May 19, 2015
Marietta C. Manoni of Rideconnect, a program of Westchester Family Services, explained the program that provides free rides to seniors. With demand for rides far exceeding the supply of drivers, she made an appeal for volunteer drivers. More information is available at rideconnectwestchester.org
2. Yorktown Trail Town
Mark Linehan, co-chair of the Yorktown Trail Town Committee made a presentation explaining the Committee’s
mission to use the town’s existing network of hiking and biking trails to promote economic development. The group’s initial project is a commissioned map of the North County Trailway as it passes through the Yorktown Heights hamlet; the map will be reproduced in a brochure that will be available in early June. The group is currently working on a second project: erecting two permanent Welcome Gateway signs featuring the map at the northern and southern ends of the Trailway as it passes through Yorktown. More information about the group is available at yorktowntrailtown.org.
3. Courtesy of the Floor
Finance issues: Don Roberts of the UTY asked about the status of the Budget Committee, reminding Supervisor Grace that he said in 2012 that one would be appointed. He also wanted to know if anyone had followed up on the question he has raised at several budget hearings regarding the $78,000 that is given each year to three sports clubs. Over the years, he said, he has asked the town to review the clubs’ books to see if they actually needed the money. To date, this has not been done.
Hallocks Mill Road: Resident Mara Ziedins complained about trailer trucks using the road as a bypass despite the posted weight limit as well as the excessive speeding. She asked for greater police presence on the road. In response, Councilman Bernard, a member of the Public Safety Committee, advised her of the plans for an additional speed bump and that he would look into the possibility of enlarging the truck weight limit signs. He said more police patrols were problematical given the non-availability of officers.
4. Spectra pipeline/License Agreement
The discussion was in two parts: the first part consisted of comments and responses from the board during Courtesy of the Floor; the second part involved the passage of the License Agreement in a 3-2 vote, with Councilmen Patel and me voting no.
The Agreement was to give Spectra permission to temporarily use 7.5 acres of parkland in Sylvan Glen and Granite Knolls to facilitate the AIM pipelines expansion project, plus make long term improvements at Junior Lake Memorial Park, in exchange for $1.5 million.
A series of speakers challenged the town’s ability to enter into a license agreement with Spectra, arguing instead that the town was bypassing the state alienation requirement. Town Attorney Koster defended the license arrangement saying that it was perfectly legal and that because the license was revocable, it was not an alienation. Supervisor Grace said that a third option for granting Spectra the use of the land, condemnation, would only have generated $300,000-$400,000 for the temporary use of the parkland and the value of the lost trees. While the supervisor said that there were only about 30-40 oak trees of value on the site, I noted that a tree inventory had not been done that would have appraised the value of all the trees slated to be removed.
Speakers also objected to the fact that the board’s negotiations with Spectra were conducted in a closed executive session (last week) and believed that this violated the Open Meetings Law. In response, Supervisor Grace said that under the OML, it is legal to conduct negotiations in closed session. I agreed with him, although I added that after the board had informally reached a consensus on the license, and before the vote, more information about what was in the license should have and could have been made available to the public.
Supervisor Grace explained that all the necessary environmental reviews had been done.
After the vote
In a prepared statement I read after voting no on the Agreement, I explained that while I thought the $1.5 million agreement was “a good deal” for the town, I would have preferred Spectra to give the town more cash in lieu of building a 600 foot permanent road in the temporary work area; the only purpose the road would serve is being the beginning of a larger plan to create a second major sports complex at Granite Knolls. I suggested that the additional cash could be used to pave roads and repair crumbling bridges. I said that before the town went ahead with developing Granite Knolls for more sports facilities, there needed to be a community-wide discussion about priorities that would include the need for more sports facilities as well as environmental reviews and a financial analysis of what the sports complex at Granite Knolls would cost taxpayers in the short and long term.
In response, Supervisor Grace defended the original plan which he said was nixed by former Councilman Bianco and Councilman Patel. He said that additional fields were needed, that it was always the town’s intention to create active reaction at Granite Knolls and that the fields would be built at no cost to taxpayers. He said the original Spectra plan was in the “best interests of the town” and accused me of being short sighted.
In my statement I thanked Spectra for working with me and the town attorney to amend the draft license agreement to include more environmental protections as well as provisions for repairing any damage to our roads that occurred during construction.