carbon sequestration by the trees that would be cut to make way for the solar farm so that the different impacts on the carbon issue could be compared. He also noted that while the financing for solar farms typically covers 20-25 years, in practice, the systems could last for 30-35 years. And in response to a question from the public, he said he had no data on the possible impact a solar farm would have on property values.
Town Board, 7-14-2020
Mr. Tegeder walked the board through revisions in the draft of the law that was the subject of a public hearing last July. (Note: due to technical problems with the video feed, the beginning portion of Mr. Tegeder’s presentation was not shown.)
The proposed law distinguishes between small and large scale solar installations, between roof and ground mounted installations, and between installations, roof and ground, that are accessory uses to an already developed property and the main or primary use of the property.
Councilman Diana objected to allowing ground mounted systems as an accessory use on residential properties, calling them “unsightly.” While Supervisor Slater said that screening could overcome this problem, Mr. Tegeder said that it would be hard to screen systems on already developed lots. After more discussion, there appeared to be a consensus that these installations would be prohibited on smaller lots, possibly one acre or less, although decision was made.
Supervisor Slater suggested that language be added to the Intent section of the law that would outline the town’s preference as to where large scale solar installations should be located, such as brownfields or unused agricultural land; locations that would involve the clear cutting of trees would be at the bottom of the preference list. In response, Mr. Tegeder said that while preference language could be added to the law, the language would not exclude other locations from being considered.
After the discussion, the board voted to schedule a public hearing on July 21.
Planning Board, 7-13-2020
Mr. Tegeder advised the board that the Town Board has proposed a revised Solar Law and that he would send them a redline version for their review. As the board would not be meeting againt until August, he suggested that the members email him their comments and that he would prepare a memo for the board. (Note: the Town Board public hearing on the law is scheduled for July21.)
Town Board, 6-9-2020
Clean Energy Solar, Lockwood Road
Michael Grace, representing Joe Shanahan, the developer who wants to build the solar farm on Lockwood Road and Underhill Avenue asked the board to move forward and approve the Lockwood plan which he described as a “benign” project. He acknowledged visual impact issues for the Underhill site. He said the Lockwood project had been delayed for over 18 months while the town considered a new tee law.
Initially, Mr. Grace said that the developer had applied for a Chapter 248 stormwater permit for the project and that a solar law wasn’t needed, but he appeared to change his mind as the discussion progressed and it became apparent that the application Mr. Shanahan had submitted was a site plan application to the Planning Board. Mr. Grace then urged the Town Board to transfer approval authority over the project from the Planning Board to the Town Board adding: you can do anything you want.
Mr. Tegeder advised the board that there was an issue over whether the existing Zoning Code allowed solar farms, in any district, as a main or accessory use, with or without a permit. Mr. Grace noted that the town’s only other solar array at the Yeshiva site on Illington Road was approved with a 248 stormwater permit.
The board asked Mr. Tegeder to send them information about the Lockwood plan before taking any further action on Mr. Grace’s request. In the meantime, Mr. Tegeder is continuing his work on preparing a revised draft of the solar law.
Town Board, 5-26-20
In brief comments, Mr. Tegeder said he expected to send a revised solar law to the board in the coming weeks. Without going into any detail, he said that the next submission would include some technical modifications to the previous draft law.
Town Board 2-11-2020
Mr. Tegeder said he was ready to draft possible changes to the law that reflected earlier comments for the board’s review and to be referred out. In response to Councilwoman Roker’s comments, he said he would arrange for a tour of existing solar facilities in Orange County and also Manhattanville College that has solar panels over a parking lot.
Town Board, 7-23-2019
The board remained undecided about the key issue in the law: whether commercial solar farms should be allowed in residential districts and if so with what minimum lot size. Mr. Abbate reviewed the specifications in the solar laws of other towns. Mr. Tegeder said his concern with a floating zone concept was that once the solar installation was decommissioned it might be difficult to prohibit another, different type of commercial use on the site.
Councilman Diana indicated that while he supported solar panels on roofs, he had reservations about them as ground installations. Both Councilwoman Roker and Councilman Lachterman expressed reservations about the proposed installation on Underhill Avenue. Mr. Tegeder explained that as part of the approval process a proposed installation would be required to submit a stormwater plan that would address drainage concerns.
The board asked Mr. Tegeder to set up site visits so they could see an existing solar farm. It was noted that one already exists in Yorktown, on the Yeshiva site on Illington Road.
Town Board, 7-9-2019
Approximately 16 people spoke: 11 in opposition to certain provisions in the law, four in favor and one that was a general comment.
Patty Peckham, the owner of a horse farm, spoke in favor the law, both in general terms of the need for more solar in order to reduce our state’s reliance on fossil fuels but also as a property owner who wants to have a commercial solar farm on some cleared pasture land on part of her property. Bill Kellner, chair of the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission, supported the law despite the fact that it could result in the clear cutting of woodlands, stating that the Underhill Avenue woodland was already degraded. Joe Shanahan, vice president of the company that wants to build two solar farms in Yorktown, advised the board that if it eliminated residentially zoned property from the law, it could lead to larger commercial solar farms, possibly on the State Land property on Route 202. He also implied that if a company’s application was turned down, the town would be sued. Mr. Tegeder explained that a solar farm would have less impact on residentially zoned property than houses.
Most of the speakers opposed to the law supported more use of solar but opposed the provision that would allow commercial solar farms in residential neighborhoods and would require clear cutting woodlands. Linda Miller spoke about the need to balance the conflicting goals of preserving woodlands and encouraging solar installations. The speakers supported solar installations in commercial property as an accessory use, either on roofs or as canopies over parking lots. Although the law did not identify specific sites, Paul Moskowitz spoke against a proposed site on Underhill Avenue. Noting provisions in the solar laws of other northern Westchester towns, Elise Graham pointed out that Yorktown’s was much weaker e.g, it’s minimum lot size was 2 acres where two other towns had 10 acre minimums. Susan Siegel suggested that instead of an opened ended provision that said any residentially zoned property of a certain size, the town consider creating a new zone specifically for solar generation and rezone parcels on a case by case basis.
Supervisor Gilbert disputed comments that the solar energy company collaborated with the town on the drafting of the law.
The board adjourned the hearing and will discuss the law at a July 23 work session.
Note: the board did not open the hearing on the Solar Energy System PILOT law.
Planning Board, 7-8-2019
Showing some photographs of solar installations on commercial properties, Mr. Fon said he had no problem with canopies over parking lots as an accessory use but that he opposed large installations on otherwise undeveloped commercial property. He added that he felt the board did not have sufficient information about solar farms and that the town needed to slow down and do more research. Mr. Bock said that a middle ground was needed and suggested that installations on residential property might be acceptable if they were not seen, but he considered the 80% coverage in the proposed law to be too much. Mr. LaScala did not like the idea of a PILOT and wanted the projects taxed base don their assessed value.
The board ultimately voted 5-0 to support large scale installations on any residentially zoned property but on larger lots (a representative of the solar energy company said that the company’s minimum requirement was 5 buildable acres) and not on commercially zoned land as a primary use, that there be a preference that they be built on already disturbed land, that they comply with the town’s other laws, limit coverage to 60%, and require a visual survey.
Plannng Board, 6-24-2019
In an item not on the agenda, a representative of Clean Energy Collective, the company that wants to construct two solar farms, appealed to the board to reconsider the decision it made at its last meeting opposing siting solar farms in residential districts. He advised the board that if the prohibition remained, his projects were “dead on arrival.”
The representative proceeded to outline a series of benefits his proposed projects would provide including $1 million in revenue, plus contributions to the town’s Tree Bank Fund and other environmental, cultural and aesthetic benefits. He said his project would not damage the viewshed. He added that if the law prohibited his use, but allowed solar farms in commercial zones, it would open the door to much larger projects from other companies, e.g., on the State Land parcel on Route 202 that the community would likely oppose. He added that if a spurned developer went to court, chances are the court would side with the developer on the grounds that the town had been working on the law for 18 months.
The board’s responses were limited. Mr. LaScala said the representative’s comments were his assumptions, not facts and Mr. Kincart stated that solar farms were commercial not residential uses.
At the end of the meeting and after a heated discussion about the proposed Tree Law, the board agreed to postpone any decision on the Tree Law until a full board was present. The board tentatively set July 8 for a special meeting if all five board members could be present, at which time, it would also take a second look at its earlier recommendations on the Solar Law. As of 6-27, the meeting had not been confirmed.
Town Board, 6-18-2019
In response to a question from Paul Moskowitz, Supervisor Gilbert announced that the public hearings on theSolar and Tree laws, originally scheduled for July 2, has been changed to July 9. Mr. Moskowitz and Grace Caporino spoke in opposition to the law’s provision allowing commercial solar farms in residential neighborhoods. In response, Councilman Lachterman said that destroying the viewshed at Turkey Mountain would be “tragic.” (For more discussion about the Tree and Solar laws, see Work Session below.)
The main discussion during the work session revolved around the law’s provision allowing large scale solar installations in residential zones as a principal, a practice Mr. Tegeder said was not unusual. Both Supervisor Gilbert and Councilwoman Roker said they had no objection to that provision as long as the installation would not be seen; they may be appropriate in some but not all locations. They rejected the option of not allowing solar farms altogether while allowing only solar installations as accessory uses in residential and commercial zones. Mr. Tegeder said the board could modify the existing law to set a larger minimum lot size for solar farms to reduce the potential number as well as adding other requirements. There was concern over the potential visibility of the proposed installation on Underhill Avenue, although a representative of the solar company that want to build the installation said his company was preparing a simulation that would show that the panels would not be visible from Turkey Mountain. Supervisor Gilbert advised the board that the company has indicated its willingness to make contributions to the town for possible projects.
Although not discussed, the July 9 meeting will also have a hearing on a proposed law that would enable to town to enter into PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) agreements with the owners of large scale solar farms.
The board unanimously agreed that it opposes allowing solar farms in residential zones as a primary use. The board was okay with allowing solar installations as a primary use in commercial zones and as an accessory use in residential and commercial zones. Mr. Tegeder will draft a memo with these recommendations to send to the Town Board.
Mr. Tegeder identified the following commercially zoned sites as possible locations: Route 6, southwest of the Taconic Parkway, the 5 acre Peterson property, State Land property on Route 202, the 11 acre Adrian parcel on Route 202 across from BJ’s and a site east of Navajo Road on north side of Route 6 although he said that there had been some recent activity on the last parcel he mentioned.
Earlier in the discussion, when Mr. Fon noted that the representative from Clean Engery Collective had not supplied a map indicating possible sites for solar installations, Mr. Tegeder, reading from his notes, said the applicant had said the following were the company’s minimal criteria: a minimum of 10 acres, 0.4 miles from a possible connection (Mr. Bock noted that this distance limitation was subject to change based on changing technology) and that the slopes were no greater than the slopes on the Underhill Avenue site.
The board briefly discussed, but rejected as impractical, a provision that would have identified specific types of sites for possible installations, such as unused agricultural land or brownfields and landfills.
Town Board 5-28-2019
(For copy of proposed law, see https://www.yorktownny.org/sites/default/files/fileattachments/town_clerk/page/247/proposed_solar_energy_law_local_law_draft_3.pdf)
The town attorney explained some of the provisions of the proposed law that would affect homeowners adding solar installations to their roofs or yards as well as large scale installations. He said the proposed law does not include a requirement for a bond because it would be difficult to hold a bond forever, although he would amend the law to require a decommissioning bond to assure that all equipment on the site was removed when a facility is decommissioned. . Explaining that state law makes large scale solar installations tax exempt, he said he would prepare a supplemental local law, modeled after a state template, that would allow the town to enter into a maximum 15 year PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement for any such facilities.
Noting that since the planning director had been working on both the solar law and tree law, Supervisor Gilbert said he assumed that the two laws would not be in conflict and he asked Linda Miller, a member of the Tree Committee that has been preparing a revised draft of the tree law, to respond whether that statement was accurate. In response, Ms. Miller advised the board that the two laws were in conflict as the laws had different goals and intents; she explained that the goal of the tree law was to preserve trees while the solar law needed trees to be cut down in order to utilize the sun.
Mr. Abbate said there were some objections to solar farms in residential neighborhoods, but he agreed with Supervisor Gilbert who said that these concerns could be addressed by the Planning Board that would be the approval authority for the special permit.
Planning Board, 5-20-2019
Mr. Tegeder showed the board a map indicating residentially zoned parcels that could be developed for large scale solar installations as a primary use. Mr. Bock suggested that possibly the two acre minimum lot size in the draft law should be increased. He also wanted to see language added to the law that talked about selecting sites that could be repurposed, such as agricultural land that was no longer being farmed. He suggested that the board needed more tools to evaluate proposals, noting his concern that if an applicant met the five criteria for a special permit the board would have no choice but to approve the application. In response, Mr. Tegeder said that SEQRA gave the board more control over the application. Mr. Bock said the law should also include provisions regarding how an installation would affect the viewshed.
While expressing some concerns about installations in residential zones, Mr. Fon and Mr. LaScala indicated that they would have no objections if the board had more tools and possibly if the minimum size was increased.
On behalf of ACOS, the Advisory Committee on Open Space, Walt Daniels gave the board a memo suggesting that the board look at the North Castle solar law that did not permit large scale installations in residential zones. The memo also noted that ACOS had previously identified both the Foothill and Underhill sites for possible open space preservation,
Mr. Tegeder repeated his opinion that it would be easier to screen an installation in a residential zone, such as the proposed Foothill plan, as opposed to a commercial site such as the State Land property on Route 202. He added that he had no objection to installations in already developed commercial parcels as an accessory use, such as over existing parking lots, but that these could also be unattractive.
A representative of the company that wants to build installations at Foothill and Underhill Ave said that some of the potential sites on the Planning Department’s map would not be feasible as they did not have potential connections to the grid. He said he would prepare an overlay for the board to look at. He also stressed the company’s commitment to work with the town and neighbors for adequate screening. Mr. LaScala asked the company to provide a video of some of its completed projects.
Based on the discussion, Mr. Tegeder will prepare a draft memo for the board’s consideration.
Planning Board, 5-6-2019
Mr. LaScala and Mr. Bock both expressed reservations about allowing large scale installations on residentially zoned parcels; Mr. Tegeder repeated his view that the installations would result in less disturbance than if residential parcels were developed for single family houses. Mr. Bock was concerned that the law gave blanket authority for any residential area; instead, he suggested, as a possible alternative, that only potential specific sites be identified.
At Mr. LaScala’s request, Paul Moskowitz addressed the board and voiced his opposition, and the opposition of the Huntersville Homeowners Association of which he is president, to large scale installations, which he called an industrial use, in residential zones. He suggested that they be allowed in commercial zones, on roofs or in parking lots. In response, Mr. Tegeder said that they would be permitted in commercial zones as an accessory use.
Representatives of Clean Energy challenged the use of the term industrial, saying that the term implied a use that would generate traffic, noise and other impacts that would not be present with a solar installation. They also argued that while a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) would be less than the combined town and school taxes on the property, the installation would not require school or town services.
Addressing the issue of alternative uses for the Underhill Avenue site (given the slopes, it was said that very few houses could be built on the parcel), the applicant said that the owner had plans for a horse farm with rinks and that that proposed use would have more impact than a solar installation.
The applicant and Mr. Tegeder disagreed about the visual impact of the Underhill Avenue site, with the applicant saying that the installation would only be visible from the power lines on Turkey Mountain and Mr. Tegeder saying it would be visible from more locations. By way of contrast, he said he did not anticipate visual problems from the Foothill site.
Because the board did not want to make a recommendation with only three members present, those present asked the supervisor to extend the time for receiving comments so that the Planning Board could take up the issue again in two weeks. In the meantime, Mr. Tegeder will send a memo to Planning Board members highlighting some of the key issues they may want to consider at the next meeting.
The applicant is pressing for the Town Board to schedule a public hearing on the law and the issue may be on the board’s May 14 agenda.
Planning Board, 4-22-2019
(Mr. Bock recused himself from the discussion of the proposed solar farm on Underhill Avenue.)
Solar law: Mr. Bock expressed concern over the possible very large impact the law could have as it would permit large solar installations on all residential properties in the R1, R2 and R3 zones. He said he had no issue with small solar installations on existing structures. He shared with the board that he had tried to get a quantification of how many potential acres the law applied to but that the assessor’s office was not able to come up with a count. Mr. Tegeder said that most of the town was zoned R1, single family development at varying densities.
Using the State Land property on the north side of Route 202 as an example, Mr. Tegeder said he preferred not to see solar installations on commercial sites along town roads, adding that he found solar canopy installations over parking lots unattractive. In response, Mr. Bock said he’d prefer car parking lot installations over taking down trees in residential neighborhoods. Mr. LaScala also expressed concern about the visual aspects of the installations and reminded the applicant that he was still waiting for visuals about the applicant’s other locations she had said would be provided.
In support of his opinion that solar farms were an acceptable use in residential zones, Mr. Tegeder said that they would but a stop to any residential development over a period of many years and that a solar farm would use a smaller portion of the overall site than a residential subdivision that might require all the trees to be cut down. He said that the subdivision once proposed for the Lockwood site would have used up all the land, In response, Mr. LaScala said that he preferred the board to control the land use aspects of a residential subdivision.
The board deferred arriving at a consensus on the law because only three members were present.
Site plans. The applicant advised the board that based on the site visit, she would be making some adjustments to the site plans for both locations. Because the change for the Underhill Avenue site would conflict with the setback requirements in the proposed law, the applicant asked that a provision be added to the law that gave the Planning Board the ability to waive setback requirements. In response, Mr. Tegeder explained that based on the Town Code, only the Zoning Board could do this and that the applicant would need to get a variance.
The applicant also asked for guidance from the board on the locations it wanted for visual impact assessments for both sites.
Town Board, 4-16-2019
During Courtesy of the Floor, Paul Moskowitz, who ws present at the site visit discussed below, said that while he supported efforts to encourage the use of solar energy, he was opposed to the provision in the proposal local law that would permit large scale commercial solar installations only in residentially zoned property and not in commercial zones. He was also concerned about the provision in the proposed law that would repeal any existing town law that was inconsistent with the solar law.
Planning Board, 4-8-2019
Although both applications were on the agenda for site plan review, Mr. Bock raised the issue of how the board was supposed to evaluate the plan in the absence of any enabling legislation. In response, the applicant and Mr. Tegeder said that an informal review of the site plan would assist the board in its review of the draft law. (Note: a review of the law was not on the agenda.) The applicant added that she was aware that without a law on the books, the company was proceeding at its own risk.
Reference was made to a memo from the Conservation Board regarding the two site plans that appeared to question citing commercial solar installations in resident zones, a concern Mr. Fon said that the Planning Board had expressed earlier. The Conservation Board memo, which was not read out at the meeting, appeared to support the concept of solar energy but was concerned about the need to cut down so many trees.
The applicant stated that solar farms are a light use and that people won’t even know that they’re there. Regarding the Underhill Ave location on the top of French Hill, she said it would not be visible.
ill, she said the instattion would be far removed from the road and wouldn’t be visible. Both sites would be leased to the energy company.
Walt Daniels, speaking for ACOSm, note
Mr. LaScala said he had no problem with solar installations on houses but questioned the financial arrangements for commercial operations.
Walt Daniels, speaking for ACOS, noted that there had been an application for some houses on the Foothill location sometime around 2006/2007 and that ACOS considered the site, that includes a tributary that leads into Mohegan Lake, as a site worthy of the town acquiring. Mr. Tegeder expressed concern about the potential thermal impact on the stream when heat absorbing trees are cut down; the applicant said this issue would be addressed as the application proceeded. Regarding the Underhill Ave site, the applicant said that the 25% slope would not be a problem.
The applicant added that if the town didn’t approve the solar farm applications, the property owners were likely to apply for some other development on their property; Mr. Bock said that other options for the land should be looked at in conjunction with the solar application. The appllicent also said that while the abutting Putnam Valley school has not been notified yet about the application, she felt that the installation would be a valuable learning experience for students.
At Mr. Fon’s suggestion, it was agreed that members of all boards involved with the application should do a joint site visit. One was schedled for Sunday, April 14. The applicant will also provide a list of its completed installations, most of which appeared to be in Massachusetts.
Town Board, 4-2-2019
A new law regulating small (homeowner) and large (commercial) scale solar installations. For a copy see,
Town Board, 3-12-2019
Town Board, 3-12-2019
Town Attorney Abbate and Mr. Tegeder advised the board that they have been working on an updated draft of the law but that more work needed to be done. While the focus of the law remains large solar farms that would need a special permit issued by the Planning Board, the proposed law would also cover residential systems that would be approved by the building inspector but which would require review by ABACA if the roof panels faced the street. The board’s questions focused primarily on the law’s provisions relating to the abandonment and decommissioning of the facility and how it would relate to either the current or the proposed new tree law. A representative of the company that wans to construct two solar farms, one off Lockwood Street and a second off Underhill Avenue, asked if her company could submit applications before the new law is adopted. She was advised that she could but that the application might create a SEQRA segmentation issue. Mr. Abbate and Mr. Tegeder will return to the board once they have a complete draft law.
Town Attorney Abbate and Mr. Tegeder advised the board that they have been working on an updated draft of the law but that more work needed to be done. While the focus of the law remains large solar farms that would need a special permit issued by the Planning Board, the proposed law would also cover residential systems that would be approved by the building inspector but which would require review by ABACA if the roof panels faced the street.
The board’s questions focused primarily on the law’s provisions relating to the abandonment and decommissioning of the facility and how it would relate to either the current or the proposed new tree law.
A representative of the company that wans to construct two solar farms, one off Lockwood Street and a second off Underhill Avenue, asked if her company could submit applications before the new law is adopted. She was advised that she could but that the application might create a SEQRA segmentation issue.
Mr. Abbate and Mr. Tegeder will return to the board once they have a complete draft law.
Town Board, 12-18-2018
Paul Moskowitz urged the board to proceed cautiously before adopting a proposed solar law. Citing the many benefits of trees in addition to capturing carbon dioxide, he said it would be counterproductive to cut down a forest to make way for a solar farm. Instead, he suggested that locations like parking lots and golf courses were more suitable locations for solar installations.
Paul Moskowitz urged the board to proceed cautiously before adopting a proposed solar law. Citing the many benefits of trees in addition to capturing carbon dioxide, he said it would be counterproductive to cut down a forest to make way for a solar farm. Instead, he suggested that locations like parking lots and golf courses were more suitable locations for solar installations.
Town Board, 12-11-2018
Representatives of Clean Energy Collective, the company that wants to construct a solar farm on Lockwod Road asked the board to proceed with its review of a proposed solar law and not wait for a new tree law to be passed. The representatives said that the company has been working with the town since October, 2017, that it was time to move forward and that its application was following the provisions of the current Tree Law. Asked about the status of the proposed solar law, Mr. Tegeder said that it was moving along but that he would work with the town attorney on some changes. It is anticipated that the completed project would pay a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) and that NYSERDA has guidelines for such PILOT agreements.
Representatives of Clean Energy Collective, the company that wants to construct a solar farm on Lockwod Road asked the board to proceed with its review of a proposed solar law and not wait for a new tree law to be passed. The representatives said that the company has been working with the town since October, 2017, that it was time to move forward and that its application was following the provisions of the current Tree Law.
Asked about the status of the proposed solar law, Mr. Tegeder said that it was moving along but that he would work with the town attorney on some changes.
It is anticipated that the completed project would pay a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) and that NYSERDA has guidelines for such PILOT agreements.
Town Board 10-23-2018
See the video of the Town Board meeting for athe discussion at a joint meetin of the Town Board and several advisory boards.
See the video of the Town Board meeting for athe discussion at a joint meetin of the Town Board and several advisory boards.
Town Board, 10-30-2018
The board decided that more information was needed on the draft solar law before any further action was taken.
Town Board, 10-9-2018
The board deferred a discussion on both the solar and tree laws to a special October 23 work session meeting that will be a joint meeting with members of the Planning Board, Conservation Board, and Tree Conservation Advisory Board. Supervisor Gilbert stated that the passage of both laws was a slow and arduous process that took time but that the important thing was that it be done correctly.
In a memo the Town Board received just prior to the meeting, the Planning Board suggested the joint meeting for the tree law; Supervisor Gilbert said that since the solar and tree laws go hand in hand, they should be discussed together.
Planning Board 10-1-2018
Planning Board 10-1-2018
The board postponed a discussion on the content of the draft law pending site visits to a Clarkstown installation on a roughly 5 acre site that was an old landfill and a larger facility either currently in operation or still under construction in Orange County. Mr. LaScala repeated his concerns about who benefits financially from these installations.
The board postponed a discussion on the content of the draft law pending site visits to a Clarkstown installation on a roughly 5 acre site that was an old landfill and a larger facility either currently in operation or still under construction in Orange County. Mr. LaScala repeated his concerns about who benefits financially from these installations.
Planning Board, 9-17-2018
(See Planning Board 8-13-2018.) The brief discussion focused more on the proposed Lockwood Rd proposal than on the provisions of the proposed local law. Mr. LaScala was skeptical of the financial underpinnings of a solar project, including the fact that the tax credits that the developer would get would lead to more carbon dioxide emissions. Mr. Fon thought the proposed plan was too big and other board members had issues with a solar farm in a residential area. At the request of board members, Mr. Tegeder will provide them with a list of other solar projects in Orange County, noting that the one proposed in Yorktown would be the largest in the New York State. He also said that for the board’s next meeting, he will provide some guidance for reviewing the law including the amount of coverage, the size of the project and eligible zoning districts.
Plannng Board, 8-13-2018
A representative of Clean Energy Collective showed a proposed layout for the panels that would use 16 acres of the 34 acre site and have a 100 feet buffer: 25’ would be a natural buffer and 75’ would be a buffer that eliminated any shade. The panels would be surrounded by a 7’ fence, a state requirement. Because grass would be planted under the panels and would absorb rain coming off the panels, the site would remain pervious.
Board members LaScala and Fon expressed concern that large solar installations was not appropriate for residential areas. Mr. LaScala called them a “blight on Yorktown,” adding that he had no problem with solar panels on the roofs of single family houses. Calling the proposed installation “a sea of glass,” Mr. Fon suggested that the installations could be appropriate at other locations. Mr. Kincart thought they would be more appropriate for land that had already been cleared for agricultural use but no longer used for that purpose.
Mr, Savoca wanted to postpone consideration of the site plan until after the town board held a public hearing on the proposed solar law. Mr. Tegeder explained that comments on the law are due back on the draft solar law by August 30. (Note: the draft law leaves blank the zoning districts in which solar installations would be allowed.) The board did not comment on the proposed law.
Town Board, 7-24-2018
With minimal discussion, the board referred out a draft of the local law that would regulate solar installations. In response to Councilwoman Roker’s question how the proposed Clean Energy Collective plan differed from the solar array installed at the Yeshiva site, Mr. Tegeder explained that the Yeshiva use was an accessory use to the site’s main use; the Clean Energy proposal was to be the main use for the parcel. In response to Councilman Diana’s question how the facility would be taxed, Mr. Tegeder said he did not know but suggested that the town assessor should address this question. Councilman Lachterman asked Mr. Tegeder to look into this. The company is currently building similar facilities in Orange County.
The board voted to refer out the draft.
Town Board, 1-23-2018
Representatives of Clean Energy Collection explained their plan to the new board. In response to questions from Councilwoman Roker who wanted to visit one of the firm’s existing locations, it was explained that the only completed projects were in Massachusetts and that the company’s New York projects were still in the planning or permitted stages.
Mr. McDermott explained that while he had some sample laws regulating solar farms, they were from upstate New York where zoning issues were different. The company’s representative said they would make other legislation available to the town. Ms. Roker asked for a video of the Massachusetts facility.
Representatives of the Clean Energy Collective explained that they asked to be on the Planning Board agenda in order to “jump start” their application. Mr. Tegeder advised the board that before the board could consider any site plan, the Town Board had to adopt a local law allowing solar farms. He added that a second company was also interested in constructing a similar facility and that he had met that day with the town attorney to begin work on a draft law. In the interim, he advised the Planning Board to identify parameters that it would be concerned about, such as setbacks and landscaping, that could be incorporated into any draft legislation.
Commenting on the plan’s concept map, Mr. Fon expressed concern about what he considered a huge “sea of glass” that he believed would be unacceptable. The solar panels would cover 16 of the site’s 34 acres.
A resident attending the meeting advised the board that solar panels have a 10 year life span and asked what would become of the site once the trees were removed and the panels were no longer viable.
Town Board, 10-24-2017
(For earlier discussions involving solar energy, use a keyword search.) A second proposal for a solar farm was presented to the board. The 17.5 acre privately parcel runs from Underhill Avenue up the slope to Darby where the town’s water tank and a cell tower is located. A representative from Keystone Power Holdings, the company that is planning the project advised the board that the installation would not be visible from Underhill Avenue. An estimated 6-8 acres would be used for the installation.
The company was advised that the town is in the process of developing legislation to regulate this new use; a company representative indicated his interest in helping the town craft the legislation and said hewould provide information about how other municipalities are dealing with this new use.
One issue that needs to be worked out is how solar farms are to be assessed. According to Mr. McDermott, the town assessor has begun looking into the issue but to date there was little to go on for installations in the Hudson Valley. The need for more research notwithstanding, there was discussion about the potential use of a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) agreement that could have a 15 year duration. What the rate would be remains one of the main issues to be decided.
Town Board, 10-10 -2017
A representive of Clean Energy Collective and its attorney, Al Capellini, explained the plan to develop a solar farm on the 11 acre site on Foothill St in the northwest corner of Yorktown. The company’s business model is to sell the electricity to Con Ed and distribute the money it receives to the shareholders in the venture as a credit to their Con Ed bills. The site is near Putnam Valley High School and theoretically all the shares could be sold to the school. The company pays for the installation and maintenance of the equipment. and makes its money by selling the tax credits that the facility qualifies for, not by producing the electricity.
It was stated that this would be the first solar farm in Yorktown although it was noted the YKY Yeshiva in southern Yorktown has a 1 acre solar farm. The representative said that the amount of electricity generated by the installation would be enough to power 460 homes.
Councilman Bernard noted that a subdivision had been proposed on the site many years ago. The only anticipated impact the facility would have on the town would be the cutting of trees. The number of trees to be cut was not discussed.
Supervisor Grace said that the concept was worth exploring and the town attorney will look into drafting a new law dealing with a range of solar installations: on residential and commercially zoned property as well as stand alone and accessory uses. The new law would probably require a special permit, with the first permit being issued by the Town Board with input from the Planning Board.
(See also "Wetlands Issues" below)
Town Board, 6-6-2017 As a follow up to the April wetlands hearing, and in response to a request from Supervisor Grace for more information about wetlands and their functions, Linda Miller read a statement that explained the difference between a wetland’s function and its value and how neither, because they are subjective measures, can be part of a definition of what is or isn’t a wetland. She advised the board that before it drafted a new version of the wetlands law, it first had to decide on several key policy issues regarding how and who would assess a wetland’s functions followed by what value the town would place on those function/s. Supervisor Grace thanked her for her comments and repeated his desire to include function in any revised wetlands law.
Town Board, 4-18-2017
Town Board, 6-6-2017
As a follow up to the April wetlands hearing, and in response to a request from Supervisor Grace for more information about wetlands and their functions, Linda Miller read a statement that explained the difference between a wetland’s function and its value and how neither, because they are subjective measures, can be part of a definition of what is or isn’t a wetland. She advised the board that before it drafted a new version of the wetlands law, it first had to decide on several key policy issues regarding how and who would assess a wetland’s functions followed by what value the town would place on those function/s. Supervisor Grace thanked her for her comments and repeated his desire to include function in any revised wetlands law.
After a hearing that lasted over 3 hours, the board voted to close the hearing and reject the new law. Supervisor Grace indicated that the board would go back to the drawing board based on comments it had heard at the hearing. It wasn’t clear whether changes would be made to the rejected law or whether the current law would be amended.
Supervisor Grace opened the hearing with a statement defending the proposed law on the grounds that it was stronger than the current law. He characterized some of the information in opposition to the proposed law as being misinformed and with a healthy dose of “the sky is falling” hyperbole. But then he went on to say that the hearing was only a “draft” and that the purpose of the hearing was to get public input for future drafts.
More than 30 people spoke during the hearing, almost all of them town residents. All were opposed to the proposed law. Other than Supervisor Grace, Councilman Bernard and the town attorney, no one spoke in support. Statements ranged from general comments about why wetlands are important to problems with specific provisions in the law.
The entire hearing can be viewed on the town’s website.
At the end of the hearing, Supervisor Grace summed up the following unresolved issues.
-- the threshold size of wetlands to be regulated. He implied that he would consider keeping the 1,000 sf threshold in the current law but wanted a narrow definition of what constituted a wetland that was based on the site’s functionality. There was general agreement that function was an important factor in regulating wetlands, but it was not clear who or how functionality would be determined and at what stage in the permit review process.
-- the need to have a “legislative intent” section that set out the town’s goals relating to wetland protection and preservation
-- the need to balance the comments of those who spoke with other property owners who, the supervisor said, view the regulations as burdensome.
Supervisor Grace stated several times that town owned land was covered in the proposed law and would be covered in any future version of the law. This led some speakers to ask that the Tree law be revisited so that town owned land would no longer be exempt from that law.
One theme addressed by many speakers was that residents should be more involved in the drafting of any new law, whether it was a new version of the rejected one, or amendments to the existing law. The two co-chairman of the Conservation Board also asked to be more involved in any future legislative drafting.
Mel Tanzman asked about whether the town had referred out the latest version of the proposed wetlands law to the county. (The county did not comment on the earlier drafts that were referred out in November, 2016.) In response, the deputy town clerk said that the county’s wetlands expert has received the latest draft and advised her that while the time frame for reviewing it was tight, he would try his best to get comments back to the town in time for the public hearing.
A public hearing will be held on April 18th. A copy of the proposed law will be uploaded to the town’s web site.
Mr. McDermott explained that draft #3, the latest draft, contained mostly structural changes that made the law flow better. He said in preparing the draft he had reviewed the comments received from the DEC, DEP and Susan Siege,l the person writing this summary. Supervisor Grace stated that the DEP comments were not substantive and Mr. McDermott categorized the comments as dealing mostly with language. Mr. Tegeder had no comments on draft #3 and Councilman Bernard stated that the town had been working on the revised law for two years. Councilman Patel was the only board member who had concerns about the draft, including what environmental expert would be evaluating potential impacts on the environment (see related discussion on environmental consulting services) and also the fact that the draft exempted town-owned wetlands. The supervisor rejected the latter comment saying that it didn’t make sense for the town to grant itself a permit He insisted that everything the town does is vetted and meets the standards that are as high or even higher than the standards that others are held to.
At another point in the discussion, when Councilman Patel said he wanted the town to request the county to review the new draft, Supervisor Grace appeared to agree that this would be done, but it was not clear how this request would be made/phrased. (Note: Although Councilman Diana stated that the county had vetted the earlier draft, the county declined to review the draft on the grounds that according to the law it had no jurisdiction to review the proposed law because it wasn’t part of the Zoning Code.)
And in what at times became a contentious discussion, Supervisor Grace took issue with Councilman Patel’s comments that the proposed law was designed to help developers.
In defending the changes in the draft law, Supervisor Grace was critical of the quantitative as opposed to qualitative approach in the current law, adding that the current law didn’t do what it was supposed to do. He said there was no scientific basis for the 100 foot buffer and that a functional approach would be more honest. He was also critical of an onsite mitigation plan for a new development.
Mohegan Lake resident Ken Belfer asked for clarification about the 100 foot buffer zone, noting that there was a separate regulation that defined the buffer in Mohegan as 150 feet. Supervisor Grace said this would not be a problem. (This point was not completely clear to the CIY observer.)
In an item not on the agenda, the town attorney asked about the status of the board’s comments on the draft as the attorney had not yet received any. It was noted that at an earlier meeting, Mr. Kincart, who was not at the meeting, had indicated he wanted to make some commnts. The issue was tabled until Mr. Kincart was present. The attorney said the Town Board was anxious to move forward on the law.
(The CIY observer could not attend the meeting. The following summary is based on a conversation with a member of the Planning Deparment.)
The board wants more information and possibly more discussion before finalizing a memo to the Town Board with its recommendations. Some of the issues discussed included:
1. How long a DEC wetland delineation is good for, e.g., one or three years.
2. Whether the wetland delineation should be memorialized on the approved plat. At issue: over a 20 year period, the boundaries of the wetland may change.
3. The board is supportive of the concept of the off site wetlands bank.
4. The board is okay with increasing the square footage needed to define a wetland from 1,000 SF to 1/10 of an acre.
4. The board supports the functional analysis provision, noting that it has already been requiring one when appropriate.
5. When a pportion of a lot is in the 100 ft. wetland buffer, the board appears to support a 50ft buffer from the wetland where certain activities would be prohibited.
The board will continue its discussion at the next meeting.
The board continued its discussion of the two drafts. In response to Mr. Fon’s question of whether the advisory boards had received a copy of the drafts, Councilman Bernard said that the town clerk had said they had.
Mr. Barber repeated that one of the main changes from the current law was the change used to determine the threshold for what constituted a wetland: size, criteria and whether the site was a vernal pool. He said the thresholds used in the draft were more in line with DEC, the Army Corps of Engineers and other municipaliaties.
The other major change was balancing the different thresholds, adding more exemptions based on common sense, and using a functional analysis to determine the importance of the wetland as not all wetlands were of equal importance. He said the functional analysis, which would be determined by using one of the generally accepted methodologies, would be used to help develop a mitigation plan. For example, citing the Front St plan developed for the JCPC project, disturbance to a wetland with a marginal functionality could be mitigated by creating a higher functioning wetland elsewhere.
Mr. Barber said that another goal of the draft was to eliminate red tape and reduce the number if applications that had to go to the Town Board; under the draft, only applications with larger thresholds would go the Town Board.
In response to Mr. Tegeder’s question what the differences were between the first and second drafts, Mr. Barber said that while he helped put together the first draft, he was not privy to the changes the Town Board made that resulted in the second draft.
Councilman Bernard said that the buffer restrictions in the draft were consistent with the Town Board’s philosophy of letting property do what they wanted on their property.
In response to Mr. Fon’s suggestion that it would be helpful for other environmental professionals to provide feedback on the draft, Mr. Barber said he has talked to other professionals about the issue. He said the town may want to get feedback from some of the professionals who represent applicants before town boards. Also, if given authorization from the Town Board, Mr. Barber said he would meet with other town advisory boards.
In general, Mr. Barber, who has been the town’s environmental consultant since 1998. said that the draft was a better ordinance than the current ordinance, that it didn’t hurt the environment, and that it had room for the town to be “creative.”
As some board members requested additional time to review the drafts, the board will have a follow up discussion at its January 23 meeting prior to sending a memo to the Town Board. Councilman Bernard indicated that no date had been set yet for a public hearing.
As the board was ending its discussion, two residents who had been in the audience throughout the meeting but hadn’t said anything on any of the other agenda spoke up in opposition to the draft law which they said was weaker than the current law and more user friendly to developers. Calling the draft “disgraceful,” they said that the law would affect every homeowner and yet the public didn’t know what was going on. Mr. Fon tried to assure the residents that recent development approvals are trying to solve environmental problems created years ago before there were strong environmental protection laws. And Mr. Kincart said that a new law would give the town the mechanisms it needed to solve problems.
The board took an initial look at a proposed new Wetlands Ordinance with the focus being: going forward, how would the new law assist the Planning Board.
While the board had before it two different drafts, Town Attorney McDermott advised the board to review the second draft which he said were based on Town Board comments to the first draft. He explained that the Town Board’s overriding goal was to streamline the law and make it more user friendly. To that end, the draft changes the threshold of when a wetlands permit is needed and designates the town engineer as the approving authority for more permits.
Threshold for determing a wetland: Bruce Barber explained that under the current law, an area is considered a wetland if it meets one of three criteria based on vegetation, soil, or hydrology; under the draft law, only one of the criteria need be present. In order to be considered a waterbody or pond, the new law would require that water must be present at least three months of year. The new law would also protect vernal pools, something that is not mentioned in the current law but which, in practice, have been protected. The size of what constitutes a wetland would also be increased from 1,000 sq. ft. under the current law to 1/10 of an acre, or 4,356 sq ft, under the proposed new law which Mr. McDermott said would be in line with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other towns. The 100 ft. wetland buffer remains unchanged.
Threshold for determining the approval authority: The proposed law removes the need for homeowners to get a wetlands permit for certain activities in a wetland buffer, e.g, a deck or generator, a change Mr. McDermott called “common sense.” It also makes the town engineer the approval authority for more permits; Mr. Quinn said that exactly where that threshold should be was up for discussion.
Citing the evening’s earlier discussion about buffer issues in the Orchard View subdivision, Mr. Quinn advised the board that while defining what constituted a wetland was not a Planning Board issue, the new law did not diminish the board’s authority over wetlands and that the law could be used as a tool to assist the body. When Mr. Flynn questioned whether te Conservation Board was being “taken out of the loop” in the new law, Mr. Barber assured him that was not the case and that all advisory boards would be given an opportunity to provide input.
Mitigation: The new law would also add the concept of doing a functional assessment of the value of the wetland as part of any mitigation plan and establishes a standard for doing the assessment. However, when developing a mitigation plan, the proposed law deletes the requirement in the current law that a greater than 1:1 replacement for lost wetlands may be required. According to Mr. McDermott, the new law would give the town “greater latitude” in developing either on site or off site mitigation, e.g., like the regional stormwater basin being planned for Front Street, or the Lowe’s off site tree mitigation plan for Sylvan Glen.
A member of the Conservation Board advised the board that his group had not yet receicved a copy of the draft for review. (Note: The board voted on November 22, 2016 to refer out the draft.) Mr. McDermott said he would look into the issue.
The Planning Board said it needed more time to review the draft; the issue may be on the January 9th agenda. Councilman Barnard advised the board that there was “no hurry.”
(Click here for a copy of Draft #2 of the Wetlands Ordinance and a comparison of the current law and draft.)
Town Board, 11-22-2016
Bruce Barber walked the board through a first draft of a revised Wetlands Law that he said had more to do with streamlining the process of obtaining wetlands permits than any major substantive change. Some of the modifications include changes to the definition of what constitutes a wetland, a slight increase in the size of the wetland that would trigger the requirements of the law, an increase in the number of actions that would be exempt for needing a permit, identifying town owned land that could be the recipient of off site mitigation, and, for certain wetland buffer areas, allowing the town engineer to issue administrative permits instead of having the property owner go to the Town Board which would trigger the need for a public hearing.
The board voted to refer out the draft but did not set a public hearing date on the assumption that, based on the comments, there might be a second draft.
At my suggestion, the board will begin to consider updating the town’s wetlands law. In a general discussion, the following areas were flagged as some of the areas where changes could be considered.
Threshold levels: whether the threshold levels requiring a permit should be raised for certain types of actions and whether the threshold that makes the Town Board the approving authority should be changed. It was pointed out that putting footings for a deck required a permit but that a garden that disturbed more buffer did not.
Wetlands function: As a possible alternative to fixed numeric thresholds that Supervisor Grace considered arbitrary, the town could consider the function of the wetland , with the implication being that not all wetlands are the same and that encroaching on a wetland or wetland buffer need not always be sacrosanct. Bruce Barber noted that the DEC has four categories of wetlands. As an example, Supervisor Grace cited some vacant parcels on Front St that recently received sewer permits, opening up the possibly of development and tax rateables. He said that while the parcels meet the code’s current definition of a wetland because they have pockets of water, they might not be of critical importance.
E-Panel. All agreed that this informal group that has evolved over time serves a valuable purpose and that its role should possibly be written into the code
Public notification. The issue of how abutting property owners could be/should be notified if a permit application is dealt with on an administrative level that does not require a public hearing.
Appeals process: the current law does not contain an appeal procedure in the event a permit is denied. Supervisor
Approval authority: whether the Town Board should continue to be the approval authority for certain types of permits.
Escrow fees: Supervisor Grace wanted this also reviewed, but Councilman Bernard thought this was a broader subject that went beyond wetlands.
Mr. Barber will meet with other involved staff members and return to the Town Board with recommendations. No date was set.
Amendments to Stormwater and Wetland laws as they related to the Tree Law
Town Board 7-7-2020
Hearing on amendments to Chapter 248/stormwater
Mr. Tegeder explained the reasons for the amendments. Linda Miller and Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, spoke in support of the amendments. On the suggestion of Supervisor Slater, supported by Mr. Tegeder, the board deleted the text that said that would have required the approval authority to take into consideration the intent and findings of the Tree Law when issuing a permit. While both men said the provision was not needed because it was already implied in other parts of the law, Ms. Siegel disagreed, noting that it was important to include an “intent” provision in the law swhere none existed, and that there was no down side to including the language. The supervisor also suggested a minor clarification to another provision.
During the hearing, all the speakers noted that their comments were applicable to the next hearing on amendments to Chapter 178/Wetlands, and asked that their comments appear in the record for that hearing.
The hearing was closed, and with the two changes, the amendments were approved.
Hearing on amendments to Chapter 178/Wetlands
See above summary for the hearing on amendments to Chapter 248/Stormwater.
Planning Board 6-22-2020
Mr. Tegeder explained the reasons for the amendments (see below). The board had no issue and Mr. Tegeder will draft a memo to the Town Board.
Town Board, 6-9-2020
Proposed amendments to Chapter 248 (stormwater) and Chapter 178 (wetlands)
Mr. Tegeder explained that the proposed amendments, the subject of an adjourned public hearing last July, were designed to make both laws consistent with the Tree Law and to make administering the Tree Law easier. (Note: When the Town Board reconvened the hearing on the Tree Law in December, 2019, it forgot to reconvene the hearings on the Chapter 248 and Chapter 178 amendments.) Town Engineer Quinn advised the board that instead of just dealing with the amendments, what was needed were amendments to the Tree Law based on his department’s experience enforcing the law over the past six months. He said he had a draft of a memo outlining needed changes in the law, including confusion over some of the definitions. He also didn’t understand why an applicant wouldn’t need a tree permit if he was also applying for a wetlands permit. (Note; this was the issue in the Chapter 248 and Chapter 178 amendments.) Mr. Quinn suggested that the board reconvene the ad hoc committee that drafted the new Tree Law to go over both the amendments and revisions to the Tree Law as a single exercise.
Mr. Tegeder and Linda Miller, a member of the ad hoc committee, advised the board that there were two separate issues – the amendments and the possible need to tweak the Tree Law and that the amendments should be adopted now so that all three laws were consistent and that tweaking the Tree Law be taken up separately.
Ultimately the board decided to advertise reconvening the hearing for the amendments and directed Mr. Quinn to share his memo on changes to the Tree Law with Mr. Tegeder and Ms. Miller so that the three of them could work together on possible amendments to the Tree Law that could then be presented to the ad hoc committee.
Town Board, 12-10-2019
The board reconvened the hearing that was adjourned on July 9. Mr. Tegeder explained the proposed changes to the version of the law that had been advertised and which he had outlined at a previous meeting. Supervisor Gilbert reported that the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission (TCAC) opposes the exemption of half acre lots and Councilman Lachterman read an email from Jay Kopstein opposing the requirement that a permit was needed to remove a specimen tree, defined as a tree with a 24’ dbh (diameter 4’ from the ground). In response to the latter, TCAC members Bill Kellner and Keith Schepart explained the many reasons why specimen trees were important.
Representatives of Advocates for a Better Yorktown (ABY), including the person writing this summary, urged the board to adopt the version of the law that was advertised and reject the last minute amendments that they said would weaken protection for woodlands, were unfair to smaller landowners and which were being advanced in order to appease a single large landowner. John Kincart stated that more than one “large” property owner felt that the law was unfair to them.
Supervisor Gilbert said that he was trying to strike a balance between the goal of protecting woodlands without being unfair to large landowners who might sue the tow. Other speakers asked the board to eliminate the provision that exempted lots one half acre or less from the law and raised the issue of the need to enforce the law.
After closing the hearing and deciding to vote at the meeting, the board held separate votes on each of the contentious issues and then voted unanimously to approve the advertised draft of the law with the following changes
n removes the exemption for lots half acre or less
n creates a 12’ perimeter around a woodland where a property owner can do normal maintenance – but not remove any trees – without a permit. The definition of normal maintenance was modified to reflect maintenance in woodlands.
n requires a permit for disturbing 10,000 sf or 6% of the woodland, whichever is greater.
n requires a permit to remove 10 or more trees in a calendar year in an area 10,000 sf or more.
Town Board, 11-26-2019
Although not on the agenda, Supervisor Gilbert asked Mr. Tegeder to highlight additional changes that are being contemplated in the proposed new Tree law that will be the subject of a public hearing on December 10. The changes include
a. clarification of the language exempting parcels that are ½ acre or less in size
b. changing when a permit is needed to remove 10 trees. Instead of 10 trees in a calendar year, the change would be 10 trees in 10,000 sf in a calendar year.
c. changing when a permit is needed when disturbing a protected woodland. Instead of 10,000 sf, it would be 10,000 sf or 6% of the woodland, whichever was greater.
d. A new provision would be not requiring a permit for disturbing a 15’ perimeter around the woodland
Mr. Tegeder explained that changes b thru d would make it easier for large landowners to maintain their property
Town Board, 11-19-2019
Mr. Tegeder discussed the revised version of the proposed new Tree Law that he said reflected fairly minor changes from the version the board considered in July. The changes included: the following additions: more details on the Tree Commission’s educational role, that Planning Board and Town Board decisions could be appealed in Article 78 lawsuits, and that requiring that applications within the purview of the town engineer be referred to the Conservation Board and the Tree Co mission. Deletions included: requiring a permit to remove a tree on a slope greater than 15% and requiring a permit to remove trees on properties zoned half acre or less.
In response to Mr. Tegeder’s comment that board may want to consider the terms humus (top soil) and duff (fallen leaves) be deleted from the definition of what constitutes a disturbance to a woodland, Supervisor Gilbert said that the top soil was important but left open for more discussion the duff issue. Mr. Tegeder will be meeting with a major property owner who objects to the duff inclusion.
The board will discuss any possible changes at its work session next week (note: this wasn’t completely clear) but also scheduled to reconvene the public hearing on the law on December 10. (note: Copies of the 11-19-2019 version will be available on the town web site.)
Town Board 9-3-2019
Concerned about the delay in preparing a revised version of a new tree law, Elise Graham, speaking for Advocates for a Better Yorktown, said she hoped the issue would be taken up at the next work session so that a public hearing could be scheduled on the new version. In response, Supervisor Gilbert and Town Attorney Abbate said that staff was working on a revised draft but that the agenda for the September 10 work session was already filled; the next work session will be September 24.
Town Board, 7-23-2019
Based on a meeting with Councilwoman Roker and Town Attorney Abbate, Mr. Tegeder listed some of the areas of concern that were highlighted during the public hearing: exempting ½ lots from the law but keeping the requirement that a permit would be needed to remove more than two trees in a calendar year in a five foot side and rear yard buffer, changes to the mitigation requirements, the need to clarify some of the mitigation requirements and language, the need to better identify the functions of woodlands, including the function of dead leaves in a woodland, whether the removal of trees on slopes >15% should be handled in the Stormwater and Erosion Control Law, and need to strengthen the educational component of the law. The board directed Mr. Tegeder to work with Mr. Abbate to revise some of the text and return to the board with a revised draft that would be subject to a new public hearing.
Town Board, 7-9-2019
Most of the speakers, about 15, spoke in support of a stronger law. Four speakers felt that either that the current law was sufficient or too onerous.
In support of the law, two residents spoke about how their houses experienced flooding after neighbors cut down trees on their property. Linda Miller, a member of ABY, spoke about the functional benefits that woodlands provide and Susan Siegel, citing some examples of where the Planning Board failed to require a mitigation plan, spoke about the need for stronger mitigation when trees and woodlands are removed, Maura Gregory, noting that the current law does not cover town owned land, showed a photo of trees that had been cut on town land in the Mohegan neighborhood.
In opposition to the law, Richard Fon, chair of the Planning Board, read a memo that advised the Town Board that the current Tree Law was adequate but also included suggested changes to the proposed law, including one that would exempt properties one acre of less in size from the law. John Kincart, a member of the Planning Board but speaking as private citizen, said that the only change needed in the current law was to include town owned land and that the proposed law infringed on people’s property rights. Planning Director John Tegeder defended the work of the Planning Board, noting that the board has saved a large number of trees over the years. Joe Riina, a consulting engineer who represents many applicants before the Planning Board, read a multi-page letter critiquing the law and advised the board to trust the Planning Board as the current law was working and that no changes were needed.
Supervisor Gilbert indicated that he thought some parts of the existing law needed strengthening, Councilwoman Roker said the law was not taking away property rights and Councilman Lachterman said he was concerned about the property rights issue and wanted to make sure the law was not too onerous and was doable.
The board also opened separate hearings on the Stormwater and Erosion Control Law and the Freshwater Wetland Law which need to be amended to conform to the proposed Tree Law.
All three hearings were adjourned; the board will discuss the law at its July 23 work session.
Planning Board, 7-8-2019
Mr. Tegeder reviewed how the proposed law differed from the current law and explained how the law differed from the draftlaw the board had reviewed last October, e.g., making thresholds more consistent with other environmental laws and clarifying what constituted a woodland.
Mr. LaScala said the proposed law “crucified” homeowners and suggested that properties of one acre or less be exempted from the law. But he also wanted the town to require property owners to remove diseased trees and he had no problem with the provision in the proposed law that would require property owners on parcels of one acres or less to get a permit to cut down trees in the buffer area along their property lines.
Mr. Kincart said that the only change needed in the current law was adding in town owned property, that property owners were taking care of their land, more education was needed for other property owners, that the proposed law would bind the board’s hands, and that he saw no evidence of clear cutting that needed to be addressed. He also argued that if the town required a property owner to pay money into a tree fund for mitigating the removal of a tree on his property, then, in effect, the town owned the tree.
In response to a letter from the attorney representing the owner of a large undeveloped parcel that suggested that the need for a tree removal permit be based on lot size and not a fixed number, e.g., more than 10, the threshold in the proposed law, Mr. Tegeder explained that a proportional law would hurt small property owners. The board discussed but rejected additional comments in the lawyer’s letter, noting that the lawyer was misconstruing some provisions in the law.
In general, the board felt that it was doing an acceptable job saving trees and requiring mitigation plans.
In response to Mr. Fon’s question that asked what had triggered the discussion of a new tree law, Mr. LaScala said it was the 2017 election. He expressed concern about whether the law could be enforced. Mr. Bock spoke about the importance of protecting woodlands. Mr. Garrigan questioned whether a permit would be need to remove poison ivy on his property.
The board voted 4-1 with Mr. Bock dissenting, to recommend a memo to the Town Board that it finds the current law adequate, repeated comments made last year on an earlier version of the law, and included a series of 8 recommended changes in the proposed law.
Planning Board, 6-24-2019
Referring to issues on their own property, both Mr. Kincart and Mr. LaScala had issues with some of the provisions of the law. Mr. Kincart called the law a “taking” and said that the town should not interfere with how a property owner wants to maintain his property. He also had issues with the provisions regarding woodlands. Mr. Bock asked the board to consider how the law would impact the board, but got little response. Implying that the town already has sufficient open space and woodlands, Mr. Kincart said he has a map that delineates undeveloped land. Mr.Tegeder said that the Planning Board has also saved open space through its review process. Mr. Tegeder disputed Mr. Kincart’s comment that more trees are being cut now than in previous years in advance of the adoption of the new law.
With no agreement in sight and only three members present, the board decided to schedule a special meeting on July 8, the day before the Town Board public hearing on the law, if all five board members could be present, to try to come up with recommendations for the Town Board.
As of 6/27, the meeting date has not been finalized.
In response to a question from Paul Moskowitz, Supervisor Gilbert announced that the public hearings on the Tree laws originally scheduled for July 2, has been changed to July 9. Mr. Moskowitz and Grace Caporino spoke in opposition to the law’s provision allowing commercial solar farms in residential neighborhoods. In response, Councilman Lachterman said that destroying the viewshed at Turkey Mountain would be “tragic.” (For more discussion about the Tree and Solar laws, see Work Session below.) During the work session discussion Mr. Tegeder walked the board through how the proposed law changes provisions in the current law: it’s easier to enforce and administer, eliminates ambiguity, sets thresholds that are consistent with other laws and eliminates the need for double permits. Linda Miller, a member of the Tree Committee that drafted the law, explained the provisions governing woodlands and the flexibility in creating mitigation plans. The board decided to continue the current practice of not charging for tree permits. Amendments to Stormwater Law (Chapter 248) and Wetland Law (Chapter 178) Because the proposed Tree Law eliminates the need for tree permits if an application for either a stormwater or wetland permit involves the disturbance of a protected woodland, these laws need to be amended to require mitigation in the event that protected woodlands are disturbed.
Town Board, 6-18-2019
In response to a question from Paul Moskowitz, Supervisor Gilbert announced that the public hearings on the Tree laws originally scheduled for July 2, has been changed to July 9. Mr. Moskowitz and Grace Caporino spoke in opposition to the law’s provision allowing commercial solar farms in residential neighborhoods. In response, Councilman Lachterman said that destroying the viewshed at Turkey Mountain would be “tragic.” (For more discussion about the Tree and Solar laws, see Work Session below.)
During the work session discussion Mr. Tegeder walked the board through how the proposed law changes provisions in the current law: it’s easier to enforce and administer, eliminates ambiguity, sets thresholds that are consistent with other laws and eliminates the need for double permits. Linda Miller, a member of the Tree Committee that drafted the law, explained the provisions governing woodlands and the flexibility in creating mitigation plans. The board decided to continue the current practice of not charging for tree permits.
Amendments to Stormwater Law (Chapter 248) and Wetland Law (Chapter 178)
Because the proposed Tree Law eliminates the need for tree permits if an application for either a stormwater or wetland permit involves the disturbance of a protected woodland, these laws need to be amended to require mitigation in the event that protected woodlands are disturbed.
Town Board, 5-28-2019
(See above 5-28-2019 disccusion on solar law.)
Although not on the agenda, during the discussion of the solar law, Councilwoman Roker acknowledged that the board had received a revised draft of the law prepared by the Tree Committee and that it was being sent to the town attorney to put in local law format. Linda Miller, a member of the Committee, explained that the law was in a final form and that since the chairmen of the key advisory boards participated in drafting the law along with the Planning and Engineering Departments, she anticipated minimal comments on the final draft from those boards. She also reminded the board that simultaneous with the tree law, the board had to adopt amendments to the stormwater and wetlands laws.
Town Board, 3-12-2019
Mr. Tegeder updated the board on the work of the committee charged with making changes to the draft tree law submitted months ago by Advocates for a Better Yorktown. (Note: the CIY observer writing this summary is a member of ABY.) He was joined by committee members Linda Miller and Bill Kellner.
Explaining that the committee has not yet nailed down all the details for a new draft, Mr. Tegeder used a series of power point slides to explain when a tree permit would and would not be needed; which board would be the approving authority for permits; and when mitigation would required and who would review mitigation plans. In order to avoid the need for redundant permits, the approval of some woodland disturbance would be incorporated into the existing Erosion and Sediment Control Law (Chapter 248).
Ms. Miller explained that because a woodland, which is defined by the presence of three layers: trees, shrubs and ground cover, functions as an ecological system, all three layers had to be protected in order to protect the woodland’s function.
Commenting on the need to balance protecting trees and woodlands while at the same time respecting the rights of property owners, it was pointed out that the proposed law does not prohibit the removal of trees; a property could still remove trees, but depending on the number and location, he might need a permit. It was also noted that a property owner would not need a permit to cut down dead, diseased or dying trees.
Town Board, 2-5-2019
In response to comments from Robert Puff questioning why it was taking so long for the committee charged with reconciling differences in a proposed tree to complete its work, Councilwoman Roker said she has been advised by the planning director that the committee will have a report to the board by the end of the month. When Susan Siegel (the person writing this summary and speaking on behalf of Advocates for a Better Yorktown) asked the board to place the tree law on the Feb 26 work session agenda so it could be scheduled for a Mach public hearing, Ms. Roker said she wasn’t ready to commit to those dates. In a second comment, Mr. Puff suggested that whatever the new law contained, it should include a 5 year sunset provision so that the town wouldn’t have to redo the law every five years.
Town Board, 10-30-2018
The board voted to create a committee made up of the planning director, town engineer, Phyllis Bock representing the Conservation Board, Bill Kellner representing the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission and Linda Miller representing Advocates for a Better Yorktown to flush out the issues raised at the October 23 joint meeting.
At the request of Councilwoman Roker, Mr. Tegeder said that the committee’s meetings would be open to the public and the meeting times posted on the town’s web site. She also indicated that the board would like the committee to report back to the board by the end of the year.
Town Board 10-23-2018
See the video of the Town Board meeting for athe discussion at a joint meetin of the Town Board and several advisory boards.
Town Board, 10-9-2018
The board deferred a discussion on both the solar and tree laws to a special October 23 work session meeting that will be a joint meeting with members of the Planning Board, Conservation Board, and Tree Conservation Advisory Board. Supervisor Gilbert stated that the passage of both laws was a slow and arduous process that took time but that the important thing was that it be done correctly.
In a memo the Town Board received just prior to the meeting, the Planning Board suggested the joint meeting for the tree law; Supervisor Gilbert said that since the solar and tree laws go hand in hand, they should be discussed together.
Planning Board, 10-1-2018
(Note: Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, is one of the co-authors of the proposed law and participated in the discussion.)
Mr. LaScala and Mr. Kincart expressed concern over the infringement of property rights; Mr. LaScala thought there should be no restriction on lots of one acre or less. He said that the law should include a provision requiring property owners to remove diseased trees so that their infestation cannot spread to nearby trees. Mr. Kincart and Mr. Tegeder objected to the provisions dealing with woodlands and Mr. Tegeder said the replanting provision in the mitigation section was unworkable. Mr. Fon was concerned that the law created an administrative burden on the town that would require a full time person to enforce.
Mr. Tegeder suggested that a tree permit not even be required, that the Planning Board was already considering trees as part of its regular review process and that SEQRA was adequate for protecting trees. He said the only reason the town adopted a tree law in 2011 was because there had been some clear cutting.
Mr. Fon suggested that the Town Board convene a meeting with the Planning Board, Conservation Board and Tree Commission to review the draft law; he didn’t see a need to rush ahead with the current draft.
Ms. Siegel responded to these comments (not summarized here) and said that Advocates for a Better Yorktown (ABY) the group that drafted the proposed law, welcomed input from the board and suggested changes that could address their concerns.
Planning Board, 9-17-2018
Although not on the agenda, there was a brief discussion of the proposed tree law that Mr. Tegeder said the board would discuss at its October 1 meeting. (Note: Board members had been given a copy of the proposed law.) In response to questions about the requirement for a tree survey, Mr. Tegeder reminded board members that under the current Land Development Regulations, the board could require a tree survey. Some members felt that the survey should only be done on the proposed area of disturbance and not the entire site. Mr. Kincart thought the law was repetitive and could probably be condensed to three pages. Mr. LaScala had a problem with restrictions on homeowners and said the law shouldn’t “crucify” them; he suggested exempting homeowners from the law. Asked how the proposed law differed from the current law, Mr. Tegefder said it was more like the 2010 tree law.
Town Board, 8-14-2018
After a brief discussion, and at the urging of Linda Miller, the spokesperson for Advocates for a Better Yorktown (ABY), the community group that prepared the initial draft for a stronger tree law, not to delay the process any longer, the board voted to refer out a revised version of a new Tree Law. The revised draft incorporates changes to the original ABY draft that reflect previous comments and concerns from board members, comments from the Tree Commission on the size of the trees that are to be protected, and Mr. Tegeder’s comments at the board’s June 12 meeting. Ms. Miller advised the board that additional comments from Mr. Tegeder that had only been submitted late in the day could be considered along with the comments from the other advisory bodies that were being asked to comment on the draft.
Ms. Miller agreed with Supervisor Gilbert that the tree law could and should be coordinated with the proposed new solar law, adding that the tree law needed to be enacted first.
Town Board, 6-12-2018
The board heard comments from Bill Kellner, chairman of the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission, Planning Director John Tegeder and resident Jay Kopestein on several provisions of the draft law proposed by Advocates for a Better Yorktown (ABY). Supervisor Gilbert advised the board that the town engineer had asked for an additional 30 days to comment on the draft. Mr. Te3geder’s comments were delivered verbally as he said he had not yet finished his review.
Much of the discussion focused on the provision that would regulate the cutting of a “specimen tree” defined as any tree greater than 18” in diameter. Councilwoman Roker was uneasy about regulating the removal of a single tree while Supervisor Gilbert said he preferred the Cortlandt definition of a “specimen tree” that was open ended and based on the tree’s age and cultural and historical significance. He said there were other features he liked in the Cortlandt law but he did not specify what they were.
Councilwoman Roker also expressed concern about the notification requirement that would require applicants for tree permits to notify their abutting property owners.
Councilman Diana talked about the need homeowners have to cut down diseased and dying trees in advance of storms in order to avoid downed power line problems.
Mr. Tegeder pointed out inconsistences between how the draft law treated trees in wetlands and the existing Wetlands Law, adding that he felt that the Planning Board was already doing an adequate job of protecting trees. He did not think it fair for applicants to pay for multiple permits.
Mr. Tegeder also questioned the proposed mitigation feature that would allow the town to assess a $100 fee for every tree cut down if no other alternative mitigation measures, such as planting new trees, was feasible or practical. In a hypothetical example of a development that could involve removing 1,000 trees, he said the $100,000 fee would be unreasonable. How would the mney be used, he asked.
ABY member Linda Miller acknowledged that some of the provisions should be tweaked but reminded the board that in drafting a stronger tree law, ABY’s goal was to recognize that trees have different functions and that a meaningful tree law should be able to address those different functions.
Calling work on a revised law a “work in progress,” Supervisor Gilbert did not indicate when the next board discussion would take place. Ms. Miller asked the council members to send any additional comments they had to her so that ABY could address them.
Town Board, 5-22-2018
(Note: Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary is a member of Advocates for a Better Yorktown, the group that has submitted a draft new Tree Law.)
Although Supervisor Gilbert said that he was under the impression that the board had decided to refer out the ABY draft without any changes, Councilman Lachterman said he had an issue with sending out the ABY draft without the board having had an opportunity to make any changes as this could lead to multiple drafts which in turn could lead to confusion.
Mr. Tegeder explained that the board had two options for proceeding: Refer out the ABY draft and then make changes based on comments from staff and advisory boards, or get input from town staff first, make changes, and then refer out a revised draft to advisory broads.
Susan Siegel, speaking for ABY, reminded the board that at the April 10 meeting, ABY said its preference was for the board to decide several key policy issues before referring out a draft law but that it was clear at the meeting that the board chose to refer out the ABY draft unchanged. She added that the board’s April 24 agenda reflected the board’s plan to vote for a referral resolution at the May 1 meeting but that the group only recently learned that the resolution had been omitted from the May 1 agenda.
Councilwoman Roker and Supervisor Gilbert apologized for any confusion. The board voted to refer the ABY draft only to department heads before taking up the issue. Ms. Siegel asked that the board include a discussion of the Tree Law at its June 12 work session so that the process can move forward
Town Board, 4-10-2018
In a follow up to the board’s earlier discussion on the need to strengthen the 2016 Tree Law, Linda Miller, speaking for Advocates for a Better Yorktown, went over several policy issues the group believed needed to be changed, including more expansive language for the legislative intent and findings sections of the law as well as the need for more defintions in order to eliminate future uncertainty as to what certain words meant. For example, she noted that the 2016 law exempted agricultural activities from needing permits, but there was no definition of what constituted an agricultural activity. Councilwoman Roker agreed with the group’s section to return to a two tier system of permits, one issued by the town engineer, and the other issued by either the Planning Board or the Town Board, with separate requirements for homeowners and developers.
Several board members expressed concern over the provision that would require a homeowner to have an arborist certify that a tree was dead or dying before it could be removed without a permit.
It was the board’s consensus that Ms. Miller work with the town attorney on the draft law prepared by the group and that the draft be referred out for comment.
(Note: Susan Siegel, the observer writing this summary, is a member of Advocates for an Informed Yorktown.)
Town Board, 2-27-2018
Linda Miller, spokesperson for Advocates for a Better Yorktown asked the board to begin a review of the 2016 Tree Law in order to make it more effective. She called the board’s attention to several key policy weaknesses in the current law. including the absence of any regulations that protect woodlands that play an important role in controlling stormwater runoff and erosion as well as maintaining the visual character of the town; inadequate mitigation provisions; and the need for a permit system that doesn’t impose the same requirements on homeowners planning to remove a few trees as developers who may be removing hundreds of trees. In response to a question from Councilwoman Roker whether the 2010 Tree law had these stronger provisions, Ms. Miller said yes, it did, adding that in an effort to shorten and simplify the 2010 law, the 2016 law went too far and stripped away many protections. She noted that at public hearings in 2016 and 2017, residents supported a stronger tree law.
Ms. Miller asked the board to schedule a follow up, more in depth discussion on the Tree Law in March so that the board could begin to come to consensus on some of the key policy issues. She also asked that in addition to referring out any draft text of a revised law to adivosry boards, that residents have an opportunity to review the draft prior to any public hearing, noting that by the time the board sets a public hearing on a proposed law, it is often too late to incorporate public comment.
Going forward, Supervisor Gilbert said the board should consider the best of both the 2010 and 2016 laws.
(Note: Susan Siegel, the observer writing this summary is a member of Advocates for an Informed Yorktown.)
Town Board 6/20/2017
Supervisor Grace and the town attorney explained the amendment that would remove the exemption of town owned from the law. He said his initial reasoning in 2016 when the law was passed with the exemption was that it didn’t make sense for the town need a permit to remove trees on town land because that would make the town judge, jury, and executor. However, in consideration of comments from residents, he was changing his mind. He also said that the town was planning a mitigation plan for the planned Granite Knolls sports complex that he hoped would set a “shining example” for others on how mitigation would work.
Approximately 13 people spoke in support of the amendment but added that more changes were needed in order to strengthen the law, including covering more trees, stronger mitigation, protecting woodlands and requiring referrals to the Conservation Board and Tree Conservation Advisory Commission where the current law made referral optional or had no referral requirement. The speakers wanted the board to hold off adopting the single amendments and consider other amendments at the same time. One speaker talked about the economic benefits of trees.
Two people questioned the process that led to the adoption of the 2016 law and said they thought the Town Board wasn’t listening to residents and experts. One speaker implied that the supervisor was representing other interests. There were no speakers in support of the current law.
Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary and speaking on behalf of Yorktown Together, presented the board with a suggested revised law and requested that the board work with the group to develop a stronger law that would be the subject of a new public hearing.
A letter from the Bedford Audubon Society in support of a stronger law was read.
After closing the hearing, an angry Supervisor Grace took issue with some of the statements saying that he felt “poked in the eye” and “bludgeoned.” He accused the speakers of waiting until the 11th hour to speak up and said that there had been considerable input from the town’s advisory boards and environmental consultant in 2016 prior to the adoption of the new law. Later in the evening, he apologized for his “hot tempered” outburst.
The hearing was closed but the board took no action. The hearing was televised and is available on the town web site.
A public hearing has been set for July 13 on an amendment to the current law that would eliminate the exemption of town owned land from the law.
During Courtesy of the Floor, Paul Moskowitz noted that during the public hearing on the Wetlands law, Supervisor Grace indicated that he would include town owned land in a revised law. Supervisor Grace confirmed that that was what he had said. When Mr. Moskowitz asked if the supervisor would now support including town owned land in the Tree law , the supervisor said he would considering putting that back into the law if “that makes you happy.”
Carl Hoegler and Dan Strauss both expressed their displeasure at the fact that the board voted for the law (in September) immediately after closing the hearing, giving the appearance that it made no difference what the public had to say at the hearing. Mr. Hoegler, who had spoken at the hearing, said the board’s actions bordered on the “insulting” and that the dismissal of the public’s comments was “painful.” He said he had some suggested grammatical changes to the law and asked if the board would consider them; Supervisor Grace advised him to get in touch with the town attorney. Mr. Strauss suggested that the board’s vote was not the way it should be doing business.
In response, both Supervisor Grace and Councilman Bernard said that the draft law had been vetted during work sessions so that they had heard the same comments prior to the hearing and chose not to factor them into the law. Councilman Bernard said “you know our philosophy,” adding that board members wanted to protect property rights and not have a law that was punitive for property owners. Councilman Lachterman noted that two changes were made in the law after the hearing was closed and prior to the vote to adopt based on comments made during the hearing. Supervisor Grace didn’t want to say anything more as the law is currently in litigation, although he repeated his position that the prior law was not effective in achieving its goal.
Town Board, 9-20-2016
(Note: the board opened and closed a public hearing on the proposed law. After the hearinga was closed, the board added two amendments to the law and voted, 4-1,to adopt the law. Councilman Patel voted no. The CIY observer was not able to attend the meeting. For a video of the hearing, visit, http://www.yorktownny.org/townboard/meeting-videos)
Bruce Barber walked the board through a revised draft of the new law that incorporated the comments made at the previous meeting. Some of the changes from the first draft were:
· The definition of a protected tree was changed to 8” dbh instead of 12”
· A permit will be required to remove a specimen tree, how defined as a tree with a 24” dbh.
· The requirement that the removal of protected trees within a buffer area surrounding a house would need a permit was eliminated entirely in line with the board’s philosophy that it shouldn’t second guess that property owners want to do with their property. (For most homeowners, this will mean that they won’t need a permit to remove trees on their property.)
· Permits will be required for removing 10 or more trees in an area 10,000 sf or more, or in 2,000 sf if the slope is 15% or greater.
· The law specifically exempts the town from needing a permit to remove trees on town owned property, about 4,000 acres. Supervisor Grace said such a requirement didn’t make any sense and was “symbolic.”
· Referral of permit applications to the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission (TCAC) and the Conservation Board will be optional, not required.
· Contrary to the recommendation of the Planning Board, the revised draft retains the provision that Planning Board tree permit decisions can be appealed to the Town Board. Supervisor Grace and the town attorney say this is required.
· The requirement for mitigation measures remains optional and the list of possible mitigation measures was expanded
Although the town engineer, who is responsible for issuing some tree permits, recommended that a fee be charged for the permit, the board rejected the recommendation on the theory that requiring a fee would discourage people from applying for a permit.
A significant part of the discussion focused on the role of the TCAC and the requirement in the law that the advisory board develop a Forest Management Plan for town owned property, including a priority list of town owned sites that could be the recipient of off site mitigation measures. As explained by Supervisor Grace, the goal of the law was to “empower” the TCAC to be able to achieve the goal of doing a better job of maintaining the town’s forested areas. In his view, the current tree law “doesn’t achieve anything.”
William LaScala asked the board to add a provision making it a penalty for property owners who did not take down dead trees on their property.
A public hearing on the new law will be held on September 20th.
Bruce Barber advised the board that he had prepared a red line version of the draft law that incorporated comments from the Conservation Board, Tree Conservation Advisory Commission (TCAC) and Planning Board. He then led the board through a series of issues where he said Town Board policy decisions needed to be made. Ann Kutter, one of the co-authors of the 2010 law and Bill Kellner, chairman of TCAC participated in the discussion. The discussion focused on the following points.
Pemits for homeowners: Calling restrictions on tree removal on private property unconstitutional, Supervisor Grace was very firm about homeowners not needing permits . However, he appeared willing to accept restrictions that involved removing more than 10 trees on 10,000 sf, removal on slopes, and removing trees that were at least 24’ in diameter. In general he saw little value to having a permit requirement when he said that the town had never denied a permit.
Town forests. While acknowledging that the town owned 4,000 acres, Supervisor Grace did not think that the town should be required to get a permit to remove trees on town land. (The current law has this requirement; the draft does not.) He said that the town needs to be a better steward of its forests, including implementing the recommendations in the two Forest Management Plans that have been done and which he said were gathering dust and also preparing additional plans for other forested areas. In the draft law, these tasks would be given to the TCAC. Ms. Kutter noted, however, that if the all-volunteer TCAC was to be given these responsibilities, it also needed to be given some resources.
Appeal process. In response to the Planning Board’s comment that any appeal of a Planning Board decision should be by an Article 78 lawsuit and that the Town Board should not be given the authority to override a Planning Board permit, Supervisor Grace said that law required a local appeal process.
May vs shall requirements: Whereas the current law says “shall” in many places, such as the requirement to prepare a mitigation plan, the draft law says “may.” Supervisor Grace said he preferred the “may” language because it gave the town more flexibility so that the town could get as much as possible as part of the development process. However, Mr. Barber pointed out the potential problem that applying different standards to different applications could appear arbitrary.
Overriding goal: Ms. Kutter expressed concern that the draft law addressed the “how” issue instead of focusing on the WHY – why the town felt it needed a tree law. In response, Mr. Barber cited the “purpose” section of the draft law that talked about why trees and forests needed to be protected and Supervisor Grace said that the WHY could be addressed in a board policy statement and didn’t have to be spelled out in a law. Ms. Kutter expressed concern that it was easier to change a policy statement than a law.
Fee: Supervisor Grace opposed charging a fee for a permit. He said homeowners would not apply for a permit if there was a fee and that placing an additional fee on developers would be onerous. Instead he repeated his goal of redesigning all development related fees.
Based on the discussion, Mr. Barber will prepare a revised draft that will be reviewed again by the board before being set up for a public hearing. It was not clear whether the revised law would be referred out to advisory boards.
Although listed on the first agenda that was emailed to subscribers, the item was removed from a second email. At the meeting, Supervisor Grace said that the item was pulled from the agenda when the Planning Board’s memo came in at 4:30pm, too late for board members to review it. (Note: For a summary of the Planning Board’s discussion, see below.)
Planning Board, 7-11-2016
In its third discussion on the proposed new law, the board touched on the following issues. Bruce Barber and Councilman Bernard participated in the discussion.
Need for a new law: Mr. Flynn repeated the comment he made at the previous meeting that he found the current law clearer, but there was no board consensus that the current law should be kept. In response to a question from a resident why the current law needed changing, Mr. Kincart said that some people felt that current law was too far reaching and usurped property rights. Mr. Barber said he believed that the Town Board wanted to streamline the process. Councilman Bernard agreed with Mr. Kincart, adding that the board’s motive in enacting a new tree law was similar to the philosophy that has led the board to propose repealing the Affordable Housing Law. He rejected the argument that the board’s motive was to benefit developers. He questioned why permits were needed if they were always granted.
Tree survey: the board agreed that having one was important, but because each application is different, the board wanted any requirement for a survey to be flexible. Mr. Tegeder noted that the Land Development Regulations (LDR) also require a survey but has a provision allowing the board to waive the requirement. It was noted that the LDR requires a survey for 8” trees but that the propose new law considered only 12” trees; the board felt that something between 6”-8” was needed, but added that depending on the site, a cluster of 6” trees might be more important than a single 12” tree.
Mr. Barber suggested that instead of or in addition to considering just size, the law should also look at the trees’ function which was likely of more importance,; he called this a vegetative community survey or natural resources survey. The board supported this concept. Mr. Tegeder agreed that any tree law should be consistent with the LDR, he did not think the LDR needed to be modified.
Appeal process. The board did not support the provision in the draft new law that gave the Town Board the power to hear appeals of Planning Board tree permit decisions. At first, the board considered having appeals go to the ZBA, but on the advice of the board’s counsel, who is also counsel to the ZBA, the board dropped that idea. Applicants wanting to challenge a Planning Board tree permit decision would have to file an Article 78 lawsuit, the same procedure in the current law.
Applicability to town owned land: the board appeared to favor making it clear in any new law that the provisions also applied to town owned land. Mr. Flynn cited the example of the trees that were cut next to Downing Park to make way for a parking lot for the high school.
Homeowner issues. The board made it clear that it was only commenting on provisions in the proposed law that dealt with how the Planning Board operaed; they were not considering how the law would affect individual homeowners which was mostly a property rights issue. Mr. Kincart was the most outspoken board member on this issue; he said he accepted restrictions on wetlands and steep slopes but didn’t think tree cutting needed to be regulated, unless it involved clear cutting. Mr. Fon noted that as a homeowner he had planted many trees on his property. The question of whether the buffer should be the same for all lots, regardless of size, was briefly raised even though it was primarily a homeowner, not a board issue. Mr. Tegeder said there should not be any front yard buffer requirement.
Shall vs May. Mr. Barber raised this issue as the draft new law often uses “may” where the current law uses “shall,” e.g., the requirement to do a survey. This precipitated a discussion of the need for flexibility, but also raised the concern of one resident who was concerned that if the wording was left “may,” there might be future boards not necessarily concerned about protecting trees and forests. In response, the board did not see this as a problem because appointments to the board were staggered.
Specimen tree: Although regulated in the current law, but not the draft new law, there was a discussion of the differences between a protected tree (defined by size) and a specimen tree (very large and special by virtue of its species or special features) and whether the latter should be protected. Mr. Kincart said that if a specimen tree was on his property and the town wanted it protected as a public benefit, then the town should pay for its upkeep and maintenance.
Forest Management: all agreed that this was important. The problem with invasives was highlighted, with the need for more education. One suggestion was that invasives need not be counted in any tree survey.
Expert advice. The board agreed that it wanted to rely on expert advice in making decisions. This could include the person doing the tree survey (a certified arborist was mentioned). Bill Kellner, chairman of the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission noted that the new law did not have a referral to the Conservation Board.
Mitigation: this was discussed briefly. There was agreement that mitigation could be either on site or off site and any requirements should be flexible and open ended.
At the conclusion of the discussion, it was agreed that Mr. Tegeder and Mr. Barber would work on a memo to the Town Board that would highlight the issues that related only to the Planning Board’s work and where there was a board consensus. It was agreed that the drafting of the law was a political act left to the Town Board.
Councilman Bernard advised the board that the tree law as on the Town Board’s agenda for the following evening.
The board continued its discussion of the draft new tree law. In general, members felt that the current law had not created problems for the board; Mr. Fon said that the only concern he had heard was that some developers had complained about the cost of the tree survey but that this had never been an issue before the board. He said the only time the board had dealt with the survey issue was with the Hilltopminor subdivision. Mr. Flynn noted that the current tree law was comprehensive and that he did not understand the new law.
Citing its lack of expertise in the area, the board said it preferred to limit its comments on the draft law to broad strokes and not get involved in specific details. It felt the tree survey had value but that the board needed to retain a flexible approach as each application was different and had to be looked at differently; while protecting a 12” tree might work for one site, on another a 6” tree might have significance. Also, for some sites, e g., Costco, all the trees would likely have to be cut while this would not necessarily be the case in residential subdivisions.
There was some discussion over whether the draft law included town owned property and whether the town would need a tree permit to cut down trees on its own property or only adhere to the guidelines and standards required on private property.
The board was not in favor of a provision in the draft law that would give the Town Board the to review a Planning Board tree permit decision; citing the separation of powers between the board, the Planning Board felt if the applicant was not happy with the board’s decision, it always had the right to file an Article 78 lawsuit.
Because the board wanted to give Mr. Kincart an opportunity to weigh in on the issue, it agreed that the Planning Department would prepare a summary of the issues that were discussed, highlighting what tools the board might gain or lose with both the current law and the draft new law.
(Note: Supervisor Grace participated in the discussion.)
Mr. Tegeder gave the following reasons as the impetus for the new law.
· Concern over the 30% requirement
· Provisions dealing with the community forest
· The need to do tree surveys for smaller developments and residential developments like Hilltop and Jacob Rd . He said the survey requirement hadn’t been a problem with commercial developments.
Calling the current law counterproductive, Supervisor Grace advised the board that the town needed to define the goal of the Tree Law so that we knew what we wanted to accomplish. The two goals he emphasized were the need for more street trees, e.g., along E. Main St in Mohegan and what he called an urban landscape, and the need for more forest management. He said the forest management plans that had been done were gathering dust on the shelves.He added that he wanted to avoid neighbor disputes involving the cutting of trees. He made the following additional points:
· Why do a tree survey when the trees are going to be cut down for development. Tree surveys cost tens of thousands of dollars. Applicants have limited resources.
· Mitigation shouldn’t be just about replanting a tree; it should be more forest management. He wants to see more creative mitigation plans; the Tree Commission should identify “hot spots” – places where off site mitigation (planting) should be done
· He talked about the “mess” of the forest on the east side of Stoney
· He took aim at those who have criticized the cutting of trees at Hilltop Service Station. He doesn’t see a problem with what the new owner has done.
· He questioned the value of requiring tree permits if they’re never denied.
· He saw no evidence that there’s been a problem with clear cutting -- except possibly one incident where it was a neighbor issue.
· He called it far-fetched to think that the community should have an interest in your trees.
Mr. Tegeder walked the board through the draft highlighting sections he suggested needed to be looked at in greater detail. In response to one comment about whether the law called for the town engineer to issue administrative permits, i.e., permits that were not part of a subdivision or site plan review, Supervisor Grace said that homeowners would not be required to get permits to cut down trees on their own property. Mr. Tegeder did add, however, that a public hearing might be needed if a property owner proposed clear cutting that was not part of a subdivision or site plan.
All agreed about the value of street trees but that the definition and possibly some sections in the draft law dealing with street trees needed to be worked on.
At the end of the discussion, Supervisor Grace said that the draft was a very preliminary one and that he welcomed more input from the Planning Board based on its experience. Mr. Tegeder will provide the Planning Board with a written review of his comments.
Town Attorney McDermott presented a proposed new Tree Law that would replace the law enacted in 2010. (The more current version of the law is dated 4/26.) The law was drafted with input from Bruce Barber. Supervisor Grace said the impetus for the change was that it was time to take a fresh look at the law after it had been in effect for 3-4 years.
In general, Supervisor Grace said that the current law lacked direction and focus; that there were no real problems relating to tree cutting; that a provision in the law requiring developers to do a tree survey was expensive and unnecessary and that the money could be better used for other tree related purposes; that homeowners should not be required to get a permit to cut down trees on their property; that neighbors should not be in a position to control what their neighbor does on his property; and that the law should focus on clear cutting.
Supervisor Grace said that the existing law created a lot of paperwork (and the required the cutting down of trees) without accomplishing much.
The supervisor also said that sections of the existing law dealing with the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission (TCAC) should be separated out of the law and stand by itself and that the responsibilities of the TCAC should be expanded to develop a master plan for a tree bank that would provide guidance (what the supervisor called a “wish list”) for the location and type of potential off site mitigation measures and also to pursue the development and enforcement of forest management plans.
On the issue of whether homeowners should be required to obtain permits to remove trees on their property, Bill Kellner, a member of TCAC corrected the supervisor when the latter said that he had to sign permits involving the removal of one tree; Mr. Kellner said that one tree could be removed without a permit. And, in response to Councilman Bernard who asked him to explain what the restrictions on homeowners was, Mr. Kellner responded that the restrictions varied depending on the size of lot and the location on the lot.
The proposed law eliminates the need for homeowners to get tree permits to cut down trees on their property. Supervisor Grace said he saw no benefit to the homeowner permit, especially when no permits have been denied. If a homeowner wanted to cut down trees to create a lacrosse field for his children, he shouldn’t need a permit. In response, the town engineer said it made sense for the town to “send eyes” to look at what a homeowner was planning to do. (Homeowner permits are reviewed by the engineering department; about 50 permits a year have been issued.) He added that if a permit is denied, the homeowner can always appeal the decision.
In response to Councilman Bernard’s question why the current law was more restrictive in regulating the buffer area than the interior of a lot, Mr. Kellner noted that the buffer area between houses protected the character of the neighborhood. This led to comments from Supervisor Grace that neighbors should control what their neighbor does.
When Ann Kutter, who played a leading role in drafting the 2010 law, spoke about the function trees play in the environment and the benefits they contribute to the community, Councilman Lachertman suggested that if trees on his property provided a benefit to the community then he was entitled to a reduction in his taxes. Ms. Kutter acknowledged that changes were needed in the 2010 law, adding that while the goal of the Town Board in 2010 was to preserve trees, the current board may have a different set of priorities.
When Councilman Bernard said that the town can’t tell people what to do on their property, using the example of whether the town should regulate whether a driveway should be paved, Mr. Tegeder said that the town’s zoning power gave the town the right to regulate how property is used and that property rights are not absolute.
One of the major changes in the draft law is the elimination of the tree survey requirement for new developments which Supervisor Grace and Councilman Bernard repeatedly said was an unreasonable cost and also delayed projects. However, Ms. Kutter pointed out that the town’s land use regulations require a tree survey, a provision that predates the Tree Law. Councilman Bernard noted that in order to determine what off site mitigation a developer might be required to do, the approval board needed to know how many trees were going to be cut down. Bruce Barber suggested that the tree survey might be limited to that portion of the site that would be disturbed by the development (the “limits of disturbance”).
Mr. Tegeder noted that clear cutting was a problem and had to be regulated.
All agreed that more education was needed about trees, especially what constituted an “invasive species” that could be removed without any permit. All supported the concept of doing more forest management plans, although Ms. Kutter pointed out that the lack of adequate resources was a problem in implementing the plans. Calling for more coordination between TCAC and the Parks Department and the Recreation Commission charged with the responsibility of maintaining the town’s parks and trees, she suggested that a TCAC might be designated an ex officio member of the Rec Commission.
At the conclusion of the lengthy discussion, and after Mr. Kellner noted that the TCAC had not seen a draft of the proposed legislation prior to the meeting (three members of the TCAC were at the meeting), Supervisor Grace advised the TCAC members and Ms. Kutter that changes to the Tree Law were “a very open discussion.” Councilman Bernard added that the discussion was helpful in that it let the TCAC know what the board’s philosophy was and “where we’re going.”
The board voted to refer out the draft with Supervisor Grace advising TCAC and Ms. Kutter to “come back with what you want.”
The Board approved submitting the application for a $15,000 DEC Urban Forestry Grant for Turkey Mountain, with a 50% local match.
Jacob Road tree clearing request
Town Board, 1-28-2014
The town’s environmental consultant, Bruce Barber, explained that the property owner wants to convert the existing 53 acres of forest to a farm – something it was about 35 years ago. To accomplish this, the property owner will have to cut down most of the trees on the site, described as 25-35 year old second growth. The property is located at Jacob Road and Catherine Street.
The purpose of the discussion was to get feedback from the Board and to identify what steps/permits were needed as part of the approval process, including some clarification from the building department on the requirements for a special permit to permit farming in a residential zone (section 300-45 of the zoning code). The property owner is already filing for status as an agricultural district. In the absence of a wetlands study, it was not known yet whether a wetlands permit would be needed.
When the trees are cut down, the property owner plans to set up a lumber mill on the site to process the downed trees and use the lumber to build a barn. There was no discussion of the planned farming use.
The source of water for the farm use was raised and it was uncertain whether the parcel was in the water district. Supervisor Grace noted the higher cost for being serviced as an out-of-district water customer.
The Board was generally supportive of the plan and wished the property owner “good luck.”
NYS DEC Grant
Ann Kutter and Assistant Planner Lorraine DeSisto asked the board to pass resolutions next Tuesday authorizing them to submit an application for a DEC forest management grantthat would enable the Town to update its GIS maps of town owned lands and provide training in invasive species removal. The improved maps would help the volunteer groups who are making improvements to the trails and also removing invasive species. The $15,000 grant would provide for 30-40 hours worth of GIS technician services.
The grant requires a 50/50 match, although a part of the Town’s match can be in volunteer services. Ms. DeSisto said that the Town’s willingness to make 20%-25% cash available as part of its match would help the Town’s chances of being awarded the grant.
Without committing to making any funds available, the board gave Ms. Kutter and Ms. DeSisto the okay to submit the application. Councilman Bianco said that the Town gets the grant, it can always decide at that time if it is willing to spend the cash for the required match.
Members of the Tree Advisory Commission met with the Board to discuss applying to the DEP’s Watershed Agricultural Council to do a forest management study for town-owned lands at Sylvan Glen and Granite Knolls as well as the privately owned State Land property abutting Sylvan Glen. Bill Kellner explained that the study area can include properties under different ownership as long as the owner gives consent to the project. Charles Monoco, owner of the State Land property, said he has no problem having his property included in such a plan.
A strong supporter of the forest management plan concept, Supervisor Grace said that the plan should also include a regional drainage plan and suggested that bMS4 (stormwater) money might be available for such a study. These comments led to a lengthy discussion over the redevelopment of the Route 202 corridor and what Supervisor Grace said was the need for a public private partnership to address the area’s infrastructure needs. He said that the town had to strike the right balance between development and open space and that the Route 202 corridor was the “last frontier” for commercial development.Town owned open space needs to be managed so that it does not become a liability for the future, he said. Councilman Bianco said he had no problem with the forest management plan but noted that parts of Sylvan Glen and Granite Knolls flowed to the Peekskill watershed. He also disagreed with the supervisor over whether the Town gets any benefits from developers when it gives something.
Joe Riina, engineer for the State Land project, said that based on his preliminary analysis, runoff from the site could be reduced by 30% if certain measures were taken on the State Land and Sylvan Glen parcels.
Bruce Barber, the Town’s environmental consultant told the group that lots of studies had already been done for the area and that we should not reinvent the wheel but work together. He suggested that a member of the Tree Commission join an already established team that included the town engineer and planning director.
Referring to the pending State Land rezoning application, Councilman Murphy cautioned “not to put the cart before the horse” and reminded the group that the Town needs to follow through on the rezoning in order to get the open space that is proposed as part of the rezoning request. Mr. Monoco and his attorney, Al Capellini, both pushed for faster action on the rezoning application. Mr. Monoco said he had someone interested in the parcel but that the potential tenant won’t commit until the rezoning is in place.Supervisor Grace assured them that the rezoning process hasn’t been stalled and that the forest management plan could go forward in the background while the rezoning worked its way through the planning process.He offered to talk to the potential client if Mr. Monoco thought that that would help.
The discussion ended with Supervisor Grace reaffirming the “team” concept.
Town Board, 5/1/2012
Ann Kutter spoke about the need for private landowners to develope forest management plans for their property. She said that adjoining homeowners could join together to arrive at the 10 acre minimum required for the Watershed Agricultural Council (914-962-6355) that could help private property develop such a plan. Additional help is available from the state DEC (845-831-8780), She explained that our forests are near their natural death, with the two major problems being deer and invasive species which are crowding up youngsaplings.A copy of the Council’s forest management plan for Turkey Mountain is in the process of being uploaded to the Town’s website,yorktownny.org.
During Courtesy of the Floor, several residents spoke in support of trees and tree related subjects. Bill Kellner, chairman of the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission, along with TCAC member Ron Buehl, presented the Voard with a plaque commemorating Yorktown’s designation as a Tree City USA. The Town was one of six towns in NYS to receive the designation last year.
Dale Saltzman, another member of TCAC , explained that the Town had to meet four criteria in order to qualify as a Tree City.
1. We had to spend at least $2 per capita for tree care
2. We had to have a tree commission or advisory board
3. We needed to have an Arbor Day celebration
4. We needed to have a tree ordinance
Patty Peckham thanked the Town for the work that led up to the adoption of the Tree City USA designation and also spoke about the importance of trees.
Ann Kutter reminded the Board that the recently completed forest management plan for Turkey Mountain that was praised by Supervisor Grace was done to comply with the Tree Ordinance which requires that these types of plans be developed for all Town owned lands.Under the Ordinance, if large private landowners voluntarily have similar plans prepared for their properties, they would be exempt from the Ordinance. She added that the Turkey Mountain plan was more than an inventory; it was a 15 year best practices management plan. The plan was done at no cost to the Town by the Watershed Agricultural Council.
Beginning the discussion by noting that he hasn’t hid his “disdain” for the law which he believes is an “incredible intrusion” on a person’s property rights, Supervisor Grace said he wants to either soften or repeal the law that was passedby the previous board. He called the purpose of the law “laudable” but its enforcement “contemptible.” You can’t focus on individual lots, he said, adding that some of the pro environmental people he has spoken to do not want to see another layer of government or another obstacle put in the way of development, especially in the current hard times. Without identifying the property, he cited the example of an owner who experienced a problem and delay taking down a tree that created a problem for his driveway. He said that the ordinance would delay a business’s opening and lead to a loss of revenue.
The one suggested change Supervisor Grace offered was that there should be more creative mitigation measures. He praised a recent inventory of Turkey Mountain as an example.
Councilman Paganelli joined the supervisor in calling for revisions to the law, although he didn’t specify exactly what he thought needed to be changed. He added that problems with the law may be more perception than reality but that the board had to deal with the perception. Councilman Murphy cited the example of a homeowner on White Hill Road who “napalmed his yard” much to the displeasure of his abutting neighbors. (Acting Town Engineer Sharon Robinson pointed out that the cutting had been done prior to the enactment of the law and that the property owner will have to replant some trees as part of a mitigation plan.)
Ann Kutter, who helped draft the law, said she was willing to work with the board to amend the law, adding that during the drafting processher goal was to shift the burden from the individual homeowner to the large developments, adding that there some provisions in the law were added to gain the support of some people.One of the pluses of the law, she pointed out, was that it consolidated into one law existing provisions regarding trees which were in several differentlaws and which weren’t always consistent. What was important, she added, was understanding the function that trees and woodlands play. When she equated the value of a tree ordinance to the Town’s long standing wetlands ordinance, Supervisor Grace intimated that he didn’t want to go there but then added that he did see the need for some type of wetlands regulation. In response to Councilman Paganelli’s earlier comment about the board listening to the public’s perception of the law, whether it was accurate or not, she suggested that the board had a responsibility to both represent the public but also to lead.
Ron Buehl, a member of the Tree Advisory Commission joined Ms. Kutter in support of the existing law but acknowledged that more could have been done, and should be done, to educate the public about the new law.
Ms. Kutter will schedule a meeting with Supervisor Grace and Councilman Paganelli to go over specific provisions of the law that they may want to modify.
Trees: William Kellner, chairman of the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission, advised the board that the Arbor Day Foundation, working in conjunction with the US Forest Service, has approved Yorktown’s designation as a Tree City USA in recognition of the town’s efforts to protect its trees and forests. He credited Keith Schepart, a member of TCAC, with suggesting the idea 15 years ago as well as past boards, supervisors and volunteers who, over the years, helped fulfill the requirements for the designation. He also announced that this year’s Ardor Day celebration will be held on May 4th at the Patriot Garden.
Sustainable Energy Loan Program
Town Board, 7-2-2013
After Supervisor Grace explained the proposed law, Howard Frank asked if any tax exemptions were involved. Supervisor Grace said there were no exemptions and added that the town as guaranteed to get back any money it had to lay out to pay off the loan in the event the property owner failed to pay his taxes. Paul Moskowitz spoke in favor of the law which he called a win-win.
The Board voted to close the hearing and then, without any additional comment, voted unanimously to adopt the law.
Set July 2 for a public hearing on the proposed Sustainable Energy Financing Program law.
Mark Thielking, chairman of the Energy Improvement Corporation (EIC), made a presentation explaining the program that provides loans to existing commercial properties for energy upgrades at about a 6% interest rate. While EIC, an intermunicipal local development corporation, provides the loans (funds coming from the Department of Energy, NYSERDA and the bond market), the property owner pays back the loan through town taxes and the town, in turn, remits the loan payment to EIC. If the property owner fails to pay back the loan, the EIC has a reserve fund which can be used to make the town whole.
The loan program is administered by the EIC and applicants must meet a series of criteria in order to qualify for a loan.
To participate in the program, the town will have to become a member of the EIC and adopt a model local law. The Board was supportive of the program, noting that it was uncertain of the demand and that it might only apply to a handful of businesses.
Supervisor Grace directed the town attorney to prepare a local law to be referred out for review next week that would set up a program that could finance energy improvements in commercial buildings using third party financing but which would be paid back through the property owner’s taxes, making the loan repayment tax deductible. The town attorney said she would follow a similar law used in the Town of Bedford. When she asked if the draft law should be reviewed by Town Board before it was referred out to other departments, Supervisor Grace said that the other Board members could review the draft law during the same 30 day period that other departments were reviewing it.
Supervisor Grace asked the Board to consider establishing a Town program that would provide low interest loans to the owners of commercial properties and multi-family housing for energy upgrades. He indicated that the new owner of the Roma Building was interested in taking advantage of such a program.
Although the details on how the program would work, and a specific local law setting up the program has to be drafted, it appeared, from Supervisor Grace’s b rief explanation that the financing would come from a third party and that the loan repayments would be through Town taxes which the owner could then deduct from his his income tax. Supervisor Grace said the program would not cost the Town anything.
The Board indicted its support for the program.
Northern Westchester Energy Advisory Consortium (NWEAC)
The board approved renewing the town’s annual membership in NWEAC at a cost of $1,000 although it wasn’t clear where the funds would come from. Speaking for the Energy Advisory Committee, Paul Moskowitz said that in the past, the funds came from the federal energy grant but Comptroller Joan Goldberg said that those funds were fully accounted for. She added, however, that that town was in the process of having the federal agency take a second look at prior expenditures to see what funds might still be available.
Paul Moskowitz, chairman of the Yorktown Energy Committee, reported that rebates for the purchase of qualifying energy efficient refrigerators and washing machines were available from NYSERDA, in addition to free home energy audits. More information about both programs is available on the town website, www.yorktownny.org, or from www.nysappliance.com.
Town Board, 3-13-2012
Jerry Robock, the town’s energy consultant, together with Lorraine DeSisto of the Planning Department and Paul Moskowitz, a member of the Energy Advisory Committee, reviewed a revised list of potential projects for the remaining funds in the original $158,000 federal energy stimulus grant.
Supervisor Grace and Councilman Paganelli both rejected the idea of three battery charging terminals for electric cars that the board was supportive of at an earlier meeting. Mr. Paganelli cited the problems with the Chevy Volt as one reason not to go ahead with thistype of project.
As a substitute project, the board asked Ms. DeSisto to check whether the funds could be used to finance the purchase of a new gasboy system. (See Gasboy notes) Ms. DeSisto explained that one reason why the system might be eligible would be that it would enable the town to collect valuable data on gasoline consumption and car usage which could be used as justification for future energy saving projects for future grant requests.
Mr. Robock said that plans to replace lighting in three town buildings have been reduced to one, the library. He did not explain the reason for dropping the two other buildings.
The revised list still includes $90,000 for a possible demonstration solar energy project although there was no agreement where the installation would be; all agreed that, for a variety of reasons, Town Hall would not be an appropriate location. Supervisor Grace asked about the potential savings from a solar installation, but there was no clear response to his question.
If the gasboy project is deemed not eligible for funding, the board will revisit the allocation of funds.
At the conclusion of the regular meeting, the board went into work session mode for a discussion of how to use the remaining funds in the $158,000 energy stimulus grant the town received in 2009. Attending the meeting were Assistant Planner Lorraine DeSisto and Jerry Robock and Paul Moskowitz of the town’s Energy Advisory Committee. Mr. Robock explained that for several reason, some of the original projects were not able to move forward and the town has 6 weeks to come up with alternative projects that need to be approved by the Department of Energy. Some of the proposed new projects include lighting upgrades in town buildings, the installation of charging stations for electric vehicles in the commuter lot in Yorktown Heights, the library parking lot, and the small town owned lot in Mohegan off Route 6, completion of the greenhouse gas inventory that was started but never completed, a “green” comfort station at Railroad Park, solar lighting for the planned Pinesbridge Memorial and lighting associated with a proposed Farmers Market at the Railroad Station park. Ms. DeSisto will refine the list before contacting the Department of Energy. Plans to use some of the funds to replace entry doors at the YCCC were dropped after Ms. DeSisto explained that she couldn’t get any vendors interested in the project. Supervisor Grace said that maintenance staff could do some weather stripping work on the doors which otherwise were in good condition.
The board rejected some possible solar projects given their 25 year pay back period. Board members liked the charging station idea and felt it would bring good publicity to the town and possibly pave the way for the town to apply for a grant to purchase electric vehicles for town use. As part of the discussion of the green comfort station, Ms. DeSisto advised the board that that plan was part of a larger $500,000 plan for the renovation of the station and that the town had a commitment from the NYS Department of Transportation for $300,000 for the project.
As part of the discussion, Supervisor Grace said that one idea that he was considering was relocating the highway department to a new “butler” type building on the Hill, at an estimated cost of $200,000, and selling off the land where the garage is currently located. Councilman Paganelli suggested that considering that the current site has been used for so many years as a highway garage there might be contamination problems that could hinder a future sale.
Recycling Issues (See also Greenwood Street organic recycling facility) Town Board, 4-22-2014 Textile Recycling Program Refuse and Recycling Coordinator Kim Angliss Gage presented a plan for the town to pick up waste textiles as part of the bulk pickup program in town supplied clear plastic 30 gallon bags. Once picked up, the bags would be stored on pods behind the R&R office, and would be emptied on a weekly basis by a vendor who would be selected via a bid process. The bags could also be dropped off at the R&R site during the e-waste scheduled days. Other than the cost of the bags (it was not clear if the town would charge for the bags), there would be no additional costs to the town. Ms. Gage explained that the only “legal” collection boxes in the town date back to a 1995 agreement with a company that pays the town a yearly fee based on what it collects. Last year, based on 8,000 lbs., the town received $529 from the company. Councilman Murphy said that the owners of some private sites are receiving $75/bin/month to allow for-profit companies to place bins on their sites. Supervisor Grace appeared to have no problem with the town pickup plan but left the door open to eventually some type of licensing system for for-profit companies. There did not appear to be a formal vote to set up the program, so it remained unclear what the end result of the discussion was. Daily permit for organic waste material In order to accommodate residents, the board voted to set up a permit system allowing residents with pick up trucks that have commercial licenses to obtain daily permits to dispose of yard waste (Cost: $20). Daily permits will also be available for larger trucks (Cost: $40 or $50) used by commercial companies hired by Yorktown residents. The program will go into effect next week and residents will have to obtain the permit at the Refuse & Recyclnig office located behind the police station BEFORE bringing the waste to the hill. The move was seen as a temporary measure while the board resolves the long term issue of the hill recycling operation. See discussion below. Town Board, 5/1/2012
(See also Greenwood Street organic recycling facility)
Town Board, 4-22-2014
Textile Recycling Program
Refuse and Recycling Coordinator Kim Angliss Gage presented a plan for the town to pick up waste textiles as part of the bulk pickup program in town supplied clear plastic 30 gallon bags. Once picked up, the bags would be stored on pods behind the R&R office, and would be emptied on a weekly basis by a vendor who would be selected via a bid process. The bags could also be dropped off at the R&R site during the e-waste scheduled days. Other than the cost of the bags (it was not clear if the town would charge for the bags), there would be no additional costs to the town.
Ms. Gage explained that the only “legal” collection boxes in the town date back to a 1995 agreement with a company that pays the town a yearly fee based on what it collects. Last year, based on 8,000 lbs., the town received $529 from the company.
Councilman Murphy said that the owners of some private sites are receiving $75/bin/month to allow for-profit companies to place bins on their sites.
Supervisor Grace appeared to have no problem with the town pickup plan but left the door open to eventually some type of licensing system for for-profit companies.
There did not appear to be a formal vote to set up the program, so it remained unclear what the end result of the discussion was.
Daily permit for organic waste material
In order to accommodate residents, the board voted to set up a permit system allowing residents with pick up trucks that have commercial licenses to obtain daily permits to dispose of yard waste (Cost: $20). Daily permits will also be available for larger trucks (Cost: $40 or $50) used by commercial companies hired by Yorktown residents.
The program will go into effect next week and residents will have to obtain the permit at the Refuse & Recyclnig office located behind the police station BEFORE bringing the waste to the hill.
The move was seen as a temporary measure while the board resolves the long term issue of the hill recycling operation. See discussion below.
Town Board, 5/1/2012
Kim Gage, interim head of the Environmental Conservation Department, reported that 677 volunteers, working in 110 groups, had filled 1,191 trash bags with 12.26 tons of roadside litter.She thanked all for their efforts to clean up Yorktown. Supervisor Grace thanked a Mr. Curry who had spent hours cleaning up the Ardizonne wetland adjacent to the Old Stone Church.
Battle of Yorktown. Kim Angliss Gage, interim head of the Environmental Conservation Department, said that more volunteers were needed for this year’s Battle of Yorktown town-wide cleanup which will be held this coming Saturday.Volunteers interested in helping to pick up litter along the Town’s streets and roads can sign up at the Conservation Department office behind the police station.
She also informed that Board that in 2011, the county’s recycling effort generated $7.4 million in revenue and that Yorktown’s $321,000 share helped offset the Town’s garbage collection costs. She also pointed out that the more the Town collects in recyclables, the lower its garbage dumping costs.
Al Capellini, representing Brian Amico who wants to establish a recycling business headquartered in the Oseola Industrial park on Route 6, presented the board with a suggested change in the town’s zoning code that would add a definition of the term “recycling facility” and permit recycling facilities in the industrial I-1 zone.Mr. Amico explained that the facility would accept a variety of materials but not typical household garbage and that he was looking to offer the service to commercial users.
Supervisor Grace added that in addition to the definition and usage, the town would have to develop a series of bulk regulations covering the size of the operation, hours of operation, location, etc.
Reminding Mr. Amico that the previous Town Board was not interested in his concept last October, Councilman Bianco asked Mr. Amico what had changed since his last presentation. Mr. Amico responded that last year, he was seeking town approval first before going to the county and state for licenses. When that didn’t happen, he reversed his strategy and went to the county and state and secured the required licenses, and was now coming back to the town for approval.
Supervisor Grace explained that the existing IMA that the town has with the county for residential recycling only required that any recyclables the town collected had to go to the county facility and did not preclude a private recycler from opening for business in Yorktown.
In response to Councilman Bianco’s question about his current business operations, Mr. Amico said that he had sold his Dutchess County garbage business to raise money for his proposed recycling business and that he currently stored his trucks in rented space in the Oseola industrial park. You can’t ask him about his current recycling business, Supervisor Grace said, because he hasn’t been allowed to set it up yet.
Councilman Paganelli expressed concern that added a recycling facility to the I-1 zone could open the door to as many as six such facilities. He also expressed concern about the truck traffic that would be generated by such a use, pointing out that the Navajo Fields was also located in the Oseola Park. That led to a discussion of the width of the road in the industrial park and Supervisor Grace said that the town could not deny the use of the property if the public infrastructure was inadequate; it was the town’s responsibility to improve the infrastructure.
The discussion ended with the understanding that the town attorney would work with Mr. Capellini to draw up draft bulk regulations that would be circulated for review.
Open Space Issues
Open Space Fund
Town Board, 2-24-2016
The following discussion took place as part of a discussion with the town attorney about legislative issues he is working on. (See also 4/10/2012 below.)
This was a multi part discussion about the flat $30/year fee that every property owner pays . The fee was approved by referendum many years ago. The fee, which raises approximately $400,000 a year, is used to pay off bonds that are used to pay for the acquisition of open space.
a. Use of existing revenue. Supervisor Grace stated that after the bond for the Granite Knolls purchase will be paid off this year, there is no future need for the $400,000/year that the fee generates. During the discussion with Mr. Paganelli, it was agreed that the money could not be used for paving; it can only be used for acquisition of open space. It cannot be used for park operation or maintenance expenses.
b. Reimbursement for previous acquisition costs. Supervisor Grace asked the attorney to research whether monies used to acquire parkland before the $30 fee went into effect could be reimbursed from the fee’s future revenue. He cited $750,000 taken from the Trust & Agency Fund (residential developers pay into this fund based on $10,000/approved lot if the subdivision does not include any recreation land) for Turkey Mountain and $400,000 from the General Fund (It was not clear what acquisition this money was used for.)
c. Ending the fee. Noting that there is no sunset provision in the existing law setting up the fee, Supervisor Grace suggested that in the future the town may want to have a referendum that would add a sunset provision and correct what he called “the sins of the past.” In response, Councilman Patel defended the fee, saying that had the money not been there, the town would not have been able to purchase Granite Knolls. The supervisor said that If the voters approve the referendum, the town could then have a referendum on whether to bond for road paving. He suggested that if given the choice between the two fees, voters would opt for the road fee. He said that if, in the future, the town wanted to acquire a critical piece of open space, it could do so by using eminent domain.
Town Board, 3-12-2013
The Shrub Oak Athletic Club has renewed its offer to donate to the town a small parcel that it owns in the area of New Road. (The parcel, less than an acre, is not being used and the club continues to pay taxes on it. The site used to be used as a ball field.) Deputy Town Clerk Quast noted that in either 2010 or 2011 one advisory board favored the Town accepting the parcel while another saw no benefit to the town. The Shrub Oak Park District was interested in accepting the parcel at the time but didn’t have the funds to pay the closing costs.Councilman Paganelli suggested that the park district be asked again if it was still interested in the parcel and when asked if he could do the closing at no cost,Supervisor Grace said he did not mind helping the athletic club and would do the closing at no cost. Councilman Bianco was the only Board member who appeared to support the Town accepting the parcel.
After a brief discussion, the Board took no action on this proposed donation, pending the receipt of additional information. Councilman Paganelli, noting that he didn’t want to acquire another property like the deteriorated Granite Knolls barn that would become an attractive nuisance, said that he was initially told there were no structures on the site. However, a memo from the Advisory Committee on Open Space noted that there are remnants of old structures on the site.
Members of the Advisory Committee on Open Space (ACOS) discussed potential acquisitions of three parcels:
a. Kelderhouse propertyoff Inspiration Drive in Mohegan Lake.The owner is interested in donating two acres of a six acre parcel for tax purposes. Although he has plans to develop the remaining four acres, there are no current plans and the owner is not asking for any “quid pro quo.” A portion of the site is wetlands. According to ACOS member John Schroeder, the parcel has value to the town because it abuts existing town-owned parkland and could become a link in a long planned east-west trail system linkingFDR Park to the Hudson River. The only structures currently on the site include a foundation and a cement water trough (the parcel was formerly part of the Mohegan Dairy).
Councilman Bianco said that if the Town wanted to help Mohegan Lake than it should acquire the property so that it remained open space. He noted that even though there are wetlands on the site, the Town’s wetlands law is permissive and does allow development in wetlands.
Supervisor Grace said that before the Board made any decision, he wanted an audit of what was on the site, more information about drainage, especially, whether drainage from the site might negatively iimpact other property owners and possibly create liabilities for the Town, and also information about the existing vegetation.
The Board referred the matter to various advisory boards.
b. Boniello property. This 18 acre site is located off Quarry Rd.The parcel, which lies betweentwo town-owed parkland sites – Sylvan Glen and Granite Knolls – is landlocked but has an easement across town-owned land for access to Stony Street, although the easement goes through a wetland.The site contains remnants of the old quarry operation.
Based on preliminary discussions with the property owner, ACOS suggested to the Board that the Town and the property owner split the cost of an appraisal and title search so that oncethe value of the land was determined, negotiations could continue.Supervisor Grace saw no need to spend money on an appraisal because he felt that the site’s environmental and zoning constraints meant that the parcel wasn’t worth anything. Although the parcel is zoned4 acre, he said that at besttwo or three lots could be built but that the infrastructure costs would be considerable.In response, Councilman Bianco said that if the developer clustered the homes, he could get more units.
SupervisorGrace added that he was“totally uninterested” in acquiring the piece, that the Town already had a considerable amount of open space and that money should be spent taking care of the open space we already have rather than acquiring more. When it was pointed out that the property owner owes back taxes, estimated at $6,000, Councilman Bianco withdrew his interest in buying the parcel.
On the suggestion of Councilman Paganellil, the Board advised ACOS to go back to the property owner and advise him that a potential sale is off the table but that the Town might consider acceptinig the land as a donation which would provide the owner with a tax write off.
c. Bostinto property
ACOS advised the Board that there was no value to the Town in accepting the site, located on Route 35 near Willoway, as a donation. Councilman Paganelli noted that the site is wet and runoff from it creates flooding problems for an abutting property owner. Supervisor Grace stated that the Town shouldn’t take property where it involves the Town taking on a liability.
Walt Daniels, co-chairman of the Advisory Committee on Open Space, advised the Board that based on a meeting he had with Town Clerk Alice Roker and Lorraine DeSisto of the Planning Department, it was apparent that the process of designating open space lands as parkland had not always been followed in the past when the Town acquired open space.He specifically noted the confusion surrounding the “Ardizzone” property to the west of the Old Stone Church and the shopping center to the right of the church. In the latter case, a portion of the site was to be deeded to the Town, but the Town never accepted the deed. In the former case, when the Town condemned the “Ardizzone” property, the intent was to create a wetlands park but the Town never passed a resolution designating the parcel as parkland.The “final step,” was not done, he said.(See related discussion about the Winery that took place at the conclusion of the regular agenda.)
Supervisor Grace agreed that what was needed was an audit and inventory of the Town’s open spaces.He said he wasn’t against open space, but that the Town needed to do long term planning to assess the purpose and intent of acquiring any new open space so that it would not become a long term liability to the Town.Councilman Bianco said that it was buildings, not open space that caused flooding.
Supervisor Grace said he would work with the ACOS on the inventory.
As part of a broader discussion of budget transfers (see above), the board discussed the $30/year flat tax that every property owner pays into the Open Space Fund that is used to acquire open space.According to Comptroller Joan Goldberg, the money generated by the fund is used to either pay outright for an acquisition or to pay the debt service if money is borrowed for an acquisition, as it was for the $2.7 million Granite Knolls acquisition. Based on the anticipated revenue stream from the flat tax, a previous board authorized a $5 million bond issue, but the money is only borrowed when there is an actual acquisition. There is approximately $1 million left in the authorization which is good for 10 years. After that, the board would have to renew the authorization.
Supervisor Grace called the $30/year flat tax “illegal, unfair and inequitable” and said that he would not vote to acquire any additional open space.In response to a question of how the Town could get kill the flat tax, the Town’s auditor said that the Town could just stop collecting it.
Town Board, 5-24-2016
Environmental Consultant Bruce Barber reviewed the highlights of the town’s annual stormwater report. A copy of the report will be posted on the town’s web site, yorktownny.org.
Commenting on the report, Ken Belfer, head of the Mohegan Lake Improvement District, asked about efforts to control geese. In response, Mr. Barber noted that they are a protected species and that do date, no effective means of control have been found. When it was suggested that fake coyote signs be posted, Mr. Belfer said that the geese at the lake had knocked them down. He said MLID is exploring a strategy that has helped reduce the geese population on Lake Waccabuc: when nests are found, the eggs are covered with oil to prevent them from hatching. When they fail to hatch, the adult geese move on to other locations.
Bruce Barber and Rich Rennia, an engineering consultant hired by the East of Hudson Corporation, discussed possible sites, town owned and privately owned, that might be suitable for stormwater retrofit projects to be undertaken by the Corporation for its secon\d required 5-year plan.
Similar discussions are being held with the other municipalities in the Corporation. The goal is to submit a 5-year plan to the DEC in June. Once approved, the Corporation would then seek funding from the DEP.
Based on the discussion, some sites were eliminated as not being suitable based on size, location, or potential for other uses; Mr. Barber and Mr. Rennia will take a more detailed look at the following sites: Junior Lake, Strang Blvd at Route 132, the proposed Depot Square site, a site further down Front Street behind UPS, and a site off Baldwin Road in the vicinity of White Birch. Other possible projects could include stream channel stabilizations in various locations. Mr. Rennia also asked the board if someone could touch base with IBM as he saw the potential for a possible project on its site.
According to Supervisor Grace, Algonquin is looking at the Strong Blvd site as a possible staging area for the drilling that will have to be done at Legacy Fields. ( Supervisor Grace explained that Algonquin is also planning to use Willow Park as a staging area and it is hoped that as part of the use, the site, currently too wet to be of much use, will be upgraded so that it can function, as originally planned, for recreation.) He suggested that if the East of Hudson Corporation could get the project designed quickly, it might be possible to get Algonquin to pay for it was part of its as part of its FERC approval.
Supervisor Grace strongly suggested the Depot Square site as a good location for a “water feature” that would be both aesthetic and serve the MS4 need for stormwater retention and phosphorous reduction. In response to Mr. Rennia’s question how far along the planning was the relocation of the highway garage, the supervisor was very optimistic; he said he already has a commitment from a private developer to provide the steel building for the new highway garage, that engineering plans would be done in house and that the town would go out for an RFP for an architectural design and the price of the project.
Mr. Barber described the second possible project further down Front street that has been discussed at the Planning Board as part of the JCPC project.
The Baldwin Rd site involves a wetland in the area where the town has received a grant to bujild a trail connetion btween Route 118 and Baldwin Road that would link to the trail across the road into FDR Park. Mr, Barber said that the refotif project could be considered along with the plans for the trail.
As part of its participation in the East of Hudson Watershed Corporation, a consortium of northern Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess county towns, the board adopted an Operation and Maintenance Policy for stormwater retrofits constructed as part of the group’s efforts. Under the terms of the policy, Supervisor Grace advised the board that Yorktown share of the group’s 2016 O&M costs will be $19,000. In response to my question about whether the amount was included in the 2016 budget, the supervisor said it wasn’t. The town is also responsible for maintaining other stormwater projects, such as detention ponds, built many years ago as part of subdivisions. More recently approved private sector projects are required to perform annual maintenance on their stormwater infrastructure and submit reports to the town.
MS4 project at Police campus
The Town is actually the applicant for this project. According to Mr. Tegeder, an extension is needed because technical redesigns were required and Hahn Engineering, working for the East of Hudson Coalition, experienced some personnel changes. The Planning Board granted the one year extension.
Bruce Barber, the town’s environmental consultant, gave the annual stormwater report, a requirement of the town’s MS4 stormwater permit. A copy of the report, which details a variety of initiatives designed to filter and/or reduce stormwater runoff, will be posted on the town’s web site, yorktownny.org.
During the discussion, questions were asked about the status of the oil spill at Sparkle Lake. Although Mr. Barber stated that the spill had been cleaned up and the town was waiting for a final inspection and sign-off from the DEC before the booms were removed, area resident Howard Frank said that as recently as 10 minutes earlier, he saw oil coming from the outlet. Mr. Barber said he would visit the site. The spill is from a stormwater retrofit project that was done under the auspices of the East of Hudson Coalition, and Mr. Barber stated that it was the Coalition’s responsibility to deal with the issue.
After environmental consultant Bruce Barber gave an update on the work of the East of Hudson Watershed Coalition, the board agreed to pay Yorktown’s $3,415 share of the group’s anticipated 2014 legal bills. During 2014, the Coalition’s lawyer will begin negotiating a new agreement with the DEP for funding to pay for continued stormwater retrofit measures.
Although the bid specs are ready to be advertised for the project and construction could begin in about two months, Mr. Verma suggested a slight modification to the approved site plan that would benefit both the stormwater project and the town. He explained that approximately 3,500 cubic yards of soil would have to be removed to create the planned detention pond., But, rather than trucking out the fill, he suggested that the fill could be used to level and re-grade the currently unused portion of the site between the existing parking lot and Route 202 to create much needed additional parking. The cost for this additional work would have to be borne by the town as it could not be included in the stormwater project. It was suggested that the highway department could do much of the additional work.
The Board was very receptive to the idea and asked Mr. Tegeder to prepare a plan for the proposed new parking area so that the town could take advantage of this opportunity. The plan will identify how many additional spots can be created.
If the town proceeds with the idea, the previously approved site plan will have to be amended.
The Board opened and closed the public hearing and approved the revised site plan.
The Board reconvened the public hearing on the proposed stormwater retrofit project. Mr. Verma explained the project again and in response to questions from the Board addressed the issues that Mr. Frank had brought up at the previous meeting. He clarified why the project was being done, the fact that he had discussed the project at four prior public meetings, that it was being paid for by the EOH corporation, and that the corporation was in discussions with the supervisor over a contract that would make the corporation responsible for maintenance of the Sparkle Lake project. He also said that the corporation would bid out the job. In response to a suggestion from Mr. Tegeder that a sign be posted on the project site identifying the purpose of the work, Mr. Verma said that since the project was being funded by DEP, there were strict requirements covering the use of funds but that he would look into the matter for future projects.
The hearing was closed.
The Board opened the hearing but adjourned it as the representative of the East of Hudson Corp. (EOH) was not present. (He arrived after the hearing had been adjourned.) Howard Frank raised questions about the need for the project, why the public had not been properly noticed about the project, and a related stormwater retrofit project currently underway at Sparkle Lake. In the absence of the EOH representative, Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, addressed some of Mr. Frank’s issues, noting that the retrofit project had been discussed at several previous Town Board meetings.
Because the proposed stormwater retrofit measure will modify the existing site plan, the Board will advertise for a public informational hearing, to be followed by a public hearing.
The Board open and closed the public hearing and will refer the item back to the Planning Board which has informed the Town Board that it has jurisdiction over the permit as it amends the previously approved site plan for the police building.
In response to a question from Stewart Glass whether the project would preclude any future expansion of the police building, Supervisor Grace said that the only future expansion plans were for parking and that there was room on the existing police site to accommodate additional parking.
On a referral from the Town Board, the Planning Board had no problem with the proposed location of the stormwater retrofit project at the police department building. However, on the advice of Mr. Tegeder, the Board will send a memo to the Town Board indicating that as the plan involves a change in the 1971 site plan, the Planning Board should be the approving authority for the wetlands permit.
Referred out the wetlands application permit for the police department project for review.
Stormwater retrofit projects
Mr. Verma reviewed the proposed project to the east of the police department building. (Of the four planned retrofit projects, this one is the only one that will require Town Board approval for the wetlands permit; the other three projects meet the threshold for administrative permits.)
Despite the fact that the project has been before the Board three prior times and has been modified to meet the concerns of the police department, Councilman Murphy asked Mr. Verma if the proposed detention ponds could be moved into the wetland (it is currently planned for the buffer area) in order to free up an area for future additional parking at the police/court complex. When Mr. Verma explained the many difficulties inherent in that idea, Councilman Murphy withdraw his suggestion, noting: I’m just talking out loud; you guys have to do what you’ve got to it. Mr. Barber said he would meet with the town engineer to see if a notation could be placed on the plan that would memorialize possible additional future parking, although Supervisor Grace said there were no immediate plans to expand the parking area given the town’s other needs.
Because the Board lacked a quorum, a vote to refer the plan out was postponed to next week’s meeting.
Mr. Verma said his plan was to bid the four projects together.
In response to Supervisor Grace’s question as to the source of the fill that will be required for the police department project, Mr. Verma explained that that would be part of the bid specs and would be up to the contractor. When Supervisor Grace raised the possibility of using fill from the Route 202 project, Mr. Verma said that it would have to be tested and meet DOT/DEC requirements but that the East of Hudson Corporation (EOH), which will be funding the retrofit project, couldn’t pay for the testing.
When the issue of O&M for the retrofit projects came up, Mr. Verma repeated what he had said at a previous meeting: the EOH Corp. would pay for maintenance for year 5, and will be negotiating with DEP for maintenance funds for years 6-10. When Town Clerk Roker said that the town didn’t do O&M well, Supervisor Grace laughed and said: we don’t do it at all.
As an aside to the discussion, Mr. Barber mentioned that he was working on a possible retrofit project for Year 5 in the vicinity of the highway garage and Supervisor Grace said that Planning Director Tegeder should have a plan for the revitalization of the highway garage site ready for review soon.
Stormwater Annual Report
Bruce Barber, the Town’s environmental consultant, presented the annual stormwater report that the Town is required to submit to the NYS DEC. The report details the Town’s efforts over a 12 month period in six categories to eliminate phosphorous from stormwater. He said that the town received high marks in a recent DEC stormwater audit.
A copy of the annual report is available on the Town’s web site.
Rahul Verma, the director of the East of Hudson Corp., reviewed plans for four projects: 1 at the police site, one at Railroad Park, and two at Sparkle Lake.While the constructionof each project will be funded by the Corporation, Supervisor Grace askedabout the ongoing operation and maintenance costs as one specific project will require filters to be changed, approximately once every two years.Mr. Verma did not have the specific cost information and Bruce Barber, the Town’s stormwater consultant explained that the Corporation will pay for the O&M during years 1-5 of the retrofit plan but that there is no plan in place now for how future costs will be covered. He said that the members of the Corporation will be negotiatingwith DEP at the end of this year for funding for years 6-10 for the ongoing retrofit program that is mandated by DEC.
Brian Gray, Superintendent of Parks & Recreation asked that the projects at Sparkle Lake be scheduled so as not to interfere with the June thru mid-August swimming season.In response, Mr. Verma said he would review the phasing and scheduling plan for the four projects in order not to interfere with the use of the lake.
Rahul Verma, the director of the East of Hudson Corporation that includes 18 municipalities and Putnam County, walked the Board through the four stormwater retrofit projects that the Corporation, with NYC DEP funds, will be pursuing in Yorktown for Year 3 of the retrofit plan.The plans are designed to reduce phosphorous in the initial stormwater runoff that typically contains pollutants from roads, driveways, etc. Phosphorouscontributes to algae bloom in the Town’s lakes and ponds.
One of the two planned projects at Sparkle Lake (both projects will be underground) will be in the grass area adjoining the service building and because some of the land will be cleared of brush, the net result will be an increase in grass area.A third project at the Police Department site has been modified at the request of the department. A fourth site is a small pond in the Railroad Station park
Acting Town Engineer Sharon Robinson gave the Board an update on four planned stormwater retrofit projects on Town-owned property: two at Sparkle Lake, one behind the Police Department near the dog training area and one at the highway garage.
The projects are being designed by engineers hired by the East of Hudsonstormwater consortium which will also pay for the projects.The engineers have met with Police Chief McMahon to address his concerns and are reviewing an alternate plan for the Sparkle Lake area that could address concerns of the Parks & Recreation Department.
Stormwater Annual Report
Bruce Barber, the Town’s environmental consultant, presented the annual stormwater report that the Town is required to submit to the NYS DEC. The report details the Town’s efforts over a 12 month period in six categories to eliminate phosphorous from stormwater.In response to Councilman Bianco’s question as to whether there was any way to measure if there has been an improvement in water quality, Mr. Barber responded that while there are no current measurements, he anticipated that by 2015, the DEC will be implementing a series of performance testing requirements.
In response to questions from the board, Ken Belfer, a member of the Town’s Stormwater Committee and the chairman of the Mohegan Lake Improvement District, advised the board that his group is continuing its efforts to improve the quality of the lake, adding that the water was tested every two weeks.Mr. Barber explained that there are different standards for drinking water, swimming and stormwater.
A copy of the annual report is available on the Town’s web site, wwww.yorktownny.org.
2015: For a discussion of possible changes to the Wetlands Law, see the Legislation page. See also Town Board, 2-24-2016.
Wetlands permit: failure of mitigation measures/Gambelli Drive
The issue was how to deal with the failure of a homeowner to honor the conditions of a wetlands permit.
The wetlands permit to build a pool in a wetlands was issued in 2007 and included a condition that the property owner install certain plantings in the wetlands as mitigation and also post a $5,000 bond to insure that at least 85% of the plantings survived after five years. Bruce Barber, the town’s environmental consultant, explained that only about 30% of the plantings the homeowner planted have survived, leaving the town with two choices: require the homeowner to do new plantings, or call the bond and have the town do the mitigation.
The homeowner said he told the board six years ago that the required plantings would not work and insisted that he had no intention of going into the wetlands now, which said was a swamp with snakes, in order to do any new planting. Mr. Barber advised the board that if it didn’t do anything to address the failed mitigation, it would set a precedent that would make the mitigation and/or bonding requirements meaningless. He suggested some alternative mitigation measures including using a special seed mix.
Councilman Bianco, the only board member who was on the town board when the permit was issued, said he questioned the value of the mitigation when he voted against granting the permit in 2007. In response, the homeowner said this was the first time he and Councilman Bianco agreed on something. Councilman Murphy appeared satisfied that the homeowner did what he was supposed to have done.
Supervisor Grace said a resolution would be put on next week’s agenda, but he didn’t say what it would say. In the meantime, he said he would visit the site.
Public hearing for a wetlands permit for a single house on Hanover Street at California Rd.
The half acre lot was approved as a buildable lot as part of an approved 1970 subdivision plan and it has a sewer permit. After representatives of the property owner described their plans for handling stormwater runoff from the site, mitigation measures and plans for a conservation easement on ther ear portion of the property, three area residentsdescribed flooding issues in the area. One resident said he had spoken to the builder who said that he couldn’t build on the site because of the water problems. (It was not clear who he was referring to as the “builder.”) The basic position of the applicant’s team was that building a 1,350 sq ft house on the property would not increase the volume of water or the speed that water flowing from the site and that there might actually be some improvment of both as a result of the mitigation measures.
Supervisor Grace advised the residents that if the town denied the wetlands permit, nothing would be done on the site; developing it might actually be an improvement. If the permit was denied, the property would likely end up in town ownership and become a concern for the town. Councilman Bianco expressed concern that if a house was built and subsequently flooded the homeowner would question why the town ever let the house be built.
The board adjourned the hearing and in the interim, the applicant’s team said it would meet with the neighbors to see if they could share ideas on how the flooding situation could be improved. The Town Board may also visit the site.