Town Board Meeting
September 15, 2015
Absent: Councilman Diana
1. Highway garage project
During Courtesy of the Floor, Roseanne Brackett, speaking on behalf of the United Taxpayers of Yorktown, advised the board that 1,806 residents had signed a petition against the highway garage project . In an accompanying statement, Ms. Brackett said the group believed that the town should address other infrastructure projects before proceeding with a speculative project that could put a burden on taxpayers.
Other speakers made the following comments about the project.
Nick Witkowitch wanted to know if any town officials and their friends and supporters had property in the area that would increase in value as a result of the project.
Ed Ciffone requested that the project be put on the ballot for a referendum vote. In response, I explained that a referendum would only be possible if and when the town decided to borrow money to finance the project and/or when the town was ready to actually sell the vacated highway garage site.
Bill Stoiber presented the board with photos of a parking lot covered with solar panels and suggested that this type of semi enclosed facility might be a less costly option than a fully enclosed garage for highway department vehicles and equipment.
Tony Grasso said he hadn’t heard any official cost figures for the project but that he knew the town would save money by storing highway department vehicles inside. He said people should not be “throwing numbers out” until they’re official.
Responding to the UTY petition, Supervisor Grace said that the petition wasn’t clear, that the project would be at no cost to taxpayers and that the impetus for the project wasn’t the need for a new highway garage but rather for the revitalization of the downtown Heights area, a project he said that would benefit all residents. He then went on to talk about the benefits of the project for about 10 minutes.
In response to Supervisor Grace’s comments, as well as those from Mr. Grasso who questioned where the UTY had gotten its cost figures, I said that the $4.8 million cost figure came directly from the town’s grant application: $4.1 million was for the construction of the new highway and parks department building/s and $750,000 was to prepare the vacated site, including constructing a new parking lot for the proposed new commercial building. The grant application also states that the town would be responsible for $2.7 million of the project cost (a total of $2.1 million was requested in grants), but that the application estimated that the town could recoup $1.5 million from the sale of the vacated garage site, leaving taxpayers to cover a portion of the total project cost. I noted that these figures had never been given to the Town Board. (For copies of the grant application’s budget, email me at email@example.com.)
Rather than take additional time from the board meeting to respond to all the supervisor’s comments, I said that a separate meeting was needed for a fuller discussion of the project.
Councilman Patel said that the town’s number one priority should be fixing its roads and drainage. When he also questioned the results of the Phase II environmental study that would have identified potential contamination issues with the site, Councilman Bernard assured him that the study was done by a reputable firm. Councilman Bernard added that all the work, to date, on the project had been done in house and had not cost any additional money.
2. Courtesy of the floor
Hallocks Mill Sewers. Eileen Burke, an unsewered resident on Sunrise Street, advised the board that her neighbors were interested in being sewered but needed to know what the cost would be. She asked about how the East of Hudson (EOH) money would be allocated. In response, Supervisor Grace said it was premature to discuss the EOH issue, a position I disagreed with, stating that I felt the EOH discussion should and could start now.
Highway Department salt. Tony Grasso asked the board to move ahead on Highway Superintendent Paganelli’s request, postponed since March, for money from the fund balance to fill the salt bins before the end of the year. In response, Supervisor Grace noted that the town had spent $800,000 for salt in 2014 and that the board would discuss Mr. Paganelli’ s request at a subsequent meeting and that he was having a “difficult time” putting together the 2016 budget. Mr. Paganelli noted that the cost of salt had risen 37% over the past two years. I explained that the request, for approximately $600,000, would be a one-time expense and was needed to get on cycle so that the bins could be full by the end of the budget year in anticipation of the snow season that covered two budget years.
Pointing out that the closed pool now owes $86,211.01 in back taxes, Ed Ciffone wanted to know what the town was planning to do to stop the drain on taxes. In response, I said the board needed to finally take action and that it would be cheaper in the long run to close up the pool than continue paying yearly county and school taxes on the property. I also noted that the supervisor’s earlier hope that a Y would be interested in buying the property had not materialized.
Ceiling leak: Howard Frank called attention to the leak in the board room ceiling. He suggested that the leak was due to the air handlers on the roof and said the leak presented an air quality health and safety issue. I noted that repairing the leak, which has been visible for the past four years, was estimated to cost $40,000, but that the supervisor waited to include the project in the $2.7 million bonding plan, rather than tap into the $5 million available in the fund balance
3. Public hearing, Stop sign at Summit and Underhill
The board opened and closed the hearing. There were no public comments. In a unanimous vote, the board approved the stop sign.
4. Public hearing, Park zone sign at Ivy Road
The board opened and closed the hearing and voted to install the sign, that will include a 25mph speed zone sign. Ivy road resident Ken Brown thanked the board, including Councilman Diana, for the work that had been done to clean up the playground. He suggested that the board also consider removing some of the no parking signs in front of the playground so that residents with children would be able to park there.
During the hearing, Howard Frank, who lives near a park zone, said that the signage at several park zones was not consistent and that the distance delineating park zones also needed to be looked at. He said that in the absence of proper signage, the court could not impose the fines included in the law.
5. Public hearing, amendments to lighting code
Supervisor Grace explained that the need to amend the lighting code regarding the height of outdoor lighting oles was brought to the board’s attention as part of the Costco application; unlike other town land use codes that had provisions for waiving or appealing provisions of the code, he explained that the lighting code had no such provision regarding the 16’ height limitation for outdoor lighting poles.
Planning Director John Tegeder explained that Costco’s original plan called for 42’ poles but that the latest plan called for a combination of 16’ and 25’ poles; the rationale for the taller poles being that taller poles reduced the number of poles and that the parking lot would be safer with fewer poles.
Paul Moskowitz spoke in opposition to the change, calling the taller lights a quality of life issue and said that residents did not want Yorktown to look like Times Square. He said that once a waiver was given to one applicant, it would have to be given to all. Bill Stoiber questioned the impact the lights would have on the Taconic Parkway which was a designated scenic byway. He asked if the state’s Scenic Byway Commission had reviewed the plan. Mr. Tegeder said he know of no such requirement and that the state DOT had reviewed the Costco plan.
Ann Kutter, who lives near the proposed Costco project, said that her neighbors, including the homeowner closest to Costco, had no objections to the taller poles which they understood would be shaded and would provide better security on the site.
I commented that on its web site, the International Dark Sky Association has examples of light fixtures that minimize the glow from light poles and that it was my hope that when the Planning Board set conditions for the Costco site plan approval, it would include provisions regarding the type of lighting fixture.
The board voted unanimously to approve the change in the lighting code.
6. Miscellaneous resolutions
YCCC rents: The board voted to waive the rental fee for SPARC, an organization that provides recreational programs for disabled children and adults.
Tax certioraris: The board approved settlements that reduced the assessment and authorized refunds for 322 Underhill Ave and a residence on Baptist Church Road.
At an abbreviated work session prior to the regular meeting, the following issues were discussed
1. Foreclosed properties
The board set November 14 for an auction of properties the town has taken in foreclosure; the properties include two houses and 5 vacant parcels. The board authorized paying Bob Killeen $350/day up to a maximum of 10 days to handle the auction.
2. Shallow Creek
Bruce Barber and Diana Quast, chairwoman of the Recreation Commission, gave an update report on two issues:
- The county Department of Health has approved the existing septic system for the proposed restaurant use of the clubhouse building.
- Plans to renovate the old par-3 golf course have not progressed and Mr. Barber suggested that he be designated as project manager to move the project forward with DEC and for the required town permits. He said the work would be done as part of his consulting contract with the town. Noting that dealings with the DEC and applying for town permits was the responsibility of the applicant, not the town, I objected to Mr. Barber taking on his role at the taxpayer’s expense, even though Ms. Quast explained that this was town property and the town would benefit from any improvements. The issue was tabled. I noted that when the board approved the license for the gold course last year, neither the licensee or the town had contacted the DEC.
3. Illington Road cemetery
Ms. Quast advised the board that the Commission supported what she called “deparking” the old cemetery on Illington Road for the eventual sale to the abutting property owner who has been maintaining the property for many years and has wanted to buy the property.
4. Wetlands permit
The board agreed to let a wetlands permit that would divert water from the homeowner’s lawn into the stream on the property be handled administratively. Much of the work has already been done.