January 22, 2019
Personnel: Library, Nor-West resident issue
Litigation and negation: town assessor, town attorney
OPEN WORK SESSION
1. Mohegan Avenue retaining wall
(See Town Board, 1-15-2019.) Town Engineer Quinn provided the board with an update. The 685’ metal wall, ranging in height rom 4’-11’, needs to be completely replaced. Since the bid specs were completed in early 2018, the wall has continued to deteriorate with soil passing through rusted holes which, in turn, has undermined the wall’s subsurface and the roadway. The specs call for the wall to be replaced with pre cast concrete blocks that will actually lead to the widening of Mohegan Avenue. The board passed a resolution to go out to bid. As it will take time for the project to begin, the engineer asked for authority to have the town’s bridge consultant check the wall’s current condition to see if any stabilization is needed before the actual work is started. There was no response.
2. Affordable housing set aside legislation
Ken Belfer, chairman of the Community Housing Board made a presentation of a proposed new law that has been drafted by the Housing Board. He explained that with some tweaks, the draft was based on the 2011 law that was repealed by the prior Town Board. He added that prior to the 2011 law, the town had an affordable housing program from 1988 to the early 1990s that resulted in 13 affordable single family houses being built.
The proposed new law would apply only to new construction for single family and rental units of 10 units or more and would require the developer to set aside an affordable unit for every 10 units. Different income eligibility limits would be set for single family and rental units based on the Westchester area median income statistics prepared on an annual basis. Buyers could remain in their unit even if there income increased over the years, but there would be restrictions on the sale price of the unit if they wanted to sell. Renters would not be able to renew leases if their income exceeded a certain percentage above the area median income. The units would be made available on a lottery basis.
In response to questions from the board about whether the units could be offered only to Yorktown residents, Mr. Belfer explained that while the earlier program did have local preferences, preferences are no longer considered legal and that anything new would have to be affirmatively marketed to a region outside of Yorktown. He added, however, that based on experience, most of the people who apply for affordable units tend to come from the area.
In response to question from the board about how many of Westchester’s 48 municipalities have affordable housing laws, Mr. Belfer said he thought a significant number but would provide the board with more information. Yorktown resident Judith Reardon, a former member of the Planning Board and a current member of the county’s Affordable Housing Board said she would also look into the issue, adding that there were other ways besides set asides, e.g., providing a density bonus, that some municipalities have adopted in an effort to create more affordable units.
Councilman Lachterman had several reservations about the proposed law, including the inability to include local preferences and the restriction on the resale price. He said that the market’s supply and demand was sufficient to create affordably priced housing, adding that the change in The Weyant plan to 23 units from 36 probably will increase the eventual cost of the units.
Councilman Diana expressed concern about the ability of a buyer to remain in an affordable unit once the household income increased. He also asked Mr. Belfer to provide more information on how many subsidized units currently exist in the town.
In response to Supervisor Gilbert’s question what different having the law would make, Mr. Belfer explained the dynamics of the changing economy; while there were no new developments when the 2011 law was passed, right now there are three new pending developments that could generate 15+ units.
Councilwoman Roker said she would defer her comments until a later date. Acknowledging the concerns expressed by some of her colleagues, she said that for now, the draft law should be put out for review and debate and that changes could be made during the process.
The board anticipates referring out the draft law at its next meeting and Supervisor Gilbert said that the public would be given an opportunity to comment on the proposed law at a future date.
3. Marijuana law
Town attorney Abbate said it would be legal for the town to amend its zoning ordinance to prohibit the sale of marijuana in the event the state legalized recreational marijuana. Councilwoman Roker recalled that an earlier Town Board did something similar many years ago when it limited adult entertainment uses to a certain zone.
Councilmen Lachterman and Diana said they have been in touch with other Westchester municipalities that are also opposed to the proposed state legalization and that they have been working together to craft a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) allowing municipalities to opt out in the event a state legalization law passes. It was also suggested that the towm do what it can to block the passage of any legalization bill in Albany.
The board members are unanimous in their opposition to making recreational marijuana available in Yorktown but decided to postpone taking any specific steps, like amending the zoning code, until the state acted and the details were known.
4. Jefferson Valley Mall
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.
5. Unfinished business
Councilwoman Roker read off a list of pending issues she said she wanted added to future agendas, including, three current planning projects, infrastructure, the need for generators in all town buildings and cooperation with the school districts.
6. Selected resolutions
ACCC room rental. The board waived the fee for the 2019 Relay for Life.
Landmarks Preservation Commission. The board okayed an Event Permit Agreement with the County at a cost of $680 so that the Commission can hold a symposium at Hilltop Hanover on May 8, 2019.
Constellation Energy. Authorized the supervisor to renew the contract for two years so that the town can continue to participate in a municipal energy program designed to reduce electric and gas utility costs.