June 9, 2020
1. 2019 audit
Representatives of the town’s outside auditors presented the findings of their 2019 audit. Their conclusion: the town is in “excellent financial condition.” For the General Fund, revenues exceeded budget projections and expenses came in lower than budgeted. The unassigned fund balance grew by $5.4 million to $16.7 million, with $3.1 million coming from the pipelines company.
The auditors did sound a note of caution, however, for 2020 and the uncertainties due to Covid-19, but added that the town had a healthy fund balance that could be used to offset any revenue losses. Citing the town’s very limited borrowing history and the current low interest rates, the auditors also advised the board not to be hesitant to borrow in order to finance necessary infrastructure projects.
A copy of the audit is available online at the town’s website site; use the “public documents” link under “Quick Links.:
2. 301 Illington Road/Stormwater and Tree permits
(See Town Board, 4/28/20.) As per the Tree Law, the applicant will remove 13 trees and disturb 18,000 sf of woodland. Because the site is already heavily wooded, the property owner has decided that to meet his mitigation requirement he will pay $2,412 into the Tree Fund in lieu of planting replacement trees. The amount was based on the provisions of the Tree Law that specify $100 per removed tree and $500 for every 5,000 sf of disturbed woodland. (Note: there was some confusion as at one point it was stated that the property owner would plant 13 new trees.)
Councilman Lachterman, referring to a discussion at the June 8, 2020 Planning Board meeting about mitigation asked if the property owner’s plans improve the property, why the improvement wasn’t taken into account as part of meeting the mitigation requirement. Sometimes, he said, deforestation makes things better.
The town engineer will draft an approval resolution for th3e board’s next meeting.
3. Railroad Park Concession
(See Town Board 5-19-2020.) Noting that the rehabilitation of the station should be completed by the first week in July, Mr. Tegeder suggested that the town advertise a bid or RFP for a concession stand in the station. The station has three rooms: the former waiting room will be used as a welcome center with displays of town history and other town related materials, while the former ticket and baggage rooms can be used for the concession. The board asked Mr. Tegeder to draw up the RFP using a template the Parks Department uses for the pools.
Mr. Tegeder also advised the board that in addition to the inside alarm that was part of the rehab contract, he is investigating outside cameras.
4. Farmer’s Market
The board appeared unanimous in the desire to have a farmer’s market in Railroad Park. Councilman Diana noted that last year a vendor was interested in obtaining a permit for a farmer’s market at the site but backed out when he was told that the permit fee would be $1,000, an amount the councilman said was “ridiculous.” In response to Councilman Patel’s question why previous markets were not successful, the general sense was that they were not located in visible locations. Concern was also voiced about how a market would compete with Meadows Farm, but the response was that Meadows and the town’s other farms could participate in the market.
No further action was taken pending Councilwoman Roker getting feedback from the town’s farms as to their interest in having a local market.
5. Historical Marker Application/Soundview Preparatory Building
(See Town Board 5-26-2020.) Lynn Briggs from the Yorktown Preservation Commission introduced a former teacher at the school who gave a short history of the building that dates back to colonial times and the role of the initial owners, the Underhill family. The board approved a resolution to apply for the installation of an historic marker at an appropriate location.
6. Sunrise Solar Solutions/Granite Knolls Complex
Before ultimately voting to enter into an option agreement with the developer to install solar panels over the parking area, the board considered the following issues.
· Recreation Commission: The group voted to support the project. The only negative issue during the discussion was the concern of at least one member that an industrial installation was not appropriate for a park and concern.
· RFP process. The Rec Commission also raised the issue of why the town didn’t go through the RFP process to see if the town could get a better financial deal. In response, the developer explained the timing constraints he was under and that if there was a delay in his getting a signed option, he stood to lose out on the available window of opportunity with Con Ed and that future windows might not be financially feasible for the project. Once the developer has a signed option agreement with the town, he will have to apply to Con Ed, whose approval process could take about four months. If approved by Con Ed, then the developer would seek NYSERDA incentive financing.
· Alienation. Supervisor Slater explained that whether alienation was needed was a murky issue as the project only involved air rights, not actual parkland. The developer said that even if alienation is needed, that approval could come later.
· Paving the parking lot. Based on DEP approvals when the complex was built, it was pointed that the DEP might not permit the lot to be paved. The developer’s engineer has advised his client that he thinks there’s some give on this initial restriction. The paving issue was suggested by the Rec Commission because a paved lot would result in more parking spaces; the developer said the project could be completed without the paving. The developer was prepared to pay for the paving but the final cost, whether higher or lower than initial estimates, would affect the lease terms.
7. Planned Design District Overlays
Mr. Tegeder advised the board that as part of the 2010 Comprehensive Plan, special overlay districts were suggested for Jefferson Valley around the lake, the Bear Mountain Triangle area and the Shrub Oak parcel along Route 6 east of the Taconic currently zoned for office use. The overlay district would include certain development parameters, including design elements, which could be an incentive for potential developers. Supervisor Slater said that the overlay zones could spur the town’s economic growth and that the town should act before other towns took steps to attract new businesses, including those fleeing from New York City in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.
Mr. Tegeder will draft some guidelines for each overlay district and return to the board for further discussion.
8. Proposed amendments to Chapter 248 (stormwater) and Chapter 178 (wetlands)
Mr. Tegeder explained that the proposed amendments, the subject of an adjourned public hearing last July, were designed to make both laws consistent with the Tree Law and to make administering the Tree Law easier. (Note: When the Town Board reconvened the hearing on the Tree Law in December, 2019, it forgot to reconvene the hearings on the Chapter 248 and Chapter 178 amendments.) Town Engineer Quinn advised the board that instead of just dealing with the amendments, what was needed were amendments to the Tree Law based on his department’s experience enforcing the law over the past six months. He said he had a draft of a memo outlining needed changes in the law, including confusion over some of the definitions. He also didn’t understand why an applicant wouldn’t need a tree permit if he was also applying for a wetlands permit. (Note; this was the issue in the Chapter 248 and Chapter 178 amendments.) Mr. Quinn suggested that the board reconvene the ad hoc committee that drafted the new Tree Law to go over both the amendments and revisions to the Tree Law as a single exercise.
Mr. Tegeder and Linda Miller, a member of the ad hoc committee, advised the board that there were two separate issues – the amendments and the possible need to tweak the Tree Law and that the amendments should be adopted now so that all three laws were consistent and that tweaking the Tree Law be taken up separately.
Ultimately the board decided to advertise reconvening the hearing for the amendments and directed Mr. Quinn to share his memo on changes to the Tree Law with Mr. Tegeder and Ms. Miller so that the three of them could work together on possible amendments to the Tree Law that could then be presented to the ad hoc committee.
9. Clean Energy Solar, Lockwood Road
Michael Grace, representing Joe Shanahan, the developer who wants to build the solar farm on Lockwood Road and Underhill Avenue asked the board to move forward and approve the Lockwood plan which he described as a “benign” project. He acknowledged visual impact issues for the Underhill site. He said the Lockwood project had been delayed for over 18 months while the town considered a new tee law.
Initially, Mr. Grace said that the developer had applied for a Chapter 248 stormwater permit for the project and that a solar law wasn’t needed, but he appeared to change his mind as the discussion progressed and it became apparent that the application Mr. Shanahan had submitted was a site plan application to the Planning Board. Mr. Grace then urged the Town Board to transfer approval authority over the project from the Planning Board to the Town Board adding: you can do anything you want.
Mr. Tegeder advised the board that there was an issue over whether the existing Zoning Code allowed solar farms, in any district, as a main or accessory use, with or without a permit. Mr. Grace noted that the town’s only other solar array at the Yeshiva site on Illington Road was approved with a 248 stormwater permit.
The board asked Mr. Tegeder to send them information about the Lockwood plan before taking any further action on Mr. Grace’s request. In the meantime, Mr. Tegeder is continuing his work on preparing a revised draft of the solar law.
The board appointed Peggyann Thorp as Deputy Court Clerk.