Citizens for an Informed Yorktown



Town Board Work Session

March 25, 2014


1. Algonquin Gas Line Expansion

Representatives of STOP (Stop Algonquin Pipeline Expansion) made a presentation explaining their opposition to the plan of Spectra Energy to expand the existing pipeline, a portion of which traverses Yorktown.  The group asked the Town Board to support its opposition, and initially to send a letter to the DEC which will have to issue an air quality permit. The Board asked some questions, including what alternatives there were if the expansion plan was rejected by the regulatory agencies, but took no action.


2. Tax/Lien Collection System

While Councilman Patel said that the root of the problem was that the tax office’s XP operating system was outdated, a representative of SCA said that the reason for the problem, and why it happened with school tax bills and not town tax bills had nothing to do with XP but instead was that the KVS system had problems converting the STAR data for coops. (Note: Although he used the term “coops,” he  possibly meant condos). He also explained that the SCA software was basically for property record management while KVS was more financial software. But, he added, the SCA software has a general ledger interface with KVS so that if the tax office generates tax bills and collects tax payments  using SCA software, SCA can convert the data for KVS – which is what the finance office uses.  When Comptroller Caporale expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of the interface, she said her office would then enter the tax payments manually, an option Supervisor Grace rejected. After the SCA representative explained that Tarrytown used this interface software, it was agreed that the interested parties would make a site visit to Tarrytown.


In response to Councilman Bianco’s question of whether SCA could do a test run to see if the interface worked, the SCA representative said that doing so would involve a cost because data had to be converted.   He added that one of the additional benefits of the SCA software was that it automatically updated property ownership records.


Given the time it will take to convert the existing data to SCA in the event the town adopts the new software for the tax office, there was a sense that a decision needed to be made in the short term so that the new system would be up and running in time to prepare the September school tax bills.


There was no discussion about the cost of the new software, although it appeared that board members did have some written information about costs.


2.  IBM/Extension of county sewer district

In what was not completely clear to the public, it appeared that the county wanted to change a 30 year old agreement that would extend the existing Ossining  Sewer District to incorporate the IBM Watson Research Center. Although the building has its own sewage treatment plant, and it did pay a “buy-in” fee to the county district when the building was constructed, it never actually became part of the district.


(When an out of district property wants to be included in a county sewer district, the Town Board must first pass a resolution requesting the expansion. The ultimate decision rests with the Westchester County Board of Legislators.)


The board had no problems with the IBM facility being added to the district but did have questions about whether existing homeowners along the truck line would also be able to join the district and whether the expansion would open up the possibility of other properties  in the area tying into the district, such as an earlier proposal  involving a Hog Hill property. Citing the Wallach property in the Hunterbrook area, Town Engineer Robinson explained that the county board does not support allowing undeveloped properties becoming part of an existing sewer district.


At Supervisor Grace’s suggestion, a representative of IBM will draft an appropriate resolution for the board to vote on.


3. Jefferson Valley Mall

After a brief discussion involving new signage requirements (see below), and a unanimous vote authorizing the supervisor to sign the amended Mall site plan, Supervisor Grace ceremoniously signed the plan.


Representatives of the Mall and ABACA have developed a Master Signage Plan for the Mall. According to Supervisor Grace, the only remaining issue was whether ABACA would  be entitled to review every sign as new stores opened, or as an alternative, have 30 days to review a proposed sign, after which, if no action was taken, the sign would be approved by default.


The supervisor and Mall attorney Al Capellini argued that as the Master Plan set standards for the signs, there was no need for any additional ABACA review as long as the proposed sign met the Plan’s standards.  Councilman Bianco agreed.  The Mall’s representatives explained that it would be difficult to make commitments to prospective tenants if there were delays getting approval for their signs.


4. Underhill Plaza Directory Sign

A representative of SignsInk returned with a new concept for the proposed sign, this time horizontal instead of vertical and made of stone, not brick. How the sign will be lit has not yet been determinedll but there will be no back lighting.


While Supervisor Grace thought that the sign might not be compliant with town code, Building Inspector Winter, citing a precedent involving a boy scout sign on Quaker Church Road, said that because the sign was on town property, the board could, by resolution, override the code. (The sign will be on the grassed area at the intersection of Downing Drive and Commerce Street, in front of the existing tree.)


In general Supervisor Grace pointed to the problems with the existing sign requirements in the code that  he said made the signs difficult to read from a distance and which he said were visual pollution.


At the beginning of the discussion, Councilman Murphy stated that he owns one of the stores in the shopping center. He recused himself. The board referred the design to ABACA.


5. Request from Broad Street homeowner (Gregory Kravstov)

Although Mr. Kravstov had left the meeting by the time this agenda item was reached, Supervisor Grace, reading from Mr. Kravstov’s letter,  summarized his request that the town waive a wetlands permit fee and also that the town reimburse him for the lost value of his house due to a mold situation.  Councilman Bianco said that the board couldn’t waive a wetlands permit fee and Mr. Winter explained that there was no current application for a wetlands permit. The board unanimously denied his request.


6. Yorktown Stage YCCC rental

Explaining that Get Fit, the dance studio that has leased Room 12 in the YCCC for many years was going out of business, Barry Liebman, owner of Yorktown Stage, requested use of the space, either on a license or lease basis.

Initially, the board agreed to grant him a lease through August 31 in order to allow the Recreation Commission time to review space needs in the building, including a request from the Teen Center for more room to accommodate its expanding programs.  If the Commission has no problem with leasing out the space, the temporary lease could be renewed on a yearly basis.  Initially Margaret Gspurning, the town department head in charge of the YCCC, said that as a not-for-profit organization, Mr. Liebman should pay the not-for-profit rental rate, but Mr. Liebman said he was willing to pay the for-profit rate that Get Fit paid.  He will also cover custodial costs if his use incurs additional custodial time.  The town attorney will draw up the lease agreement.

7. Town Board Vacancy

Citing the need to have a five member board when difficult issues comes up,  Rosemary Panio and Aaron Bock, speaking on behalf on the Chamber of Commerce, said that the board should fill the vacancy by appointment.  Ms. Panio said that  the board should choose someone who wasn’t going to run in November and who had demonstrated that they could look at issues objectively and had experience on a decision making board.  She said that the Chamber had been discussing plans for an industrial park with the county and wanted to be able to work with the town as a partner.


Lisa McKay, executive director of the Democratic Town Committee, approached the board and read a statement in support of the proposed local law (see below) and stressing the fact that it was a fundamental right of the people to choose the board member. 


At one point, when Supervisor Grace suggested that a Republican should be appointed to replace a seat vacated by a Republican, Town Clerk Roker (a Democrat), advised the supervisor, “Not to go there.”


While Ms. McKay cited statistics showing that the board has been able to function since the vacancy occurred and that there have been no tie votes, Supervisor Grace said that the resolutions that had been passed unanimously dealt with ministerial issues only and that things needed to get gone.


Proposed local law requiring special elections to fill vacancies

Supervisor Grace said he opposed the law which would call for special elections if the board could not agree on an appointment within 30 days after the vacancy occurred. He said the law would be time consuming and costly, could lead to multiple elections in succession, and could stymie town processes, saying it would be dangerous to constrain the workings of the town if the board had to wait for an election to take place.


Town Clerk Roker pointed out that if the vacancy occurred close to the time of a November election, state election law would take precedence over the local law. If passed, the law would not go into effect until 2015.


The board voted 3-1, with Supervisor Grace voting no, to schedule a public hearing on the law for April 15. “Do what you want. I don’t think it’s worthwhile,” he said.  Because of the law’s limited content, the board decided there was no need to refer out the draft law to advisory boards or departments.


8. In-Rem properties/auction

Although Ms. Roker said she hadn’t heard back from all town departments and boards regarding the list of in-rem properties that might be sold, Supervisor Grace said he would start getting plans together for an auction. But, in response to a comment from Councilman Bianco, he said he hadn’t decided if the town would hire an outside auctioneer as was done in 2011, or have a town employee conduct the auction as was done many years ago. When Councilman Bianco said that the outside auction house had produced a brochure about the parcels, Supervisor Grace said that prospective bidders built the buyer’s premium (that goes to the auction house) into their bid.  No decision was made.


In a related move, the board voted unanimously to sell the property off Baptist Church Road to a Mr. Sabo, the higher of two bidders.  The only two parties interested in the property were Mr. Sabo and the homeowners group. The amount of the sale was not noted.


9. Building Department fees

The board approved a resolution modifying the Master Fee schedule to add a $50-$100 fee for getting a permit to erect a temporary tent (the difference between the two fees was not discussed) and also a change in the fee for a flood plain permit, which was also not explained.


Mr. Winter also recommended that changes by made to the existing town code dealing with electrical  and plumbing issues.  One change would involve requiring a permit, where none is currently required, to remove and/or install new oil tanks.  He said that having an official record of either action would actually be an advantage for homeowners when they sell their houses.  The board directed the building inspector to prepare a draft of the proposed code amendments.


Mr. Winter also advised the board that the bank holding the mortgage for the Garden Lane house that burned down advised him that they will make the building safe.  If that doesn’t take place, he said he’d contact family members.


10. Land donation/Andre Place

With all town advisory boards recommending against the town accepting the donation of 1861 Andre Place, the board voted to authorize Supervisor Grace to send a letter to the property owner declining the donation.

11. Selected resolutions passed unanimously

State grant.  The board authorized the supervisor to sign a Grant Disbursement Agreement with the state so that the town could receive a $150,000 grant to be used to renovate the Route 202 ballfields and the inline skating rink at Shrub Oak Park. The grant was first announced by Senator Ball several years ago.  Supervisor Grace explained that the town will have to lay out the money first and then seek reimbursement.


YCCC rental fee. The board waived the fees for the ASK workshop scheduled for April 5.  The amount of the fees was not disclosed.