Town Board Work Session
April 26, 2016
Closed Executive Session
To discuss personnel
1. Morris Lane
Given the topography of the single lot next to the Dog Park, developer Phil Sanders needs to grade and remove about 400 yards of soil from the site, an action that triggers the need for a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Permit (SWPP). Town Engineer Michael Quinn had some concerns with the proposed slope of the driveway and also about how the discharge from the site’s drains would be treated. He asked Mr. Sanders to meet with him as well as the building inspector who also has some issues.
When Mr. Sanders explained that he had tried to site the house so that variances would not be needed, Supervisor Grace suggested that the overall plan might be better if the house was sited WITH the need for variances.
It was suggested that Mr. Sanders discuss his Lexington Avenue rezoning request with Mr. Quinn at the same time he discusses Morris Lane.
2. BOCES water usage
Water Superintendent Rambo advised the board that after the water department discovered in 2011 that some BOCES buildings built in the 1980s did not have water meters, meters and required backflow devices were installed. The outstanding issue was how to charge BOCES for the unmetered water that had not been paid for. Using different water rates covering the unbilled period, Mr. Rambo, working with the town attorney, developed a formula that resulted in a bill of $25,947.
Mr. Rambo advised the board that in a phone conversation with BOCES, the latter said it would pay half that amount and said it was Yorktown’s fault that meters had not been installed. (Who, why and how meters were not installed in the 1980s remains a mystery.) After an inaudible exchange between Supervisor Grace and the town attorney that appeared to deal with issue of whether the town could legally charge for water dating back to the 1980s, the board directed the attorney to send a letter to BOCES.
Town Attorney Michael McDermott suggested that the town adopt a “red light camera” law that would involve installing surveillance cameras at littering hot spots that would take pictures of cars that illegally dumped. The owner of the car would be subject to a civil penalty. (For littering to be prosecuted as a criminal offense, a person has to observe the actual dumping.) Supervisor Grace said Yorktown would be the first in the nation to adopt such a law. It was suggested that five cameras could be installed and rotated to applicable hot spots.
Councilman Diana suggested that the attorney check out the vehicle & traffic law to see if littering was already covered and Mr. McDermott will do more research to make sure the law “passes muster” before drafting a local law.
Refuse and Recycling Coordinator Kim Anglis Gage asked the board to consider okaying the purchase of 40 “anti littering” signs, at a cost of approximately $1,000. The signw would be posted at 36 hot spots and the funds would come from the current R&R budget. A sample sign was distributed, and it was suggested that wording be added about the camera surveillance. The signs would be 18’x12’.
Supervisor Grace suggested that there be a major, coordinated roll out of both the law and the signs. The sense of the board was that the signs would make the public more aware of littering and the cameras would make enforcement easier.
See related discussion below on a dumpster enclosure local law.
4. Dumpster Enclosure Local Law
Town Attorney McDermott walked the board through a draft of the law that would regulate the location of dumpsters and compactors and set design and construction standards. The law will apply to multi-family developments and all commercial properties. He explained that the law is drafted broadly in order to capture a wide variety of “containers.” The law, which is modeled after one in Mamaroneck Village, would apply retroactively to dumpsters in place that were not reviewed and approved as part of a site plan; owners would have to go to the Planning Board for an amended site plan. While the attorney had included a $50 fee for an amended site plan in the draft law, on the suggestion of Mr. Tegeder, the fee will be changed to $250. Dumpster issues are covered in relatively recently approved and all pending sites plans.
It was pointed out that when trying to make existing dumpsters comply with the new law, other amendments to the site plan may be needed, e.g.,relocating existing dumpsters may trigger changes in parking or setbacks.
When it was explained that enforcing the conditions of a site plan falls within the purview of the building department, Supervisor Grace said that if this was not clear in our existing laws, then the laws should be amended.
While saying that he was “squeamish” about government dictating what businesses could do, Supervisor Grace said that the law was necessary to deal with the mess that exists in some locations, specifically calling out DeCicco’s in Jefferson Village, Starbucks, and Yorktown Green. He said that if the new law, once in place, was not sufficient to control the problem, he would consider a franchise operation where the town would select a single commercial carter that all property owners would have to contract with. The carter would be selected through a bid process.
The board voted to refer out the draft law and set a public hearing for June 7.
5. Illington Road/parkland alienation
(See Town Board, 4-11-2016.) The Saunders family made an offer of $10,000 for the parcel but has not submitted the required 10% deposit. The board went into executive session to discuss the sale but no action was taken on the issue when the board returned to open session.
6. Tree Ordinance
Town Attorney McDermott presented a proposed new Tree Law that would replace the law enacted in 2010. (The more current version of the law is dated 4/26.) The law was drafted with input from Bruce Barber. Supervisor Grace said the impetus for the change was that it was time to take a fresh look at the law after it had been in effect for 3-4 years.
In general, Supervisor Grace said that the current law lacked direction and focus; that there were no real problems relating to tree cutting; that a provision in the law requiring developers to do a tree survey was expensive and unnecessary and that the money could be better used for other tree related purposes; that homeowners should not be required to get a permit to cut down trees on their property; that neighbors should not be in a position to control what their neighbor does on his property; and that the law should focus on clear cutting.
Supervisor Grace said that the existing law created a lot of paperwork (and the required the cutting down of trees) without accomplishing much.
The supervisor also said that sections of the existing law dealing with the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission (TCAC) should be separated out of the law and stand by itself and that the responsibilities of the TCAC should be expanded to develop a master plan for a tree bank that would provide guidance (what the supervisor called a “wish list”) for the location and type of potential off site mitigation measures and also to pursue the development and enforcement of forest management plans.
On the issue of whether homeowners should be required to obtain permits to remove trees on their property, Bill Kellner, a member of TCAC corrected the supervisor when the latter said that he had to sign permits involving the removal of one tree; Mr. Kellner said that one tree could be removed without a permit. And, in response to Councilman Bernard who asked him to explain what the restrictions on homeowners was, Mr. Kellner responded that the restrictions varied depending on the size of lot and the location on the lot.
The proposed law eliminates the need for homeowners to get tree permits to cut down trees on their property. Supervisor Grace said he saw no benefit to the homeowner permit, especially when no permits have been denied. If a homeowner wanted to cut down trees to create a lacrosse field for his children, he shouldn’t need a permit. In response, the town engineer said it made sense for the town to “send eyes” to look at what a homeowner was planning to do. (Homeowner permits are reviewed by the engineering department; about 50 permits a year have been issued.) He added that if a permit is denied, the homeowner can always appeal the decision.
In response to Councilman Bernard’s question why the current law was more restrictive in regulating the buffer area than the interior of a lot, Mr. Kellner noted that the buffer area between houses protected the character of the neighborhood. This led to comments from Supervisor Grace that neighbors should control what their neighbor does.
When Ann Kutter, who played a leading role in drafting the 2010 law, spoke about the function trees play in the environment and the benefits they contribute to the community, Councilman Lachertman suggested that if trees on his property provided a benefit to the community then he was entitled to a reduction in his taxes. Ms. Kutter acknowledged that changes were needed in the 2010 law, adding that while the goal of the Town Board in 2010 was to preserve trees, the current board may have a different set of priorities.
When Councilman Bernard said that the town can’t tell people what to do on their property, using the example of whether the town should regulate whether a driveway should be paved, Mr. Tegeder said that the town’s zoning power gave the town the right to regulate how property is used and that property rights are not absolute.
One of the major changes in the draft law is the elimination of the tree survey requirement for new developments which Supervisor Grace and Councilman Bernard repeatedly said was an unreasonable cost and also delayed projects. However, Ms. Kutter pointed out that the town’s land use regulations require a tree survey, a provision that predates the Tree Law. Councilman Bernard noted that in order to determine what off site mitigation a developer might be required to do, the approval board needed to know how many trees were going to be cut down. Bruce Barber suggested that the tree survey might be limited to that portion of the site that would be disturbed by the development (the “limits of disturbance”).
Mr. Tegeder noted that clear cutting was a problem and had to be regulated.
All agreed that more education was needed about trees, especially what constituted an “invasive species” that could be removed without any permit. All supported the concept of doing more forest management plans, although Ms. Kutter pointed out that the lack of adequate resources was a problem in implementing the plans. Calling for more coordination between TCAC and the Parks Department and the Recreation Commission charged with the responsibility of maintaining the town’s parks and trees, she suggested that a TCAC might be designated an ex officio member of the Rec Commission.
At the conclusion of the lengthy discussion, and after Mr. Kellner noted that the TCAC had not seen a draft of the proposed legislation prior to the meeting (three members of the TCAC were at the meeting), Supervisor Grace advised the TCAC members and Ms. Kutter that changes to the Tree Law were “a very open discussion.” Councilman Bernard added that the discussion was helpful in that it let the TCAC know what the board’s philosophy was and “where we’re going.”
The board voted to refer out the draft with Supervisor Grace advising TCAC and Ms. Kutter to “come back with what you want.”
7. Escrow Law Requirements
Given the late hour, Supervisor Grace said the board would postpone a discussion on the issue of escrow fee requirements. However, he did say that the current law that requires developers to pay an escrow fee to cover the cost of hiring outside consultants had created problem after problem after problem and had to be changed, adding . that the current escrow law was of dubious legality.
He said his goal was to eliminate all escrow fees and set up a flat fee schedule for work that the town staff had to do related to development applications, e.g., review an easement or file a deed.
Sculpture at YCCC track: The board voted to accept Al Landzberg’s “Big Sky” sculpture that has been on display at the track for the past 10 years.
Animal cruelty: The board agreed with Councilman Lachterman’s request that the town attorney review a New Castle law that regulated the commercial selling of cats and dogs. However, Councilman Diana indicated that there may be other laws that already cover animal cruelty issues. Supervisor Grace said that even if one is not needed, a local law would “send a message.”
9. Planning Board approval process/working with developers
In an item not on the agenda, Councilman Bernard who, as the Town Board’s liaison to the Planning Board had attended the previous night’s Planning Board meeting, brought up the issue of the Planning Board’s delay in approving several applications. He was especially concerned about the delay with the JCPC Holdings application. This led to a lengthy discussion with Mr. Tegeder and Mr. Barber about how development applications should be processed. The discussion was both general and specific when dealing with the JCPC Holdings application that involves an innovative major off site wetlands mitigation plan on town owned property. At times, the two issues were intermingled.
At the heart of the issue was the Planning Board’s unwillingness to approve applications before all the necessary information and plans had been submitted and reviewed by town staff and the board. (At times, the Planning Board has approved applications “with conditions,” e.g., the submission of a satisfactory landscaping plan, easement document, or lighting plan.)
Repeating comments he had made at the previous Planning Board meeting, Town Engineer Michael Quinn advised the board that approving applications with conditions before all the plans had been reviewed by town staff actually did not help the applicant because site plan changes might be needed after the missing information had been reviewed.
In an effort to let developers know in advance what the town wants, and avoid what he considers a “moving target,” Supervisor Grace suggested that the town develop master plans in several areas, such the off site tree mitigation plan for a tree bank discussed as part of the Tree Ordinance discussion (see above) or the regional stormwater plan involving the JCPC application (see below.)
And, in a repetition of what had been discussed at the Planning Board meeting, the Town Board briefly discussed whether the Planning Board should require complete applications before the applicant comes to the Planning Board and also whether all the necessary documents must be submitted by a firm deadline before an application is put on the Planning Board agenda. In this regard, Mr. Tegeder asked to Town Board to be more specific about what aspects of the planning approval process the board thinks is not working; sometimes, he added, the problem is simply one of perception. Mr. Tegeder also noted that sometimes, consultants delay preparing certain plans in an effort to save their clients money. He also explained that during the initial stages of reviewing a development application, a concept plan is usually sufficient and that more detailed plans are usually worked on after the board and the applicant have come to agreement on the basic plan.
Mr. Barber explained that the town’s E-Panel review process was designed mostly for homeowners as a way to give them guidance on how the planning approval process works. Mr. Tegeder noted that most of the consultants who appear before the Planning Board are very well versed in what the Planning Board requires.
JCPC Holding issue
At issue was the “master plan” for the overall plan for a major regional stormwater retrofit project and whose responsibility it was to prepare that plan. Supervisor Grace stated that because the project was on town property the town should design it and have a plan ready when new Front Street developers want to incorporate their projects into the plan. He said that JCPC should not have to wait until the town did the master plan. Town Engineer Quinn seemed a bit surprised at the notion that his office would be responsible for developing such a plan.
In an effort to clarify the situation, Mr. Tegeder said that the applicant has submitted a concept plan for his mitigation as part of an overall plan 2 ½ months back and that the Planning Board had been waiting for the applicant to submit more information.
It was pointed out that the applicant was appearing before ABACA that evening for a review of the landscaping and lighting plan. But, when the supervisor suggested that the Planning Board approve the site plan before the stormwater plan was submitted so that JCPC could start the DEP approval process, Mr. Barber explained that the stormwater plan was for the building site (about which the Planning Board had no issues) and which had nothing to do with the off site wetlands mitigation. He said he could work with the JCPC environmental consultant to flesh out the mitigation plan but that the applicant’s engineer had to do the stormwater plan which was a major component of the DEP review.
Supervisor Grace considers this project of “symbolic” importance and one that should be “moved along.” He said he wants the Planning Board to do whatever has to be done to get the project to the DEP.