July 11, 2016
Attending: John Kincart, John Savoca, John Flynn, Richard Fon, Antony Tripodi
1. Hanover Corner, Commerce Street
In a 4-0 vote with Mr.Tripodi abstaining because he was not on the board when the site plan was reviewed, the board gave the final approval for the plan.
Mr. Riina advised the board that the DEP had approved a slightly revised SWPPP. The approving resolution will include standard stormwater conditions recommended by the town engineer and after the applicant has complied with them, the site plan will be officially signed.
The applicant has also submitted a lighting plan but the board did not review it.
2. Village Traditions, East Main Street, Mohegan Lake
Calling his appearance at the previous meeting a “debacle,” Mr. Mallon said that his architect and engineer had met with Mr. Tegeder to review any future plan. In the meantime, the board voted 5-0 to reapprove the earlier plan.
3. Chase Bank, Commerce Street
The board opened and closed a public hearing, leaving open a 14 day written comment period.
The applicant gave an overview of the plan. Regarding the left turn issue, the Chase lawyer advised the board that Wallauers was not interested in working with the bank on its site plan and had no issue and no objection to the proposed two access points. The Chase traffic consultant advised the board that Wallauers generated only two trips per hour between 4-6pm.
Town Engineer Michael Quinn suggested that a post construction traffic study be done and that if the count was more than 20% greater than the initial count, the board might want to reconsider the dual access points. The Chase lawyer said such a condition was unacceptable to the bank as it would leave site plan issues up in the air. The board did not pursue the suggestion.
Mr. Kincart noted that while he initially had some concerns about the plan, he was satisfied that the current plan had a safe circulation pattern.
Chase explained that staffing at the new building will accommodate all the staff at the two current branches with room for some growth.
Resident Ann Kutter asked if there could be a car connection in the rear of the property to the rear of Turcos. The idea was rejected given the different elevations of the two sites, and issues at the rear alley of Turcos.
The board will do a final review at its August meeting. Final approval may come at that meeting or in September. (The board meets only once in July and August.)
4.Bonsignore subdivision, Old Crompond Road
(See Planning Board, 3-14-2016.) The applicant advised the board that all conditions in its earlier resolution had been complied with. The board accepted the applicant’s SWPPP with the standard town engineer conditions. As the only action that had to be taken was accepting the SWPPP, no formal vote was needed.
5. Staples Center/Gas pumps
The DEP required some changes to the original SWPPP which, in turn, required some minor changes to the previously approved site plan. Neither the board or the town engineer had an issue with the changes; the Planning Department will draft a memo indicating that the revised SWPPP will be the one of record.
In response to a question from the board, the applicant indicated that, to date, there has been no interest from prospective restaurant tenants for the additional building approved at the time the gas pumps were approved.
6. Sparks Steakhouse, Old Crompond Road
In response to questions asked at the Public Informational Hearing, Mr. Piccirillo said that there would be no loud outside music and that the hours of operation would be 12 noon-10:30PM Sunday-Wednesday and 12 noon – 11pm Thursday-Saturday. Valet parking will be available for those using the Best Plumbing lot when that building is not in use. (There was some confusion as to what portions of then Best Building, i.e., the showroom and/or the contractor’s supply area, were open on Saturday.)
Regarding the problem catch basin, Neil DeLuca, the owner, said that based on how he had dealt with the board in the past, he was waiting for the board to tell him how to solve the problem instead of his engineer designing something and coming to the board for approval with something it might not like. He said he was frustrated that two months had been wasted. After some considerable back and forth, and different interpretations of what had been agreed to by Mr. DeLuca and town staff at a site visit, there was general agreement about the relocation of the problem catch basin and that Mr. DeLuca would have his in house engineer provide the details requested by the town engineer, including the necessary flow calculations that took into consideration any changes from the original plan.
A public hearing will be held in August.
7. Fieldstone Manor, Strawberry Road
Based on input from Mr. Tegeder and the board’s attorney, it was agreed that the stone mansion, interior roads, the tower lot and the conservation lot should be one lot under one ownership. Because of that change, and some other changes, a new public hearing will be needed before the applicant can get final approval; it already has all needed outside approvals, although the applicant will have to return to the Health Department once it gets final approval.
A public hearing will be held in August.
8. Faith Bible Church, Mohegan Avenue
The applicant advised the board that although the state Supreme Court upheld the Planning Board’s approval, that decision is currently on appeal; all briefs have been submitted and the applicant anticipates that it could take 8 months before oral arguments are heard. No stay has been issued.
While the appeal is pending, the applicant would like to demolish an existing yellow building on the site that is uninsurable and also begin some site work. However, a condition in the wetlands permit says that no construction can take place until a building permit is issued but the applicant does not want to prepare the plans needed to get the building permit until the lawsuit is settled.
After some discussion and advice from the board’s attorney and Bruce Barber, the board agreed that demolishing the building did not violate the condition of the wetlands permit, that the demolition was needed for safety reasons and that it could proceed. However, the board cautioned the applicant about being careful if he wanted to go ahead with any site work. The applicant stated that the two trees that had been removed had fallen.
In its third discussion on the proposed new law, the board touched on the following issues. Bruce Barber and Councilman Bernard participated in the discussion.
Need for a new law: Mr. Flynn repeated the comment he made at the previous meeting that he found the current law clearer, but there was no board consensus that the current law should be kept. In response to a question from a resident why the current law needed changing, Mr. Kincart said that some people felt that current law was too far reaching and usurped property rights. Mr. Barber said he believed that the Town Board wanted to streamline the process. Councilman Bernard agreed with Mr. Kincart, adding that the board’s motive in enacting a new tree law was similar to the philosophy that has led the board to propose repealing the Affordable Housing Law. He rejected the argument that the board’s motive was to benefit developers. He questioned why permits were needed if they were always granted.
Tree survey: the board agreed that having one was important, but because each application is different, the board wanted any requirement for a survey to be flexible. Mr. Tegeder noted that the Land Development Regulations (LDR) also require a survey but has a provision allowing the board to waive the requirement. It was noted that the LDR requires a survey for 8” trees but that the propose new law considered only 12” trees; the board felt that something between 6”-8” was needed, but added that depending on the site, a cluster of 6” trees might be more important than a single 12” tree.
Mr. Barber suggested that instead of or in addition to considering just size, the law should also look at the trees’ function which was likely of more importance,; he called this a vegetative community survey or natural resources survey. The board supported this concept. Mr. Tegeder agreed that any tree law should be consistent with the LDR, he did not think the LDR needed to be modified.
Appeal process. The board did not support the provision in the draft new law that gave the Town Board the power to hear appeals of Planning Board tree permit decisions. At first, the board considered having appeals go to the ZBA, but on the advice of the board’s counsel, who is also counsel to the ZBA, the board dropped that idea. Applicants wanting to challenge a Planning Board tree permit decision would have to file an Article 78 lawsuit, the same procedure in the current law.
Applicability to town owned land: the board appeared to favor making it clear in any new law that the provisions also applied to town owned land. Mr. Flynn cited the example of the trees that were cut next to Downing Park to make way for a parking lot for the high school.
Homeowner issues. The board made it clear that it was only commenting on provisions in the proposed law that dealt with how the Planning Board operaed; they were not considering how the law would affect individual homeowners which was mostly a property rights issue. Mr. Kincart was the most outspoken board member on this issue; he said he accepted restrictions on wetlands and steep slopes but didn’t think tree cutting needed to be regulated, unless it involved clear cutting. Mr. Fon noted that as a homeowner he had planted many trees on his property. The question of whether the buffer should be the same for all lots, regardless of size, was briefly raised even though it was primarily a homeowner, not a board issue. Mr. Tegeder said there should not be any front yard buffer requirement.
Shall vs May. Mr. Barber raised this issue as the draft new law often uses “may” where the current law uses “shall,” e.g., the requirement to do a survey. This precipitated a discussion of the need for flexibility, but also raised the concern of one resident who was concerned that if the wording was left “may,” there might be future boards not necessarily concerned about protecting trees and forests. In response, the board did not see this as a problem because appointments to the board were staggered.
Specimen tree: Although regulated in the current law, but not the draft new law, there was a discussion of the differences between a protected tree (defined by size) and a specimen tree (very large and special by virtue of its species or special features) and whether the latter should be protected. Mr. Kincart said that if a specimen tree was on his property and the town wanted it protected as a public benefit, then the town should pay for its upkeep and maintenance.
Forest Management: all agreed that this was important. The problem with invasives was highlighted, with the need for more education. One suggestion was that invasives need not be counted in any tree survey.
Expert advice. The board agreed that it wanted to rely on expert advice in making decisions. This could include the person doing the tree survey (a certified arborist was mentioned). Bill Kellner, chairman of the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission noted that the new law did not have a referral to the Conservation Board.
Mitigation: this was discussed briefly. There was agreement that mitigation could be either on site or off site and any requirements should be flexible and open ended.
At the conclusion of the discussion, it was agreed that Mr. Tegeder and Mr. Barber would work on a memo to the Town Board that would highlight the issues that related only to the Planning Board’s work and where there was a board consensus. It was agreed that the drafting of the law was a political act left to the Town Board.
Councilman Bernard advised the board that the tree law as on the Town Board’s agenda for the following evening.