May 13, 2014
“Personnel, Ethics and Advice of Counsel”
1. Ethics Board
(Discussion on “proposal for hiring of attorney to review Yorktown Code: 2013 disclosure forms”)
Discussion didn’t take place.
2. 2718 Hickory Street/Transitional rezoning request
The property owner, Bill Primavera, wants his property rezoned to the special “transitional zone” so that it can be used for professional offices. (The special permit to allow a professional office in a residence requires the professional to live in the house; Mr. Primavera does not plan to continue living in the house.) He told the board that he has been unable to sell his historic house due to the surrounding commercial uses, including the deli, which has lights on at night, the Verizon building on Hickory Street that results in trucks being parked on the street, and Guiding Eyes for the Blind across the street on Granite Springs Road. In response to a question from Councilman Bianco, he said that those uses existed when he bought the property 45 years ago. He said that initially he had a special permit to conduct an antique business in the house, and later a child care business.
Supervisor Grace said the property met the requirements for a transitional zone and that it would help preserve an historic structure. He said that the proposed professional offices were preferable to converting the house into a restaurant or multi family housing. He suggested that the aesthetics of the property would be improved if he removed the existing fence; Mr. Primavera said he had plans to replace the fence with a stone wall.
Councilman Bianco expressed reservations about the rezoning that would permit a commercial use, noting that the deli was likely a pre-existing use but Dan Ciarcia, representing Mr. Primavera, thought it might have been rezoned to allow commercial use. The Verizon parcel is still residentially zoned.
A motion to refer the rezoning request to advisory boards was defeated in a split 2-2 vote, with Councilmen Bianco and Patel voting not to refer the application; Councilman Patel stated that he needed more time to consider the issue. After the vote, Supervisor Grace pressed Councilman Patel when he might be willing to entertain the request but Councilman Patel said he needed more time.
3. Water Department issues
Fluoridation. Water Superintendent David Rambo reminded the board that it had voted back in January 22, 2013 to continue fluoridating water from both the Catskill and Amawalk treatment plants but that since that vote nothing has been done relating to the Catskill plant. He said that a draft IMA (Intermunicipal Agreement prepared by the Joint Water Works attorney nine months ago was weighted in favor the Joint Water Works and didn’t give Yorktown a say in what equipment would be installed. But after Town Attorney Koster said that she had been in touch with the attorney and that they agreed that an IMA would not be needed and that the town could proceed on its own, Mr. Rambo said that an IMA that could involve Yorktown was preferred. The IMA issue was left unresolved.
Mr. Rambo said that it would take approximately four months for Hazen Sawyer, the outside engineering consultant, to design the new equipment and prepare bid specs.
Asked why it was taking so long to get the fluoride issue resolved, Supervisor Grace, “There was a lot going on.”
Cement lining. Mr. Rambo said he was ready to go out to bid on the three mile cement lining project.
Telemetry project. Mr. Rambo said he was requesting authorization to spend about $4,000 for some electronic equipment that would monitor water volumes in the system’s storage tanks.
Water line insurance. Mr. Rambo informed the board that a company has been leaving flyers in mailboxes about purchasing insurance against water line breaks on their property. The insurance cost $5/month. He said he wasn’t encouraging or endorsing any such product, adding that the chances of a leak were very slim.
Disputed water bills. Four property owners are disputing their water bills. One involves a timing issue and needs a modification in the town code: although the bill was paid in a timely fashion, because of a date requirement in the town code, it was considered late, added on to the property’s town tax bill and charged a late fee. The other three disputed bills involved spikes in usage that resulted in higher bills, one of which might have been the result of a leaking toilet; no leaks were detected in the other two properties. The consumption at one property jumped from an average of 30,000 gallons to 290,000 gallons, resulting in a $2,000 water bill.
When Councilman Bianco suggested that installing the new meters would alert the property owner to the spike in usage, Supervisor Grace said that property owners don’t want the new meters because they would more accurately report usage, explaining that as the meters age, they slow down so that any inaccuracy is in the consumer’s favor.
A discussion followed whether the town code could be amended to allow paying off excessive bills in installments.
When Councilman Bianco raised the issue of fairness and that some people pay their entire bills on time, Town Attorney Koster said she would look into installment options but that such an arrangement would involve charging interest.
4. Wetlands permit: failure of mitigation measures/Gambelli Drive
The issue was how to deal with the failure of a homeowner to honor the conditions of a wetlands permit.
The wetlands permit to build a pool in a wetlands was issued in 2007 and included a condition that the property owner install certain plantings in the wetlands as mitigation and also post a $5,000 bond to insure that at least 85% of the plantings survived after five years. Bruce Barber, the town’s environmental consultant, explained that only about 30% of the plantings the homeowner planted have survived, leaving the town with two choices: require the homeowner to do new plantings, or call the bond and have the town do the mitigation.
The homeowner said he told the board six years ago that the required plantings would not work and insisted that he had no intention of going into the wetlands now, which said was a swamp with snakes, in order to do any new planting. Mr. Barber advised the board that if it didn’t do anything to address the failed mitigation, it would set a precedent that would make the mitigation and/or bonding requirements meaningless. He suggested some alternative mitigation measures including using a special seed mix.
Councilman Bianco, the only board member who was on the town board when the permit was issued, said he questioned the value of the mitigation when he voted against granting the permit in 2007. In response, the homeowner said this was the first time he and Councilman Bianco agreed on something. Councilman Murphy appeared satisfied that the homeowner did what he was supposed to have done.
Supervisor Grace said a resolution would be put on next week’s agenda, but he didn’t say what it would say. In the meantime, he said he would visit the site.
5. IP Phone System
Tom Jacobs of BNC Voice made a presentation to the board to purchase a new phone system that would provide the town with new features, cost under $20,000 and which ,Supervisor Grace said, would pay for itself in a year by reducing the town’s current phone bill of about $6,000 per month. Calling the existing phone system “garbage,” Supervisor Grace said he would work out the details of the proposal with Mr. Jacobs. Councilman Murphy called the switch a “no brainer” and Councilman Bianco thought the cost was under the threshold for bidding.
6. Group home//Buckhorn Street
Dan Luckett, chairman of the Group Home Committee updated the board on the request of the non-profit group Another Step to operate a group home at the end of Buckhorn Street for three men in their twenties and thirties; two are in wheelchairs and one is legally blind. The house is currently owned, but vacant, by someone who modified the house to accommodate a family member many years ago, but it has taken several years for the state to approve the house for a group home. Once approved, the current owner will sell the house to Another Step.
Mr, Luckette explained that three or four residents who attended a neighborhood meeting raised objections to the home, their concern being the use of the property for a commercial operation. However, he explained to the board that the group home would be a net gain for the neighborhood as the new owner would spruce up the house.
In response to a question from Ed Ciffone who was concerned that the house would be taken off the tax roll, Mr. Luckett said that the house paid approximately $10,000 in taxes, in contrast to the $25,000 it would cost the school district if the house stayed in private hands and added a child to the school district.
There being no objections on the part of any board member, the board voted 4-0 to give its assent to the use.
7. Sylvan Glen Forest Management Plan
Bill Kellner, Ron Buehl and Dale Saltzman of the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission discussed the recommendations in the Sylvan Glen/Granite Knolls Forest Management Plan prepared by Ted Kozlowski. The report stressed the habitat value of Sylvan Glen as a large tract of unfragmented land. The preserve’s biggest problems, the report stressed, are invasive species and deer.
Mr. Keller suggested that the NY/NJ Trail Conference has a robust invasive species program and recommended that the town partner with the group. He also suggested that the town consider allowing bow hunting, similar to the one the county has had success with on many of its properties as a way to control the deer population. He said that bow hunting groups were looking for places where they could hunt. Supervisor Grace noted that the hunting issue was an emotional one and suggested to the commission members that they needed to carry out an educational campaign about the problem. The possibility of erecting deer enclosures (fencing) in certain parts of the preserve was discussed, and Supervisor Grace asked the group to identify likely areas, suggesting that perhaps some of this could be paid for by Spectra, which might also be asked to do some invasive removal while it was doing needed clear cutting.
Mr. Kellner said the group had no problem with the Spectra plan along the pipeline and that the clear cutting along the pipeline would create a new grass habitat that was needed; the group’s concern was mostly for the staging area. Mr. Saltzman suggested that instead of all the future money from Spectra going to the new athletic fields, the money be split 50/50 with half going to forest management related measures. He also was concerned about the value of the timber that was going to be cut. Councilmen Murphy and Supervisor Grace rejected the idea of the 50/50 split saying that all the money should go to the athletic fields. Councilman Bianco said that when Granite Knolls was purchased, it was with the intent that it be used for athletic fields. He added, though, that when the time came to sit down with Spectra over the details of the “consideration” for the staging area, all parties should come to the table. However, he added, there were limits as to how much the town could “hit” Spectra for. (Supervisor Grace said that the pipeline easement and the structure for the “pigs’ equipment were FERC issues but that the optional staging area Spectra wants off Stoney Street was a separate issue that was not subject to eminent domain; hence the “consideration” from Spectra.)
8. Legislation to allow keeping chickens
Referring back to legislation that had been considered in February, 2013 and comments on the draft local law that had been received from the Planning Board, Bruce Barber, the town’s environmental consultant and the county Planning Department, Town Attorney Koster went through a list of possible revisions to the law.
The board agreed that the new draft should allow keeping chickens on lots of 40,000 sq. ft. or larger with a special permit to be issued by the Zoning Board. It was not clear if there will be a limit on the number of chickens, but the board did reject any limitations on the size or construction of the chicken coops.
The board will review the text of the revised local law at its next meeting.
9. Organic Waste Facility
In a update, Highway Superintendent Paganelli advised the board that R&S Waste Services had completed processing about 20% of the backlog, adding that more could have been accomplished had the company’s equipment not broken down.
In response to Councilman Bianco’s question to the town attorney as to the status of the RFP for a permanent solution to the issue (the current R&S license is only for 90 days), Ms. Koster said the document wasn’t done yet and appeared to indicate that it wouldn’t be ready by the board’s next meeting. She then had a short private conversation with Councilman Bianco.
10. Highway Department
Going through a list of the department’s current inventory of 21 trucks and their age, which he said averaged 20 years, Highway Superintendent Paganelli appealed to the board for funds to purchase at least three new trucks, needed primarily for road salting. He said some of the trucks now in use would not pass inspection and he was concerned for the safety of his workers. While in past years the town has purchased one or two trucks per year, he pointed out that there were several years during which no trucks were purchased. He said that while he could get the job down without the new trucks, that would increase response time from 4 hours to 6½ hours. Each truck would cost about $177,000.
(Although the Highway Fund currently has a fund balance of about $200,000, Mr. Paganelli said the department’s 2014 salt line was $142,000 over budget.)
He said that if the trucks were ordered by next month, they could be delivered by November and be available for the next snow season. Having already priced the trucks available through the county and state bid system, he advised the board that in terms of both price and timing he preferred to purchase the trucks off the county and state bids whereas Supervisor Grace seemed inclined toward going out for a separate town bid.
Comptroller Caporale suggested that if the town financed the purchase of three trucks this year with a bond anticipation note (BAN), it could pay only the interest in 2015 and then begin to pay off the principal beginning in 2016 when the pool bond issue would be paid off ; this plan would enable to town to stay within the 2% tax levy cap. Trucks can be bonded for 15 years. Explaining that the town can’t go years without purchasing new trucks Supervisor Grace asked the comptroller to prepare an analysis of different funding options for three and four trucks.
11. Parkland resolution
The board unanimously voted to declare two parcels on Fenwood Road that it had taken in rem as parkland.
Note; There was no discussion of the Small Business Association that was listed on the agenda as Mr. Giordano was not at the meeting.
Mohegan Manor (Cortlandt) connection to Yorktown sewer system