Town Board Meeting
October 15, 2013
1. Jefferson Valley Mall amended site plan public hearing
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.
2. State Land (Route 202) rezoning public hearing
(See prior meeting summaries for more details about the proposed development.)
After about 28 people spoke at the hearing, the Board voted 3-2 to close the hearing and leave open a 20 day period for written comments from the public and advisory boards. Voting against the motion were Councilmen Patel and Bianco who preferred to adjourn the hearing so that they could review revised information that they had only received earlier that day.
In support of the request to rezone the 100 acre site on the north site of Route 202 from four acre residential to a C-1 commercial zone, attorney Al Capellini explained that the plan before the Board was only “hypothetical” as the property owner couldn’t attract a commercial tenant as long as the property was zoned residential; once the property is rezoned and actual tenants lined up, then there could be modifications to the site plan which would be subject to Planning Board review and approval. (The Town Board would only be deciding on the rezoning.)
The hypothetical plan includes two buildings: 140,000 sq. ft. and 10,000 sq. ft. and parking for 600 cars on the west side of the side and a cluster of four buildings totaling 80,000 sq. ft. and 325 parking spaces on the east side. An enhanced stream would divide the two sections and a bridge would connect them. The single entrance is from Route 202 opposite Parkside Corners, although the applicant said he would try to get DOT approval for a second access. A traffic light would be installed at the entrance.
The state right of way for the future extension of the Bear Mountain Parkway would be relocated from its present location alongside Route 202 (where road widening is currently underway as part of a separate DOT project) to the rear of the proposed buildings. The rear 70 acres of the steep sloped site would be left open and given to the Town – if the town wanted the land.
Most of the speakers either opposed the rezoning or asked the Board to delay a vote until residents and advisory board had more time to review the latest submission from the applicant. Although the initial submission was made almost 1 ½ years ago, there was agreement among Board members that they had only received the latest revisions earlier that day. Arguing against any delay, Mr. Capellini said that the latest revision were based on one meeting with the Planning Board, three with the Town Board and nine meetings with town staff.
It was noted that reports based on the initial 2012 submission had been received from the DEP, Westchester County, the Conservation Board and the Advisory Committee for Open Space. There was no report from the Planning Board.
Issues that were raised:
Lack of information: Several speakers noted that the public generally was not familiar with the proposed rezoning and asked that the full Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) be made available on the town’s web site. Once the hearing was closed and this request was repeated, Supervisor Grace said that that was not possible as the submission had not been made electronically but Planning Director Tegeder said that his office would be able to make the EAF available online on the town’s web site.
Need for a full Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). In 2012, the Town Board decided that because two DEISs had been done for previous proposals on the site (a 400,000 square foot shopping center, and a plan for 27 homes), only an expanded EAF was needed. Several speakers said the previous DEISs, completed one and two decades ago, were outdated and/or insufficient and that a new one should be done.
Several speakers questioned the adequacy of the habitat studies done for the prior DEISs as well as the more recent one submitted by the applicant. The applicant, in turn, questioned the accuracy of some of the statements made by critics of the rezoning plan.
When rezoning supporter Bill LaScala questioned the qualifications of those who criticized the EAF, at least one of the critics objected to the characterization and later in the meeting Supervisor Grace said that in the future, he would rule personal comments such as these as inappropriate.
The plan calls for three independent stormwater plans, two of which capture and treat stormwater from the new buildings, and a third which would construct two detention ponds at the northern boundary of the property abutting the Sylvan Glen Nature Preserve.
The buildings to the east and west of the stream would each have their own stormwater plan which, according to the developer’s engineer, would exceed current standards and would reduce runoff from the site and reduce sedimentation and phosphorous. The two detention ponds would capture runoff coming from Sylvan Glen and would reduce the peak discharge coming from Sylvan Glen. According to the applicant, the three plans would help alleviate flooding problems south of Route 202. It was noted that these ponds were over and above what the developer would have to do to meet the site’s stormwater requirements.
Several speakers, including Walt Daniels speaking for the Conservation Board and the Advisory Committee on Open Space, had reservations about the two detention ponds, noting concerns about how they would be accessed and maintained, that they would destroy existing hiking trails and that using parkland for drainage purposes constituted an alienation of parkland that would require legislation from the state.
Bear Mountain Parkway
Although Phil Grealy, the applicant’s traffic consultant indicated that the DOT was excited about the future relocation of the parkway, even if funding for the project was a long way off , Mr. Daniels noted given the topography of the area, the relocation would require extensive cutting into the slope. Supervisor Grace said the DOT supported the relocation plan.
Hypothetical Rezoning Plan vs Site Plan
Several speakers addressed the uncertainty of the town not knowing what it would eventually get in the way of a site plan if the Board rezoned the property based on a hypothetical plan. But on at least two three occasions, the applicant reiterated the point that without the rezoning in place, he was not able to market the property to prospective commercial tenants, a position supported by realtor Bill Primavera and shopping center owner Bill LaScala.
Other uses for the site
Citing the 2004 Sustainable Development Study that recommended no additional residential development in the Route 202 corridor, Supervisor Grace ruled out the idea of a mixed use development for the site suggested by Babette Ballinger. And in response to the suggestion from Ann Kutter (speaking as a private citizen and not as a Planning Board member) that the town might consider acquiring the very sensitive site, Councilman Bianco said that that had been explored about seven years ago but hadn’t resulted in any agreement and Supervisor Grace said that under no circumstances would he support the Town purchasing the land.
Was the Board rushing the approval
In response to the comments from some speakers that there was no reason for the town to rush ahead with a vote on the rezoning request and that proper procedures should be followed, Councilman Murphy, who made the motion to close the hearing, said the Town had already waited 20 years and that there was a danger of “analysis to paralysis.” Councilman Paganelli supported closing the hearing arguing that he was opposed to any residential development of the property.
The Board appointed LeArtis Morris-El to the position of assistant Cook at the Senior Nutirition program.
4. STAR registration
A staffer with the State Office of Real Property explained the need for property owners to re-register for the basic STAR property tax exemption by Decenber 31, 2013 in order to receive the exemption for 2014.
Seniors currently receiving the “enhanced STAR” exemption do not need to re-register.
Property owners can register at the state’s web site, www.tax.ny.gov, or by calling 518-457-2036.
5. Courtesy of the Floor
Foreclosed property. In response to a resolution authorizing the town to auction off 24 parcels, Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, asked for an explanation of why five parcels were listed as “proceed to clear title & then proceed with auction” and how that might delay the auction for the remaining 19 parcels. In response, Supervisor Grace explained that getting “clear title” meant that there were no encumbrances on the property and that this would result in a higher eventual auction price. He acknowledged that this would probably delay setting the auction date for all 24 parcels. Councilman Paganelli said that the higher sales price would offset the $20,000 the town will have to pay in school taxes on the five properties if the sale is not completed before the January school taxes are due.
Dog Park. Ann Kutter, speaking as an individual and not as a Planning Board member, said she was disappointed to learn that the town would be paying for fencing for the dog park. She said that from the beginning of the dog park discussions, it was understood that the dog park committee would pay for the fencing. In response, Supervisor Grace said that because of the nine year delay in finding a location, people weren’t willing to contribute funds and Councilman Paganelli said he would make it his business to get the additional “good faith” payment of $7,500 from the group after they gave the town an initial $2,500 for the fencing.
In a separate vote, the Board advertised for bids for the fencing.
Mohansic Ave/Whitehall Rd Traffic issue . A resident at the intersection asked the Board to do something to enforce the stop sign at the intersection and slow the excessive speeding. Acknowledging that the police department did not have sufficient staff to continually monitor the intersection at critical AM peak hours, she asked the Board to consider installing speed bumps, Councilman Murphy said he would work with police officer Eidelman to see what could be done.
Highway garage. Citing past uses on the site, Stewart Glass was critical of the Board’s recent vote to proceed with a Phase II study of the site. He said the town was opening itself up to a potential costly cleanup. In response, Supervisor Grace said the town had a moral obligation to the 38 employees who worked in the building and that any future remediation requirements would be related to how the site was eventually used.