Town Board Work Session
March 27, 2012
State Land Corporation
Attorney Al Capellini, representing the State Land Corporation, presented the board with a hypothetical site plan for a series of five retail buildings as part of his client’s request to rezone the 100 acre site to C-3 from its current R-160 (4 acre residential) zone. He said he anticipated submitting a full environmental report to the town next week that would cover all the issues identified in the scoping document approved last fall. (The previous board determined that a full DEIS on the project was not needed because two previous DEISs had already been done for the site for the Pulte Homes and Homart projects. )
Mr. Capellini explained that the property owner needed the site rezoned in order to attract potential tenants and that once tenants were interested, a revised plan based on their actual needs could be developed. The plan as presented includes one large building and a cluster of four smaller ones with a single entrance to the site across from Parkside Corners. The developer would widen Route 202 along his 3,000 feet of frontage and install a traffic light. The rear 52 acre portion of the site would either be given to the town (the land abuts the Sylvan Glen Preserve) or could be a conservation easement placed on the property. To control downstream flooding problems, particularly in the Mill Pond area, two large berms would be created on the northern boundary of the property to capture runoff and retain it on the site in pocket wetlands.
The developer has dropped his earlier plan to grade a future right of way for a relocated extension of the Bear Mountain Parkway that would be located north of the retail building and serve as a border between the commercial development and the open space. The state currently owns a right of way for the parkway extension in the front of the parcel abutting Route 202.
The presentation generated a heated discussion over two different visions for Route 202 between Supervisor Grace and Councilman Bianco. Supervisor Grace reiterated his goal to create a boulevard concept along Route 202 and develop a regional drainage plan for the area. Because this approach would cost the developer more money to construct, as an incentive he would like to see some multi family housing added to the site, possibly to the rear of the retail buildings. “We have to give something back to make it worthwhile for the town,“ he explained. He also was against the town taking over the rear portion of the site which he called “useless” property that would be a cost to the town to maintain.
Calling the supervisor’s plan a “Yonkers plan,” Councilman Bianco strongly objected to the addition of any housing to the site. When he expressed concern over the impact on the school district of more children, Supervisor Grace asked if he wanted to sterilize people. “Kids are good for us,” he said. Councilman Bianco called this new mixed use idea a “bait and switch” approach that future generations of Yorktowners would suffer from and said he supported the hypothetical plan presented by Mr. Capellini which he felt was environmentally sound.
As the tension between the two board members increased, Mr. Capellini suggested a third alternative: an underground nuclear testing site.
Councilman Paganelli appeared to support the all commercial development as a viable plan and one that would move the project forward after 25 years of discussion. He wanted to know which option was the most advantageous to the property owner.
Mr. Capellini said that his client would look at adding a multi family component to the hypothetical plan as an alternative scenario and stressed that his client was anxious to proceed with the rezoning request. He said that some of the issues being discussed were site issues, not rezoning issues, that could be resolved once the property owner had a more specific site plan.
Planning Director Tegeder added another unresolved issue that needed to be considered: the future right of way for the Bear Mountain Parkway. He said that if the state never went ahead with the proposed rear relocation of the site (which presented serious grading issues) and wanted to use the existing right of way, then it would conflict with the location of the major building on the present hypothetical plan. Also, if the town followed through on the boulevard approach, it would then have to deal with the traffic back up when Route 202 narrowed to two lanes in the absence of any state Bear Mountain Parkway project that extended into Cortlandt. (While the extension remains on the state’s long term road improvement plan, most participants at the meeting were skeptical of when this might be accomplished although Supervisor Grace said he had had encouraging talks with the DOT.) Mr. Tegeder advised the property owner to consider these issues in their planning in order to avoid future problems that might involve a taking of other property.
Although the property owner is requesting a rezoning to a C-3 designation, there was a discussion of the town’s other commercial zones and their differences and which one was best suited for this site. The most likely alternate possibilities were C-1 (shopping center) which makes the Planning Board the approval authority or CRS (regional shopping center such as the JV Mall) suggested by Supervisor Grace which gives the Town Board approval authority. No decision was reached on the most appropriate zone designation and it appeared that when the formal application is submitted next week it would be for the original C-3 request.
Members of several senior clubs appeared before the board to try to resolve the issue over whether the Town will provide transportation to special club luncheons held outside of Yorktown (at Cortlandt Colonial Restaurant). Calling the issue “confusing,” Supervisor Grace asked Mary DeSilva, the director of the Town’s nutrition program and the person in charge of senior transportation to clarify the issue.
Ms. DeSilva explained that before the clubs started meeting at the YCCC, they arranged their own bus transportation for these luncheons. Once they started meeting at the YCCC, the Town provided the buses. However, she explained, as the Town’s transportation services to seniors to bring them to the Nutrition Center as well as for shopping and medical appointments within Town have expanded over the years, she did not have the resources (buses and/or drivers) to transport seniors out of town. She said that she had advised the clubs last year that this service would no longer be available in 2012. Despite that notice, three clubs scheduled a total of five out of town luncheons for 2012 and made deposits.
It was also explained that the transportation to the luncheons that was being requested by the clubs was separate and apart from the $2,100 each club receives on an annual basis to subsidize special out of town trips selected by the clubs.
There was some disagreement over what actions the board may have taken when the issue was brought to their attention at previous meetings. While some participants thought that the board had promised to provide the transportation, Tony Grasso said that as someone who has attended all board meetings, he did not recall the board ever voting on the issue. What may have happened, he suggested, was that one person on the board said that the issue would be addressed. Supervisor Grace said he recalled that the board said, “It would work on it” but that no decision had been made. It was a mistake, he added, that the issue had not been dealt with.
Explaining that he was trying to get all the parties to “play together nicely in the sandbox,” Supervisor Grace said he didn’t want to get involved in issues of equity and fairness among the different clubs which vary in size from 45-200 members. Nor did he want to micro manage the clubs. Acting on his suggestion, the board voted 4-0 with Councilman Paganelli abstaining because some of the clubs hold their functions at Traveler’s Rest, to consider 2012 a transition year that would provide every club with transportation, including to out of town sites, once only this year in a 14 passenger van. The offer would be extended to clubs that have not previously asked for transportation. The board will also develop a policy for the following year so that everyone will know exactly what services and resources would be available to them in the future. ( It was not clear if the policy for next year would continue to provide luncheon transportation within town. ) The cost of providing this additional service for 2012 was not discussed.
Mr. Grasso and Jennie Menton were not pleased with the compromise and accused the board of giving in to the people with the loudest mouths and having done a disservice to their own employees.
3. Business Incentive
Councilman Bianco explained that last year he had developed a plan, along with Chamber of Commerce President Joe Visconti, to offer an incentive to businesses of less than 25,000 square feet as a way to lease up space in vacant stores. Originally planned as a tax break to the landlords, the plan was modified to provide a maximum benefit of $1,200 to tenants who would be paid by the town in quarterly installments.
The town attorney, however, has advised him that the plan might be an illegal on the grounds that it constitutes “a gift of public funds” and that the only way around that restriction would be to get state enabling legislation.
Supervisor Grace commended Mr. Bianco for what he called a laudable idea but agreed with the town attorney’s logic. He said that the solution to the vacant stores could be lowering the rent, a suggestion Mr. Visconti said had been tried but which hadn’t worked. He said that one landlord had already lowered his rent to $25/sf from $32/sf.
Councilman Bianco said he would explore other possibilities to assist local businesses with Senator Ball and that in the meantime the $25,000 set aside in the 2012 budget would remain in the budget.
Mr. Visconti said that the real problem for new businesses was speeding up the building permit process. A $100/month reduction in rent won’t make a difference, he said, adding that while the Chamber can bring new business to Yorktown, what needed to be changed was the permitting process. He cited an example of someone who applied for a building permit in May but didn’t get it until Christmas. Supervisor Grace responded that Building Inspector John Winter has been working hard to expedite the process which is a high priority for the department and that the newly appointed code enforcement officer has the skills to work with and assist the assistant building inspectors on permit issues.
Councilman Paganelli suggested to Mr. Visconti that if a business is having a problem obtaining a permit, that he notify the town as soon as possible so that someone could look into the problem. It doesn’t help, he said, if you tell us six months later. Mr. Visconti also acknowledged that the delay in obtaining a permit is often due to the applicant and his professional team.
4. Generators at Town Hall and YCCC
Although the impetus for the discussion was the immediate need to replace a transfer switch in Town Hall used when a generator is needed, the discussion expanded into a broader exploration of what size generators were needed for both buildings, plus generators for the sewer pump stations, who would spec them, and whether it made sense to replace the Town Hall transfer switch before the generator was selected. The agenda included a separate but related item for preparing an RFP for professional engineering services to design the specs for the generators for the YCCC and Town Hall.
Supervisor Grace considered the YCCC to be the top priority as it is used as an emergency shelter and Town Hall is only used for “soft stuff.”
Mike Dubovsky of P&M Electric, the contractor who has the town contract for electrical work, explained that he has told successive supervisors about the broken transfer switch and that he would no longer have his men put in a dangerous position of having to make the connection manually. He also explained that the switch has to be compatible with the generator so that the two pieces have to be considered together. He reviewed with the board some specs for generators he had given to former Supervisor Siegel last November that were based on actual electric usage for each building. He is recommending a 70 KW generator for Town Hall and a 356 KW for the YCCC. Although the YCCC is a larger building, as it does not have air conditioning, its actual electric usage is considerably less than Town Hall’s.
Also at issue was whether Town Hall had access to a natural gas supply which would determine what type of generator was spec’d for that building; some thought gas was available while others said it wasn’t. The alternative to gas would be the installation of a propane tank.
Although it initially appeared that the board might proceed with ordering the new transfer switch and that Mr. Dubovsky would provide a cost estimate for both the switch and the labor to install it, by the time the discussion ended it appeared that Supervisor Grace would work with Dan Ciarcia (see below) to see what needed to be done and that the board would have to revisit the issue at a future meeting. He suggested that it would be better to wait a little longer and do it right.
5. Route 202 commuter lot
Supervisor Grace advised the board that the Yorktown School District is requesting that it be granted either a lease or a license for the commuter lot in order to control how cars park there (the lot is not striped) and also to control student behavior. The district would monitor the lot and pay the Town a nominal fee. The plan would not interfere with residents also using the lot.
Town Attorney Koster said she would draft an IMA (Inter Municipal Agreement) for the board to review.
6. Lifeguard at Sparkle Lake
Supervisor Grace said he had added this item to the agenda in response to a letter he received from a six year old girl who enjoyed swimming at Sparkle Lake with her grandmother requesting that a lifeguard be assigned to the lake this summer. It was explained that last year, on the recommendation of the Parks & Recreation Superintendent and with the concurrence of the Town’s insurance broker, the previous Town Board had eliminated the $18,000 expense for the lifeguard from the budget as a cost saving measure.
Councilman Paganelli, the board’s liaison to the Recreation Commission, explained that the window of opportunity to get county Health Department approval for the lifeguard had passed and that the Recreation Department had already made other plans for the use of the service building. When other board members questioned what role the Health Department played in the lifeguard issue, he said he would check it out again. In the meantime, Supervisor Grace said he would write back to the young lady advising her that he was looking into the issue.
7. Teen Center use of YCCC gym
The Teen Center has requested additional time to use the gym during summer hours. Town Attorney Koster said that this shouldn’t be a problem if Patty DeMarsh, the building’s manager was okay with the request. Mary Capoccia, Supervisor Grace’s assistant, said she had received an email from Ms. DeMarsh indicating that she had no problem with the request and Ms. Koster said she would prepare the resolution for the board’s approval at the next meeting.
8. Hiring a staff person for the Organic Waste Facility
As there was some confusion as to the nature of the Highway Department’s request to hire a “checker” for the Hill, aka the Organic Waste Facility, the board decided to postpone taking any action until the Highway Superintendent could discuss the issue with the board. Councilmen Bianco and Murphy said that there had been some issues at the Hill last Nov/Dec but didn’t elaborate. Mary Capoccia, Supervisor Grace’s assistant, reached Highway Superintendent DiBartolo by phone and based on the conversation advised the board that what he was requesting was permission to hire someone for four months, from April 19 to July 19.
Water Department Dump Truck
The Water Department has requested permission to go out to bid to purchase a new dump truck. Councilman Bianco asked if the department needed one and Supervisor Grace wanted to know if the item was included in the department’s 2012 budget. He suggested that the board let the department proceed with the bid and make a final determination later on whether to actually purchase the truck. When the board was ready to postpone taking any action on the request, Town Attorney Koster advised the board of the department’s concern that there was a six month lead time for the delivery of the truck, the board voted 5-0 to authorize the bid.
10. Jacobs Engineering Resolution
The board approved a revised resolution correcting a defect in the earlier resolution that authorized Jacobs Engineering to review the traffic chapter of the Costco DEIS. The nature of the correction was not made clear.
11.Fleet Committee/police cars
Supervisor Grace advised the board that during a meeting of the Fleet Committee he learned from Don Gaffney, the head mechanic in the Central Garage, that the four police cars that the Police Department wanted to auction off (see below) were in good shape even if they couldn’t be used for high speed chases and that it made sense to use them, possibly for other departments rather than auction them off for $300-$400.
He also said that a DEC Mac packer truck with only 14,000 miles but with a blown engine would be given to the Highway Department which will convert the truck to its own use. The existing truck body is no longer usable.
12. Political events in Town Hall
Councilman Bianco said that he had received a request from a candidate for the state legislature to hold a campaign event in the board meeting room. The consensus of the board was that the room could be used by already sitting elected officials who were communicating with their constituents but not for campaign functions. However, it was made clear that there were no restrictions on candidates holding events outside the building.