Town Board Work Session
February 28, 2012
(The board met individually with several department heads)
1. Building Permit Renewals
The board continued the discussion on what constituted an appropriate fee to renew an expired building permit (permits are good for one year), what to do if a permit is not renewed, and how to treat permit holders who had paid the renewal fee that went into effect in mid-2010. Supervisor Grace noted that given the current economy some jobs are not finished within a year and that sometimes people don’t bother to renew permits until they go to sell their home, at which time, they request a final inspection and get a Certificate of Occupancy. (Prior to 2010, there were no provisions in the Code dealing with expired permits.)
Supervisor Grace said that the renewal fee, currently set at 25% of the original fee for the first renewal and 50% for the second renewal was excessive. Building Inspector John Winter proposed $150 and $250 but Supervisor Grace thought that $200 and $350 was more appropriate. If the permit holder asks for a renewal after two years, Mr. Winter suggested that the fee be $350 for each year the permit wasn’t renewed.
Councilman Bianco said that it should be the property owner’s responsibility to know when the permit needed to be renewed. Councilman Murphy asked if the Town could send notices out to all current permit holders advising them of the expiration date. Mr. Winter responded that while the department’s computer system had that capability to do that, the records were not currently set up in a way that would make that task doable.
On the suggestion of Supervisor Grace it was decided that permit holders who paid the 25% renewal fee in 2010 or 2011 could apply to the town for a refund on a case by case basis as it would be too complicated to make the fees refundable retroactively. Mr. Winter said that there weren’t many who fell into this category.
Town attorney Koster will draft the necessary language for the needed changes.
2. Pool Concession Contract
On the recommendation of Parks & Recreation Superintendent Jennifer Fava, the board agreed to extend the current contract for the pool concession for another year. The contract approved last year included an option for three one-year extensions.
3. Woodlands Legacy Fields
Parks & Recreation Superintendent Jennifer Fava advised the board of a proposed increase in the user fees for the multi-purpose field at the Woodlands Legacy Fields to $45/hour from the current $15/hour fee for residents and to $75/hour from $30/hour for non-residents. The added revenue from the new fees, which will go into effect in the fall (as spring and summer registrations are already completed) will be placed in a trust fund to be used to replace the current artificial turf.
Councilman Paganelli said that a new turf would cost between $600,000 - $800,000 and that if the added user fee did not generate enough revenue, the town could revisit the fee structure in future years. Ms. Fava estimated that the field was used for approximately 1500 hours last year, with almost all the use by local clubs.
In response to Councilman Murphy’s question as to whether the athletic clubs were aware of the proposed fee increase, Ms. Fava told the board that it was the clubs that actually brought up the issue and that they have no problem with the increase.
4. Chamber of Commerce Street Festival
The board agreed to the same terms as last year for the Chamber of Commerce October festival. The exact terms were not discussed, although Chamber president Joe Visconti said that if the town wanted additional money, that would mean the Chamber would have less money to donate to local charities.
He asked the board for permission to extend the fair along Veterans Road to Turcos. The Chamber will also do something different with the banners this year to avoid problems that have surfaced in previous years.
5. Pinesbridge Monument fundraiser
Chamber of Commerce president Joe Visconti asked for the board’s support for a new car show to be held in Downing Park on a June Saturday with what he said would be a “substantial” amount of the proceeds being donated to the Pinesbridge Monument fundraising efforts ( the monument will be erected in Downing Park). Mr. Visconti said that there are 20 new car dealers in the Chamber and that each one will be permitted to display four cars. The event will take place between the bocce court and Route 202.
The board supported the plan and the Chamber will proceed to obtain the necessary permits.
6. Bernstein House
Local realtor Bill Primavera updated the board on plans he had had, dating back to 2003, to renovate the property, but which had fallen through for reasons he did not detail. He said he was returning to the board now in a last ditch effort to sell the property.
Councilman Bianco said that he had heard from someone who was interested in leasing the property, renovating it, and then advertising the house as a showcase for his company’s services. Supervisor Grace said, however, that there were issues involved in leasing the property to an individual and Mr. Primavera said that the person who had initially expressed interest in renovating the building hadn’t seen it and that when he did, decided that the building was too far gone to renovate.
The discussion then moved to selling the property which led to Councilman Paganelli to ask why, after all the efforts to save the houses at the High School and the Crompond Crossing site, was the town so anxious to “trash” the Bernstein house. In response, Mr. Primavera called the Bernstein house a “black pit.”
Supervisor Grace said the property should be marketed and not sold at auction and Mr. Primavera said he would take an exclusive to sell the property with a 6% broker’s fee. Councilman Bianco asked if the town should get bids from other brokers and Town Attorney Koster said that while this would be a professional service and the town could solicit proposals using the RFP (Request for Proposals) procedure, she said it wasn’t necessary. Mr. Primavera then said that he would prepare a contract for the Supervisor to sign. He estimated that the property could sell for over $200,000.
2/29/ Correction from Bill Primavera: "Susan, I didn't say the Bernstein House was beyond saving...not at all. I said that it was in deplorable shape but that I was hopeful that a buyer could be found who would tackle the job of renovating it, not restoring it (which indeed would be prohibitively expensive)."
6. St. George’s Winery
Tom DeChiaro presented plans to rezone the Winery property from its current residential zone to either a C2 or transitional zone. His plan also included a land swap with the town: in exchange for his giving a portion of his site (a wetlands to the west and rear of the building) to the town, the town would give him a portion of town-owned property that is a wetlands buffer to the east of the church. Mr. DeChiaro would then use the newly acquired property as a parking lot for 22 cars. Initially, it would be a gravel lot with plans to pave the lot within three years. The lot would be available to the public during the daytime and, if a boardwalk like structure was built in the rear of the property, it could provide public access to Mohegan Lake.
Supervisor Grace said that an alternative to the land swap could be giving Mr. DeChiaro a license to use the property, similar to what the town did recently for Underhill Apartments.
While Mr. DeChiaro said he preferred the C2 zone, Planning Director John Tegeder advised the board that a transitional zone would be more appropriate. Supervisor Grace said that while the C2 zone would give Mr. DeChiaro greater flexibility in the event that the church is demolished, the town could consider a rezoning that was tied to the continued presence of the structure.
The board voted to refer to rezoning application to the appropriate town advisory boards and departments.
7. Route 6/Mohegan Ave drainage issue
As an offshoot to the discussion of the St. George’s Winery rezoning, Highway Superintendent DiBartolo updated the board on the state’s continued failure to address the problem of a collapsed culvert on the northern side of Route 6 that creates flooding problems on Mohegan Ave. Councilman Bianco said that when the problem was first brought to the attention of the DOT, they denied it was a problem. Then, after the town sent pictures of the problem, they have not acted to replace the culvert. He said he would bring the issue to the attention of Senator Ball.
8. YCCC room rates for non profit groups
Patricia DeMarsh, manager of the YCCC reviewed the rent rates for non-profit groups at the YCCC.
Hourly rental rates at the building vary by room. The senior club room opposite the gym rents for
$27.30/hour for non-profits and $49/for profit making groups. The smaller Community Room 1 at the other end of the building rents for $15.80/hr or $27.30 for profit making groups.
Since 2010, all new non-profit groups renting space have paid the same rent. However, Ms. DeMarsh said, some groups that have used space prior to 2010 and were not charged are still not being charged, or are being different rates.
The board was in general agreement that all groups, no matter how “worthy” should be charged the same rate and that the town could always lower the non-profit rate if it wanted to and that the umbrella group that Supervisor Grace is talking about setting up should not be used to have other groups avoid paying whatever the going rate is for non-profit groups. Supervisor Grace said that some groups, such as Relay for Life which rents a room six times a year for meetings, have asked not to be charged.
The board agreed that some non-profit groups should be treated differently. For example, Ms. DeMarsh pointed out that if the regular non-profit rate for use of the gym was applied to the Teen Center, the cost to the Center would be $12,000.
The board also discussed the use of a second floor room, between 600-700 sq. ft., that became vacant last year after the Westchester County Office of the Aging closed its office. (They shared space with the Beaver Conference Farm. Neither tenant paid any rent.) One possibility, Ms. DeMarsh said, was to set the room up as a conference room; she does get requests from small businesses using the room to hold meetings. Councilman Bianco asked if the room could be used for the merger of the Planning, Engineering and Building departments that had been discussed in previous years, but Ms. DeMarsh said she believed that that idea had been dropped because the building didn’t have adequate parking for the merged department.
Town Comptroller Joan Goldberg told the board that the building “loses” about a quarter million dollars a year. She said she will work with Ms. DeMarsh to allocate the costs of operating the building between town uses and space that is rented.
9. Traffic Safety Committee
Saying that he was getting calls from residents about traffic issues and that something had to be done, Supervisor Grace initiated a discussion on reviving the Traffic Safety Committee. He said he didn’t know why the previous committee no longer functioned. He cited a specific call about a house where cars were going on to someone’s property andthe resident felt that a guardrail was needed.
Town Attorney Koster said that the previous traffic safety committee had been established pursuant to a local law and that the law had been repealed. Councilman Murphy said that Larry Eidelman, the town’s Public Safety Officer, was supposed to let him know when there were traffic issues that needed to be reviewed. “Larry and I were on it. It’s no problem,” he said.
10. Croton Overlook Legal Fees
In response to a letter from T.J. Muldoon, the developer for the proposed Croton Overlook project, Supervisor Grace said he was bringing the board’s attention to Mr. Muldoon’s objection to some of the fees. According to Mr. Muldoon’s letter, there are about $27,000 in outstanding legal bills. Supervisor Grace said that there was no need for a board decision that evening.
Supervisor Grace said that his position on legal fees was well known and that he thought it improper for an outside attorney to bill an applicant when the attorney had to “educate” the town supervisor on the law. He said the bills should be audited to determine their appropriateness.
There was some confusion as to what the bills were for, and Planning Director John Tegeder explained that the outstanding bills were for legal services rendered during the SEQRA process and that they were charged pursuant to the town’s laws regarding SEQRA review fees. There was also confusion as to how much money the outside attorney had previously taken off its bill. Mr. Tegeder said that the attorney had previously negotiated with Mr. Muldoon a $4,000 reduction in the firm’s pre-SEQRA legal bill.
Town Attorney Koster explained that the Croton Overlook team had specifically requested that the town hire an outside attorney to advise the town on its rezoning application and that a contract to that effect had been signed. It was only after they received the bills, did they start objecting. “They haven’t lived up to the contract,” she said.
Councilman Bianco said that the bills were Mr. Muldoon’s problem but Supervisor Grace said that they were the town’s problem. When Supervisor Grace called the problem a “mess,” Councilman Bianco said it wasn’t. Councilman Murphy said that this was what he was concerned about all along: giving the lawyers an open check book.
Town Comptroller Joan Goldberg said that the town has not paid the attorney’s bills.
11. 2008 Foreclosure List
Supervisor Grace asked for board volunteers to form a subcommittee to review the parcels on the 2008 foreclosure list and report back to the board. After several councilman volunteered and it was pointed out that three councilman can’t meet together without noticing an official meeting of the board, it was decided that Councilman Bianco would visit the sites with the Supervisor.
Councilman Paganelli said that each parcel had to be looked at individually. Town Attorney Koster explained that the 2008 list was a “clean up” list and Town Comptroller Goldberg explained that it was only after new software was installed in the tax office that the town was able to develop an a list of parcels with liens. Ms. Koster said the 2009 foreclosure list was much smaller.
12. Proposed local law for special permit for helipads in OB zones
The board briefly discussed a proposed draft of legislation that would establish a special permit for the construction of a helipad in an OB zone. The legislation would make the Town Board the approval authority for the permit and also change the existing law to give the Town Board the approval authority for all site plans in OB zones. Current site plan authority is with the Planning Board.
Planning Director Tegeder advised the board that there are currently only three OB zones in town: the IBM site, the old Mercy College site on Strang Blvd., and Contractor’s Register in Jefferson Valley. He added that his department has had ongoing discussions with the owners of the Mercy College site for the reuse of one of the buildings. Also, Contractor’s Register, which recently expanded its parking lot, has long range plans for additional development on its property.
Town Attorney Koster said that she had copied the technical aspects of the helipad special permit from codes in North Castle and Somers.
The board voted to refer the proposed local law to appropriate advisory boards and agencies. (It was not clear if the board also agreed to advertise the proposed law for a public hearing.)
13. Community Day
Supervisor Grace said he wanted to see Community Day strengthened, but it was unclear what plans he had in mind. He mentioned something about the Alliance for Safe Kids (ASK) and also that the subject might be discussed at a March 22nd meeting community affairs meeting.
Supervisor Grace said he would work with Councilman Paganelli on an alternate approach to keeping track of gas usage by town vehicles. The vendor who was supposed to replace the inoperable encoder advised the town that a new encoder would not work with the town’s existing software and that as an interim measure he will supply to town with new individual cards.
Supervisor Grace went over a variety of invitations his office had received and asked board members which ones they were interested in attending.
16. Police Department Purchase
The board unanimously approved a resolution exempting the Police Department from the town’s procurement policy and authorizing the department to spend $13,794.50 for Motorola communications equipment, programming and installation.