Citizens for an Informed Yorktown



Town Board

October 7, 2014


1. Announcements

Auction of town property.  Set for Saturday, November 8 at 11am at Town Hall. For details and a description of the properties, check the town web site,


2. Chamber of Commerce Street Fair  

Pointing out that the Chamber makes a profit on the fair after all its expenses are covered, Councilman Patel wanted to know what the town’s costs were for staff overtime for police and maintenance and asked why a representative of the Chamber hadn’t come to the board this year to talk about the town’s financial contribution. He wanted the Chamber to reimburse the town for its expenses. Supervisor Grace and Councilman Murphy said that this was an issue to take up with the Chamber and the supervisor added that the town had always paid for the police overtime, adding that a line item had been added to the budget for events overtime .


3. Appointments

The board accepted the resignation of Erin Riedel as Recreation Supervisor and then appointed her as an Assistant Superintendent for Parks and Recreation.


4. Courtesy of the Floor

Spectra pipeline/Granite Knolls:  Several residents spoke on this issue. Paul Moskowitz talked about Spectra’s Atlantic Bridge project which will continue the expansion of the 26” pipeline to 42” across Stoney Street and across Yorktown to the Somers borders. Calling the project unsafe, he said that Spectra staff had told him that during the construction process, some people will have to vacate their houses.


Roseanne Brackett talked about the board’s lack of transparency on the issue, focusing primarily on Councilman Murphy.


Sheila Schraier took issue with Spectra calling the AIM project a “replacement” project. In truth, she said, replacing a 26” with a 42” is not just a replacement.


Citing the fact that the maps for the Atlantic Bridge project that were on display at Spectra’s September29 meeting showed a pigging station at Granite Knolls, Mark Michaels asked Supervisor Grace to explain the basis of his earlier statement that there would be no pigging station in Yorktown.  He also asked for greater transparency regarding the supervisor’s contacts with Spectra. In response, the supervisor said there had been no lack of transparency and that if Mr. Michaels had been at Recreation Commission meetings, he would have known all about the Granite Knolls plan.


Babbette Ballinger said that when she asked a Spectra employee at the Atlantic Bridge meeting whether she would let her children play in a park next to a pigging station, the “woman went white.”


Granite Knolls West: In an effort to clear up what he said was confusion about the state of affairs at the park, Jonathan Hyman provided the board with a photo report showing  existing run down conditions on the site that he said would take tens of thousands of dollars to repair. He suggested to the board that it stop speaking with “fork in tongue.” In response, Supervisor Grace said it was “the other side” that was misrepresenting the facts. He said the land was purchased with the intent to create active recreation and that $25,000 had been set aside to rehabilitate the existing field, and he proceeded to talk about the Spectra offer that would convert the site into more fields at no cost to the taxpayers in exchange for the company’s use of the site as a construction yard.


On the issue parkland alienation, Supervisor Grace said that the town’s earlier votes on the home rule message to the state legislature was only to ask permission to alienate and that if permission was granted, the town would only alienate the property if FERC assured the town that the project was safe, adding that it might be possible for the trucks to use the existing pipeline right-of-way instead of local roads.  He said the home rule resolution was not subject to a public hearing.  He added that the town had started the SEQRA review for the sports complex.


Councilman Patel said that Town Board had not been kept informed about what was happening, adding that “all that glitters is not gold.”


Susan Siegel, the person writing these notes, agreed with Supervisor Grace that he had informed the board in 2013 about the possibility that Spectra could make some improvements to Granite Knolls, but that before he asked the board in April, 2014 to vote for the home rule resolution, the board  had not been advised of the deal the supervisor had worked out with Spectra and that the Rec Commission had no idea that the Granite Knolls plan involved the alienation of parkland.  Noting that she was the supervisor when the Granite Knolls property was purchased, she also challenged the supervisor’s statement that when the property was bought it was bought for active recreation.  She also questioned his “no cost to the taxpayers” statement given the fact that Spectra has not said how much money it would give the town to create the ball fields.


Gil Kaufmann (a senior citizen)stated that the town needs more fields and that the money to build them would be there. He said he was willing to pay more taxes so that the kids could play.


Special election law: Sheila Schraier expressed disappointment that the special election law for filling vacancies of elected officials and which will be a referendum question on the November ballot uses the word “may” instead of “shall.”  She said the “may” version could lead to the same gridlock that the board experienced this year.


5. Public hearing on wetlands law

The hearing was reconvened.  Bruce Barber, the town’s environmental consultant, explained that the proposed amendment would not change any of the thresholds of protection currently in the law. The amendment would expedite the approval process for certain applications by giving the Town Board the ability to let a wetlands permit application be handled administratively by town staff instead of the board being the approval authority.


Walt Daniels, speaking as an individual, and not representing the Conservation Board of which he is a member, stated that the proposed law had never been referred to the Conservation Board for its comments.  In response, the town clerk confirmed that when the board decided to set the law up for a public hearing, it did not vote to refer out the draft law for comments.


The board closed the hearing and approved it 3-0.


6. Public hearing on the sober house special permit

A good part of the hearing was devoted to the legal arguments surrounding the Town Board’s role in approving the permit and the legal constraints under which the board could, or had to act.


Supervisor Grace explained that the board had to abide by the ZBA’s determination that the sober house was a convalescent home. As such, he said the applicant was entitled to a special permit if he met the requirements of the code regulating special permits. The board, he said, has little discretion when it comes to approving or denying special permits; if the application meets the requirements, we can’t deny it.  He added that there were no requirements in the code that said the applicant must have certain experience, or what types of residents could be in the house.  He also pointed out that the sober house could qualify as a “family” and as a “family”, it would not need a special permit and that the town could not place conditions on an “as of right” use.  Going the special permit route, he said, was actually better for concerned residents because it allowed the town to put conditions on the permit.  A family, he said, could be any collection of people and the town can’t prevent them from living together, except to the extent that they aren’t breaking any other law, such as using heroin.


The supervisor urged concerned residents to review the 19 conditions the applicant has said it will abide by.  Residents, however, asked who and how those conditions would be enforced.


Mr. Nowack (sp?) raised the legal issue concerning the accessory buildings on the property that were built before the zoning code was adopted in 1932 and not do meet current zoning setback or parking requirements but which are considered  “pre-existing non conforming uses.” It was his contention that if the use of the property changed, and he believed that the sober house use was a change of use from a single family residence, the board did not have to make the non conforming uses  legal. Supervisor Grace, however, did not see the residential use as changing.


After Mr. Nowack pointed out that the Planning Board had never reviewed the modified site plan, the board agreed to refer the new plans to the Planning Board – which meant that the public hearing had to be adjourned and could not be closed.


Robert Davis, one of the two lawyers representing the applicant, went through the four standards for approving special permits in Section 300-36 of the zoning code. The standards  basically address the issue of whether the proposed use would be in harmony with the existing district and not cause any adverse impacts.  Going through each standard one by one,  he explained that the sober house met each standard.


George Brink spoke about an article 78 lawsuit that has been filed by some town residents challenging the ZBA decision. He said that a part of the lawsuit involved a lack of transparency on the part of a town employee. Initially, the Town Board didn’t want to let him continue his comments, but decided he could continue as long as he did not mention the name or job title of the employee. 


Robert Gironda asked the board to reach a decision on the special permit application sooner than later so that in the event it was granted, the homeowners who filed the article 78 against the ZBA could combine a challenge to the Town Board’s actions in one lawsuit.


In conclusion, Supervisor Grace said he was leaning more towards approval than denial.


7. Miscellaneous resolutions passed unanimously

a. Awarded bids to different vendors for automotive and small engine parts and equipment.


 b. Release of wetland bond: (see board meeting, May 13,2014). The board released the bond after the property owner cleaned up the debris in the wetlands as per an agreement  he made earlier with the town.


c. Route 202 ballfields. Authorized the Parks and Recreation Department to go out to bid to fix the drainage at the Route 202 ballfields.


d. Approved  the use of $67,000 from the recreation Trust and Agency account to develop a multigenerational play and exercise area at the YCCCC Veterans Memorial Field.


e. Approved the use of $50,375, a gift from the Gilbert Beaver Conference Farm, to develop a playground for disabled children at Downing Park.


8. Telephone system

(See board meeting, 5/13/2014)The board did not act on a resolution that would have overridden the town’s procurement policy and authorized a series of three contracts totaling $153,000 for a new telephone system. No explanation for pulling the item was given. One of the three contracts was for 36 months of phone service at a cost of $106,846.