Planning Board, 1-27-2020
The board renewed the permit, adding language that the facility could service up to 24 flights a year, but no more than six per month. The current limit is 18 flights per year. In 2019, there were no complaints about the 9 flights that took place.
Planning Board, 2-23-2015
With no additional discussion, the Planning Board voted to approve the renewal of this special use permit for 5 years.
The two year permit is up for renewal. A company representative ad vised the board that there were five fights in 2014, three of which carried passengers; the remaining two were for training. The permit allows up to 18 flights a year. No complaints have been received
At its next meeting, the board will vote to renew the permit for 5 years but will ask for yearly reports.
In what was not completely clear to the public, it appeared that the county wanted to change a 30 year old agreement that would extend the existing Ossining Sewer District to incorporate the IBM Watson Research Center. Although the building has its own sewage treatment plant, and it did pay a “buy-in” fee to the county district when the building was constructed, it never actually became part of the district.
(When an out of district property wants to be included in a county sewer district, the Town Board must first pass a resolution requesting the expansion. The ultimate decision rests with the Westchester County Board of Legislators.)
The board had no problems with the IBM facility being added to the district but did have questions about whether existing homeowners along the truck line would also be able to join the district and whether the expansion would open up the possibility of other properties in the area tying into the district, such as an earlier proposal involving a Hog Hill property. Citing the Wallach property in the Hunterbrook area, Town Engineer Robinson explained that the county board does not support allowing undeveloped properties becoming part of an existing sewer district.
At Supervisor Grace’s suggestion, a representative of IBM will draft an appropriate resolution for the board to vote on.
Public hearing on IBM wetlands and erosion and sedmiment permit for a fiber optic line.The Board approved the permit request so that IBM can install a second, redundant fiber optic line. The new underground line will come off Route 134.
In a 5-0 vote, the Board approved granting a two year special permit that limits the number of flights to 18 per year, not counting emergency services use. The initial draft resolution included language for a one year permit but the Board felt that a two year permit was more appropriate given IBM’s substantial investment in constructing the helistop. The draft also limited the number of flights to 10 per year and was increased in response to Mr. Kincart’s question to IBM representatives: “Let us know now if that is adequate.” The representatives said that while they initially asked for 12 flights and would have preferred to have double the amount, they were satisfied with the 18 flight limitation.
Ms. Kutter and Mr. Kincart noted that IBM had been very responsive to residents’ concerns about noise and flight pattern issues. A letter from the county assured the Board that the helistop would in no way impact the county airport.
Although no representatives from IBM attended the meeting, after a brief discussion, the Board determined that it would send a memo to the Town Board stating that it had no planning issues with the referral.
Wetlands permit for fiberoptic cable and helistop
The company is planning to install a new underground fiber optic cable. Because, at one point, the cable will be located on top of an existing culvert, a wetlands permit is required. The Board had no problem with the application, referred it out, and set a public hearing for September 4.
At the suggestion of Supervisor Grace , the Board voted 4-1 with Councilman Bianco voting no, to recommend to the Planning Board that it approve the request for a special permit for the helistop.Councilman Bianco said he voted against the resolution because he did not think it appropriate for the Town Board to get involved in a Planning Board issue.
The Board convened a public hearing on the requested special permit application. Representatives from IBM gave a presentation of the company’s plan, repeating comments made at earlier meetings.They said they expected one landing/takeoff per month but wanted approval for up to two landings/takeoffs per month. They anticipated the activity would take place between7am-9pm, but mostly during normal business hours and mostly between Monday-Friday.
In response to comments from two residents about noise from helicopters that currently fly over the area, the IBM pilot explained that the company practices “good neighbor flying” practices which involve a combination of technical measures, such as reducing power during certain parts of the flight, and culture, including trying not to fly over houses when possible. He explained that the helicopters the residents heard over their homes were not IBM helicopters and were likely cruising by on their way to other destinations. The pilot also explained that IBM helicopters flew at between 1,500 t0 2,000 feet but could descend to 1,300 feet if needed due to cloud issues.The helicopters do not have instrument capability to fly when visibility is limited.
Mr. Flynn explained that the special permit will be renewable so that if problems arise in the future, they can be addressed at renewal time.
The hearing was closed but a comment period left open for 10 days.
Parking Lot Expansion (see below for details)
As part of the previously approved plan, IBM requested that its SWPP (stormwater) permit be amended so that soil excavated from the parking lot area could be stockpiled on the proposed location for the helipad. Once the helipad application is approved, the soil will be graded as per the plan prior to the installation of the subsurface grasspave system that will be used for the helipad.The Board had no problem with the request and the Planning Department will draft an appropriate memo.
Representatives of IBM. Including the head of its aviation division and one of its helicopter pilots, answered a series of questions from the Board and two area residents.
IBM representatives explained the findings of the “noise” study they conducted in response to the Board’s earlier request. The study, which included monitoring noise from four different locations between 1,3000 to 2,000 feet from the proposed helistop, recorded all noises, from passing trucks to helicopter flybys at between 1,500 to 2,000 feet high – the height they would be flying at before making a rapid descent. Using the noise level produced by toilet flushing, showers, and dishwashers as a comparison, they said that the flyby actually generated less noise. They agreed than when helicopters flew low, at 500 feet, the noise was greater, but they assured the residents and the Board that their goal was to be “good neighbors” and that by controlling their maneuvers, they could limit the noise to area residents. They also explained that the impact of the landings and departures would be less than one minute.
In addition to their concern about the noise, the residents, citing the presence of two day care centers in the area, expressed concern about the possibility of a catastrophic happening. They also questioned why the visitors who would be arriving by helicopter couldn’t drive the 20 minutes from Westchester County airport. In response, IBM said that even though the helistop would likely be used for less than 10 trips a year, it was in the corporation’s interest to spend $500,000 to build it if it helped clinch billion dollar deals. He said that the trips would be for CEOs of major companies whose time to visit the site might be limited.
IBM explained that in the absence of any town law regulating helicopter landings, the machines were allowed to land anywhere in town. Historically, the company had used the field across Route 134 for landings. When it decided that it wanted to build an actual helistop, it approached the town and it was then decided that the Board would create a special permit provision in the zoning code for the OB zone.
The Board will set a public hearing on the special permit request for August. If the Board approves granting the permit, will be able to include conditions such as number of flights, times of day, and a requirement that a log be kept of resident complaints. As the permit would be subject to renewal , the log could be reviewed at renewal time.
Planning Board, 6/25/2012
Two representatives from IBM presented plans for a 100 foot helistop on the lawn immediately in front of the building. They explained that they had worked with the IBM pilot to review existing topography, trees and the presence of nearby homes before deciding exactly where to locate the helistop and what the projected flight path would be. They said they anticipated about 6-7 landings a year, with a likely maximum of 10, with each landing and takeoff lasting only a few minutes.
In response to questions from Planning Board members, it was decided that IBM would have the pilot attend the next meeting, scheduled for July 16 as he would be the best person to answer questions relating to noise, decent procedures, and other technical information.The applicant will also provide decibel readings at three locations on the site and in the immediate area.
When IBM said that it was hoping to begin construction in August so that it could plant the new grass covering over the helistop in September, Planning Board members said that while they didn’t want to hold up an important property owner, they also had a responsibility to make sure that they did their due diligence concerning issues of concern to other property owners.Planning Director Tegeder also told the applicant that the plans needed to be forwarded for review to Westchester County, DEP and New Castle and Ossining.IBM said it has already been in touch with the Fire Department. Chairman Fon advised the representatives to meet with Planning Director Tegeder prior to the July 16 meeting to make sure the board had the requested information by July 16. He also suggested that IBM touch base with the Building Department regarding code issues.
For notes on the public hearing relating to the helistop, see Legislation/Approval Authority.
Duuring Courtesy of the Floor, Mike Byrnes took issue with the pending request from IBM for a special permit to construct a helistop at its Route 134 facility on safety grounds and also expressed concern that residents of the area had not been notified of the pending public hearing on the application. He said they should have been mailed a notice about the May 1st hearing date.Supervisor Grace explained that IBM believes that the proposed new helistop will be a better operation than their current use of the ballfield on the other side of Route 134. He advisedMr. Bynes to express his concerns at the upcoming hearing.
Councilman Bianco noted that there were two parts to the May 1st hearing: the establishment of a special permit for a helistop in an OB zone, and shifting site plan approval for OB zones to the Town Board from the Planning Board.
After submitting revised plans that satisfactorily addressed all 14 items identified by the Planning Department, the board unanimously declared itself lead agency for SEQRA, issued a negative declaration, and approved the site plan and stormwater permit and tree permit. The site plan will not need New York City DEP approval.
Representatives of IBM presented plans for the addition of 101 parking spaces as previously discussed with the Town Board (see below). They pointed out that the additional spaces would basically return to site to what it looked like in the 1960s. They repeated the drainage swap system outlined to the Town Board as a unique way to handle the runoff from the site. To accommodate the new parking spaces, approximately 15 white pines will have to be removed. Planning Director John Tegeder said that more information about the exact number of trees and their dbh (diameter at breast height) would be needed before determining whether a tree permit would be required. He said that mitigation would not be needed as the plan disturbed less than 30% of the site’s trees. John Kincart suggested that given the location of the trees, if IBM could live with a few fewer spaces, it might not be necessary to remove the trees. The IBM representatives said they would take a look at whether that would work for them. They explained that their calculation on the number of needed spaces was based on an historical review of the number of employees who actually “badged in and out” on a daily basis.
As the board had no other concerns, it was agreed that the Planning Department will draft an approval resolution for the board’s next meeting.
IBM will have to get DEP approval after the Planning Board approves the plan.
Representatives from IBM addressed the board on two separate issues: the construction of a helipad and an expansion of the existing parking lot. Although the applications were different, they both raised issues over whether the Planning Board or the Town Board has or should have jurisdiction over approving each application and over the need to change the town’s Zoning Ordinance. The board was supportive of both projects and wanted to push both along, but Planning Director John Tegeder advised the board that the town could not accept applications from IBM until the proper laws existed. The change in the laws had to come first, he said. In the meantime, it was agreed that IBM will continue to work with town staff to perfect its plans (they have been meeting for months on the projects) while town officials decide on the legal issues.
a. Helipad. The company is requesting permission to construct a helipad on the lawn in front of the visitor parking area so that it would no longer need to use the existing ballfield across the road which they said was not a safe location. The new facility, which would consist of a grass paving system that utilized grass growing out of a plastic grid, would be lit only when in use, and would be further from any houses than the existing ballfield. The flight pattern would be from I-684 and with a sharp drop down to the helipad. The IBM spokesman indicated that in the past five years, the ballfield site was used perhaps two to three times a year and that the company estimated that the new use, necessitated by changingbusiness needs and which was being built to accommodate senior customers and high level officials, might be used for six to eight trips a year. Usage would be during normal business hours.The company would also make the site available to the town’s emergency services providers.
Building Inspector John Winter called the board’s attention to the fact that the current Zoning Ordinance has no provision for a helipad and that if a use isn’t specifically listed in the Ordinance, then it isn’t permitted. Planning Director John Tegeder then advised the board that it had two options: it could amend the current OB1 zone in which IBM is located to include helipads, or it could establish a special permit for a helipad. Both options raised other issues; if the OB1 zone was amended, then properties in other OB1 zones would be entitled to construct helipads. (Contractor’s Register in Jefferson Valley and the office buildings on Strang Blvd are the only other properties located in an OB1 zone.) If the board preferred the special permit route, than the issue would be which board should be the approving authority: the Town Board or the Planning Board. At the conclusion of the discussion, it appeared that the board preferred making a helipad a secondary use permitted in an OB1 zone and subject to the Town Board’s approval. (See discussion below on transferring approval authority for certain types of projects from the Planning Board to the Town Board.)
b. Expansion of parking lot.
In order to accommodate approximately 455 new employees who will be relocating to the Kitchawan facility from the company’s current Hawthorne location some time after Labor Day, the company needs to expand its existing parking facilities. The plan calls for converting a location adjacent to the current parking lot that previously housed modulars to be converted into a 247 space lot, although only 100 spaces would be constructed initially.Also, as part of the plan, the existing lot would be restriped and an abutting satellite lot would be repaved and stripped. Because workers come and go at different hours, the additional cars were not expected to create traffic problems.
Several issues were raised as part of the discussion without any resolution. First, enviornmental consultant Bruce Barber advised the board that both the helipad and parking lot applications would have to be reviewed by the NYC DEP because the property is in the Croton Watershed. While the town may look at the applications as two distinct projects, he said that DEP might look at them as one and that the combined size of both might trigger a more significant DEP involvement in both projects.
Mr. Barber also explained that the project required an erosion control permit and that raised the issue of which board, the Planning Board of the Town Board would be the approving authority. Mr. Tegeder stated that because the application was for an amendment to a site plan, the erosion permit should be handled by the Planning Board. Supervisor Grace appeared to disagree. No final determination was made. (See discussion below on transferring approval authority for certain types of projects from the Planning Board to the Town Board.)
Concerns were also raised about how IBM would handle drainage from the site. The company’s preferred plan called for a drainage swap that involved diverting drainage from the building’s roof to an unused and open 250,00 gallon storage tank near the site’s treatment plan. Supervisor Grace indicated that he had some concerns about the safety of this type of use. Mr. Barber stated that he needed more information about water volumes, phosphorous removal, and other technical issues before offering an opinion.