February 10, 2015
It was a full agenda at last night’s work session with a wide range of issues affecting a cross section of Yorktown residents.
1. Televising work sessions
I’ve always said that work sessions were much much more interesting than the regular televised meetings, but alas, it looks like you’ll have to leave the comfort of your home if you want to see what your elected officials are saying at a work session: Supervisor Grace said last night that he has changed his mind and he won’t support televising work sessions. (At the budget hearing back in December, he said he’d consider it.)
According the supervisor, televising work sessions would make the flow of the meeting difficult, it would hamper honest conversation and people would use snipets of the video out of context.
2. Crompond Terraces
The board discussed a scoping outline of the proposed studies the applicant will submit as part of an expanded EAF (Environmental Assessment Form). Included in the issues to be studied were: traffic, grading, stormwater and fiscal impact.
The applicant reported to the board that at a meeting with the Community Housing Board, it was suggested that instead of the C-2 zoning, the applicant consider a C2R zoning that would allow apartments above the stores. The board agreed that the suggestion should be explored in the EAF.
The applicant also reported on a meeting with the Recreation Commission on what that group’s “wish list” might be for the project’s recreation fee. (The fee for townhouses is $4,000 per unit; the applicant can pay cash or provide a structure for an equivalent amount of money. The applicant reported that the Commission appeared interested in an indoor gym for basketball. Supervisor Grace talked about a senior center, adding that getting a physical plant from the applicant was better than getting money. I expressed concern that the anticipated funds in the range of $320,000+ was not likely to be sufficient to complete a building and cover long term staffing and maintenance costs. The applicant will continue to meet with the Recreation Commission before any decisions on the use of the recreation fee will be made. As part of the rezoning, the town can also ask the applilcant for “extras.”
Three representatives of Teatown and two residents working to preserve the building presented their reasons for demolishing and saving the house. Supervisor Grace said that after touring the building earlier that day, he understood the potential cost and limitations involved in renovating the structure for an adaptive reuse and he urged both sides to work together to see if anything could be done to preserve the building while at the same time respecting Teatown’s economic concerns.
While Teatown has set a March 1 deadline for receiving proposals about the house, it said it would not make any decision until the preservation group had had an opportunity to explore options for saving the structure.
Speaking on behalf of Teatown, John DeVito explained that the building is at a tipping point and that if a decision is not made within a reasonable amount of time, the building will begin to decay.
4. YCCC room rentals
The discussion focused around whether the board should adopt a policy regarding rental fees for non profit groups and how to handle requests to waive the fees. (See previous discussions on the same issue.)
Margaret Gspurning, the department head in charge of the YCCC and Patty DeMarsh who manages the building, presented an analysis of rental fees showing that in 2014, the board had waived 45,905 in potential revenue, compared with rental receipts of $33,187 from paying non profits as well was users charged the full profit making rate. (The non profit rental rate is slightly more than half the regular rate.)
Supervisor Grace said the non profit groups whose rental fees were waived were performing a public service for the community and he saw no problem with waiving the rental fee. He felt the ability to waive the fee should be made on a case by case basis. I thought there should be more consistency in deciding which fees were waived and that the use should have a direct benefit to Yorktown residents. I also suggested that for the uses that are part of the town’s recreation program, the foregone revenue should really be shown in the Parks & Recreation budget.
After the discussion the board voted to waive the $1,670 fee for the Alliance of Safe Kids for its most recent Save A Life program, but in a 2-1 vote with me voting no, the request to waive the fee for the Taconic Postcard Club failed.
In a separate discussion, the board agreed in concept to develop a special rate for the non profit Yorktown Enrichment Center that wants to rent a room from 2-6pm throughout the school year beginning next September. It was agreed that for a long term use (185 days) , the hourly rate did not apply. Staff will work with the Center’s director to come up with some suggested year long rental fee and return to the board.
5. Chicken Coop Law
Building Inspector John Winter explained that when the chicken coop law was passed last year requiring property owners to get a special permit, the law was silent on the cost of applying for the permit. Noting that the cost of a standard permit is $625, and half that amount for renewals, the board agreed to amend the law setting a $200 application fee and $100 renewal fee. The town attorney will draft the appropriate legislation. To date, no one has applied for the permit.
As a follow up to last week’s discussion, I went through a two page list of both general and specific questions the town will ask Spectra o answer. Most of the questions dealt with the pigging station and its impact on air quality. In response to some of the questions dealing with wetlands, tree removal and whether the company would provide a stormwater management plan (SWPP), Supervisor Grace said Spectra had told him that they would abide by all local permit requirements.
One of the key questions to be asked involves the future of the pigging station proposed for Stoney Street and how that facility might change in the future if the Phase II Atlantic Bridge project proceeds. Also left undecided was whether the construction of an above ground facility (as opposed to the underground pipeline) on an easement that goes through parkland will require a formal alienation bill from the state legislature.
Bruce Barber, the town’s environmental consultant, will prepare a final list of the questions to be sent to Spectra and will also draft the town’s comments to the DEC on the pending air quality and water quality permits. I asked Mr. Barber to have drafts of both documents by the next meeting so that they could be reviewed by the board prior to the Feb 27 submission date for the Dec comments.
Commenting on Spectra’s proposed off-site wetlands mitigation plan that involves planting around Junior Lake, Mr. Barber said that so far, the town has only seen a narrative of what the company proposes to do but that he would want to see a more specific plan before any work was done. Supervisor Grace said the Rec Commission will also be reviewing a recreation component to the plan, possibly a trail or benches.
7. Compass Westchester/ Zoning amendments relating to sober houses
As a follow up to comments I had made during the Compass Westchester hearings about the need to update the zoning code, I presented the board with a draft of suggested amendments to some of the code’s definitions, inicluding the definition of family, as well as a new special permit for a use that I tentatively called a “community residential facility.”
Supervisor Grace rejected the entire document on the grounds that no changes in the zoning ordinance were needed , that many of my proposed amendments were unconstitutional and that in general hey just didn’t make any sense. He said my proposed amendments would require the building department to intrude into the private lives of residents and likened the requirements to having people in “brown shirts” keeping tabs on people. In response to his question why the amendments were even needed, I gave a simple answer: to protect the residential character of our neighborhoods. I also said the changes were needed to avoid a repetition of the year long controversy we had over Compass Westchester and the possibility that future sober living homes could open up in single family homes under the guise of being families without any town regulation or control.
Rather than rebut the supervisor’s comments point by point, I posed a simple choice: One option was to do nothing and leave the current code intact. The second option was to work together to redraft my document in an effort to arrive at a compromise set of amendments. The supervisor’s choice was clearly to do nothing and wait until there was a five member board before possibly taking up the issue again.
In a separate action relating only to Compass Westchester, Supervisor Grace made a motion on a resolution that would deny the special permit. There were no seconds to the motion. I explained that the minutes of the January 20, 2015 meeting indicated that the board had voted on the application, that based on a 2-1 vote, the motion was not approved and therefore it was denied, and that I did not think a second vote was necessary.
8. General review of town codes
I suggested that to begin the long delayed process of updating our codes, we begin with the zoning code and have the building inspector and the planning director each identify five problem areas in the code and suggest how they could/should be modified. I also suggested that the board set a timetable with milestones for getting the job done.
In response, the supervisor talked in more general terms about working on other codes and the possibility of setting up meeting with the two department heads. Town attorney Koster chimed in that she had a list of needed amendments to the zoning code, including the confusion over the words “addition” and “accessory” that resulted in the town losing two lawsuits. No specific “next steps” were agreed to.
9. Ethics Law/Disclosure Form
The supervisor said he would send letters to the people who have not filed their 2014 Annual Disclosure Forms that were due May 15, 2014. The board agreed to a March 1 deadline for receiving the required forms.
10. State grant for YCCC
The board adopted a resolution that “accepted” a $100,000 state grant for the YCCC. When I raised questions as to what the grant money was for, Planning Director Tegeder explained that this was money from an old Senator Leibell grant that was supposed to have been used for the senior center but hadn’t been made available. However, as the center has already been renovated using other funds, the $100,000 could be used for “new” projects at the YCCC. I suggested that more board discussion was needed before the money was committed.