Planning Board Work Session
March 26, 2012
1. Contractor’s Register
Joe Riina of Site Design Consultants requested a modification in the previously approved site plan that would permit the elimination of two trees, an 8” beech and a 16” maple, next to the new driveway that is being constructed. While the original plan called for saving the trees, he explained that because of the site’s grade, both trees will be endangered by the construction. As mitigation, the property owner will plant two new red maples elsewhere on the site where no future construction is planned. At the board’s request, the applicant will try to increase the size of the new trees from the planned 3”-3.5” to 4”. Anything larger, it was explained, may be too big to “take.”
The applicant will send a letter to the Planning Department detailing the change and the board will notify the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission about the change.
2. Open Meetings Law
Karen Wagner, the board’s attorney, reminded members that pursuant to a recent court case dealing with the Open Meetings Law, if and when the board wants to go into a closed executive session, it needs to be specific about the purpose of the meeting. She added, however, that the Planning Board rarely went into executive sessions. The court case, she said, was based on a pattern of conduct and not a one-time instance.
On a special permit referral from the ZBA, the board reviewed plans to add 12’ on to an existing 15’ x 30’ substation building on Saw Mill River Road. The building is set back from the road and the bike path and any neighboring houses. The expansion will house some new capacitor banks that are needed to improve service during peak summer times. The project is being funded by a Department of Energy stimulus grant that addresses problems the electric grid experienced years back. There will be no work done outside the existing fence which will not be altered. NYSEG’s environmental consultant has indicated that there are no wetlands or other environmental issues that need to be addressed. Planning Director John Tegeder advised NYSEG to communicate with the Town Engineer regarding the possible need for an erosion and excavation permit.
NYSEG is working with the Building Department to clear up unfinished paperwork associated with the 1978 special permit obtained when the structure was built. A new special permit cannot be issued before the 1978 permit issue is resolved.
The board will send a memo to the ZBA indicating that there are no planning issues involved. The ZBA has also referred the application to ABACA and the applicant has submitted information to that advisory board.
4. First Presbyterian Church
On behalf of the church, Tricia Dineen asked the board for permission to pave the rest of a driveway that an earlier site plan indicated would only be item 4 in order to protect two trees on the abutting property in close proximity to the driveway. She explained that since the two trees have since died and been removed, the original rationale for the item 4, which she said was a problem to maintain, no longer existed. Acknowledging the problems with the item 4 driveway, the board saw the change as “de minimus” and said that it would issue a memo indicating its approval to pave the driveway. Any future changes in the church’s site plan will have to come back to the board for approval.
5. IBM Parking Plan
Representatives of IBM presented plans for the addition of 101 parking spaces as previously discussed with the Town Board (see below). They pointed out that the additional spaces would basically return to site to what it looked like in the 1960s. They repeated the drainage swap system outlined to the Town Board as a unique way to handle the runoff from the site. To accommodate the new parking spaces, approximately 15 white pines will have to be removed. Planning Director John Tegeder said that more information about the exact number of trees and their dbh (diameter at breast height) would be needed before determining whether a tree permit would be required. He said that mitigation would not be needed as the plan disturbed less than 30% of the site’s trees. John Kincart suggested that given the location of the trees, if IBM could live with a few fewer spaces, it might not be necessary to remove the trees. The IBM representatives said they would take a look at whether that would work for them. They explained that their calculation on the number of needed spaces was based on an historical review of the number of employees who actually “badged in and out” on a daily basis.
As the board had no other concerns, it was agreed that the Planning Department will draft an approval resolution for the board’s next meeting.
IBM will have to get DEP approval after the Planning Board approves the plan.
The applicant was requesting a “sense of the board” whether it would be receptive to a change in the size and configuration of the commercial building that is part of this already approved site plan. The change is being requested in order to address the needs of a prospective single tenant, Best Plumbing, which wants to relocate from its current location in the BJ Shopping Center when its lease expires in about five months. According to Mr. Weiner of Best Plumbing, his current lease includes basement space which he no longer needs so the company is looking for a smaller location.
In order to accommodate Best’s showroom and warehouse needs, the building will be increased slightly in size and will become more square-like instead of rectangular. The architectural treatment of the building’s exterior will be modified to minimize its bulkiness and to make it visually compatible with the residential buildings to the rear of the commercial building. The streetscape elements around the site will not be changed.
Best currently has one daily truck delivery and Mr. Weiner said the company was trying to reduce that to two deliveries per week. The business is open from early morning until 5-6pm with most of the warehouse and plumbing supply activity taking place in the morning hours. There was a brief discussion about parking needs at different times of the day and the possibility of eliminating a few spaces on the side of the building in order to increase the width of the landscaped buffer area fronting on Route 202.
The board gave the applicant and Best Plumbing the requested “warm and fuzzy” okay to proceed and the applicant will return to the board with a more formal amended site plan.
The applicant advised the board that he is “days away” from getting DEP approval for the original site plan, (he noted that it was the delay in getting DEP approval that has been holding up the project) and that once he gets that approval, he will apprise DEP of this new change. Given Best’s need to relocate when its current lease expires, he wants to move quickly to begin construction on both the commercial building and town houses.
Old St. George’s Winery
On a referral from the Town Board, applicant Tom DeChiaro presented plans to rezone the Winery site to either C-2 or to a transitional zone. The plan involves a land swap with the Town as discussed below and which could be accomplished, he said, by a lot line adjustment. Although the immediate discussion dealt with the rezoning request, the discussion expanded into site plan issues that could be before the board again, depending on the outcome of the rezoning request.
Mr. DeChiaro advised the board that since the proposed rezoning and new site plan did not involve any changes to the parking lot on the west side of the church, he was going to proceed with the required improvements to that portion of the site while the rezoning issue and site plan changes for the eastern portion of the parking lot were being reviewed. He also said that he would clean up the existing wetland area, even though, as part of the proposed land swap, the wetland would become town-owned property.
On the rezoning issue, the board clearly favored the transitional zone which would give the Town Board more control over how the site is developed and which would tie the rezoning to the continued existence of the church building. As pointed out by Mr. Kincart, if the property is zoned C-2, there would be a list of permitted “as of right uses,” including a car dealership, in the event that the Winery was no longer profitable and the property owner wanted to demolish the church and construct a new building on the site. The transitional zone, he said, could lead to a “free for all.” The other difference between the two zones is that the Planning Board would be the approval authority for the site plan in a C-2 zone, but the Town Board would be the approval authority if the site was rezoned transitional and it would be up to the Town Board whether or not to refer the site plan to the Planning Board for review. The Planning Board will send its recommendation to the Town Board. Mr. DeChiaro said he was okay with the transitional zone.
On site plan issues , the board said that clarification was needed on the legal issue of whether the town-owned parcel involved in the swap had been designated parkland. Mr. DeChiaro said that according to Town Clerk Alice Roker it has not been so designated but others weren’t sure and said that this issue needed to be clarified.
The board was also concerned about the configuration of the proposed new parking on the town-owned site and how the spaces would work with the abutting DOT land fronting on Route 6 that Mr. De Chiaro said he was trying to purchase. The concerns included the flow of traffic on the site and the ingress/egress onto Route 6. One suggestion the board asked Mr. DeChiaro to explore with his engineer was a trade off that would involve improving the safety of the site but increase the encroachment into the wetland by acquiring an additional piece of town-owned land towards East Main Street. He was also asked if he could live with fewer parking spaces.
Ms. Kutter suggested that the original EAF (Environmental Assessment Form) completed by the applicant as part of the original site plan should be modified to reflect any changes that will be made to the wetland buffer if the land swap goes forward.
Diane Drier, the Conservation Board liaison to the Planning Board, said that the board was basically okay with the concept of the new plan but that more information about the mitigation plan was needed before the advisory board could comment on the new site plan.
Chris Sciarra, Mr. DeChiaro’s project manager, raised the concern that the board was making the issue more complicated and suggested that the board simply go back and look at the notes when it considered the previous “Palmieto plan.” The consensus of board members, however, was that the new site plan only needed some “tweaking” and not a whole new design. As Mr. Flynn noted earlier in the discussion, the board has historically been willing to compromise on the wetlands issue in order to save the church.
8. Mohegan Lake Motors
The board reviewed a draft of the decision statement. Two changes that will be included in a final version to be voted on at the next meeting include a prohibition on washing or repairing cars on the site and prohibiting the bulk delivery of cars, i.e., no car carriers. New cars will be “driven” to the site from a separate storage area.
9. Field Home
The board reviewed a draft of the decision statement which, with a few minor changes, will be voted on at the next meeting. One of the additions to the statement will be the condition that the Field Home maintain that portion of the original Field Home building that is shown on the site plan. The town’s desire to preserve a portion of the building was identified during initial discussions between the Planning Department and the applicant, with the latter having no problem accommodating the town’s goal.
In response to Ms. Kutter’s question regarding how the proposed independent living facility differed from Trump Park, attorney Al Capellini said that the latter was a condo that was built at the wrong economic time. Mr. Ahearne added that based on the home’s extensive market studies, the home was confident that there was a market for what it was proposing. “We have to succeed,” he said, as we’re a not-for-profit organization.
Mr. Capellini asked to board to give Mr. Ahearne some sense of assurance that if the project didn’t start construction within the required time frame, that the board will grant site plan extensions. Mr. Flynn responded that to the best of his knowledge the board has never refused any extension and that some projects have gotten three or four extensions. The Field Home still needs approval from several health oriented state agencies.
Once the Planning Board approves the site plan, the applicant will have to get DEP approval. The applicant has not had any substantive contact with DEP up to this point in time.
10. Housing Non-Discrimination Policy
Board members were given forms to sign indicating that they had read the Housing Non-Discrimination Policy adopted by the Town Board. Some members questioned why they had to sign the policy as the Planning Board had nothing to do with the Section 8 program and that they were volunteers. It was explained, however, that the requirement was part of a settlement agreement that resolved a lawsuit suit involving the Section 8 program but which also included some references to affordable housing. Mr. Kincart noted that as a realtor he had to sign such a policy.