April 5, 2016
April 16 is the Battle of Yorktown. Volunteers interested in helping pick up litter should contact the Refuse and Recycling Department.
May 3 Town Board meeting, originally scheduled for the John C. Hart Library, will be held at Town Hall.
1. Traffic issues
Police Chief Dan McMahon introduced Police Officer Justin Foley who will be the department’s new traffic safety officer. Residents wishing to contact him about traffic issues can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Residents can also contact Councilman Bernard at email@example.com. Councilman Bernard, together with Officer Foley, Highway Superintendent Paganelli and the town engineer constitute the town’s Traffic Safety Committee that looks into resident concerns and, when appropriate, recommends solutions to the Town Board.
In response to the issue of speeding that was raised by Dan Strauss during Courtesy of the Floor, Councilmen Bernard and Supervisor Grace noted that the police department does what it can to control speeding but that there aren’t enough officers to assign any exclusively to traffic enforcement. Supervisor Grace explained that the department has four fewer officers than it had many years ago but that because of the tax cap, it wasn’t feasible to add more officers at the present time. Noting that no one in town drives at 30mph, Mr. Strauss suggested that the town increase the speed limit to 40-45mph and that there be no tolerance for any violator that is ticketed.
2. Library issue
In an item not on the agenda, Heather O’Donnell, president of the John C. Hart Library Board of Trustee spoke about what the trustees consider the unfair and unjust pay scale for 14 employees which she said was jeopardizing the quality of the library. She said the trustees had brought this issue to the Town Board four times since 2008 but to no avail. Supervisor Grace addressed her comments at the end of the meeting (after a resident said she supported the higher pay for library staff during Courtesy of the Floor) saying that the issue was a collective bargaining issue controlled by the town’s contact with the union and that Ms. O’Donnell should know that. He said library staff took the job knowing what the salary was.
3. Staff resignation
With regret, the board accepted the resignation of Brian Gray as Superintendent of Parks & Recreation.
4. Section 8/Public hearing on Administrative Plan
Section 8 administrator Karren Perez explained that the changes to the plan were mostly regulatory and that the only discretionary change was changing the age of children of different sexes who could share a room.
There were no public comments. The hearing was closed and the board voted to adopt the revised plan.
5. Creation of an Industrial and Commercial Incentive Board/public hearing
Supervisor Grace explained that under Section 485b of the NYS Real Property Tax Law if the assessed value of a commercial property increased because the owner renovated an existing building or a new building was constructed, the taxing jurisdictions,e.g., the town and school district, could grant a 50% reduction in the increase in the assessed value, decreasing by 5% over a 10 year period. But, before enacting the incentive program, the board was proposing to create an Industrial and Commercial Incentive Board to recommend how the incentive should be structured, e.g., what types of businesses should be eligible and/or in what parts of Yorktown.
The Supervisor said he hoped that enacting the incentive would help revitalize the town, especially some of our older buildings. One of the problems holding back building upgrades, he said, was that the cost of the upgrade was typically passed on to tenants whose leases included their share of a building’s taxes and that the higher rents made filling vacancies more difficult. He said people had come to him with revitalization ideas but shied away from proceeding with their plans.
Supervisor Grace indicated that the Yorktown School District appeared to be supportive of the 485b program.
Although not part of the 485b public hearing, the supervisor also talked about wanting to create an IDA (Industrial Development Authority) that could issue municipal bonds to help private developers get lower interest rates.
Jay Kopstein said he supported the program and wanted to know if the town could withdraw the incentive if the property “turned to crap.” In response to his question as to whether there would be a public hearing when the Town Board was ready to enact the incentive, the town attorney said yes, there would be a second local law and second public hearing.
Aaron Bock supported the incentive, speaking as a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the owner of an office building and as a resident. He noted that owners of office buildings have lost tenants who now conduct their business from home offices.
Tony Grasso said the town needed to increase the percentage of commercial property in town.
Susan Siegel (the person writing this summary) said she supported efforts that encouraged more commercial rateables but, citing several already completed and planned new construction and redevelopment projects in the pipeline that have or are going forward without an incent6ive, she suggested that the new board produce hard data to show that the incentive was really needed. She also suggested that there be some guidelines governing the membership of the new board, that the board’s meetings be subject to the Open Meetings Law and that there should be a public hearing before the Town Board adopts the incentive board’s recommendations.
The board closed the hearing and voted to approve the local law without any changes.
5. Water Meters/public hearing
Supervisor Grace and Water Superintendent David Rambo explained the provisions of the new law. Mr. Rambo said that if a meter was less than 10 years old, only the device that allows for remote readings would have to be installed. For meters older than 10 years, both a new meter and a remote reader will be installed. He estimated that the estimated 350 final meter readings each year would generate between $82,000-$96,000 in revenue, which prompted Supervisor Grace to note that this would save the water district about $60,000 a year since the district would not have to pay for the new meters. He repeated his earlier comments that having the district install the new meters for the district’s remaining 6,0000 customers did not generate an acceptable return on investment. When Councilman Patel reminded him that the 2010 vote to install the new meters in the entire district was unanimous, the supervisor responded that the initial project had not been properly vetted.
The board closed the hearing and adopted the local law.
6. Water District: Public hearing on financing the new water storage tank
The board voted to advertise a public hearing for May 3 that will deal with financing Yorktown’s 49% share of the new storage tank at the Joint Water Work’s Catskill facility. The resolution said the estimated cost of the project was a maximum of $3 million. (Note: the exact cost of the project will not be known until at least later this week when the Joint Water Works is expected to open bids for the project.) The resolution did not specify how Yorktown would pay for its share; Supervisor Grace said it could be a bond, or, if the cost came in lower than anticipated, the town may have the cash on hand.
7. Building permits/public hearing
The board scheduled a public hearing for May 3 to the Building Construction Administration chapter of the Town Code to clarify some ambiguous language as to when a building permit is needed.
8. Land donation
In two separate resolutions, the board accepted a total of 15 acres off Underhill Avenue and abutting Turkey Mountain that had been agreed to as part of the property’s subdivision. The land encompasses the Turkey Mountain blue trail.
9. PBA contract
The board approved a three year contract, through December 31, 2017. The contract calls for raises of 1.75%, 2% and either 2.1%, 2.2% or 2.5% for the third year (the final number was not clearly stated).The supervisor called the new contract a good deal for both sides. When asked during Courtesy of the Floor what changes benefited the town, he said that the new contract was basically a “rollover” of the previous contract. When pressed whether there were any provisions that resulted in cost savings to the town, he said there were no changes to the health benefits provisions.
Update: the third year of the contract is 2.125%.
10. Miscellaneous resolutions
Fieldstone Manor, Strawberry Road: The board approved an amendment to an earlier resolution permitting the use of Flexibility Standards for the subdivision. Whereas the earlier resolution stated that the units in the stone mansion would be condos, the revised resolution will allow them to be rental units.
Field Home: The board extended the permit for the temporary sales building to July 16, 2018.
Purchase of police cars: Authorized the purchase of four new cars for approximately $101,000. The money is in the 2016 budget.
JCPC Holdings: As the town is the owner of the land on which JCPC will construct off-site wetland mitigation, the board authorized the applicant to submit a wetlands permit to the Planning Board to be reviewed as part of the applicant’s site plan review. Supervisor Grace explained the off site mitigation plan that had been worked out at the Planning Board level.
Towing bid: The board awarded a bid for $95,000 to Yorktown Auto Body, the sole bidder. In response to a question from Councilman Bernard, the town clerk indicated that the bid request had been sent to other vendors. Highway Superintendent Paganelli noted that the town had been without an updated bid for four years and that this new bid was long overdue.
11. Courtesy of the Floor
Septic tanks: Bruce Barber reminded homeowners on septic systems that according to a 2011 law, tanks had to be cleaned out at least once every five years. More information about the law is available by calling the Engineering Office.
Code enforcement: Dan Strauss again raised the issue of the lack of code enforcement and that little had been done since he started raising this issue at board meetings. Jay Kopstein also cited work that was currently being done at the Hilltop Service Station in Shrub Oak which had cut down trees in violation of its site plan. He also complained about littering on his street. In response Councilman Bernard suggested that the police sector cars could be informed on the streets where littering is occurring.
Fluoride: Noting that the installation of new fluoride equipment at the Amawalk Water Treatment Plant had been completed, Dr. Carl Tegtmeier talked about the still not completed fluoride installation at the Catskill facility that was voted on three years earlier. He advised the board that there was money in the new state budget for grants for fluoridation.
Unpaid taxes. Miriam Curtin addressed this issue, suggesting several initiatives and rewards that could make it easier and/or encourage people to pay their taxes in a timely manner. She said there had to be a balance between compassion and collecting taxes in a timely manner and that she found it particularly “galling” and a conflict of interest that while some people she’s known have lost their homes and had to move out of Yorktown for personal reasons, there are tax delinquents who are paid with public funds, have income producing properties, have political connections or are elected officials. In response, Supervisor Grace said that a lot of Ms. Curtin’s suggestions were not legal in New York and that the town had to show compassion and not punish people who were delinquent in their taxes. He called the 12% state mandated interest on unpaid taxes usury.
Affordable housing: Supervisor Grace explained that the proposed Kear Street project conforms to the site’s current C2R zoning and that Planning Board is the approving board for the project. In response to Ed Ciffone’s comments that if the town repeals its affordable housing law after the May 3 public hearing, it could be sued by either HUD or James Johnson, the person monitoring enforcement of the 2009 Westchester County/HUD Housing Settlement, Supervisor Grace said he had already received a letter from Mr. Johnson. He added that while HUD could tell the county what to do because of the settlement, it couldn’t tell Yorktown what to do and he reiterated his position that the existing affordable housing law was illegal. (Note: When Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, attempted to respond to the supervisor’s comments, the meeting was adjourned.)