Town Board, 2-5-2019
Stating that he wanted to correct the record on the Mall’s decision not to proceed with the proposed new building at the northeast corner of the site, Town Attorney Abbate explained that because the site plan previously approved by the Town Board did not conform to the Zoning Code two variances were needed, one for the size of the lot where the new building would be, and a second for the setback of the building. He explained that only the Zoning Board can grant variances. He said that the ZBA never asked the Mall to revise its site plan and that it was the Mall’s decision to withdraw its application before the ZBA.
Commenting on the statement made by former supervisor Grace at the previous meeting that the Mall had been given bad advice about the need for a variance, Mr. Abbate added that the Mall was represented by a very knowledgeable Westchester law firm and lawyers from the Oxman Group who currently provide legal services to the town were not involved in the decision.
Later in the meeting, during Courtesy of the Floor, former councilman Greg Bernard who was on the board when the amended site plan was approved, stated that variances weren’t needed and that the Town Board’s site plan approval was all that was needed.
Town Board, 1-22-2019
Although not on the agenda, two items concerning the mall were discussed.
Planned addition of retail stores off the ring road
In response to the article in last week’s Yorktown News about the mall’s owners (Washington Prime) backing out of its expansion plan, Councilman Lachterman expressed concern over the change of plans and suggested that it had something to do with the owner withdrawing its application to the Zoning Board for a variance for the new building. He also implied that the change of plans was related to the time it took the company to get its approvals. Supervisor Gilbert rejected the notion that the Zoning Board was responsible for the plan change and said he had been told by the someone from the company that the change was due to changing market conditions. (Reading from an online posting, the supervisor’s assistant advised the board that Washington Prime was selling off some of its other properties.) Supervisor Gilbert disputed Councilman Diana’s comment that the company had no appetite to come back.
Councilwoman Roker said that if Washington Prime was having any difficulties with any town board, it was up to the company to speak to the supervisor. She also said that Mr. Lachterman was raising the issue for political reasons, something which he denied.
Former supervisor Michael Grace said there was no reason why Washington Prime had to go to the Zoning Board in the first place, adding that whoever gave them that advise was wrong. (The site plan for the expansion was approved by the Town Board in 2017.)
As part of the discussion, it was noted that that the deed transferring ownership of the ring road to the town, which was an integral part of the approved site plan, has not been filed with the county even through the agreement was signed last May. Highway Superintendent Paganelli indicated that this might be an indication that the mall was having issues with the expansion plan. He added that under the terms of the agreement, the town could give the road back if the expansion plan didn’t materialize.
Water connection at the mall
Councilwoman Roker asked former supervisor Michael Grace, now the attorney for Seritage (owner of the Sears portion of the mall) to explain the issue he raised in a letter that board members had just received. The plan to lease the space to 24 Hour Fitness includes a swimming pool but before the county Department of Health approves the pool, it wants the town to take over the water supply loop system that services the mall and adjoining residential properties. Supervisor Gilbert and Councilman Roker expressed concern that this would mean the town assuming responsibility for a 40 year old private system but Mr. Grace said that Washington Prime was not prepared to invest in new infrastructure. The issue will require further discussion.
Planning Board, 7-16-2018
The Planning Department will send a memo to the ZBA in support of the variance which is related to the subdivision of the properties as part of the ring road agreement.
Planning Board, 6-11-2018
The applicant explained the subdivision of the former Sears parcel as part of the agreement for the town to take over the ring road. Showing photos of poorly maintained sections of the existing road, Bill Beck questioned what would happen once the town took over the road. In response, the applicant’s attorney stated that as part of the approved agreement between the town and the mall owners, the mall owner has agreed to upgrade the road’s existing condition and maintain it. Mr. Tegeder advised the board that there were a few technical details in the approving resolution that had to be resolved. The hearing was closed. The applicant needs a variance.
Town Board, 5-22-2018
The architect outlined minor changes in the approved site plan involving the Sear’s use only of the second floor. The changes include the façade treatment around the new Sears entrance and some adjustments to parking. The board had no issues with the changes and a resolution will be prepared for a vote at a future meeting. According to the architect, no tenants have been identified for the planned new retail space.
Planning Board, 5-21-2018
As a follow through of the agreement for the town to take ownership of the “ring road” around the mall, the mall owners have prepared a plan to subdivide the existing mall properties so that ownership of the parcels that include the road can be separated out from the mall parcels. A Public Informal Hearing will be held on June 11.
Town Board, 4-24-2018
Representatives from Washington Prime, the owners of the mall, advised the board that their construction plans had been put on hold pending the town’s making certain documents, e.g., the Maintenance Agreement for taking over the ring road, available. (The prior Town Board approved the Agreement in December, 2017, but it required the Highway Superintendent’s signature, and that was not forthcoming until this past week.) Supervisor Gilbert explained that the hold-up was the town’s waiting for confirmation that the DOT would permit the new right turn lane into the mall if the town assumed ownership of the road. That confirmation was received on or about April 19. The supervisor added that although there were errors in the DOT letter, such as the statement that the town will pay for the new road when Washington Prime has agreed to pay for the road, he didn’t see these as major issues.
On procedural issues, Washington Prime noted that the prior board’s approvals were due to expire and asked that the current board vote to renew them. The board had no issue and will do so at a regular meeting. Mr. Tegeder also advised Washington Prime that they would have to apply to the Planning Board for subdivision approval as the property that encompasses the ring road will be split off from the larger mall parcel when it is turned over to the town.
Town Board, 4-3-2018
Tony Grasso asked about the status of the draft agreement for the town to take ownership of the ring road around the Mall approved by the previous board. Councilwoman Roker said the Town Board has done what it had to do and it was now up to the highway superintendent to sign off on the agreement. In response, Mr. Grasso said that if the superintendent didn’t sign off, he should be “taken to the wood shed.”
Town Board, 12-19-2017
In two items not on the agenda, the board voted to accept the dedication of the ring road around the complex and also to authorize the supervisor to sign a maintenance agreement with the mall owners for the road. No details of the agreement were available. During Courtesy of the Floor, Steward Glass expressed concern that incoming Supervisor-elect Gilbert should have been involved in the drafting of the agreement as it will be the new board that have to live with it. Supervisor Grace said that Highway Superintendent Paganelli had reviewed the agreement.
In a series of votes, some of which the supervisor called “consensus votes,” the board approved the following resolutions after briefly outlining the points that had been previously agreed to in work sessions. See prior meeting summaries for details.
(Note: Supervisor Grace explained that written approval resolutions and SEQRA resolutions were not ready and it appeared that the resolutions that were voted on may have authorized the supervisor to sign the actual site plan map. According to the supervisor, the signed map is more important than any written resolution. In some instances, the board also approved a SEQRA negative declaration.)
Amended site plan. Keeps the 26’ pylon sign. The road maintenance agreement has not been finalized.
Changes to CRS zone to allow for a fitness center.
Amended site plan for Sears site. The board reconvened the hearing and after closing it, voted to approve the amended plan.
24 Hour Fitness
The applicant adjusted the appearance and location of the signs as per the board’s previous request; the board was satisfied with the changes. There was some discussion about changes to the landscaping and removing some trees and replanting others in a different location. The board will reconvene the public hearing at the next meeting and an approval is anticipated.
Mall pylon sign
Based on the balloon test, the board had no problem with a 26’ sign, indicating that a taller sign would also be acceptable, but suggested that the applicant move the sign to a different location.
The agreement for the town to take ownership of the ring road remains to be worked out. Mr. Paganelli estimated that bringing the road up to spec and repaving would cost approximately $135,000. The board indicated that this work could be done over time, especially the portion of the road that will be disturbed during the construction of the new stores.
The possibility that the mall could relocate a town sewer line that has had problems was rejected by the mall engineers as not practical.
With a very brief discussion, the board said it had no problem approving a larger sign than allowed in the mall’s Master Sign Plan, for the new Stone Rose restaurant.
A vote to approve the mall’s amended site plan is anticipated at the next board meeting.
The main discussion was the signage for 24 Hour Fitness with the board and Mr. Tegeder suggesting alternate locations and appearance. The applicant said he would study the issue further.
There was no decision on the height of the pylon sign that the mall owners want to erect outside Dicks that would be visible from Route 6. Supervisor Grace suggested an alternate site that he thought would offer better visibility. The applicant will arrange a balloon test at both locations.
The public hearing on the Sears amended site plan and a decision statement on the other two closed public hearings will be held in abeyance until all remaining issues are resolved.
The board held three public hearings related to the mall. (For background on each issue, see text below)
Amended site plan to accommodate three new retail spaces
The two major issues were the height of the proposed pylon sign near Dicks that would be visible from Route 6 and the town takeover of the ring road.
The board, and also ABACA, are concerned about the proposed 26’ tall sign that would be the tallest in Yorktown. (The town’s code limit signs to 16’ and the sign at the Staples Center is just over 16’.) The applicant explained that in response to earlier concerns from the board, it had reduced the height which originally was over 30’; it wants the sign visible to motorists along Route 6, traveling the speed of the road. On the suggestion of Councilman Bernard, the applicant will erect a balloon at the proposed site so that the board can do a site visit and see the impact of the sign.
Supervisor Grace explained that the DOT will only allow the new entrance to the mall from Route 6 on condition that the town take over the ring road and the board wants to do what it can to insure the continued viability of the mall. While the mall owner will be responsible for snow plowing, and the road will be brought up to town specs before the town accepts it, still to be worked out is an agreement for long term maintenance costs. Highway Superintendent Paganelli pointed out that when the town took over several county roads in Yorktown as part of the Legacy Fields agreement, it received a one shot sum of money for paving the roads. But that was 10 years ago and the roads will have to be repaved again in the future at the town’s expense. Mr. Paganelli also wanted the liability issue clarified and the town engineer asked the applicant if an existing town sewer line that has had a history of problems could be rerouted under the ring road.
The hearing was closed. The applicant will likely appear at next week’s work session so that final issues can be ironed out and an approving resolution voted on at the first meeting in October.
Zoning Code change to allow a health/fitness use
Al Capellini, speaking on behalf of the mall, explained that malls across the county are repurposing and introducing new types of uses in response to the changing retail environment. Bill Beck of Club Fit as well as Councilman Bernard, expressed concern that a fitness center that had no internal connection to the mall would not help bring traffic to the mall. Other speakers suggested that the mall owners look for other possible users that would bring shoppers to the mall. In response, the applicant explained that if Seritage, the owner of the Sears parcel, could not lease the space, the loss of rental income would lead to a reduction in the parcel’s assessed value and tax revenue to the town.
The hearing was closed. The board postponed a vote.
Amended site plan for Sears parcel
The applicant explained that some changes have been made to the 24 Fitness sign as per ABACA’s comments but that the new plan has not been reviewed by the advisory board. Bill Beck also questioned the traffic generation numbers provided by the applicant and said that the town hadn’t done its due diligence on environmental issues.
The hearing was adjourned to give the board more time to work out issues with the applicant.
Supervisor Grace explained that the proposed change to reduce the parking requirement from 4.25 spaces per gross leased area to 4.0 spaces was similar to the parking requirement change done in 2012 for all other commercial zones. Both a representative of the mall’s owner, Washington Prime, and its local attorney, Al Capellini, defended the change on the grounds that the retail environment has changed substantially since the 1980s when the mall was first built with a 5.0 parking requirement. They stated that the new requirement meets the needs of the mall’s tenants – the businesses that should be the most concerned about parking.
Local businessman Bill Beck from Club Fit opposed the change saying that more parking will be needed once the mall is fully leased.
After closing the hearing, the board approved the parking change in a 5-0 vote.
The teams from both the mall and Sears repeated the presentations they made the previous week to the Town Board. The board had no issues with the mall plan, but did express concern about the height of the pylon sign.
The plans presented by the Sears team incorporated architectural changes that the Town Board had requested. Still unresolved is the location of the dumpsters for the proposed restaurant in the former Sears auto shop. The applicant noted several site limitations on possible alternate locations but will take another look at the issue.
Mr. Kincart noted that he’d rather see a retail use instead of a gym which he believed would not help draw traffic to the mall.
The Planning Department will draft a memo that the board will review at its September meeting before it is sent to the Town Board prior to the September 19 public hearing.
Town Board, 8-8-2017
Following up on their previous meeting with the board, representatives of Washington Prime reviewed their plan for the new entrance road from Route 6 and the proposed new 8,000 SF retail building in the unused blacktopped area in the northeast corner of the sit
Road. The state DOT will wait until the town has agreed to take possession of the ring road around the entire site before giving the applicant the okay for the new entrance from Route 6. To construct the new entrance, the existing berm along Route 6 will have to be lowered between 4-6 feet. Landscaping on the berm will continue the design currently in place. Mr. Tegeder asked the applicant for visuals that would show the impact of lowering the berm from Route 6.
The Mall will be responsible for the maintenance of the road and a Maintenance Agreement will need to be worked out. Councilman Bernard noted that there are some portions of the ring road in need of an upgrade. Also to be decided is the legal framework that will separate out the road from the Mall parcel as a separate taxable entity.
Parking: Mall representatives requested that the board change the parking requirements for the site from 4.25 spaces/gross leased area to 4 spaces, the same as required in other commercial zones. Supervisor Grace said he thought this change had already been made but the representatives said it hadn’t. A public hearing on a text change to the zoning code that reduces the parking requirement to 4 spaces/gross leased area was scheduled for September 5.
New building. Although tenants have been signed up yet, the applicant anticipated that two of the three storefronts would be for “quick serve” food, with at least one with a drive-thru and an outdoor eating area, and a third retail space. A 3-6 foot retaining wall will need to be built along one side of the site. Much of the discussion centered around the location for the dumpsters and the need to balance the needs of the tenants with the physical constraints of the site and safety. The board was also concerned about adding more landscaping to the parking area but the applicant stated that adding more landscaping would require eliminating parking spaces and that there was a need to balance tenant needs and aesthetics.
In response to Councilman Bernard’s comment about the need for some pedestrian access from the site to the main mall, the applicant raised safety concerns and it did not appear that such an access would be likely.
Signage: The applicant is proposing three new signs; two monument signs listing the major stores and one 30 foot plyon sign, along the ring road roughly opposite Dicks. Supervisor Grace expressed concern about the sign’s height saying it would be the largest sign in Yorktown. (The town attorney noted that the flag pole in front of town hall was 35 feet.) For the applicant, the issue was one of visibility for drivers along Route 6.
The board voted to refer out the plan with a September 12 return date for comments and set a September 19 hearing on the amended plan. The board encouraged the applicant to work through the issues that had been discussed with the advisory boards and off line with the Town Board if necessary prior to the hearing with the hope that on the 19th, the board would be able to approve the amended site plan.
(Note: The Sears portion of the mall building and the parking area surrounding it is a separate parcel owned by Seritage, the company that owners Sears properties.)
The applicant showed plans for the renovated building with proposed architectural façade treatments and signage for 24 Hour Fitness, the name of the national fitness center company that will occupy slightly more than half of the first floor. Supervisor Grace and some other board members had concerns about the sign, including the italic lettering, the use of a red band along a corner of the building and what Supervisor Grace called a “prison like” look on the façade of the addition. The applicant said he would look at how all these issues could be addressed.
In the parking area, 17 existing trees will be removed but replaced with 17 new trees in other locations of the parking lot.
In response to Supervisor Grace’s concern at the previous meeting about whether a new fitness center could be competitive with the nearby Club Fit and other fitness centers in Somers, a representative of 24 Hour Fitness said that the company had done a comprehensive market study and felt that its main competition would be the New York Sports Authority in Somers, not Club Fit which was described as more like a country club atmosphere. He said his company plans to charge $44.99, a rate that will be lower than the Somers facility which is planning a rate increase.
Although hours of operation were not discussed, a representative of 24 Hour fitness said that in some towns, the facility was not allowed to operate 24 hours per day.
The board voted to refer out the plans and hold a hearing on September 19 together with the hearing for the JV Mall. Although there will end up being one amended site plan, each application likely to be considered in separate approving resolutions.
The hearing on the 19th will also include an amendment to the zoning code to allow a fitness center use in the regional shopping center zone.
Washington Prime, the owners of the mall announced the following proposed changes:
New entrance from Route 6: The DOT has given the company conceptual approval for an entrance road into the site from Route 6. The new road will link up to the existing ring road around the mall which will then be dedicated to the town. Planning Director Tegeder questioned how the berm along Route 6 that has already been lowered might be modified even more to accommodate the new entrance from Route 6. The applicant said that some changes will be needed to assure proper site distance but no specifics were available. Mr. Tegeder noted that the view from Route 6 should be of the buildings, not the parking lot.
2. New retail pad: The unused portion of the parking lot in the northeast corner will be developed into a pad for more retail stores. No details or site plan was available.
3. The Sears building, now owned by Seritage, will be reconfigured. Sears will relocate its operation to the second floor, and the first floor, with a 5,000 SF addition in the area of the merchandise pick up will be split into 3 separate spaces, each with its own entrance. The largest space will be for a 24 hour fitness center that is close to having a lease. (The name Planet Fitness was heard, but the CI^Y observer isn’t confirming that this is the possible tenant.) No other tenants were not identified for the other two spaces; the Seritage representative said that a lease needed to be signed for the fitness space in order to attract the other two users. The Sears auto center on the second floor will be converted into a restaurant.
While supporting the repurposing of the Sears site and in general supportive of the overall plan, Supervisor Grace expressed concern that the proposed fitness center, that would include a pool, sauna, basketball and cardio facilities, would compete with Club Fit on the northern side of Route 6. He noted that Club Fit was a family owned business with strong ties to the community. (It was not clear if Seritage was aware of Club Fit’s proximity.) Councilman Bernard disagreed with the supervisor , noting that the two facilities served very different clientele.
The company agreed to have a representative of the fitness center make a presentation to the board at a future meeting.
Signage: There was a brief discussion about some of the entrance signs to the site on Lee and Hill Blvds.
Brandon Boyster, the Mall manager, appeared before the board to ask for a reduction in the Mall’s water bill for 2013-2015. He explained that during that period, when water usage was being estimated, management was not aware that there was a leak in a cooling tower which has subsequently been repaired. (It was unclear if there was also a problem with a defective meter.) Instead of being billed at $8.09/1,000 gallons, he asked the board for “consideration” to pay only $5.50/1,000 gallons. He said the additional water charge had cost the mall $51,000 over what would have been “normal” usage and that the additional cost would be passed on to the Mall’s tenants. (In an exchange that was not clear to the CIY observer, Supervisor Grace advised Mr. Boyster that the $8.09/1,000 charge was already an accommodation as the regular rate was $12/1,000 gallons.)
The board declined the Mall’s request noting that doing so would open up a can of worms when other water customers challenge their bills.
Supervisor Grace said he would check with the Water Department why the 2013-2015 bill had been estimated.
Work is about to begin on the renovation and upgrade of the JV Mall.
Steve Shea, Simon vice president for development, together with the engineer and architect on the project gave the board an update on how the work will proceed in three phrases. (Although the mall has been sold, Simon has a contract with the new owner to implement the renovation and continue the leasing and management of the mall.)
Phase I will be the demolition of the old theater area and preparation of the space for a sports equipment and apparel retailer. The work may take to the end of the year.
Phase 2, which will begin as soon as the demolition work is completed, will include renovations to the north and south facades of the building including new outward facing entries for the stores, as well as extensive landscape enhancements. Simon Properties anticipates that the new tenant for the vacated theater space will be able to open for the 2016 holiday season.
Phase 3 involves some additions to both the north and south entry areas, including some new restaurants. The timing on this phrase is, in Simon’s words, “tenant driven,” with the expectation that once prospective tenants see the work being one on Phase 2, they’ll be interested in leasing space.
Simon will not have to come back to the Town Board for any additional approvals.
I reported that in 2014 Simon Properties spun off the mall to a new entity, Washington Prime Group and that this year, Washington merged with another company to form WP Glimcher, a company that owns over 100 shopping malls. Supervisor Grace added that Simon spun off its “B” malls in order to raise funds to upgrade its “A” malls. He also said the mall was working out leasing issues with its current tenants.
(Note: Although the Town Board approved the amended site plan in 2013, the company has still not paid for the building permit that would be the first sign that it is moving ahead with the renovation plan.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.