Citizens for an Informed Yorktown

 

Jefferson Valley Mall

Town Board, 5-27-2014

A representative of the Mall explained that Simon Properties wants to erect a temporary sign at the corner of Route 6 and Lee Blvd  announcing the  “coming soon” upgrade project. He anticipated being able to show the board  details of the sign in about two weeks. In the interim, the board gave its okay to two back to back signs that could be viewed by cars traveling east and west along Route 6. The approval was subject to the board approving the copy on the sign.

 


Town Board, 3-25-2014

After a brief discussion involving new signage requirements (see below), and a unanimous vote authorizing the supervisor to sign the amended Mall site plan, Supervisor Grace ceremoniously signed the plan.

 

Representatives of the Mall and ABACA have developed a Master Signage Plan for the Mall. According to Supervisor Grace, the only remaining issue was whether ABACA would  be entitled to review every sign as new stores opened, or as an alternative, have 30 days to review a proposed sign, after which, if no action was taken, the sign would be approved by default.

 

The supervisor and Mall attorney Al Capellini argued that as the Master Plan set standards for the signs, there was no need for any additional ABACA review as long as the proposed sign met the Plan’s standards.  Councilman Bianco agreed.  The Mall’s representatives explained that it would be difficult to make commitments to prospective tenants if there were delays getting approval for their signs.


Town Board, 2-25-2014

A member of ABACA ,who was present for another agenda item, advised the board that the advisory group has been working with the JV Mall team on proposed new signage. He expected that an agreement would be reached soon.


Town Board, 10-15-2013

After closing the public hearing, the Board voted unanimously to approve the amended site plan.

 

Mall representatives said the renovations would take approximately 1½ years to complete and that the mall would remain open during the process, although some portions might be closed down as the work  progresses. They indicated that they have a tenant for the vacant theater space but would not identify the tenant.  Additional restaurants are planned.

 

The only changes to the previously described plan was the mall’s commitment to landscape the Lee Boulevard islands with ground cover and shrubs  and some aesthetic changes to the building façade as requested by ABACA.  In response to questions from Councilman Paganelli about who would maintain the islands (the Parks Department currently mows the grass), representatives of the Mall said that they would look into the issue.

 

While all speakers at the hearing were supportive of the renovation plan, the president of the Jefferson Owners Corporation, speaking on behalf of the 1,000 condo owners, voiced  his group’s concern that stormwater runoff from the site not increase flooding at the Village.  The mall representatives assured the seniors that because the mall was downstream of the Village, stormwater would not flow to the Village. They also pointed out that the planned stormwater measures would actually result in a decrease of runoff from the site.

 

In response to comments from Greg Bernard, the mall team agreed to look at what could be done to improve sight distance problems at the Hill Blvd. entrance, possibly clearing away some overgrown shrubs.

 

As a condition of the site plan approval, the mall team will have to submit  a master signage plan and a landscape plan. The signs for individual stores will be subject to a sign permit process at a future date.  The Board also indicated that if the mall team could not come to an agreement with ABACA over remaining issues (that were not identified) within 60 days, the Board would act as an arbitrator and make a final determination.  

 

Only one person spoke in opposition to the plan; while he understood the mall’s need to make itself more visible, he felt that the plan did not preserve the proper balance between commercial needs and the town’s desire to maintain a green belt along Route 6.


Town Board, 9-24-2013

Representatives of the development team repeated the presentation made at Monday’s Planning Board meeting.  Supervisor Grace asked the team to consider landscaping a portion of the center island along Lee Blvd coming from Route 6, pointing out that it would be to the applicant’s advantage to have a more attractive entryway into the mall. 

 

The Board set a public hearing on the amended site plan for October 15.  To expedite the approval process, after the meeting with the Board, the Mall consultants met with ABACA.


Planning Board, 9-23-2013

Several members of the development team reviewed the main components of the planned renovation. (Note: the same presentation will be made at the September 24 Town Board meeting.  In addition to slides showing the changed facades, a video showed what the mall, with a newly landscaped berm, would look like driving east and west along Route 6.)

 

a. The plan will add 20,000 square feet to the existing building, mostly in the areas around the entrances on both levels and in order to accommodate new restaurants and an outdoor plaza on the Lee Blvd. side.

b. 79 additional trees will be added to the parking lot

c. The existing entrances on the upper level will be changed.  

d. The berm on Route 6 will be regarded a “minimal amount,” some white pines will be removed, the existing oaks will remain, and the berm re-landscaped.

 

The traffic consultant said that the upgrade would generate minimal additional traffic and was too insignificant to require any changes to existing intersections.

 

In general, the Board was very pleased with the presentation and will send a “warm and fuzzy” memo to the Town Board which has final site plan approval. The Board did ask the applicant to consider a “green wall” in the loading dock area.  Mr. Fon asked if the applicant might also consider some landscaping on the town-owned Lee Blvd median from Route 6  up to the site entrance. It was pointed out, though, that this would be up to the town to maintain.

 


Planning Board, 9-9-2013

On a referral from the Town Board, the Board reviewed a site plan showing changes to the existing parking lot and changes to the front and rear of the building.

 

The applicant said he planned to make a presentation at the September 24 Town Board work session that would include a video that will show the changes.

 

The plan calls for the addition of about 80 new landscaped islands throughout the parking lot and some recontouring and new landscaping of the berm along Route 6. (The status of the existing white pine trees  was not clear.) Additional drainage retention will be incorporated into some of the islands and changes will be made for ADA compliance.

 

A traffic analysis has determined that the 20,000 square feet of additional gross leasable area will not have any impact on existing traffic patterns and that the findings of a 2004 traffic study are still valid.

 

In response to a question from Mr. Flynn, the applicant said that the feasibility of a green roof had been explored but was not practical. 

 

The Board anticipates that it will have additional plans to review at its September 23 meeting.

 

Al Capellini, the applicant’s attorney, said he was hoping for a November public hearing on the amended site plan application.  

 


Town Board, 9-3-2013

The Board okayed a request for a permit to demolish a portion of the building and also referred the amended site plan application to various boards for review.  It also declared itself lead agency for SEQRA review purposes.  (There was no discussion of the details of the plan.)

 


Revisions to parking requirements for the mall and other commercial zones

 

Town Board, 1-8-2013

(See prior meeting summaries for background.)

 

The Board reconvened the hearing on the proposed local law that dealt with changes in the parking regulations for both the CRC zone (JV Mall) and other commercial zones, and opened two new hearingson separate laws for the CRC zone and other commercial districts.

 

After closing the three public hearings (see below), the Board ultimately voted unanimously to reject the original combined law and to adopt the two separate laws.

 

CRC zone (JV Mall)

Ray Arnold repeated comments made on December 18 that the changes were not necessary and Al Capellini, representing the mall, said that the new law gave “definition and direction” to the otherwise amorphous language in the existing code. He said, and Supervisor Grace agreed, that prospective tenants needed a clearer definition of the parking requirements.

 

Other commercial zones

Supervisor Grace repeated the reasons for the proposed reduction in the parking requirements. (See earlier meeting summaries.)

Although he basically agreed with the proposed reduction from 5 to 4 spaces, Ray Arnold cautioned the Board that it should not plunge into something that might not work. He said that there were other sections of the Town Code that regulated parking issues and that the Board should be looking at everything, not just the reduction from the 5 to 4 requirement.

 

Ann Kutter asked the Board to add specific language to the law that had she had drafted with the assistance of John Tegeder that would have required the approval authority to consider requiring sidewalks, where appropriate, during site plan review. In response, Supervisor Grace said he had no problem with the concept, but rather than amend the proposed parking provision, he suggested that the Town Board could, by a blanket resolution, direct the Planning Board to consider sidewalks. Councilman Bianco said that it might be better to include the sidewalk provision in the Land Development Regulations and that he would put the issue on next week’s work session agenda.

 

Width of parking spaces: Both Ms. Kutter and Paul Moskowitz questioned with width of parking spaces, although Supervisor Grace noted that the proposed law did not change the existing width requirements (7.5’ for compact cars and 8.5’ for other spaces). Ms. Kutter said that the current 8.5’ was not sufficient to allow the full opening of a car door to accommodate a handicapped person. Mr. Moskowitzwas critical of the 7.5’ requirement for compact cars which he said was difficult.

 

Costco: Mr. Moskowitz said that if the proposed law included Costco (which is in a C-3 zone), then it would constitute a segmentation violation of the SEQRA law. He said that under the current zoning, Costco was required to provided 755 spaces for its planned 151,000 square foot building but that the current site plan called for 610 spaces, which was based on the applicant getting a variance to the parking requirements. He suggested that either the parking law be postponed until after the Planning Board completed its SEQRA review, or it eliminate the C-3 zone from the law.

 

Supervisor Grace said that the Costco plan had nothing to do with the provision reduction in the parking requirements. A discussion ensured on how to deal with the Costco issue and although the town attorney said that any change specifically dealing with the elimination of a zone, or the elimination of a specific application would constitute a ‘substantial” change in the law and would require a new law to be advertised, the Board went ahead and unanimously agreed to amend the proposed law to add language specifically eliminating Costco from its requirements.

 


Town Board, 12-18-2012

Before opening the hearing up to the public, Supervisor Grace explained the reasons behind the proposed changes. (See previous meeting summaries.)

 

Comments from the public dealt with both the changes to the parking requirements for the CRC zone that covers the JV Mall as well as the parking requirements for other commercial zones. The discussion jumped between the two types of changes.

 

Early in the hearing, former Planning Director Ray Arnold advised the Board to split off the two issues, adding that the requirement for the general commercial zones needed more review.He said it was “bad legislation” to sneak in the other commercial zones with the changes in mall parking.During the course of the hearing, when the advisability of splitting off the two issues became increasingly apparent, and changes to the CRC provisions were added that the town attorney considered “substantial,” Supervisor Grace suggested that the Board pass the provisions dealing with the CRS tonight and leave the other changes for a later date. In response, Councilman Bianco said that he wanted to read the changes before voting on them and that the supervisor was rushing the issue, which led to the supervisor saying that the proposed split was easy enough to follow, to which the councilman replied that he could follow the changes but that he didn’t want to play games.

 

This led to some confusion as to which sections of the proposed law covered only the CRC zone, which covered both types of commercial zones, and whether changes to the CRC text were substantial enough to warrant a new public hearing.

 

Eventually, and at the suggestion of Al Capellini, the mall’s attorney, the Board voted to adjourn the public hearing on the amendments under discussion and advertise new public hearings for January 8 for two new laws, one for the CRC zone and one for other commercial zones.

 

What follows are comments made relative to the two types of commercial zones.

 

JV Mall changes

Mr. Arnold said that while the parking requirements in the existing law that combined parking and landscaping were amorphous, in practice, when the mall’s site plan was initially approved, it was left to the developer’s professional judgment to decide how many spaces were needed. At the time, the site plan called for 5 spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross leasable space; the site plan showed the gross leasable space as 575,000 square feet. He felt that the new language was not needed.

 

Mr. Capellini agreed that the old requirement was amorphous and he defended the proposed 4.25 requirement that would serve the mall’s present and future needs.

 

Ann Kutter, a member of the Planning Board but speaking for herself as a resident, asked that the amendments include language relating to sidewalks and bike lanes, a suggestion that the Planning Board included in its memo to the Town Board. Planning Director Tegedersaid that while these requirements couldn’t be quantified and were best left to site plan review, he added that it was a good idea to include a statement of intent in the law so that the developer knew from the beginning of the process what was expected of him.Supervisor Grace felt that such a requirement did not belong in a parking section of the zoning code and he suggested that Mr. Tegeder draft a proposed amendment to the Town’s land development regulations.

 

The revised amendments will include more specific language regarding landscaping requirements.

 

In general, there was no objection to the proposed 4.25 parking space requirement.

 

Other commercial zones

In support of the reduced parking requirements which he called long overdue, Supervisor Grace cited the new urban thinking and the trend to encourage walkable downtowns and, for environmental reasons, the desire to reduce impervious surfaces. He also said that reducing the number of required parking spaces would be an incentive to property owners to rehabilitate and/or expand their existing properties. Calling it a “first step,” he said that the current requirement was onerous, that they restrict ailing properties from being redeveloped and that they “sterilize” commercial properties. Mr. Arnold noted that it was the code’s Floor Area Ratio (FAR) that controlled the amount of building coverage, not parking requirements.

 

Some speakers, and Councilman Bianco wanted the word “minimum” added to the 4 spaces provision in lieu of the word “required,” although Supervisor Grace said that required was sufficient and that adding the word “minimum” was redundant.

 

Paul Moskowitz said he had no problem with the reduced requirement but feared that the reduced parking requirement could lead to larger buildings not more landscaping.

Several people spoke about the desire to use shared parking to reduce the number of parking spaces required for each development and also to cut down on the number of curb cuts and encourage walking but Henry Steeneck, a commercial property owner, brought up the issue of liability and which property owner would get sued in the event of a fall or other occurrence. Speaking as a personal injury lawyer, Supervisor Grace acknowledged the potential legal issue, adding that the Town can’t force shared parking but could incentivize it. He noted that the Town already had provisions in its code that allowes a 25% reduction in the number of parking spaces when there is shared parking.

 

Mr. Tegeder said that, unlike the CRC landscaping language, it would not be appropriate to add landscaping requirements to the code for other commercial zones because the size of the parcels and uses differed.He had no problem with the reduction in parking requirements which he said was consistent with national trends,

 

Several speakers raised issues related to Costco and its proposed parking and Mr. Moskowitz suggested that Costco could use the new requirements to reduce its planned parking spaces from 750 to 600.


Planning Board, 12-17-2012

 

JV Mall

Representatives of Simon Properties discussed the findings of a parking study that was conducted at the mall on Saturday, December 1, 2012.

 

Parking: Of the existing 2,917 spaces, the mall experienced its peak usage of 1,387 cars at 2:30 pm which calculates out to 2.98 spaces per gross leasable area (GLA), or to 3.28 spaces per GLA if a 10% growth factor is added in.The proposed parking requirement is 4.25 spaces per GLA and would result in a loss of 575 spaces.

The mall currently has 551,000 of GLA (this includes the kiosks and the food court).Future expansion plans that keep to the 4.25 spaces per GLA call for a possible addition of a maximum of 50,000-60,000 square feet.

 

The Board was comfortable with the proposed new requirement.

 

Landscaping:The Board was comfortable with the 1 tree per 12 parking spaces requirement as a bare minimum in order to provide shade and create a canopy effect. The Board would like to see additional language requiring additional landscaping that would be reviewed as part of the site plan approval process.

 

Other site plan considerations: At the suggestion of Ms. Kutter, the Board would like to see language added related to pedestrian amenities, including bike paths and sidewalks that would connect the parking lot to the stores.

 

Berm: Although not part of the proposed amendments, there was a brief discussion about the berm along Route 6. According to Planning Director Tegeder, it’s the trees, not the berm, that blocks the view of the stores and he suggested that the trees could be replaced with other landscaping.

 

Movie theater: Mall representatives indicated that at this time they were not hopeful that Simon could attract another movie tenant to the vacant space and that their current thinking for the future use of the space called for more retail and restaurants.

 

Parking requirement for other commercial zones

Much of this discussion focused on parking difficulties at the Turcos during certain days. According to Planning Director Tegeder,the existing ratio at the site is 3.87 spaces per 1,000 square feet. The proposed amendment calls for 4 spaces per thousand, down from 5 per thousand, a change the Board felt comfortable with. Representatives of the JV Mall explained that food stores typically require more parking spaces that shopping malls.

 


Town Board, 12-11-2012

Amendment to zoning code relating to parking requirements in the regional shopping center zone (JV Mall) and other commercial districts

Also slated for a December 18 public hearing, these changes will reduce parking requirements at the JV Mall to 4.25 spaces per square feet of gross leasable space and from 5 to 4 spaces per square feet in other commercial zones.Councilman Bianco noted that given the rise of online shopping, not as many parking spaces are needed today as in the past.

Planning Director Tegeder said that representatives of the JV Mall have been asked to present additional information about parking at the December 17 Planning Board meeting and that that information will be included in the Planning Board’s recommendations for the December 18 hearing.

 


Planning Board, 11-19-2012

A representative of Simon Properties, owner of the JV Mall, discussed proposed amendments in the parking, landscaping and signage requirements for the regional shopping center zone that have been drafted by town staff.

 

Parking: The amendments would replace the existing parking requirement language, which all agreed was outdated and confusing, with the following new language: the number of required spaces would be 4.25 spaces for each 1,000 feet of gross leasable space, which it was explained, is the current industry standard.It did not make sense, the representative said, to have more spaces just to accommodate parking needs for one week a year.(For other commercial districts, the requirement would be reduced from 5 to 4 spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area. Existing problems in the Turco parking lot were cited; that lot contains fewer than the 5 spaces .) Planning Director Tegeder asked Simon to quantify what the new parking requirements would mean when compared to the existing number of spaces.

 

Landscaping: There was no language in the proposed amendments but there was agreement that more trees were needed. It was suggested that it could be one tree per 12 parking spaces.The size of the trees could also be specified.The JV Mall representative suggested that the trees could be planted in diamond shaped islands that would not reduce the number of parking spaces. The company has used a similar approach in the Greenburgh and Hawthorne multiplex theaters.

 

Signage:The Simon representative proposed submitting a “signage package” with the revised site plan. The plan would be approved by the Town Board as part of the site plan approval process and would serve as a guide to prospective tenants.

 

General comments:Phase I of Simon’s plans will be to “turn the center inside out” and create a new façade facing Route 6 to increase visibility along the road. The existing berm along Route 6 will be modified so that the parking lot will be shielded but the stores made more viable.The revised site plan should be ready for submission shortly. Phase II, which calls for an expansion of the mall, will be considered based on the company’s experience with the Phase I changes.

 

Simon is expected to return to the Planning Board on December 3, and, after that meeting, the matter will be returned to the Town Board for a public hearing on the proposed zoning amendments.

 


Town Board, 10-23-2012

The Board briefly discussed proposed changes to the zoning ordinance that would reduce the parking requirements for the JV Mall, the only CRC, or Commercial Regional Shopping District. (Note: It was not clear to the observer whether the proposed amendments related to other commercial districts.)

 

In general, the amendments reduce the parking requirement from 5/1,000 sq feet to either 4/1,000 or 4.5/1,000. Supervisor Grace called the 5/1,000 requirement “ridiculous.” The amendments also have a provision that allows for a 25% reduction of the parking requirement. The amendments also distinguish between gross square footage and gross leaseable square footage which subtracts out stairways and corridors.

 

Other provisions dealt with the length of each parking space. The text deals with landscaping requirements but does not specify any numbers, leaving this up to the recommendations of advisory boards.

 

The Board voted 5-0 to refer the text to advisory boards.

 


Town Board, 10-2-2012

Proposed zoning ordinance amendments for regional shopping center requirements

In response to objections raised by Councilman Bianco who said he hadn’t seen the proposed amendments, the Board did not vote to refer the amendments out to advisory boards, staff and other agences.When Supervisor Grace explained that he had received the amendments earlier that day, Councilman Bianco responded that he believed the Board should review the document first before it was referred out. “Don’t you think we should talk (about) it first?” he asked. “Why rush.” Supervisor Grace said the changes had been discussed at any earlier meeting with representatives of the JV Mall but Councilman Bianco said he knew nothing about that meeting.Town Attorney Koster added that she hadn’t seen the text yet and that it was premature to refer it out.

 

While the Board did not vote to refer out the proposed changes, Supervisor Grace said he would refer the amendments to town staff which he said he could do without a Board resolution.

 

Supervisor Grace said the amendments were substantial and updated the existing “archaic” requirements in the code.


Town Board, 7-11-2012

Supervisor Grace and Councimen Paganelli and Murphy met for about an hour with six representatives of Simon Properties and several staff members and members of ABACA to discuss the company's plans to renovate the 30 year old mall.

 

The company is anxious to get moving on the renovation as soon as possible and town officials indicated their support for the project. Speaking for the Town, Supervisor Grace said that the continued viability of the mall was important for Yorktown and that town officials wanted to work closely with the company.

 

The informal daytime meeting was designed to give town staffers an opportunity to provide Simon with feedback on its conceptual plans and for Simon to get a better understanding of town procedures and processes in order to move the project forward as quickly as possible.Simon would like to begin work on Phase I of the renovation in early 2013 with an estimated 14-16 month construction schedule.

 

Simon outlined a two phase renovation program designed to make the outdated mall relevant to today’s shoppers. The overall goal is to create a village center feeling. To “animate’ the mall, Simon plans to reorient it to face outward with windows, doors and attractive signage. The company is currently carrying out a somewhat similar mall renovation in Nanuet.

 

Phase I of the renovation includes adding approximately 25,000-30,000 square feet of space in front of the existing building (on both levels) for a mix of new retail and restaurant use, new entrances to the interior, and some changes to the parking lot to make it more efficient. Plans will also be developed to either remove or alter the berm and row of trees along Route 6 that block the mall’s visibility from the road.No major changes in the layout of the parking lot are proposed.

 

Phase II, which is still in the conceptual stage, would include a 50,00 square feet stand alone building, also a mix of retail and restaurant use and possibly another small stand alone building. The timing of Phase II additions will depend on the results achieved by the Phase I renovations.

 

Although Simon did not indicate that it had any immediate plans to expand the footprint of the mall beyond the Phase I and Phase II plans, Supervisor Grace advised the company not to necessarily rule out that possibility in their long term plans.

 

The future of the vacant movie space remains in limbo. Simon representatives explained that with movie attendance declining, the company hasn’t been able to interest any potential movie tenants. And because of the expensive involved in renovating the space, a decision has been made for the present to “mothball” the space.

 

During the discussion, it became apparent that the zoning code provisions governing the regional shopping center zone are outdated and will have to be modified.Especially outdated are signage and parking requirements and language. Supervisor Grace suggested that the old language simply be thrown out and new language adopted that meets current needs and standards. He added that one of the goals of the new text should be to eliminate the need for Simon to return to a town board any time in the future it wants to make changes to an already approved master plan.

 

Staff members brought up the following issues:

Signage: All agreed that they liked the concept of a “village look” which would entail a mix of color and font on signs. Planning Director Tegeder cited the Palisades Mall as an example of what the Town would not want and suggested that there might be some positive examples in Pelham. Initially, the changes will only be made on the portions of the mall façade that Simon controls; Sears owns its own building and Macy’s, which leases its space, controls its area. The Simon representatives were optimistic, however, that once their efforts began to show results in revitalizing the mall, the two department stores would follow with changes to their facades.

 

Parking: A key issue that remains to be worked out is the berm along Route 6 that was designed 30 years to “shield” the building and which is not needed for safety reasons.The general sense was that while the visual impact of the parking lot should be softened, the revitalized exterior of the buildings did not have to be hidden. Mr. Tegeder suggested that with a creative landscaping plan, both the Town’s goal of retaining the greenway look along Route 6 and Simon’s goal of making the mall visible and inviting could be achieved. While the additional retail space in Phase I will not require any additional parking space, additional spaces will be needed in order to accommodate the Phase II buildings. Simon representatives were confident that there was room on the existing 50 acre site for the additional parking.

 

Process and timetable: While site plan issues are being worked out between Simon and staff, the company will submit a draft of the new zoning text to the town in approximately 2-3. The changes will be subject to a public hearing.

 

Working with town staff, Simon will decide how it wants to treat its Phase I and Phase II plans in order to comply with SEQRA requirements and avoid what is known as segmentation, or splitting up phases of a larger project. The issue may be addressed by having the Town approve site specific changes for Phase I at the same time a Master Plan for the site that incorporates Phase II is also approved but without specific details.

 

Additional work sessions with the Town Board will be scheduled as needed either in the daytime or evening.