Citizens for an Informed Yorktown


Town Board

May 1, 2012


1. Announcements

a. Battle of Yorktown. Kim Gage, interim head of the Environmental Conservation Department, reported that 677 volunteers, working in 110 groups, had filled 1,191 trash bags with 12.26 tons of roadside litter.  She thanked all for their efforts to clean up Yorktown. Supervisor Grace thanked a Mr. Curry who had spent hours cleaning up the Ardizonne wetland adjacent to the Old Stone Church.


b. Holland Sporting Club. Supervisor Grace said that the abatement work will begin this Friday and that by the end of the month the Board would be able to discuss what to do next with the site.


c. Energy Conservation: Green Yorktown will host a meeting on May 21 at 7:30 in Town Hall on NYSERDA energy audits and incentives for home energy upgrades.


2. Courtesy of the Floor

In the Board’s pre-meeting session, there was a discussion of the Courtesy of the Floor format and whether the process had to be “reigned in.”  While Councilman Paganelli called the last 2:40 hour session “ridiculous” and Councilman Bianco said the new procedure wasn’t working , Supervisor Grace thought that the new format was working well and that the last meeting was an “anomaly.”  While Supervisor Grace said people had to be courteous, Councilman Bianco suggested that one solution might be not to answer people’s comments until Courtesy of the Floor was closed. 


At the start of the regular portion of the meeting, Supervisor Grace said he had received several comments  regarding the lengthy Courtesy of the Floor segment at the last Board meeting and that he thought the exchange was a good example of “participatory government.” In light of the fact that there was going a public hearing on the agenda, he asked people to be as brief as possible in their Courtesy of the Floor comments.


a. Winery. Walt Daniels of the Advisory Committee on Open Space, commented on the email he had sent to Board members  which included information about the use of the town owned Ardizzone property and the issue of parkland use.


b. Turtles. Patricia Johnson spoke about the need to protect the Town’s native turtles. More information is available at


c. Trees. Ann Kutter spoke about the need for private landowners to develope forest management plans for their property. She said that adjoining homeowners could join together to arrive at the 10 acre minimum required for the Watershed Agricultural Council (914-962-6355) that could help private property develop such a plan. Additional help is available from the state DEC (845-831-8780), She explained that our forests are near their natural death, with the two major problems being deer and invasive species which are crowding up young  saplings.  A copy of the Council’s forest management plan for Turkey Mountain is in the process of being uploaded to the Town’s website,


d. Waiver of fees. In response to a request  from a member of the Yorktown Heights Fire Company to waive $500in application and permit fees to replace an existing booth at its fairgrounds with a new booth, the Board voted unanimously to waive the fees.


3. Public Hearing on helistop special permit and change in approval authority for OB (laboratory/office) zone.


Supervisor Grace started the hearing by explaining that the proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance had two distinct parts:  A textual change that would establish a special permit to allow helistops in OB zones, and changes in the regulations governing OB zones in general that would shift approval authority for site plans in OB zones from the Planning Board to the Town Board. He explained that in 1994, the Town Board transferred approval authority for the OB zone, and other zones, from the Town Board to the Planning Board. 


Explaining that the Board could adopt the proposed amendments as a whole, or as two separate amendments, he asked speakers at the hearing to address each part separately.


Helistop special permit

Supervisor Grace read a memo from the Planning Board that highlighted some technical corrections that had to be made in the text. A memo from IBM distinguished a helistop, which is for the purpose of people getting on and off the helicopter, and a heliport which includes fueling and maintenance of helicopters.  Ray Arnold pointed out that while the text of the proposed amendments spoke about helistops, the definition of a helistop included heliport type functions.


Michael Byrnes who lives near the IBM facility expressed concern over the safety of the helistop and reminded the Board about the recent plan that landed on the IBM site.  He also expressed concern about the noise from the rotors.   John Schroeder said that the helistop was in conflict with the original design of the building.


Change in Approval authority

Most of the comments dealt with this proposed change.  All the speakers were opposed to the change.


At different times during the hearing, and in part in response to questions raised by Evan Bray asking what was behind the Board’s desire to change the current practice, Supervisor Grace explained his reasoning behind the change.  He said he believed that the Town Boards hould have the final say over “critical development parcels” because the Board was more responsive and accountable to the public than the Planning Board.  It’s to be more responsive to your needs, he said.


In response to comments from Paul Moskowitz who was against the change, Councilman Murphy read from an undisclosed source that in 1994 Mr. Moskowitz had objected to transferring the approval authority to the Planning Board because he felt that the Town Board was more accountable to the people. At the end of the hearing, Mr. Moskowitz spoke again saying that after 18 years he had changed his mind.


Supervisor Grace said that giving the Town Board approval authority did not mean that the Planning Board would be eliminated from the process. He said that both boards would work closely together.


He also said that the Town Board can do a better job of bargaining” with applicants to help pay for needed infrastructure improvements, a point Councilman Bianco disputed, saying that “we (the Town Board) never got a good bargain, which he said, was the reason the Town Board changed approval authority in 1994. (See Aaron Bock comments below.)


Former Town Supervisor Aaron Bock explained why, under his administration, the Town Board made the 1994 approval authority changes. It wasn’t, he said, to escape responsibility, but rather to leave planning decisions to the technical experts – the people who were best able to do the job, and also to avoid duplication with the work done by the Planning Board. He said the Town Board should focus on planning issues, not technical issues and that if they took on site plan approvals, they would lose time that should be devoted to policy issues which is where the Town Board was accountable.


Several additional speakers made the following l points:

  • All expressed confidence that the Planning Board had been doing, and would continue doing a good job, and some said that they didn’t always trust the Town Board, although they did not cite any specific Town Board member or planning issue.
  • That the Town Board didn’t know what it was getting into in terms of the time commitment associated with site plan review  and that future Board meetings could last well into the night. “Be careful what you wish for,” one person said.
  • Delegation of responsibility.  Jennie Sunshine asked Councilman Paganelli , the owner of a restaurant, if he would tell his chef how to run his kitchen. The best management, she said, was when you know how to delegate and have the best people do the job.
  • Patti Peckham expressed concern that granting the Town Board approval authority would set a precedent for additional similar changes.
  • John Schroder and Olivia Buehl challenged Supervisor’s Grace “bargaining” argument . Mr. Schroeder said that in his 40 years of monitoring Town Board and Planning Board meetings, he felt that the Planning Board had done some good “bargaining.” Ms. Buehl noted that if an applicant wasn’t asking for anything special, there was nothing to bargain over. She also asked why, if the Town wanted to be developer friendly, the Town would want to throw road blocks in a developer’s way.
  • Speaking of the need for stability and continuity in the planning process, several speakers noted that Town Board members have short “shelf lives” of two to four years  while Planning Board members serve five year terms. Planning Board member John Flynn said that many applications span many years so that new Town Board members may not be familiar with the past history of a project.
  • Several speakers expressed concern over the duplication involved in having the Town Board review what had already been reviewed by the Planning Board. Former Planning Board and Town Board member Greg Bernard (who voted for the 1994 change) said that the potential duplication of effort ran counter to the Town’s goal of streamlining the approval process.
  • Mr. Flynn addressed the issue of political responsiveness, noting that the Town Board decisions could be colored by upcoming elections. Public opinion, he said, could be erroneous.
  • Mark Levine, explaining that he is a lawyer who does work for developers,  said that his clients would love the new law.
  •  The Board voted to adjoin the hearing.


4. Future public hearings

The Board voted to advertise public hearings for May 15th on a request for an amended special permit for the BP station on Commerce Street and the rezoning request for the Winery.


5. Bid advertisements

The Board voted to advertise bids for Cummins Engine parts and John Deer Construction equipment parts for the Highway Department.


6. Resolutions (all adopted unanimously)

a. Reaffirmed resolutions passed at the 4/17/2012 meeting without identifying those resolutions.


b. Amended a 2011 resolution to provide professional appraisal service for non-residential properties to correct an omission in the original resolution.


c. Emergency lights. To authorize the Supervisor to submit a grant application to Entergy for the purchase of emergency lighting. Supervisor Grace said that he had had “positive” discussions with Entergy about the request. (See April 25th discussion about making portable lights available for use by the athletic clubs.)


d. Authorized the Supervisor to signe a renewal maintenance contract with Comnetix for the LiveScan equipment and software in the Police Department.


e. Authorized the Supervisor to sign an extension of a contract with the NYS Office of Park, Recreation and Historic Preservation so that the Town could get a final payment of $16,200.8 for the Patriot Garden project that was funded, in part, with a $78,000 state grant.


f. Pool tiles. Authorized the Supervisor to sign a contract with Phil Aversano Tile & Marble to replace the damaged tiles at the Shrub Oak Pool at a cost of $16.310. While Mr. Aversano’s price of $16,310 was $764 higher than another contractor’s, the Board’s selection was based on the fact that Mr. Aversano’s price included several different warranties, each for different periods of time and including one which was a lifetime warranty, while the lower price contractor only offered a manufacturer’s warranty.  (See 4/25/2012 discussion for Shrub Oak Pool.)


7. Landmarks Preservation Commission

During the Board’s pre-session meeting, Supervisor Grace advised Board members that he has drafted two amendments to the current law. The first one would delete the provision that states that a property could be landmarked without the owner’s consent. The second change would remove the requirement that the Commission include an architect and historian.  He said that the proposed changes would be discussed at a future work session.