July 21, 2014
1. Baptist Church Road culvert/road closure
Supervisor Grace gave an update on the status of the project. Core samples will be taken on Friday of the silt in the private and the two side by side culverts will be tested to see if they can be relined. As for the collapsed single culvert, he explained that the key issue that needed to be resolved was how far into Dr. Salatin’s property the new culvert could/would intrude: the longer the culvert, the lower the headwall (rock wall) above the culvert and along the road. The higher the wall, the more expensive it will be to replace. The wall is on town property. Once both issues were known, he said, the town could proceed to work out a settlement with the two homeowners whose property needs to be accessed in order to make the repairs. He said the town was aware of the safety issue and was working as quickly as he could, trying to balance the safety issue, the rights of private property owners, costs to be borne by all taxpayers for the repair and issues of competitive bidding and not making a “gift of public funds” to a private property owner. He said the repair would be completed before the end of the year. A settlement would end the current litigation that is pending in court and enable the repair to proceed faster.
Attorney Marc Oxman, speaking on behalf of some area homeowners asked that the town invoke Highway Law and make temporary repairs to the road so that emergency vehicles could pass through while it worked out the details of a long term solution. Both Acting Town Engineer Sharon Robinson and Highway Superintendent Dave Paganelli said that it was not possible to make any temporary repairs.
Several area residents expressed concern that the closure was causing a 10 minute delay in emergency vehicles reaching their homes.
Supervisor Grace blamed “mother nature” on the collapse and that the repair was not made in 2014 because the town was under financial constraints due to the tax cap and the delay in approving a bonding resolution, I responded that the repair could have been made in 2014 using funds from the town’s $4 million fund balance. Councilman Bernard took exception to my comment, calling it politically motivated.
I suggested that the supervisor’s office send updates to the president of the Huntersville Association so that residents would be informed of what was happening.
Supervisor Grace also announced that FEMA has given the town $298,000 for the repair and that the money has to be spent by the end of the year.
2. 3211 Lakeshore Drive/wetland permit
(See Planning Board, 7-13-2015) Several Mohegan Lake residents, including Scott Schwartz, the abutting property owner, spoke in opposition to granting the permit. Mr. Schwartz spoke about runoff onto his property and the lake and others spoke about the negative impact any new construction would have on the condition of the already distressed lake. One homeowner, a spokesman for the local neighborhood association, expressed concern that any new construction along the lakefront would destroy the lake view for existing homeowners.
Also discussed was a 16 point memo from Bruce Barber detailing issues that still needed to be addressed. While some were dismissed either by the applicant as having already been addressed or by Supervisor Grace who said the issue would be addressed at the time the applicant went for a building permit, the consensus of the board was that there were sufficient unresolved issues to warrant adjoining the hearing, including the need for a stormwater management plan that dealt with both the lake and the abutting property, the exact wording of the proposed conservation easement (what would be allowed in the easement area) and the extent to which trees less than 12” in diameter should be cut down. If the applicant can resolve these issues over the next two weeks, the hearing will be resumed on August 4.
I asked the question, which went unanswered, whether a wetlands permit could stipulate that the footprint of the house could be less than what the Zoning Board approved in 1981. Supervisor Grace cautioned, however, that a smaller house might not be desirable as it could lower property values for existing houses. All agreed, that the existing vacant lot needed to be cleaned up.
Supervisor Grace emphasized that the town’s wetlands law does not prohibit any construction in either a wetland or wetland buffer, but allows activity subject to certain conditions and mitigation measures. He said that if the town didn’t want to grant the permit, there were two options; the town purchase the property or the property be purchased by the abutting property owner or other parties.
Brian Amico, a resident of the Junior Lake neighborhood said he had no problem with permit and did not think an additional house on the lakefront would create problems for the lake. He chastised the board for ignoring Junior Lake .
Also discussed was the future of existing small vacant lots along the lakefront. While one resident expressed concern that these too could be developed now that the area was sewered, Supervisor Grace assured him that the vacant lots were very small dock lots that couldn’t be developed, even if some owner bought up several abutting lots.
3. Gulf sign permit public hearing
(See Town Board, 6-23-2015) The public hearing was opened and closed, without any comment, and the board voted unanimously to approve the sign permit for one free standing monument style sign.
4. Sparkle Lake Dam project public hearing
(See Town Board, 6-23-2015) The public hearing was opened and closed without any comment, and the board voted unanimously to grant the wetlands permit. The bids are due back next week. The work is expected to take 3-4 months.
5. Grant applications
(See Town Board, 7-14-2015) In unanimous votes, the board authorized the submission of the Digitization, Railroad Station and FDR Trail grant applications. In a 3-2 vote, with Councilman Patel and myself voting no, the board authorized the submission of the Downtown Revitalization Project (aka highway relocation) grant.
Prior to the vote, Mark Linehan, co-chair of the Yorktown Trail Committee, commenting on the Railroad Station grant, advised the board that his Committee believed that a restroom and outside water supply were important features for hikers and cyclists along the North County Trailway and asked the board to add both amentiies to the proposal. As an alternative, he suggested a standalone electric composting toilet, adding that if one was not possible for the Railroad Station site, then something should be added either to the highway garage project or nearby. Supervisor Grace appeared to discount the comfort station at the Railroad Park but said one could be considered as part of the higjhway garage project.
In voting against the highway project, I noted that the grant applications (5 separate applications for a total of $2.265 million) carried a required town match of $667,000, even though residents had been told at previous meetings that the project would be “no cost” to the town. Also, that there was no guarantee, at least not at this time, that there would be a buyer for the garage site, what the buyer would actually build on the site and how much a buyer may actually pay for the site. My opposition was also based on the fact that there still was no firm plan for the “downtown revitalization” and that what was being submitted was still only a concept. Supervisor Grace disagreed, saying there was a “real plan.”
6. Volunteer board appointments
The board voted unanimously to reappoint nine members of various town advisory boards who terms had expired.
Prior to the vote, at Courtesy of the Floor, John Schroder, a member of the Advisory Board on Open Space (ACOS), called attention to the fact that the resolution did not include the members of ACOS even though their terms had expired and that he had heard talk that the board was considering disbanding ACOS.
In response, Supervisor Grace expressed concern that discussions that had been in closed executive session had been made public. I explained that as Town Board liaison to ACOS and also the Tree Commission, I had informed both groups that there was some sentiment on the Town Board to disband both groups and that I had reached out to both groups to get information about what contributions they each felt they were making to the town.
(Note: As both boards were established by local laws, the law/s would have to be amended if the Town Board wanted to disband one or both advisory groups. The amended local law/s would be subject to a public hearing. Also, while under the Open Meetings Law, appointments to advisory boards can be discussed in closed executive sessions, the issue of whether or not to keep an advisory board is not a permitted topic for closed sessions.)
Although a resolution to reappoint the five members of ACOS was defeated, 2-3, with Supervisor Grace saying that appointments should be discussed in closed session, I added that I wanted the public to know that residents interested in serving on either ACOS or the Tree Commission should submit resumes.
The board will be interviewing candidates to fill vacancies on other boards, as well as for boards where members whose terms expired but were not reappointed. Resumes should be sent to the supervisor’s office: Mary Capoccia (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Paul Dillon was appointed police sergeant.