Planning Board Meeting
March 12, 2012
Planning Board Members Present: Richard Fon, chair, John Flynn, John Savoca, John Kincart , Diane Rivera. Ann Kutter.
Planning Department Staff Present: Robyn A. Steinberg, Lorraine DeSisto, Dan Pozin, attorney
1. Kiederer Subdivision
Without any discussion, the board approved the first 90 extension for the 2-lot subdivision that was reapproved September 20, 2011 and initially approved September 12, 2005.
2. Arrowhead Subdivision
Mr. O’Keefe advised the board that he would be meeting with the town’s environmental inspector next week to inspect his compliance with the issues raised in the town engineer’s November 2011 letter. He described the issues as “minor,” e.g., fixing a silt fence. He expects the town engineer to be able to sign off on the project after the inspection and that no construction will take place until the engineer has done so. He added that the grading issue discussed at the previous board meeting had been resolved and that the Planning Department considered the plan in conformance with the original site plan.
John Schroeder, speaking on behalf of the Yorktown Land Trust, asked the board if, as part of its approval, it could expedite the planned donation of a 15 acre portion of the site abutting the Turkey Mountain Nature Preserve to the Town. He explained that the park’s “blue trail” crossed over onto this private property and that the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference was planning to do some renovation work on the trail this spring and that it would be helpful if the town had title to the property by then. It was explained that because the donation was part Phase 2 of the subdivision and that the board was only discussing Phase 1 of the project, it was not appropriate to include any conditions relating to the donation to the current issue. The board advised Mr. Schroeder to work off line with Mr. O’Keefe to see what could be done to expedite the transfer of title.
In a 4-0 vote, with Mr, Flynn abstaining, the board approved the resolution of conformity for Phase 1.
3. Gione Subdivision
A public informational hearing was held. Joe Riina of Site Design Consultants gave a general description of the project. The applicant will have to seek a front yard setback variance from the ZBA because, as a result of the subdivision process, a road widening strip along Loder Road will be required and this will make the front yard setback for the existing home, which is about 60 years old, non conforming. In anticipation of the applicant’s appearance before the ZBA, Mr. Riina asked the Planning Board for a letter to the ZBA stating that it supported the variance. The board agreed to send the letter which will be drafted by the Planning Department. The two lots will share a relocated driveway which will be at the edge of the property line separating the two lots. In response to Ms. Kutter’s question about the requirement in the Tree Ordinance for a buffer between the two lots, Mr. Riina said that if buffering was needed, it could be placed on the abutting lot.
There were no public comments and the hearing was closed.
4. Fieldhome Expansion
The board convened a public hearing on the project.
Consultants from the development team presented an overview of the project, including the new buildings, traffic, architecture, and drainage issues. John Ahearne, Fieldhome CEO explained that the proposed Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), which has been a work in progress for 2 ½ years, will be a win-win for the Fieldhome, assuring its future economic viability and also for the community by addressing a need for local residents. He noted that there are only two other CCRCs in Westchester and 11 in New York State.
The project includes 101 units of 1 and 2 bedroom independent living, a connected building with a dining room, fitness center and other amenities, a new nursing home building that will have only 96 beds compared to the current 202 beds (the old building will be demolished once the new facility is built and the old site converted to lawn) and a relocated day care center for the same number of children. A portion of the original Field Home Building, currently used for administrative offices, will be restored and retained. A second entrance to the site will be constructed north of the existing entrance. The site will have 278 parking space and 40 garage units. A rear service road will encircle all the buildings. A total of 284 new trees will be planted, plus additional landscaping. The existing old house along Catherine St will be demolished and not replaced.
Joe Riina of Site Design Consultants explained the variety of drainage measures that he said were above and beyond what was required and which would reduce any downstream flooding. The measures will include bio retention areas, an infiltration area, some porous pavement and a reconstructed retention pond. In response to questions from residents from Glasbury Court about what would happen if the retention pond overflowed, he explained that any overflow would be captured in a channel that would flow to the north of the property (away from Glasbury).
A 32 acre portion of the site will either be deeded to the town or a conservation easement placed on the site that will preclude any future development. A portion of the site includes a soccer field that the town has been using. The future legal status of this site and whether the town will want to take title to the property will require further discussion with the Town Board and Recreation Commission. Because some of the existing trees along the edge of the soccer field will have to be removed as part of the construction, the applicant will replant new trees or shrubs.
Phil Grealy, a traffic engineer with John Collins Engineers, reviewed the traffic impact from the proposed development along Catherine Street and eight affected intersections. He estimated that traffic would increase by about 30-50 trips during peak am and pm hours. As part of this report, he is recommending that the applicant work with the highway department on a combination of signage/road stripping/pruning improvements for the Old Crompond Rd and Catherine St and Old Crompond and Garden Lane intersections. In response to concerns from Glasbury residents about the narrow width of Catherine St, it was explained that the width varied from 19 feet to about 24 feet at different parts of the road and that it appeared that the road had been narrowed at its northern end, possibly in order to deter speeding. He also suggested that stripping along the curb would help. His report also included conceptual improvements to Garden Lane which is owned 1/3 by the town (southern end) and 2/3 by private owners. Any future improvements would require cooperation with the current owners, he said.
Concern was also expressed about the school buses to Panas HS that use Catherine St. The problem of parking along Catherine St when the soccer field is in use was also raised.
In response to Mr. Flynn’s questions about the availability of public transportation for the home’s workforce, Mr. Grealy said that there was public transportation along Route 202 but that he didn’t think there was sufficient usage to warrant public transportation along Catherine St. Also, there will likely be a decrease in the size of the work force once the new smaller nursing home facility is built.
In terms of process and next steps, it was explained that the town engineer cannot finalize her comments regarding the project’s stormwater plan until the DEP has finished its review and that would not happen until the Planning Board issued a negative declaration.
The hearing was closed and the comment period left open until the board’s next meeting.
6. Mohegan Lake Motors
A public hearing was held on the application for a special permit to build a new 6,828 SF Volkswagen showroom. The plan includes 39 parking spaces: 10 for customers, 6 for employees and 23 for new car storage. Deliveries to the site will only be small trucks, e.g., Fed Ex type box trucks.
Joe Riina of Site Design Consultants explained that whereas there are no stormwater controls currently on the site, the new plan calls for a reduction of asphalt coverage and two new parking areas with porous pavement that will allow for infiltration. Steve Marino of Tim Miller Associates explained how the applicant will clean up the debris filled wetland in the rear of the property which is the outlet for Mohegan Lake and enhance the existing wetland area by doing some excavation work to increase the depressed area, removing the invasive species and adding new plantings. The applicant has already received the required DEC permit but is still waiting for DEC to sign a map. Mr. Riina is still working with the Building Inspector regarding the required flood plain permit.
Although the applicant received a variance from the ZBA regarding the required 15 feet side yard buffer and Mr. Riina noted that there is no vegetative buffer currently between the site and the adjoining property, the property owner will provide some screening to create a buffer.
Phil Grealy of John Collins Engineers explained that the applicant will reconstruct the existing sidewalk and rebuild the existing shoulder along Route 6 which will have the effect of creating a third lane for the length of his property.
Al Capellini, attorney for the project, explained that in response to public concerns raised at an earlier meeting, the property owner has arranged for most new cars to be delivered and stored at an off site location in Jefferson Valley and that the cars will be driven to the new site as needed. The property owner has also widened the gate to his property on Lakeland Ave to reduce the need to park along Route 6 and he continues to have a good relationship with St. Mary’s Church across the street. The property owner has also arranged for a delivery schedule which should eliminate late night deliveries which were a concern to area residents.
The front façade of the building will be glass and aluminum panels.
There was no public comments. The hearing was closed but the comment period left open until the next board meeting.
6. Tea Temptations
The applicant wants to open a café serving tea, sandwiches and crepes in a currently vacant space in the small 2-story shopping center. The café would have capacity for 48 customers and be open from morning to about 6-6:30pm.
The application was referred to the Planning Board by the Building Department because the reuse of the existing retail space for a restaurant would increase the parking requirements for the site, making the site 13 spaces short of the required number. Under certain conditions, the Town Code permits the Planning Board to approve a 25% reduction in the parking space requirement.
Saying that he was “at his wit’s end” because of the difficulty getting the building permit and that he had nothing to show for his $25,000 investment, the applicant said that when he met with Supervisor Grace at the site, only 14 of the existing 64 spaces were occupied. And, in response to an earlier request by the Planning Department, he detailed to the board the hours of operation of the current tenants.
Mr. Flynn took exception to the applicant’s contention that the process had broken down noting that this was the first time the issue had been brought to the board’s attention. Mr. Savoca also advised the applicant that he thought his negative attitude was a little misdirected. Mr. Flynn pointed out that when considering a reduction in the parking requirements, the board had to consider a tradeoff between the positive of having a smaller lot with less asphalt against the negative of inadequate parking, citing Starbucks as an example of inadequate parking that creates a problem with the adjoining hardware store.
After reviewing the hours of operation of the current tenants in the building and the availability of two nearby small municipal lots, the board went into special session and unanimously approved the 25% parking reduction. In response to the applicant’s impatience and question when he could get something in writing, he was advised that the Planning Department would notify the Building Department the next day about the board’s actions.
7. Proposed local law dealing with OB districts.
Acting on a referral from the Town Board, the Planning Board discussed proposed legislation that would transfer approval authority for site plans in OB zones from the Planning Board to the Town Board. The proposed legislation would also establish a special permit for a helipad in the OB zone.
Councilman Dave Paganelli, the Town Board’s liaison to the Planning Board, attended the meeting and participated in the board’s discussion. Asked why the Town Board was considering the change, Mr. Paganellil said that some members of the board thought the change would provide some relief for developers of commercial projects and that these types of projects were important to provide tax relief to homeowners. He also talked about how the current board wants to counter the impression that Yorktown is not business friendly. He added that he has been advised by former Planning Board Chairman David Klaus who was a personal friend that the change would not speed up the approval process as the development plans would have to be referred to the Planning Board for review even if the Town Board has the final approval authority. He said that Mr. Klaus had also expressed concern that the shift to the Town Board ran the risk of politicizing the approval process.
Referring to the perception that Yorktown has not been friendly to new business ventures, Mr. Paganelli told the board that after observing how the board had handled the applications earlier in the evening, he thought that the perception might not translate into reality. “You’ve been extremely accommodating and dilligent to their concerns,” he said.
Planning Board members appeared to be unanimously opposed to the change which they thought would politicize the approval process, a point Mr. Paganellil agreed was a potential issue. Mr. Flynn advised Mr. Paganelli to consider the case of the Wallauer project in Mohegan Lake and how it was the Town Board that obstructed the project, not the Planning Board. The Town Board, he suggested, might “put its finger to the wind” when considering a project.
Mr. Savoca expressed concern that the change for the OB district might set a precedent for subsequent requests for other zones. He added that while developers might lobby individual Town Board members, they did not approach Planning Board members individually on behalf of their projects. “We’re an independent body and an objective buffer,” he added.
Ms. Kutter pointed out that Planning Board members are required to attend special training classes and wondered if Town Board members would have the time to attend such classes.
Mr. Fon noted that the Planning Board’s job was to approve responsible development and that the board was not pro or anti business. He also expressed concern that the Town Board might not review a site plan as carefully as the Planning Board does.
The Planning Department will draft a response to the Town Board, but also, Mr. Fon will reach out to the Town Board to suggest that he attend a work session to discuss the issue further.