December 18, 2012
1. School security
Police Chief McMahon reported that the department has established a “visible presence” at the town’s 12 public and parochial schools, primarily at dismissal time. The deployment is an effort to strike a balance between safety without causing alarm. He added that he has met, and will continue to meet, with school officials to discuss what else can be done to assure a safe environment.
2. Courtesy of the Floor
Senior issues: Representatives of three senior citizen clubs asked the Board not to take anything away from them or decrease their stipend, adding that their stipend should not be based on the number of members in each club. (See comments about senior clubs at the December 5 budget hearing.) In response to Councilman Murphy’s question about what they thought was being “taken away,” they cited the town’s earlier decision not to provide vans to transport some of their members to special luncheons.
Supervisor Grace assured the club representatives that the Board was not planning to cut any senior funds and that all clubs would be treated equally, adding that the clubs needed to stop fighting among themselves. “It’s got to stop,” Councilman Bianco added.
As for the Town’s request for information about the clubs, the supervisor said the Town was requested the information for legal reasons and the routine need to recertify the clubs each year. And, in response to the question from one senior about why the Nutrition Center requested medical information, he said that it was for the safety of those attending the Center.
Downed tree: A Hickory Street resident asked the Town to reimburse him for expenses he incurred after Hurricane Sandy to remove a downed tree that was on town property but which fell onto his house and damaged his driveway. The driveway repair is not covered by his homeowners insurance and does not qualify for FEMA assistance. He also wanted the Town to waive the $1150 building permit fee he had to pay before commencing repairs to his response to its request for bids to remove the large downed trees along the Town’s right of way and that the Town was looking into other options for removing the trees.
Woodlands Legacy ballfield. A representative of the Huntersbrook condominiums expressed concern that the Town has not lived up to a prior agreement with the association to flip the existing ballfield at the Legacy ballfield site in exchange for the condos giving the Town an easement when it was building the new fields. He said that whenever he brought up the issue, he was told either that the Town didn’t have the money (Councilman Bianco said the flipping would cost $125,000) or that there was no easement. Councilman Paganelli said the condos have been “extremely patient” waiting for the issue to be resolved and suggested that the person attend the next meeting of the Recreation Commission.
Tree City: Bill Kellner, chairman of the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission informed the Board that he was in the process of gathering the required information to have the Town recertified as a Tree City, a process that must be done each year. He expects to have the papers ready for the supervisor’s signature in mid January.
Budget: Although the public hearing on the 2013 was closed, Ed Ciffone reiterated several of the comments he made at the hearing.
3. 2013 Budget
Prior to unanimously adopting the Preliminary Budget with the one change noted below, the Board took the following actions.
a. On a motion from Councilman Bianco, a unanimous vote to add a page to the budget that projects future town tax rates for the next four years.
b. On a motion from Councilman Bianco, a unanimous vote to do have the supervisor undertake a study in 2013 of the actual cost of the services the general fund provides to the special districts. In voting for the motion, Supervisor Grace said that “we’ll find out it costs more (than 6%), to which Councilman Bianco said: “that’s okay it that’s what it is.”
c. On a motion from Councilman Patel, to eliminate $65,000 from the budget for a junior attorney. The motion was defeated 3-2, with Supervisor Grace and Councilmen Murphy and Paganelli opposing the resolution. Supervisor Grace said it was more economical to have an in-house attorney and that the Town had no control over billing from outside attorneys. He said that if the Board decided next year not to hire the person, then the unused money would be rolled over. When Councilman Patel talked about the added ongoing expense of adding staff, the supervisor responded since the position would not be a union position, the person could be let go anytime the Board changed its mind. Councilman Bianco said that once the money was left in the budget, it was a foregone conclusion that it would be used.
Councilman Paganelli said he had no problem with leaving the money in as a contingency but added that in the event the Board did decide to hire a junior attorney to advise the Planning Board and the Zoning Board, that the members of those boards should be consulted and their opinion respected. (See Resolutions section below regarding Wormser Kiley retainer.)
d. Salary adjustment. In response to a question asked by Susan Siegel (the person writing this summary) during Courtesy of the Floor about a budget adjustment to correct an omission in the Preliminary Budget, Deputy Comptroller Caporale said that instead of changing the budget to reflect the $10,000 salary increase that wasn’t shown in the budget, the Town could take the money from the contingency line once the Board approved the promotion.
In general comments regarding the budget, Councilman Murphy said the budget was a “very conservative” budget and that he was proud of the Town’s many accomplishments over the past year.
Supervisor Grace again explained that the reason for the increase in the town tax was the 4-year catch up on police salaries and added that the police have done an incredible job and are an invaluable resource to the town. Citing the need to recruit competent people, he said he supported the $10,000 salary increase for the town clerk, as well as the 3% increases for other elected officials and department heads.
Councilman Patel said he was opposed to the raises for the councilman and that he planned to donate 6% of his salary (the 3% increase, plus an additional 3%) to the Town for an as yet undetermined purpose. He also repeated his concerns that the Town should not be adding staff during these difficult financial times.
Councilman Bianco was optimistic that “the future looks pretty good” and Councilman Paganelli said he was pleased that the budget was able to preserve the current level of services.
4. Public Hearing on changes to the parking requirements in commercial zones.
(Note: See previous summaries for more details about the proposed changes.)
Before opening the hearing up to the public, Supervisor Grace explained the reasons behind the proposed changes. (See previous meeting summaries.)
Comments from the public dealt with both the changes to the parking requirements for the CRC zone that covers the JV Mall as well as the parking requirements for other commercial zones. The discussion jumped between the two types of changes.
Early in the hearing, former Planning Director Ray Arnold advised the Board to split off the two issues, adding that the requirement for the general commercial zones needed more review. He said it was “bad legislation” to sneak in the other commercial zones with the changes in mall parking. During the course of the hearing, when the advisability of splitting off the two issues became increasingly apparent, and changes to the CRC provisions were added that the town attorney considered “substantial,” Supervisor Grace suggested that the Board pass the provisions dealing with the CRS tonight and leave the other changes for a later date. In response, Councilman Bianco said that he wanted to read the changes before voting on them and that the supervisor was rushing the issue, which led to the supervisor saying that the proposed split was easy enough to follow, to which the councilman replied that he could follow the changes but that he didn’t want to play games.
This led to some confusion as to which sections of the proposed law covered only the CRC zone, which covered both types of commercial zones, and whether changes to the CRC text were substantial enough to warrant a new public hearing.
Eventually, and at the suggestion of Al Capellini, the mall’s attorney, the Board voted to adjourn the public hearing on the amendments under discussion and advertise new public hearings for January 8 for two new laws, one for the CRC zone and one for other commercial zones.
What follows are comments made relative to the two types of commercial zones.
JV Mall changes
Mr. Arnold said that while the parking requirements in the existing law that combined parking and landscaping were amorphous, in practice, when the mall’s site plan was initially approved, it was left to the developer’s professional judgment to decide how many spaces were needed. At the time, the site plan called for 5 spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross leasable space; the site plan showed the gross leasable space as 575,000 square feet. He felt that the new language was not needed.
Mr. Capellini agreed that the old requirement was amorphous and he defended the proposed 4.25 requirement that would serve the mall’s present and future needs.
Ann Kutter, a member of the Planning Board but speaking for herself as a resident, asked that the amendments include language relating to sidewalks and bike lanes, a suggestion that the Planning Board included in its memo to the Town Board. Planning Director Tegeder said that while these requirements couldn’t be quantified and were best left to site plan review, he added that it was a good idea to include a statement of intent in the law so that the developer knew from the beginning of the process what was expected of him. Supervisor Grace felt that such a requirement did not belong in a parking section of the zoning code and he suggested that Mr. Tegeder draft a proposed amendment to the Town’s land development regulations.
The revised amendments will include more specific language regarding landscaping requirements.
In general, there was no objection to the proposed 4.25 parking space requirement.
Other commercial zones
In support of the reduced parking requirements which he called long overdue, Supervisor Grace cited the new urban thinking and the trend to encourage walkable downtowns and, for environmental reasons, the desire to reduce impervious surfaces. He also said that reducing the number of required parking spaces would be an incentive to property owners to rehabilitate and/or expand their existing properties. Calling it a “first step,” he said that the current requirement was onerous, that they restrict ailing properties from being redeveloped and that they “sterilize” commercial properties. Mr. Arnold noted that it was the code’s Floor Area Ratio (FAR) that controlled the amount of building coverage, not parking requirements.
Some speakers, and Councilman Bianco wanted the word “minimum” added to the 4 spaces provision in lieu of the word “required,” although Supervisor Grace said that required was sufficient and that adding the word “minimum” was redundant.
Paul Moskowitz said he had no problem with the reduced requirement but feared that the reduced parking requirement could lead to larger buildings not more landscaping.
Several people spoke about the desire to use shared parking to reduce the number of parking spaces required for each development and also to cut down on the number of curb cuts and encourage walking but Henry Steeneck, a commercial property owner, brought up the issue of liability and which property owner would get sued in the event of a fall or other occurrence. Speaking as a personal injury lawyer, Supervisor Grace acknowledged the potential legal issue, adding that the Town can’t force shared parking but could incentivize it. He noted that the Town already had provisions in its code that allowes a 25% reduction in the number of parking spaces when there is shared parking.
Mr. Tegeder said that, unlike the CRC landscaping language, it would not be appropriate to add landscaping requirements to the code for other commercial zones because the size of the parcels and uses differed. He had no problem with the reduction in parking requirements which he said was consistent with national trends,
Several speakers raised issues related to Costco and its proposed parking and Mr. Moskowitz suggested that Costco could use the new requirements to reduce its planned parking spaces from 750 to 600.
6. Public hearing on warehouse and self storage use in C-1 zone.
In a brief public hearing, the Board voted unanimously to add self storage to the permitted warehouse use by special permit.
Citing vacant spaces in the Yorktown Green Shopping and Shrub Oak A&P shopping centers, Ray Arnold questioned the wisdom of allowing warehouse use in the C-1 district, especially as the goal of the C-1 zone was to bring people into the downtown area. In response, Anthony Romano said that the concerns were not valid because existing provisions in the special permit law limited where the warehouse use would be applicable. He added that allowing the self storage use, which is planned for the lower level of the Staples shopping center, would eliminate the use of less aesthetic metal buildings along Route 202.
a. Staff: the Board accepted the termination of Sarah Seabolt, an employee in the Assessor’s Department and the retirement of Fran Perito , a civilian employee of the police department.
b. Volunteer boards: Reappointed Richard Rubenstein to the Ethics Board for a term expiring May 5, 2015.
8. Selected resolutions
Petty cash: Authorized the police chief to maintain a petty cash fund in the amount of $2,500 for use during emergencies. The need for the fund was identified during a Hurricane Sandy post mortem.
Vacation carryover: Approved vacation carryover overs for four employees.
Outside legal representation: Authorized the supervisor to sign an amended retainer agreement with Wormser Kiley Galef & Jabobs on a month-to-month basis. The agreement is retroactive to March,2011. (Note: the specific services provided by Wormsere Kiley were not identified.) In response to a question asked during Courtesy of the Floor by Susan Siegel (the person writing this summary) whether the resolution also provided for the Town to pay Wormser Kiley for the legal bills associated with the SEQRA review of the Croton Overlook rezoning application that were to be paid for by the applicant, Supervisor Grace that the Town was obligated to pay Wormser Kiley whether or not the applicant paid the Town.
Department name change: The Department of Environmental Conservation’s name was officially changed to the Refuse and Recycling Department.
Department head benefits
As the hour was late, Supervisor Grace suggested that this resolution be postponed. However, at Councilman Paganelli’s urging, the Board initiated a discussion that at times became confusing over proposed changes and the exact meaning of certain sections. (The resolution is an outgrowth of the controversy surrounding the current lawsuit between the Town and former comptroller Joan Goldberg over a 1993 resolution that Ms. Goldberg contends let her accumulate unused vacation .)
The resolution covers 21 non union employees classified as “managerial employees.”
One of the provisions that needed clarification dealt with the ability of an employee to carry over 35 unused vacation days. Supervisor Grace wanted the language changed to make sure it was clear that this was a lifetime cap and not a yearly cap. He also wanted it understood that the resolution did not preclude the Board from offering a different benefit package on a case by case basis.
A revised version of the resolution based on some oral changes was unanimously adopted.